The main thing that I think should chance in higher education is the process of getting tenure. In addition to causes stress on the faculty, I believe that tenure-track has the ability to make students feel uncomfortable in their own classrooms. As somebody who has taken classes from both tenured and non-tenured faculty, I’ve noticed that most of my professors who are currently tenure-track are so focused on their own research projects that my projects and classroom experience seem to come second. This can also lead to ethical issues of crass faculty who feel protected by tenure. I don’t believe that anybody should ever feel like they are untouchable in a department, as that can turn into a teacher acting inappropriately. Likewise, I believe that sometimes tenure-track lends itself to sexism. I know of a Virginia Tech professor who is currently being paid less than another tenure-track professor who started at the exact same time, with the same credentials.
Another issue lies in the decision making process- who decides who gets tenure? I feel like there is the underlying issue of various power plays, in which professors feel the need to pander to whomever is deciding which professionals get tenure. If you are only publishing a quantitative paper because you know the decision committee likes quantitative research, I think it’s missing the point of research itself. I believe that if professors were less focused on pumping out publications and conference papers, they could shift the focus from research to actually teaching their students. I have been discouraged by the push to value research over teaching- why become a professor if you aren’t going to value teaching and developing relationships with your students? One of the readings for the last week, focused on this very topic, was one that I agreed with a lot. They emphasized the importance of finding a balance between being well-researched in your field of study and having the skills to properly teach these concepts to students.
This is not to say that I don’t believe in tenure at all. As a whole, I think it’s a really important process that can provide job security to hard-working academics who have a passion for their field; I am just suggesting that the process to get tenure should focus less on simply cranking out publication after publication, and should further take into consideration how the professor is with students. After all, professors are there to teach students, not just be the best in their field. There needs to be a balance, and I just don’t think we are there yet.