Tenure is important for professors, but Temple’s first priority should be students.
According to a Sept. 3 essay by Christopher Shea in the New York Times titled “The End of Tenure,” total student-loan debt is at nearly $830 billion and recently surpassed the total national credit card debt.
The essay, which was written in response to the release of two new books that criticize tenure faculty and the hierarchy of higher education, states that the labor system at colleges and universities is unjust, with tenured and tenure-track professors earning the majority of money and benefits while making up a minority of the teaching staff. Nearly two-thirds of all college and university teachers are non-tenure track adjuncts.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, tenure is intended to give both the faculty members and the institutions the stability needed for effective research and teaching, and to provide financial security for faculty. Due to the recession, the number of tenure-track positions is still declining. Colleges and universities in general, according to the BLS, are relying more on limited-term contracts and part-time and adjunct faculty members.
According to the BLS, the median annual earnings of all post-secondary teachers in 2008 was $58,830 a year. The highest 10 percent of post-secondary teachers earns more than $121,850 per year, and the lowest 10 percent earns less than $28,870 per year.
According to a 2008-09 survey by the American Association of University Professors, full-time faculty salaries average at $79,439 a year. In four-year institutions and fields with “high-paying nonacademic alternatives” – medicine, law, engineering and business – earnings exceed the average.
Of approximately 3,000 teaching faculty members at Temple, 810 are tenured. This week, Josh Fernandez and Connor Showalter [“Talking Tenure,” Page 1] examine the practices of tenured professors and the processes for being granted tenure.
Tenure is important at major research institutions like Temple, but the university should keep students as its first priority, especially considering the always rising cost of attending college.
In order to do this, Temple should shorten the tenure track process and give professors what they need so they can focus on teaching.