Monday, March 10, 2014

Tenure is not a license to be lazy


From an interview with President Michael Crow of Arizona State University:

'No matter what ideas you come up with in academic institutions,
there will be people opposed to it.'                    

WSJ: You've asked professors to be more entrepreneurial. Should tenure be reconsidered?
MR. CROW: Tenure should be defined more carefully and reconsidered from that. Tenure is basically an opportunity to pursue your agenda for your life without interference relative to the topic. It isn't a license for being lazy. It isn't a license for being nonproductive. It is a lifetime opportunity at the research university level to pursue highly disruptive ideas and innovations without fear. But it isn't a license to do anything other than work as hard as you possibly can.
WSJ: Is that what tenure has become?
MR. CROW: In some places it has become a shield or a protector for people who aren't performing at the highest possible level, and in those cases that tenure should be reviewed.
As a tenured professor, I have to say that I do not find these statements terribly alarming. Why shouldn't post-tenure productivity be reviewed? In fact, I find a paraphrase of these thoughts rather inspiring:
"Tenure is not a license to be lazy. It is an opportunity to work as hard as you possibly can on highly disruptive ideas and innovations."

So who should earn tenure? Incredibly hardworking, fearless, and potentially disruptive individuals, I suppose. The question is, Does the tenure process identify those people, or screen them out?


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