HASTAC to work with the MLA to rethink tenure guidelines

in Tenure and Promotion
April 23rd, 2010

Cathy Davidson, co-founder of HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Collaboratory) has  a thoughtful reflection on the meaning of tenure

The basic question is not have you published that book. The fundamental question is, based on one’s first six or seven years in the profession, is one likely to be a lifelong, energetic, idea-filled, responsible, creative, innovative contributor to the profession, even when the Damocles’ Sword of tenure is no longer swinging above.

The Whole Monograph Thing seems to me, in the end, to be a Trojan Horse in which our profession has hidden a lot of warriors in a battle whose outlines are vague and whose outcome uncertain. By that I mean, tenure is precious, folks. How many people anywhere are guaranteed a job once they have passed a basic threshold of entry? Tenure is an amazing privilege and gift–and a necessary one if our society is ever going to have a place where ideas are supported regardless of either politics or profitability.

But, if we believe tenure is precious, then what in the world are we doing having a silly, reductive quantitative rule for what allows tenure? Tenure is basically the profession’s “best bet” on who, if fortunate to be awarded career-long job security, will deliver on the promise of fresh ideas, without regard to politics or profitability, and will continue to contribute to the profession over the next decades, including to those generations of future young thinkers known as students.

Comments are closed.