Lawmaker's bill would end tenure for Utah professors

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  • John Pack Lambert of Michigan Ypsilanti, MI
    Feb. 17, 2011 2:25 p.m.

    You really failed to read the article in anything other then no detail. It is not "these nutjobs" it is one man proposing the bill.

    Personally I think that if universities in Utah were likely to have to majorly reduce their teaching staffs in the near future Herrod's bill would make sense. On the other hand, since it only would end future tenure this issue would take a long time to play out.

    More entriguing is that a growing number of universities are filling more and more positions with part-time and temporary faculty. The percentage of classes taught by tenured faculty has been falling at many universities over the last few years.

    Personally I think tenue is actually a less worthwhile thing in elementary and secondary schools.

    The importance of protecting intelectual freedom at the university level would lead me to speculate that tenure has benefits. At lower levels intelectual freedom is less likely to become a major issue.

    Another possible compromise might be to debate tenue for community college professors.

  • John Pack Lambert of Michigan Ypsilanti, MI
    Feb. 17, 2011 2:18 p.m.

    This is the type of hatchet job I would expect from the Associated Press. There are many educational theorists who think tenure is a bad idea, but their actions are not addressed.

    Also totally ignored, at least in responses to the article, is that most civil employees in Utah can not just be fired on a whim.

    An even more complexed question that no one brings up is even if Herrod's bill passes it is not clear that public universities will be unable to grant tenure. They will just not be held to it by as iron-fast rules as they are now.

    However the biggest problem with the article is that it makes it seem like this bill is anything more than just proposed. It is very easy to propose a bill, Mr. Herrod has shown us that much. However this bill has not left any committee.

    It would be hoped that instead of responding by mocking anyone who dares disagree with the established system of public higher education, this bill could open up a discussion where we weigh the pluses and minuses of tenue, and consider if it is a needed thing.

  • John Pack Lambert of Michigan Ypsilanti, MI
    Feb. 17, 2011 2:12 p.m.

    BYU does not grant tenure, and despite the snide, rude, hateful and other comments that I know are going to follow my remark, BYU has good professors and is clearly not at the bottom of the barrel because of it.

    I also have to say that lots of people do not understand the difference between a bill being proposed and a bill passing. There is a lot of anti-tenure sentiment in various locals. For example the cartoon "Pearls Before Swine" engaged in tenured professors mocking a few months ago.

    Lastly, I think people should be more critical in reactions to nationwide stories about "Utah legislature proposes". These are built around perpetuating the idea that Utahns are strange, and they ignore the fact that unique, interesting and restrictive rules exist in other states. There are some Southern states that have requirements of affirming a belief in God for all public officials.

  • John Pack Lambert of Michigan Ypsilanti, MI
    Feb. 17, 2011 2:05 p.m.

    I think what they should look at is reforming not ending tenure. I would suggest holding hearings on tenure and asking University administrators to identify what the problems may be.

    One underlying problem is that at research universites there is too often no focus on teaching, and only research gets evaluated.

    What is "just cause" and what does it take to prove it? I wish the author of this article would have asked Sederburg to illustrate what a case of just cause is. I also wish the author had asked Sederburg "when was the last time a professor who had tenue was removed through just cause proceedings"? Beyond this, I wish the reported had asked Sederburg "what are the possible consequences of a professor performing poorly on an evaluation?"

    Sederburg should not be allowed to mouth platitudes about tenure not being as strong as people thing, he should have to provide concrete examples.

  • EJM Herriman, UT
    Feb. 16, 2011 12:26 p.m.

    To DN Subscriber: I have no doubt that you believe what you are saying in your posting. Here's hoping your children/progeny....disagree.

  • CHS 85 Sandy, UT
    Feb. 15, 2011 10:34 p.m.

    Why would anyone interested in a career in education come to Utah with such hostility? Being married to an educator in a local school distict, I can tell you it is truly a hostile place to work. A little is chipped away every year. Class sizes creep up a little every few years, the relicensure requirements become more stringent, the money for supplies decreases every year instead of keeping up with inflation. Then the people in the state have teh audacity to keep having more children, getting more in tax exemptions, paying less in taxes, and complain when the teacher can't spend every waking second with their child and creating special lesson plans just for their child, and the district expects teachers to work while off-track (unpaid) to do more standardized testing. And for that the people in the DN forums just say to suck it up and be grateful you have a job.

