Student role in tenure process should be limited

by The Simpsonian

There has been some talk recently about students wanting their opinions to play a larger factor in the faculty tenure process.

Although including more student opinion in annual reviews could prove beneficial, students must realize that they do not know all of the requirements a professor must meet to receive tenure.

Tailored guidelines are set up at the time of hire for each potential tenured professor. Most tenured positions require a Ph.D. However, other requirements are set in terms of specific goals dependent on the skills of the applicant and the needs of the college.

There is such a wide range of variances in individual requirements that it would be beyond a student’s capability to give an educated opinion assessing tenure approval or denial.

As Mark Freyberg, a recently tenured professor said, “Don’t try to understand [tenure] because some of the junior faculty don’t understand it.”

However, student opinion should matter in terms of how that professor relates in the student/professor relationship.

Each semester students fill out course evaluations reviewing the course and the professor. These evaluations should be sufficient in ascertaining the student opinion of a potential tenured professor.

Being tenured allows professors a sense of job security as well as academic freedom to explore ideas. Students should be able to give input on the process that gives these benefits, but they must also place their faith that the administration has a clearer picture of a professors capabilities and abilities to meet the requirements set forth at the time of hire.