Adapt the tenure model

Tenure has been on the decline at universities nationwide for years.

The University of Minnesota is following a national trend by employing fewer tenured faculty members in place of adjunct staff. Interim Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs Allen Levine told the Minnesota Daily last week that the trend at the University is due to factors like grants, enrollment numbers and the economy.

The trend, which has been growing nationwide since the 1970s, raises questions regarding whether the tenure model is obsolete and what colleges can do to keep successful faculty.

The University has an incentive to hire less tenured faculty on top of saving money by not paying higher salaries. Tenured sociology professor David Pellow told the Daily it’s also much easier for the administration to control outspoken professors when they’re not tenured.

University students’ education is at stake in the tenure debate. Students may suffer without full-time faculty actively involved in University research or their college career. Faculty Senate Vice Chair and tenured associate professor Eva von Dassow told the Daily that tenure provides continuity to curriculum, which part-time adjuncts aren’t always able to offer. More adjuncts may also mean less faculty taking on small, but important, aspects of working with students, such as writing letters of recommendation.

However, tenure isn’t without its flaws. At a research institution like the University, tenure involves balancing research and teaching, which asks a lot of educators.

We’re interested in the idea of splitting tenure into separate fields — tenured faculty who only teach, only do research or do both.

Others have argued for this, and with more specialization, universities could take advantage of teachers’ strengths and ultimately provide more continuity to higher education.

The University exists to provide a thorough education for students, but it also must grapple with research and budget limitations. While tenure may be on the decline, universities shouldn’t give up the chance to adapt it.