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