    At some point the legislature and governor will have an educational crisis at the primary and college levels that will be incredibly difficult to rectify.

  • srw Riverton, UT
    Feb. 15, 2011 11:35 a.m.

    > In "higher education," it [freedom] connotes only strict, unbending adherence to Marxist dogma and permanent exemption from honest work.

    Your "Marxist dogma" comment is simply false. Your "honest work" comment is offensive and simply false.

  • procuradorfiscal Tooele, UT
    Feb. 15, 2011 11:35 a.m.

    Re: "The students who are currently unable to get into the classes they need would indeed consider it a bad thing."

    If the academic establishment is so concerned about students' needs, why does it refuse to increase the number of qualified instructors and GAs [who we all know are the best actual educators in higher education] in order to fill that need?

    Maybe because it cuts down on the money available to endow memorial "academic" chairs and extend big pay raises to tenured professors?

    Yeah -- Big Education's concern for students is legendary.


  • srw Riverton, UT
    Feb. 15, 2011 11:06 a.m.

    >Re: "It's already difficult to find qualified people to >fill faculty positions."
    >You say that like it's a bad thing.

    The students who are currently unable to get into the classes they need would indeed consider it a bad thing.

  • srw Riverton, UT
    Feb. 15, 2011 10:54 a.m.

    DN Subscriber wrote
    > The current system certainly fails to promote "diversity" as shown by the absence of all but a few token conservatives on campuses.

    Are you suggesting that tenure should be revoked so someone can prune the faculty and promote diversity? Wow.

    A few token conservatives? At Utah universities? I think you should check that again.

    > As for "none of the prestigious Harvard people will want to come to Utah" argument- Is that really a bad thing, or just a bunch of bruised egos?

    What about native Utahns who go to Harvard for grad school and don't want to come back?

    > Higher education needs to...present more balanced content, at least if they want public funding.

    You should hear the Marxist slant my colleagues and I take when teaching Newton's laws of motion... In other words, what you are saying doesn't not represent the general reality.

    Teaching should definitely be improved--I work at that all the time--but let me point out that universities don't drain the budget, they are the engine that drives the economy.

  • procuradorfiscal Tooele, UT
    Feb. 15, 2011 10:37 a.m.

    Re: "It's already difficult to find qualified people to fill faculty positions."

    You say that like it's a bad thing.

  • Charles History Tooele, UT
    Feb. 15, 2011 10:34 a.m.

    Re: "procuradorfiscal"

    Wow, you know so much?
    You listed construction workers, day-care providers, and McDonald's employees - that is what I told my children would happen to them if they did not graduate from High School.

    If you study history, Conservatives will attack the intellectuals first. Time and time again the best way to control a populace is by limiting intellectual thought.
    Every controlling government went after the professors and teachers.

    I do not know of a liberal controlling government, (all controlling governments have been conservative in their basic thought). That is why they attack the liberal intellectuals!

  • srw Riverton, UT
    Feb. 15, 2011 10:22 a.m.

    I'm a professor at one of Utah's public universities. Here are a few facts, for readers who are lacking them.

    It's already difficult to find qualified people to fill faculty positions. Perhaps that's because we get paid less than faculty at comparable universities in other states. We certainly don't "teach few classes and do little research".

    When the economy is bad, students flock to the colleges and universities, and more faculty need to be hired. The tendency is not to cut faculty in those times. But in the present system tenured faculty can be cut if their departments need to be reduced/eliminated for budgetary reasons.

    As was mentioned, tenure is really about academic freedom, and that leads to *progress*. I suspect that some taxpayers feel the faculty's only responsibility is to pass on knowledge from one generation to the next. In fact the universities are much more valuable than that. We know many things our professors didn't know because of research that is fostered by academic freedom.

  • procuradorfiscal Tooele, UT
    Feb. 15, 2011 9:20 a.m.

    Re: "Researchers need tenure to guarantee academic freedom."

    Yeah, academic freedom, that's the ticket. That'll carry the day with the construction workers, day-care providers, and McDonald's employees that you demand must continue to pay your ridiculous salaries!

