Reply to: Re: The Professors' Plaintive

HANLY at BrandonU.CA HANLY at BrandonU.CA
Sun Apr 28 13:01:55 MDT 1996

Jon Flanders wrote:

  Unionists understand the importance of seniority. That is all tenure is in
the academy. I know the railroad corporations are coming after their workers
full bore on this. I welcome a challenge to this assault from any direction.
Down with casual labor!

COMMENT: Tenure is more than seniority, it places quite stringent restrictions
upon administration's ability to terminate profs, that go far beyond
termination in order of seniority. As critics have pointed out it protects
the run-of-the-mill prof. and even those who are not particularly competent.
I do not think that one can realistically deny this, but I think it is
quite defensible. I think that we ought to defend the run-of-the-mill prof.
as well as the radical prof. I doubt that we have that precise an idea of
what constitutes sufficient academic competence that we can safely cull
out the duds. I know some profs. who are popular among students and
administrators alike who have little academic ability, and contrariwise
there are profs. who write much interesting stuff but are not particularly
good or popular teachers. WHere you have personality and ideological
disagreements among x and y. X is convinced y is a dud and y that x is.
Tenure protects these animals against their own attempts to terminate each
other. Tenure protects no only radicals but it protects everyone from
abuse by academic administration and ACADEMICS themselves. While there is
some truth in the view that the university is a community of scholars it
is also true that they are community of cutthroats anxious to cut each others
throats and often allying with administration to do so.
   Flanders describes tenure as an assault on part time and casual work,
but it exists in the academy now ALONGSIDE the growht of part time and casual
work. For many younger faculty tenure is not an option. They are like scholar
gypsies who move from one year term (or per course contracts) to another year
after year. As university budgets are cut, more and more contract and term
appointments are made. These give administration flexibility in facing cuts.
A few of these faculty see tenure as a barrier to their own advancement and
they do not really care if it goes. There are some senior faculty who regard
themselves as SUPERIOR and safe who recommend against tenure as well.
Bercuson at Calgary in Canada is a good sample of this line of thought.
He thinks though that there should be long term contracts--and who should get
them is to be determined by senior faculty! The old elite buddy system.
   In our contract we have limits on the number of non-tenure track contracts
there can be as percentage of the whole, and also a limit upon the length of
time profs. can be kept within a non-tenure line. However, as budgets are
cut further money has to be saved elsewhere. Profs who retire do not make
room for new blood, they simply make it possible for the university to
struggle through one more year with reduced staff and offerings. We have
a unionised faculty and even a council of unions whereby items of general
interest to all workers are discussed. For example, our early retirement
package was worked out so that it would be available not just to profs.
but all unions. The administration was not all that pleased when an engineer
who helped run the steam plant took advantage of it. They couldn't just
elminate that position!
   Ken Hanly
  at Brandon University==give us a few more years to become a community
college or amalgamate with the one that already exists here.

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