Promotion and Tenure: The Higher Education Connection

Katerina Zissouli Tenure Promotion

This blog was originally posted on here: Katerina Zissouli’s Education Website

Thinking about the state of higher education in America can give all people involved a stomach ache. At the same time, trying to come up with a simple solution to a multi-faceted problem is not only challenging, but also nearly impossible. There are so many issues at stake that not even an overhaul of higher education can remedy the situation. There has been talk about eliminating tenure. In fact, one state introduced legislation to end tenure for all incoming faculty. Another state introduced legislation to eliminate tenure across the board. Yet another, through the state legislature, voted to eliminate faculty tenure in all public higher education institutions.

Obviously, faculty members and faculty unions are disturbed by this change, as it appears to be a new national trend. Can tenure be selective? The fact is that it has been, but being selective does not work, as faculty unions strong-arm administrations to make concessions when it comes to promotion and tenure. I would not be surprised if “deals” are made on occasion between administrations and faculty unions. After all, quite often, we are told to choose our battles. Some battles, in fact, are not worth fighting. As a result, undeserving faculty are grudgingly (or otherwise) promoted and/or are granted tenure even though they are underperformers as academics and leave a lot to be desired as teachers in the classroom. The reason for this: lack of meritocracy! If people are unaware that there is no meritocracy in American higher education institutions, they live in dreamland.

What are we to do then? What is the solution to a problem that is out of control? Unfortunately, the same story is set on replay for over a century, when it comes to higher education in America. A few inept faculty who do not believe in professional development, who do not think that there is anything else to learn, who are satisfied with what they already know, which in most cases is outdated and stale and was acquired twenty-thirty years ago or longer, ruined it for everyone else. And the knee-jerk reaction is to “throw out the baby with the bathwater” (pardon my cliché).

In other words, instead of cleaning house, we take drastic steps that could change higher education as we know it. A flashback to 2005 and Thomas Friedman’s prophetic book, The World Is Flat would provide the necessary information on the plight of higher education in American and where it was headed twelve years ago. It is obvious, however (not only as a result of Friedman’s book), that we have been dealing with a precarious situation that is not getting any better.

At this time, there is no solution to the problem. Instead, a wait-and-see approach is warranted. There is more to come, and I cannot say that I look forward to what the future may bring. In fact, it is quite the opposite. I am afraid that if we continue on this dangerous path, the jewel of America, its higher education, would seize to exist, at least in the form that is familiar to most of us today.