Friday, September 07, 2007

Tenure and Spinach: Confessions of a Community College Dean

Confessions of a Community College Dean: "Predicting whether someone will still be busting her hump thirty years from now strikes me as a fool's errand. Our predictive powers just aren't that good, and I don't trust either side to be clairvoyant. Using shorter-but-not-ridiculous time horizons – I'm thinking three years at the point of hire, followed by five-year renewals (with shorter renewals for folks who are floundering) – and explicit criteria that don't require being superhuman, seems to me a reasonable move. If you're doing your job well, your work should be allowed to speak for itself. If you're retired on the job, and you don't respond to warnings, then you should be kicked to the curb to make room for someone who will actually produce. (This would also have the happy effect of opening up more positions at senior ranks, the better to offset the place-boundedness characteristic of so many jobs now.) Either way, though, you should be spared the indignity of having your mind read. The alternative is to continue to fill scarce tenure-track lines with folks who vow, in the manner of Scarlet O'Hara, never to eat another vegetable again. No, thanks."

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