Last semester, Claire Johnson had a problem with a professor. And she said there was nothing she could do about it.
“I had a professor that was tenured, and it was very obvious who his favorites were and who wasn’t, and he would grade according to that,” the junior journalism major said.
Tenure is a status faculty members can attain that guarantees their jobs until they want to retire.
Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Robert Bolla said tenure is not automatic and is earned by the best professors through their hard work and dedication.
He said qualifications for tenure are different around campus.
“Each department and college has different criteria based on the professional standards of that college and department,” he said. “University criteria are more encompassing and are tied to standards developed by the American Association of University Professors.”
The minimum number of years a first-time professor must teach before applying for tenure under university standards is six, but Bolla said professors who have come in with previous teaching experience may qualify after a shorter time.
English department professor Kevin Stein said he thinks professors view tenure as very important.
“You basically have six years to prove that one has the teaching ability and the resources or creative ability to help students learn and bring them to a higher understanding,” he said. “The rationale for tenure is to ensure that a capable faculty member, having proven his or her abilities, can’t be released because of their artistic or political views. Tenure has historically been seen as a way to ensure freedom.”
Bolla said, in rare cases, professors can leave the university for a while but still put their previous amount of years of teaching here toward tenure.
“The tenure clock can be stopped for specific reasons such as family leave [and] health issues,” Bolla said. “This is not common and must be requested and approved.”
The national average of faculty members with tenure is 49 percent, and 62 percent of Bradley faculty has it, Bolla said.
The only instances tenure is reversible are for gross violation of the Code of Ethics, as adopted by the University Senate, duty neglect, failure to fulfill obligations, incompetence or medical disability, Bolla said.
Johnson said she thinks tenure lessens the pressure for professors to do their best.
“Professors that are offered tenure have a chance to slack off,” she said. “I think that sometimes they don’t conduct the class the way they would if they didn’t have tenure.”
Bolla said faculty members shouldn’t expect tenure.
“When a faculty member is hired at Bradley, they are informed of the criteria that they will need to gain tenure and then annually they are reviewed by the faculty, department chair and dean to determine if they are making successful progress toward tenure,” Bolla said.