Tenured instructors have more fun

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Sixty percent of the criteria for determining tenure
eligibility is primarily based on reviews and evaluations.
This includes student evaluations and faculty reviews,
according to Central Oregon Community College’s Tenure
Guidelines.
In March, five COCC instructors and professors were
granted tenure: Dr. Justin Borowsky, Mr. Monte Cheney,
Mr. Josh Evans, Dr. Annemarie Hamlin and Dr. Tony
Russell.
“Student evaluations are frequently cited in reports
written by the professor’s Designated Evaluator who
will review evaluations and look for both the good and
bad,” said Joshua Evans, newly tenured assistant professor
II of spanish.
According to Annemarie Hamlin, newly tenured associate
professor of english, student feedback is particularly
important during a professor’s first two years at
COCC.
“Student opinions on course evaluations [help] me
grow professionally and growing professionally helped
me achieve tenure,” said Hamlin. “Trends in student
opinion over time help me see my growth and successes
– and occasional failures – as an instructor.”
The remaining 40 percent of the criteria used to determine
tenure eligibility is divided equally between the
demonstration of “professional improvement” and “service
to the college and service to the community,” according
to the guidelines.
“When [instructors] are initially hired, they are hired
as tenure-track faculty, meaning they are expected to
meet all of the criteria for tenure within the five-year
probationary period,” said Jennifer Newby, instructional
dean and member of the tenure committee.
Faculty who are hired as tenure-track are expected to
meet the criteria for tenure by the time of their tenure review
after five probationary years, according to Newby.
The lengthy tenure process is as important for students
as it is for instructors, providing stability and security
for instructors, and quality assurances for students.
Students ultimately benefit from having tenure-track
professors who have experience at the college level and
are committed to supporting the department, according
to Ralph Phillips, tenured associate professor of computer
and information systems and member of the COCC
tenure committee,
“Students can get some assurance
that if their teacher is tenured,
they’ve been here for some time
and have had their file reviewed
for quality and substance,” Phillips
said.
Job security and academic
freedom
Historically, tenure positions
were created to prevent teachers
from being fired for minor or unsubstantiated
claims, or outlandish
teaching practices such as teaching
evolution or, in the case of women,
“getting married or getting pregnant
or (gasp) wearing pants,” reported
M.J. Stephey of TIME.
“Teachers too demanded protection
from parents and administrators
who would try to dictate
lesson plans or exclude controversial materials like Huck
Finn from reading lists,” reported Stephey.
“It provides some protection for teachers so that they
can’t be fired for teaching unpopular topics or controversial
topics,” said Phillips. “If a sociology teacher was
discussing systemic reasons for violent interactions between
police and minorities, that teacher wouldn’t feel
threatened with dismissal if they had tenure protections.”
For Evans, tenure represents stability and confirmation
in his career path.
“That is very important on a personal level, as I know
I can continue to support my family for the foreseeable
future,” Evans said. “On a professional level… I feel like
I made the right decision deciding to teach Spanish for
a living.”
Tenure also assists in supporting academic freedom,
according to Evans
“I am allowed to teach and express my opinion without
fear of unjust repression,”
Evans said. “This isn’t a carte
blanche to do whatever I want to
– I still exercise restraint, good
judgement and wear pants when
I teach, but it is comforting to
know that COCC is committed
to me as a professional, and it inspires
me to be the best I can be
in the classroom and out of it.”
For Hamlin, tenure offers an
opportunity to expand her approach
to teaching and increase
involvement on campus.
“Having tenure gives me a
sense that I can experiment a
little bit more in my teaching,
explore some new aspects of my
job and take on some new kinds
of leadership roles at the college,”
said Hamlin.
Phillips pointed out that there are a few extra steps
involved in dismissing a tenure-track professor.
“The process involves giving at least six months notice
to the teacher and then there are opportunities for
appeal and rehabilitation, if appropriate,” Phillips said.
“The benefit of paying respect to teachers by awarding
tenure status far outweighs the negatives of a 6-12 month
process of firing a bad [tenure-track] teacher.”

 

Kelli Pangle | The Broadside
(Contact: kpangle@cocc.edu)

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