I was only aware of the tenure idea when I came to the U.S. I have previously taught in a university in the Middle-East where tenure is not offered, and I don’t believe it’s offered anywhere in that region. Professors were mainly focused on preparing the materials, assessments, and lecture notes for all the courses they teach. Teaching was given a priority. Whereas here, in the U.S., the case is different. The pressure of being on a tenure-track is overwhelming for new faculty, and continues until it is accomplished. The faculty are under stress, not knowing if this will be their home or not, not able to make future plans, and most importantly, not able to teach with full heart and focus. Professors need to have more freedom in their research activities and a better collaborative environment, instead of a continuous competition for grant funding. This leads me to the main point which is:
How can we ensure optimum teaching results when faculty are too occupied fulfilling tenure requirements?
There needs to be support for effective teaching, and not just research capabilities. The sense of community in a department will enhance progress and represent a good teaching and learning environment. Just like research helps professors interact, teaching can also be the same. Courses can be delivered by several faculty, and research might even stem from a successful teaching experience. I believe no-one should be limited to certain research requirements as this will most probably reduce the efficiency of the other work tasks. Some of them prefer teaching than research, and vice versa.
I worry about the future of teaching in and of itself. Students attend colleges and universities to get the premium knowledge they need, especially if they are funding themselves. Assuring teaching standards remain high is what I believe is the new challenge for higher education. Tenure track requirements need to be more suited to ensure professors continue to deliver knowledge as good as students and the students’ families expect. To sum up, as Gen Xers mentioned, there needs to be increased flexibility, greater integration of work, teaching, and home lives, which will eventually lead to a more welcoming supportive workplace.
Cathy A. Trower. 2010. A New Generation of Faculty – Similar Core Values in a Different World (Trower)