Revoking the License to Steal

Disclaimer:  The following may or may not include fabrication, exaggeration, or other inaccuracies which, along with the absence of names, are specifically designed to protect the innocent and guilty alike as well as provide comedic effect.  Continue at your own risk.

2nd Disclaimer:  Don’t you hate when you forget to check the little PFP box so it posts to the right place?

Recently, I was having a discussion with two colleagues/classmates who both also aspire to the honored profession of providing higher education.  We started talking about the tenure track and one said simply that he was looking forward to getting tenure so he could go fishing several days a week.  Now he was likely joking, at least in part, but his comment brought to light the murkier concept that there are professors out there whose receipt of tenure is tantamount to receiving a license to steal.  A free pass to cruise until retirement.  I find this incredibly unjust and if given the chance to change one thing about the higher education system, that would be it.  I don’t want to get rid of tenure entirely, but I do want to add a review cycle to that tenure whereby retaining the status is easier than obtaining it to begin with but is by no means a certainty.  The review should be influenced just as much by the ability of a professor to make money for the department through research as the professor’s ability to teach – a responsibility that I personally value far higher than the other research, service, or any other characteristic.  Thus, the review would by necessity involve students, whether in person or through some modified review forms beyond the classic course evaluations currently in widespread use.  I would consider the system fair and just if it weeded out those professors who really don’t have any business being at the university.  I have met a few of those.  A selection includes:

The Dead Wood:  A professor who seems to offer very little to the advancement of knowledge.  Their last publication was within a few months of receiving tenure and their syllabi haven’t changed since the last century.  Float away, sir.  Far down river, please.

The Pompous Ass:  This is the prof who questions your method of solution, which at the root level is exactly correct, just because it isn’t how he would approach the problem.  He goes on further to explain just how errant your ways are, whether you are more comfortable and faster doing it your way or not.  Well, my way wouldn’t be to ask for a resignation.  You can explain to me the error of my way when I fire you loudly and forcefully.

The Incurable Bigot:  This is a world-renowned university with students from various countries and backgrounds.  Yes, some may speak English with a heavy accent, but that in no way gives you the right to pick on them, call them out, or insult their heritage.  You know that course evaluation that said you should be fired immediately?  That was me.  And no, I was not picking on you because of your ethnic last name that you claim no one knows how to pronounce.  But I do know how to pronounce “gone”.

The Cure for Insomnia:  There are those in this world not meant to hold the attention of a classroom full of students for an hour at a time.  That is fine and to be expected.  But then there are those who can put you to sleep despite you having just chugged a 5-hour energy drink with a hot coffee chaser.  I think you need to consider a career change.  I understand the sleep lab at the hospital is hiring.

The Stickler:  Okay, so we have a grading scale that gives a 94 as an A.  And a 93.97 average with a 99 on the cumulative final is not a 94.  But seriously?  You have to give the lower grade?  Technically, you have to round up unless you required a 94.00 for an A.  But I have a better suggestion.  The accounting profession is woefully short on anally retentive types.  I will even write you a reference letter.

With all luck, and hard work, I won’t be the subject of a student’s lampoons at any point in my future career.  But if I am, just make sure you come up with a witty nickname, okay?

About rainman

CEE SEM MS ’12 PhD ’15
ESM BS ’92
SUC ’89-’92
PE VA, TN, KY, WV, PA

Category(s): PFP13F, Teaching Philosophy, Uncategorized

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