    Let's see -- academic freedom -- that would be that misnamed concept of rigid, institutional orthodoxy that prevents any genuine independent thought, right?

    The same concept that prohibits publishing by climate scholars whose papers may be critical of global warming myths, right? Or that ridicules researchers attempting to explain the Pons-Fleischman effect? Or that rides economists daring to differ with stuffed-shirt Keynesians out of universities on a rail?

    Yeah, we're real worried about maintaining that "educational" fixture.

    The term "freedom," in any other context, implies a lack of coercion or constraint. In "higher education," it connotes only strict, unbending adherence to Marxist dogma and permanent exemption from honest work.

    Academics interested in real freedom have all left Academe, leaving only the whiners posting here.

  • cval Hyde Park, UT
    Feb. 15, 2011 9:07 a.m.

    USU and the UofU brought more than $500 Million in research funding into the Utah economy last year. Without the ability to attract top scientists and scholars, what percentage of that would be lost? (most of it)

    Talk about shooting yourselves in the foot. Utah legislators... are they really so inept that they would kill the goose that laid the golden egg?

    What would the Utah economy look like without that money? Our research universities are a huge benefit to the State.

    Let's kick them again, legislature.... Makes sense.

  • junkgeek Agua Dulce, TX
    Feb. 14, 2011 11:49 p.m.

    What Herod doesn't realize is that tenure grants an academic researcher or professor the ability to question long-held presumptions or falsehoods without the feat of the taxpayers revolting. This is a good thing.

    And it's very much like "term-limits" for House and Senate elected officials -- you don't want to be the first state to implement this, only the last. It will make Utah a wasteland for the quality professor job market.

  • DN Subscriber Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Feb. 14, 2011 10:23 p.m.

    This is a good proposal.

    College costs continue to skyrocket, and tenured professors often teach few classes, and do little research, but merely feed at the public trough. We cannot afford that any more.

    Much of higher education is infested with liberal hacks who do little more than indoctrinate students with leftist propaganda. [c.f.- Ayers, William or Obama, Barack]. The current system certainly fails to promote "diversity" as shown by the absence of all but a few token conservatives on campuses.

    As for "none of the prestigious Harvard people will want to come to Utah" argument- Is that really a bad thing, or just a bunch of bruised egos?

    Higher education needs to cut costs, improve quality of the education the provide to students, and present more balanced content, at least if they want public funding. Let the private schools hire and keep the Marxists if they like, but not on my tax dollars.

    Feb. 14, 2011 7:44 p.m.

    You know, I would really, really encourage these legislators before they begin making ridiculous laws, like getting THIS involved in education, to get into the universities and classrooms and find out what is really going on. I would never premise to understand how to run a hospital until I actually got in there and understood the stresses doctors, nurses, and other administrators are under. I wouldn't feel remotely comfortable making cuts to police, paramedic, and other departments until I had experience in how these departments needed to be run and the risks they take. Yet, legislators assume that because they barely know how to read, they can run the education system. They had better start doing their homework before the teacher calls on them and they find out they really didn't have all of the answers.

  • Mukkake Salt Lake City, UT
    Feb. 14, 2011 6:52 p.m.

    This "Representative" obviously doesn't even understand the concept of tenure, much less its purposes, obviously. Researchers need tenure to guarantee academic freedom. Just as someone mentioned in an earlier post, sometimes the results of this research is irritating to those in power: politicians, businesses, lobbyists, and even other professors and university bureaucrats. Researchers need the freedom to pursue subjects and results which may be accurate, but unpleasant.

    I don't even know where to begin with your post, but I do know where to end: By dismissing it at ignorance.

    Tenure produces medical cures, technology advances, and other quality of life improvements for society as a whole.

    "police, firefighters, paramedics, soldiers, and other public servants who regularly place their lives on the line for us, and/or who actually do important, lifesaving work for us."

    None of these individuals would be able to save as many lives as they do without the medical and technological advances that the tenured staff, such as Nobel Laureate Mario Cappechi, produce at Research I Universities like the University of Utah.

  • procuradorfiscal Tooele, UT
    Feb. 14, 2011 6:19 p.m.

    Re: "Who elects these nut jobs?"

