Inside Iowa State
May 2, 1997
Tenure isn't the real problemTo the editor:
According to the lead article in the April 4 Inside, Richard Chait objected at the Grinnell faculty conference to the "guaranteed lifetime security" of tenure on the grounds that "many a lay person" perceives it "as an inexplicable anachronism at best, and an arrogant offense at worse." Chait calls tenure a "public relations problem" since "citizens at- large" view the professoriate "as hypersensitive and privileged."
Whoa, hoss. I have yet to hear a groundswell of protest against tenure from "citizens at-large," and I take offense at the arrogance of bringing in an "expert," from Harvard no less, to a faculty conference arranged and paid for by the Provost's Office, to soften up the rhetorical landscape for what feels like a two-pronged assault: first on tenure; followed by the deepening exploitation of part-time and temporary labor.
Ask yourself, "cui bono?" Who profits if the argument against tenure prevails? Certainly not the average layperson with children to educate and bills to pay in an increasingly predatory "global economy." When layfolk begin to take offense at one segment of the population having the guaranteed privilege of speaking out against the high-jacking of the economy by vested interests, that will be soon enough to start the assault on tenure.
The "alternative arrangements to the tenure system" President (Martin) Jischke has in mind may appeal to the eager quislings among us, but I am less sanguine. Our present crop of privileged administrators are a far greater public relations problem.
--Virginia Allen, associate professor of English
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