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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Dec. 4, 1997)
MATT PETERSON is a
senior English and news
editorial major and a
Daily Nebraskan colum
With all the hype surrounding the
Academic Senate’s politically incor
rect refusal to “honor” the memory
of Dr. Martin Luther King with a
three-day weekend - and their subse
quent reversal - a post-tenure peer
review proposal, agreed upon by a
vote one senator shy of unanimity,
was passed on to the NU Board of
Regents early last month amidst rela
The proposal recognizes three
1. “To assist tenured faculty in
... maximizing their contri
butions to the University.”
2. “To provide assurance to the
public that tenured faculty
are accountable for their per
3. “To provide continued peer
involvement in the review of
tenured faculty members.”
While the first purpose would
seem to presuppose that no such
“assistance” existed before, the third
prospect conjures an image of a
smoke-filled teachers’ lounge in
which several tenured professors sit
at a round table patting each other on
Only the second concession is
truly progressive in its acknowledg
ment of a dilemma that has beset the
institution of tenure since its incep
tion during the Middle Ages.
In order to understand the
inevitable shortcomings of this pro
posal, however, it is necessary to
first understand the basic concept of
tenure and to subsequently acknowl
edge its antiquation.
The medieval purpose for tenure
was to provide a safeguard for free
is a senior news-editorial
jn-ftinw* nw*A- r ilv
er and columnist
America is starting to get into a
war frenzy again.
The enemy is the all-too-famil
iar Saddam Hussein.
The recent conflict sparked
when Iraq refused arms inspec
tions because of U.S. participation
in early November. As a result,
Americans are turning to the men
tality of “Let’s blow him away like
we should have done in 1991.”
The image of Hussein, com
plete with the obligatory military
garb and a mustache thick enough
for Uncle Sam to get lost in, sends
any true patriot into a near riot.
The thought of him in posses
sion of enough nerve gas to kill off
the world’s population is enough
to make a staunch pacifist gung-ho
about sending troops to the Persian
The man and his country are
royally pissing Americans off and
they aren’t going to take it any
Or at least that is what the polls
A Newsweek poll taken Nov.
13-14 found that 53 percent of
Americans favored using force if
Iraq refused arms inspections with
The number jumped to 82 per
cent who favored force if Iraq
Travails of tenure
- ■ : >V
Regulations obscure aim of education
speech. Tenured faculty were there
after able to lecture the apparent
lunacy of a spherical Earth or of man
evolving from ape with limited pro
fessional repercussions - several
intellectual martyrs thus retained
their jobs up to the point of combus
tion (until they were quite literally
And while there is clearly no
shortage of unpopular ideas today,
freedom of speech has become the
foundation on which progressive
The purpose of professorial
tenure in the modem world has thus
become increasingly ambiguous,
finally evolving into a sort of glori
fied job security.
Although higher education is
unquestionably a growth industry,
professorships are few and far
between (some would blame tenure
for this scarcity), and productivity, a
dubious quality in any profession,
may very well be impossible to
gauge among the professionals in
After all, how can I possibly
measure the impact of a brilliant
English professor’s tutelage to my
By the same token, how does the
incompetence and impersonality of a
substandard political science instruc
tor depreciate my university experi
I can only assume that the profits
eventually outweigh the losses, since
I’m shelling out $2,500 a year in
Education is unquestionably a
unique profession that arguably
demands a heightened degree of job
security, but the most popular mis
conception concerning tenure is that
it is a free ride. Tenure does indeed
provide an exceptional degree of
security, but as die current post
tenure review proposal should sug
gest, it is by no means unconditional.
Tenure does not fail in the job
security it provides - it fails in the
double standard it prescribes.
Professorial tenure is generally
awarded on the basis of scholarship.
Most colleges dictate a “publish or
A faculty member is employed
for a probationary period, which
could be anywhere from three to
seven years. During that time, the
prospective professor is expected to
make some substantial contribution
to his or her field - this contribution
is usually manifested in some sort of
Subsequently, an “up or out” rule
is typically enforced.
If the faculty member does not
achieve tenure after a certain period
of time, he or she either moves on to
another university or finds another
Although a professor’s ability to
profess will inevitably have some
relevance to his or her potential
tenure, it is this scholarly contribu
tion that bears the most significant
After all, if a potential professor
desires to make a good impression
on student evaluations, a simple shift
in the bell curve will usually bring
favorable results. For the great
majority of students, an “A” still
shows a good teacher and a “D” will
always be equated with a bad
Once tenure is granted, teaching
ability becomes even more difficult
to assess - there are simply too many
The proposal of post-tenure peer
review betrays a similar double stan
dard. This dilemma is made evident
by the very name of the proposal - as
this is a peer review, it is up to other
tenured professors to question the
competence of their colleagues.
Such review would seem the
equivalent of a classmate grading a
Young professors at established
universities are becoming a rarity;
and intellectual stagnation is the
fellow classmate’s course work. And
considering that lectures are invari
ably monologues, it remains unclear
how such judgment is to be gleaned.
Once incompetence is beginning
to show over coffee and donuts in the
professors’ lounge, the damage is
most likely irreparable and the
instructor’s impotence irreversible.
Throughout the proposed adden
dum (available in its entirety on the
university’s Web site), there is no
mention of student consultation.
I don’t doubt that student evalua
tions will play some part in alerting
administrators to deficiencies, but
the absence of such words as
“instruction” and “education” is
I’ve often wondered whether
administrators take student evalua
tions any more seriously than most
students do in filling them out.