    We do. The people of Utah. The same people that pay you more than any other category of public servant in the state.

    The same people that are mighty sick of listening to your childish, dismissive rants.

    The same people that recognize tenured professors have developed a keen sense of entitlement to double, triple, quadruple or more, the wages we earn, and from whose pay theirs' is deducted.

    The same people who recognize that we pay them many times what we pay police, firefighters, paramedics, soldiers, and other public servants who regularly place their lives on the line for us, and/or who actually do important, lifesaving work for us.

    That's who elects these "nut jobs" that are beginning to see there is no good reason for maintaining "higher" education's expensive and unnecessary ivory tower.

  • scambuster American Fork, UT
    Feb. 14, 2011 5:10 p.m.

    One thing is for sure. With this crackdown on intellectuals, Utah will experience a brain drain at our universities.

  • carabaoU Moab, UT
    Feb. 14, 2011 4:58 p.m.

    Oh, and you would never guess what Mr. Herrod lists on his other possible conflict of interests section - Fencing. Fencing? The sport fencing? How is that a possible conflict of interest? The fencing association is requesting state funds to hold tournaments and training?

  • carabaoU Moab, UT
    Feb. 14, 2011 4:53 p.m.

    A bill written by a person that got his Bachelor's degree from BYU, a private university, and got his Master's Degree from BYU, a private university. His knowledge of this subject is extensive! WOW! Let's agree to you, Mr. Herrod, oh great wise one on public universities!

  • familyguy Logan, UT
    Feb. 14, 2011 4:05 p.m.

    Wow, so why would ANY professor want to teach in Utah? If there were no tenure then we would only get the leftovers that no other University with a tenure track wanted to hire. This is frighteningly short sighted.

  • justired Fillmore, UT
    Feb. 14, 2011 3:18 p.m.

    not a good idea. are there good and bad professors at our universities? Yes. with this bill all that will be left is mediocre.

  • Geezer Catonsville, MD
    Feb. 14, 2011 3:07 p.m.

    This may be partly about muzzling the faculty. When I was a student at USU in the 1960s I learned the story of a state legislator who went to the USU vice president and asked him to silence two professors who had spoken against the legislator's pet project on the basis of their research expertise. If tenure is eliminated, professors will have to keep their mouths shut outside the classroom. They will also be very careful what they say within the classroom.

  • metisophia Ogden, UT
    Feb. 14, 2011 2:48 p.m.

    Who elects these nut jobs?

  • On the other hand Spanish Fork, UT
    Feb. 14, 2011 2:44 p.m.

    Take away the ability of Utah's universities to offer tenure-track positions, and you take away their ability to attract decent professorial talent. Professors aren't stupid and there are 49 states offering tenure to choose from.

    The vast majority of professors are highly competitive professionally by nature, whether they're tenured or not. This bill sounds like a solution in search of a problem.

  • sodiedog Salt Lake City, UT
    Feb. 14, 2011 2:28 p.m.

    If this gets any national coverage via AP, it'll be Shooting Feral Cats, The Sequel.

  • Mayfair City, Ut
    Feb. 14, 2011 2:16 p.m.

    What's not to agree with??

    "...after professors receive tenure the taxpayers cannot hold them accountable and the benefits of competition are removed." TRUE

    "...when state agencies are trimming budgets, it is unfair for tenured professors to be exempt from cuts." TRUE

    "...all professors should be evaluated for academic success and teaching skills. That would ensure the best professors are retained." TRUE AGAIN.

    Only tenured professors who are enjoying the fruits of tenure, and feel entitled to them without any accountability--or those designing to be so tenured as well--will have issues with this.

  • Gentile brookings, SD
    Feb. 14, 2011 1:31 p.m.

    As a tenured full professor I can see the lawmaker's point of view. He believes this way because to him all professors are just cut out of same cookie cutters and can be replaced: one in English with a specialty in grammar, with one in Biology who knows all about gnomics and DNA and tree frogs. Yup, replace A with B.
    Good grief. Where in the world did you go to school?

  • Cedarite Cedar City, UT
    Feb. 14, 2011 1:25 p.m.

    Wee dont kneed no kwalitee eddicashun heer in Yew-Tah!