Want your colleagues to remain effective teachers and researchers after tenure?
Then prioritize quality over quantity in publishing during the tenure process, avoid collegiality as a tenure criterion and make sure your administrators aren’t rubber-stamping faculty tenure recommendations.
As InsideHigherEd puts it, “That’s according to a new study out in this month’s PS: Political Science and Politics, a journal of the American Political Science Association.
“When Tenure Protects the Incompetent: Results from a Survey of Department Chairs” (an abstract of which is available here), is based on results of a survey of 361 responding political science chairs at doctoral, master’s and baccalaureate institutions regarding faculty incompetence and tenure. The author, John Rothgeb, a professor of political science at Miami University, in Ohio, said in an interview he was inspired to explore the topic in light of recent state-level debates, including in Ohio, about the value of tenure and whether or not it made faculty members less effective as researchers and educators. And most of those debates happen without empirical data to support arguments on either side, he said – partly because data are hard to come by.
“I was concerned about tenure because of the many claims you read about all the time [that] tenure is destroying higher education, and blah blah blah,” Rothgeb said in an interview. “And if you serve on tenure committees, as I do at Miami University, we’re always talking about what tenure means, but I wondered, do you really know what you’re talking about what you say all these kinds of things?”
In the survey, Rothgeb asked chairs to report whether or not tenure “has shielded incompetent faculty from dismissal” at their institutions – not just within their departments. Some 62 percent of chairs said it had. Rothgeb followed up with a series of questions about institutional characteristics and the tenure processes at those colleges and universities, to try to identify when and how tenure may shield incompetence.
Advanced statistical analysis revealed some surprising correlations. The independent variable with the strongest link to tenure as a shield for incompetence – defined by the study as “failure to meet the teaching, research and service expectations at [the] institution” – was a previous reversal of a faculty recommendation for tenure by an administrator. Where that has occurred, probability of reported incompetence dropped by 30 percent.
Inside Higher Ed