An enlightening experience a few
years back has admittedly jaded me
to the entire process. The relation
ship I had with the professor in ques
tion was unquestionably built on
mutual respect, but by semester’s
end, I believe we both had our doubts
- the only possible recourse for my
own doubts lay in course evaluations.
As our professor handed out
evaluations, he offered a smug smile
and a few choice words: “You can
write whatever you want about me.
After all, I have tenure.”
Maybe these words were meant
as a harmless joke. From what I’ve
heard from other students, it’s a com
mon jab around evaluation time. If I
am to accept this professor’s admoni
tion as a joke, then I must presume
the very institution of tenure to be a
joke as well. Perhaps the free speech
which tenure imparts should be used
a bit more carefully.
In a capitalistic society, one fun
damental flaw pervades the issue:
Tenure precludes competition. Young
professors at established universities
are becoming a rarity, and intellectu
al stagnation is the inevitable result.
Such stagnation will invariably
discourage the “cream of the crop”
from educational pursuits.
Capitalism is simply not conducive
to such an outmoded tradition.
Professorial tenure nevertheless
remains indispensable; productivity
in the field of higher education is far
too subjective to do without the secu
rity that tenure provides. However, if
this institution is to guard against the
stagnation of its ranks, it must re
emphasize education over scholar
Perhaps scholarly research is the
only objective measure of intellect,
and if this is the case, maybe a pre
mature “emeritus” status should be
granted to disinterested professors.
The fact remains that it is the
business of a university to stimulate
thought, not only within its student
body, but among its faculty as well.
Grades provide the impetus for
student enlightenment - competition
must assume a similar capacity for
Give ’em a break
Iraq has been sufficiently destroyed
were to shoot down a U.S. U-2 spy
plane flying over its country.
This show of support for force
is not limited to Joe Public;
Senate Majority Leader Trent
Lott proclaimed, “I’d like to see
him taken out.” And both parties
have promised to support Clinton
if he decides to use military force.
Only Saddam Hussein could
bring Democrats and Republicans
in Congress together to act in uni
Even President Clinton’s liber
al and former senior adviser,
George Stephanopoulos, suggested
in Newsweek that we ought to
assassinate the Iraqi leader.
Americans are more prepared
to strike at Iraq than they have
been since Japan bombed Pearl
Harbor. Even President George
Bush had difficulties in persuad
ing the American people that
Operation Desert Shield should
turn to Operation Desert Storm.
What ever happened to diplo
macy? Or even keeping our nose
out of foreign politics?
The isolationists that prevailed
before World War II must all be
Diplomacy is a loaded word
these days. According to Webster’s
New World Dictionary, diplomacy
means 1. the conducting of rela
tions between nations; and 2. tact.
The United States is using nei
ther definition in regards to its
policy with Iraq.
Diplomacy requires a little give
and take. The Russians tried to
Any time the Iraqis make a move in order
to help themselves gain back any grain of
what they once had, we ihreateh~tb Wow -
them back into the Dark Ages.
bring out a compromise between
Iraq and the United States, but we
would have none of it.
Do it or else, Saddam!
How would we feel if China, a
country that we don’t often see
eye-to-eye with and tfiat has a
larger military than our own,
attacked us when we invaded
Sure we claimed we had our
reasons for illegally invading
Panama. We had to arrest their
leader, Manuel Noriega.
Iraq had its own reasons, too.
But even better, how would we
feel if China invaded, took us over,
and were still here in the U.S. sev
eral years after their invasion was
over? And then the overbearing
government of China forbade us to
fly any planes.
And to make matters worse, the
battles that took place when China
attacked us destroyed our econo
We could not produce nor
import any humanitarian goods.
We would be forbidden to export
the few items that we’re still able
to produce in order to buy food
and other necessities.
In this theoretical situation,
Chinese spy planes and Chinese
fighters and bombers fly over our
country daily. Any effort to curb
the military missions, even years
after the initial attack, by threaten
ing to bring down enemy jets
would be met with a zealous, all
out attack on any targets they con
sidered to be military.
And the whole world was in on
the act against us for invading
Panama, only it was the Chinese
that were leading the game. The
rest of the world just acted as
The Chinese military would
call our presidents mad men
because we illegally invaded
Panama and swiped their leader.
They would cite that, while doing
so, we owned a nuclear arsenal
with the potential to kill every
man, woman and child on earth.
After nearly seven years of
this, the American spirit would
start to take over.
We would start to hold protests
in the streets. We would threaten
to shoot down Chinese planes over
our soil. We would teach our chil
dren that China was the enemy,
that China, not our own president,
was our oppressor. We would be
all for one and one for all against
what we thought was the greatest
evil that ever existed.
. .. God would be on our side and
“we 1woui&-eYfc»iiialtv"^reak free
from Chinese oppression. 1 ~
The patriotism would be beau
But we would know there
would be no way that we eould
beat the Chinese with force. After
all, they destroyed our military
seven years ago when they
We would want them to give a
More importantly, we would
want them to have a little diploma
This is exactly what is happen
ing, but we are the oppressors.
Any time the Iraqis make a
move in order to help themselves
gain back any grain of what they
once had, we threaten to blow
them back into the Dark Ages.
I, like other Americans, think
that Hussein is a madman.
But there is a whole country
out there on the other side of the
world that considers us the enemy.
We are the ones who are killing
their children by not allowing for
the economy to be strong enough
to buy basic necessities.
I, too, see Iraq as a potential
enemy and don’t think we should
But sometimes a country has to
give a little in order to get what it
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