Editorial: There should be more transparency in the outcomes of the tenure process

In this issue of the Whitworthian, the news section has a story concerning the idea of tenure and how it is applied. However, writers and editors had a difficult time finding information about the tenure system. Sources contradicted each other and the editorial staff was left scratching their heads.

There is a clear lack of available information about the tenure system for students to educate themselves about it. Because student evaluations are used in the tenure process, the editorial staff believes that more transparency is deserved. Students deserve to know the professors and faculty that have been recently received, or currently have tenure.

Many of us have had faculty freely release information about who holds tenure and for how long. However, some sources have said that tenure is a confidential subject. We understand and respect the need for confidentiality in the process of granting tenure. However, unless faculty would experience an unnecessary negative consequence from releasing tenure information, students need more clarity. If tenure information should be withheld, the student body should at least know why.

There also seems to be a need for clarity among faculty and administration. With contradictions coming from various sources, there seems to be problem of misunderstanding. If there is no need for confidentiality, then faculty and administration should be able to willingly share the information.

We do not demand information on who is applying for tenure. Students deserve to know who has received tenure based in part on student evaluations.

 

Editorials in the “In the Loop” section reflect the majority opinion of the Editorial Board, comprised of five editors.

The title of tenure

The tenure process at Whitworth is laborious and typically takes seven years to accomplish.

When being considered for tenure, faculty write essays on different prompts that show how they see their teaching philosophy, their faith and their service fit into the university’s mission, Provost Carol Simon said.

“Some institutions will hire people [and automatically give them tenure] but Whitworth won’t do that,” theater professor Diana Trotter said. “You have to earn tenure here.”

In addition to the written essays, peer evaluations and student evaluations are an integral part of the evaluation process as well, Simon said.

“Tenure is really, really important,” Trotter said.

It allows a university to build and maintain a high quality of faculty and have some sense that those people are going to be invested in the institution for the long term, Trotter said.

However, every so often there is a movement by various constitu- ents in academia that questions whether tenure should exist, she said. Some people think that tenure may cause professors to become lazy, Trotter said.

Trotter objects to that perspective because the person who was hired into the job in the first place, may have competed nationally against hundreds of other people and had to be the top candidate to get the job, she said.

“You’re dealing with someone of a pretty high level. They spend around seven yearsvbeing evaluated to receive tenure,” Trotter said. “What are the odds that person is going to suddenly become a lousy teacher? The amount of evaluation is more significant than any other field I can think of."

 

Sarah Haman

Staff Writer

Contact Sarah Haman at

shaman19@my.whitworth.edu

New Dean of Spiritual Life

This year, Whitworth welcomed a new faculty member. Whitworth University hired Forrest Buckner at the end of the last calendar year as the new dean of spiritual life. Buckner filled the position of Terry McGonigal, beginning his first full year in July.

Buckner’s full title is Dean of Spiritual Life and Campus Pastor.

“This position encompasses three main categories: campus ministry, administration, and teaching,” Buckner said.

ZK_3

The first category is the overseeing and leading of staff, pastors and students in the chapel. The other staff members have welcomed him with open arms, which makes this part of the job a lot easier, Buckner said.

The second part of his job means he sits on President Beck Taylor’s Cabinet and helps make adjustments in regard to the big picture of campus. Specifically, the dean of spiritual life holds the position because there is a want for someone with a lens dedicated to how Whitworth is fulfilling their Christian mission, Buckner said of his administrative position.

The third and final part of his job is to teach one class a year. He is currently co-teaching Foundations of Christian Theology with Jerry Sittser. That may increase to more than one class a year as he grows into his position, Buckner said.

ZK_5

“I want everyone who comes to Whitworth, wherever they are on the spectrum of faith to have the chance to know the truth and reality of Jesus,” Buckner said with regard to his goals for the future.

Bucker wants to help by opening doors that can help this happen. He desires to get to know everyone and walk with them toward Jesus, Buckner said.

Beyond that, Buckner wants the campus to continue to bring a new energy and atmosphere to Tuesday and Thursday chapel. His hope is that people will tell him what to change and what will make the process better. Through them, he will be able to help allow people to enjoy the influence of Jesus on campus, Buckner said.

Buckner joins Whitworth faculty after spending three years in Scotland where he received his Ph.D. in systematic theology at St. Andrews. He began his schooling with a degree in engineering at Colorado School of Mines, where he also played football. Buckner continued his education at Fuller Seminary where he received a masters in divinity in 2012.

“Two friends, not connected at all, both told me about this job and said it would fit me within two days of one another,” Buckner said when asked how he heard about the position. He decided to apply as he found himself interested and excited.

Some of the aspects that stood out most to him were Whitworth’s commitment to provide an education of mind and heart, and the decisions of students and faculty to honor God, follow Christ and serve humanity, Buckner said.

Finally, Buckner said he felt, “this was written for me,” as he read the job description.

It combined both of his desires when it came to ministry, pastoring and theological study, Buckner said. For 10 years, both before and during his time at Fuller, Buckner worked as a youth pastor in Colorado. He was at the position because First Presbyterian Church of Boulder was part of what had given rise to his faith in the first place, Buckner said. The former pastor had told him to apply, and his acceptance gave him a new passion as a pastor.

As he spent time at Fuller, he realized he also had a passion for learning. The job offered him the ability to spend time getting to know more about theology, Buckner said. He loves reading about the topic and using it to reach more people accurately.

Buckner brings with him his wife Janelle, his two daughters Esther, eight, and Bella, six, and his son River, three. As he approaches this job, his personal priority is to make sure his family knows they are loved and he spends time giving his heart fully to them and to Whitworth, Buckner said. Managing this has been made easier because he is “already surrounded by students and faculty who already have shown love to his family,” Buckner said.

“I am very thankful for the open arms and people on this campus and I want to get to know the students,” Buckner said.

 

Parker Postlewait

Staff Writer

Contact Parker Postlewait at

ppostlewait16@my.whitworth.edu

 

Feature image courtesy of Forrest Buckner