Reviews | Attacks on tenure, in Georgia and beyond

For the publisher:

Re “Board’s Move Allows Firing of Professors With Tenure” (press article, October 14):

Tenure protects the academic freedom of tenured professors, providing a structure in which faculty members can research and teach new ideas without fear of political or social reprisal. The new Georgian policy of effective elimination of tenure threatens this structure and will ultimately hamper the flow of new ideas and the production of knowledge.

However, tenure-track faculty make up less than 10 percent of all research and teaching faculty nationwide, and this trend away from hiring tenure-track faculty has been occurring since decades. Therefore, even without the new Georgian policy, universities are already subverting tenure.

Non-tenured professors (such as research and clinical professors and part-time and full-time professors) teach, conduct research and render services to universities. These employees will never get a full tenure, have short-term contracts, are poorly paid, and in many cases receive no benefits. As such, they lack the academic freedom that tenure was meant to protect.

While we fully support the protection of academic freedom for full professors in Georgia, collectively the academy should protect academic freedom and provide fair working conditions for all academics.

Ella August
Olivia S. Anderson
Joseph NS Eisenberg
Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Drs. August and Anderson are clinical associate professors in the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan, and Dr. Eisenberg is a full professor there.

For the publisher:

In four decades of college education, I have witnessed the flaws in the tenure process, a system that can empower and reward lazy people for life. But the Georgia Board of Regents’ new ruling to allow full professors to be removed from the public university system with little or no faculty input is a mistake.

In this plan, administrators would avoid peer review to weed out those “who do not contribute adequately to a university” – worrisome terms in determining the end of a career.

Faculty members who meet the teaching and homework requirements of the department would be in a much better position to determine a colleague’s contributions. It is not in their interest to protect the lazy people, titular or not.

Under Georgia’s new policy, the performance of a full professor would be assessed by the additional criterion of “student achievement”. But how would “success” be measured? The number of students who pass or end with A’s in your class? Brilliant student ratings (which often correlate with high grades)?

The real measure of a teacher’s worth is how hard she works to meet the needs of her students. There is no reason to think that Georgia’s new policy would be better able to assess this than traditional policies have been. Rather than promoting the “career development” of faculty, this would lead to increased grade inflation and complacency towards superiors, all in the name of celebrating “student achievement”.

Catherine bernard
new York

For the publisher:

Re “Europe’s Next Leader Will Be Nobody”, by Helen Thompson (guest opinion essay, October 26):

I largely agree that the departure of Angela Merkel, the longtime German Chancellor, portends an inevitable period of uncertainty. To this grim prognosis, I hasten to add that Ms Thompson’s concerns about Germany’s future ability to exercise strong leadership in the European Union are nevertheless overstated.

Germany’s power today comes as much, if not more, from its massive industrial and technological capabilities and a record of six decades of political stability as does Angela Merkel. And who would have guessed that such a calm and modest East German student would have ended up where she is today, as the masterful biography of Mrs Merkel by Kati Marton, “The Chancellor” reminds us?

John starrel
Chevrolet Chase, Maryland

For the publisher:

Re “Co-Housing Makes Parents Happier,” by Judith Shulevitz (guest op-ed essay, Sunday Review, October 24):

In my opinion, the myth of the nuclear family has always been both unsustainable and damaging to parents and children. As the saying goes, you need a village.

Until very recently, the education of children was always a community affair – whether in the village itself, or with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Today’s cohabitation developments are born out of the sociological reality that children benefit developmentally and parents benefit emotionally as the burdens of child rearing are spread across a larger community-village.

This truth is painfully evident in our mobile and less family-centered culture, in which exhausted parents raise emotionally isolated children, whose primary social contact is a video screen.

Evelyne Baran
Beverly hills, california

For the publisher:

Re “The popularity of the ‘squid game’ terrifies me”, by Frank Bruni (Opinion, 23 October):

I teach a “Cinema of Horror” class at the Pratt Institute, on the preferences of American cinema audiences for increasingly violent content, like what worries Mr. Bruni about “Squid Game”.

I would suggest that the old conundrum of whether this form of entertainment contributes to or simply reflects existing social anxiety can be avoided for another perspective.

In the opinion of some social theorists, horrific entertainment can also be seen as prophylactic exposure of the public to, and so prepare them for, generalized stress anticipated, and therefore, ironically, beneficial.

Steven doloff
new York

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