Shapiro's article in the August/00 issue, "Death in a Tenured
Position?" rightfully criticizes elderly tenured professors who
cling to their tenured positions and thereby effectively deny
not only tenure to younger professors but their chance for research
and administrative positions. His answer is lame: that senior
professors should voluntarily give up their privileges.
as one would like this to happen, it probably won't, just as former
president Bush's call for the voluntary righting of social wrongs
went unanswered. Rather, we must face up to dealing with the problem
of tenure itself, which enables professors to continue for decades
in positions long after they have ceased being productive or up-to-date
in their research or teaching.
justification is academic freedom, and it is also sustained by
the fear of faculties that increasingly powerful university administrations
will ride roughshod over them. The answer is not a system that
blindly tolerates incompetence, but one that can deal sensitively
with discrimination, if it occurs. This would be faculty unions
and associations of university professors energized to protect
faculty rights and given mediation powers regarding disputed faculty
contracts. Sensitive dealing with cases would determine that some
faculty should be required to retire or should be fired, and others
are being dealt with unjustly and should be retained.
does not serve students or the intellectual world and needs to
be replaced by a system that protects faculty at the same time
as it insures quality.
R. Eisendrath, AB'54
a very convincing statement James Shapiro wrote. I would like
to add three points to his argument that faculty over 65 should
voluntarily retire. The first is personal, the second academic,
and the third political.
I began teaching at the end of the Eisenhower years when I was
just a little older than my students. For most of my career the
students straddled the ages of my growing children; today they
are nearer to my grandchildren. I enjoyed 35 years of exciting
career opportunities and I believe it would be outright selfishness
to hang on to tenure. As an emeritus I can virtually teach when
and what I want, and I can also draw on a university pension,
medical benefits and social security. How absurd it would be to
hang on, as if surrendering tenure is the only possible alternative
to an old age home.
I thought the training I received at Chicago had been absolutely
first rate. But there is practically no similarity between the
graduate seminars that were so lively in the 1950s (the golden
years of Chicago?) and the training that is mandatory today. As
one of my distinguished contemporaries put it, there is no way
in 2000 in which we could qualify for a tenure appointment. We
find the professional journals befogged with algebraic formulae,
and we scan computer driven searches that rarely correspond to
and politically, I see that at least one-half of the new faculty
appointments to be made this year will be on lines that don't
Professor Shapiro noted, administrators clearly expect within
ten years to win their campaign to eradicate tenure, not only
at hundreds of state colleges but also at the best graduate schools,
simply because a crowd of older white men (few women, or minorities,
by the way) are camping on the privileges that they had been awarded
30 or 40 years ago.
last note. As I continue with active teaching and research, I
found pleasure in an off-campus pursuit that few faculty have
the time or inclination to pursue: fund-raising among wealthy
alumni. Few universities do it at all well. Most employ inexperienced
or younger staff to approach the aging alumni who are writing
their wills or disposing of accumulated capital. If only the development
department had been well organized, the silver-haired faculty
would be out gathering funds instead of sitting on them.