Tenure is a senior academic’s contractual right not to have his or her position terminated without just cause. While I can understand the reason for this contract, what I do not find acceptable is professors using this contract to act without regard toward students because they know they are protected. Professors with tenure have the chance to challenge the normal and get their students thinking on a different level. This can be helpful because professors without tenure may have to tiptoe around their choice of words or curriculum a little bit more.
Professors can’t be fired without “just cause,” but what is “just cause” is subjective. What if the cause is a painful one for you, something that the professor said or an action he or she took. Only the student that was offended would internally know how he or she feels. What offends some students won’t offend others and if no one steps up to make a complaint, then nothing may ever get accomplished.
In a class that I was enrolled in, a comment was made that shocked me. Because no one else was quick to react, I was under the impression that I was the only one that heard it. The second comment caused some students to gasp and by the third comment, I stood up and walked out of the classroom, never to look back.
I could have let it slide because the professor had tenure and I figured there wouldn’t have been much done, but I stood my ground and went as far as I could with it through the proper administrative channels. I received a letter that apologized if I was offended by the lecture for that day.
Tenure can be good to those professors who use it to prove points and get their students to think outside of the box. There are some subjects that will be sensitive but it is all about the way you approach the topic.
Tenure contracts should only be made available for professors that appreciate their job, love what they do and make teaching their number one priority. But if professors think it can be used as a “get out of jail free” card, then we should review the standards that are in place.