Top 10 ways tenure benefits students and all Iowa residents
The University of Iowa chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) opposes Senate File 41, a bill introduced in the Iowa Legislature in January by Senator Brad Zaun. If passed, that bill would prohibit tenure in Iowa’s public institutions of higher education. The chapter hereby offers the Top Ten Reasons Why Tenure Benefits Students and All Iowans:
10. Tenure promotes stability. It enables the development of communities of scholars who devote themselves to the long-term pursuit of new knowledge and ongoing mentoring of students and beginning scholars.
9. Tenure routinizes intensive evaluation of faculty members’ work. In the American academic community, tenure is a sign that a scholar has completed scholarly work at the highest level. To gain it, emerging scholars willingly undergo a series of grueling reviews of their scholarship, teaching, and service. If successful in earning tenure, they can expect ongoing annual evaluations and intensive periodic post-tenure reviews in order to maintain it.
8. Tenure permits independent inquiry. It ensures an environment in which scholars pursue research and innovation, and arrive at reliable, evidence-based conclusions free from commercial or political pressure.
7. Tenure encourages first-rate teaching. It permits scholars to bring their findings and research methods directly into the classroom, informing and inspiring Iowa’s future scholars and community leaders.
6. Tenure promotes effective faculty recruitment and retention. Were tenure to be prohibited, Iowa public universities would have a difficult time attracting and retaining the most promising teachers and scholars to work in our state and teach our students.
5. Tenure helps the economy. It is not, as some claim, a “job for life.” A tenured professor may be discharged for malfeasance or, sometimes, for financial exigency. Yet the security tenure provides is valuable and induces many highly credentialed scholars and professionals to forego more highly paid employment elsewhere in industry or the private sector to work here in Iowa, teaching our future community leaders.
4. Tenure fosters students’ creativity and analytical skills. In classrooms led by faculty insulated from commercial and political pressures, students may examine important issues from a variety of perspectives, and arrive at conclusions based on information and their own values.
3. Tenure advantages Iowa communities. It encourages scholars to contribute their expertise to the communities in which they live when issues related to their work arise, because they may do so without political or commercial pressures. An example of this could be seen in Flint, Michigan as issues with polluted water arose.
2. Tenure increases the value of Iowa degrees. It enhances the academic standing and economic value of degrees from Iowa’s public universities in national and international markets. Currently, Iowa’s universities are of such stature that they attract international attention from leaders of industry and the professions as well as academics. If Iowa were to prohibit tenure and be hampered in its efforts to hire and retain the most promising professors, regard for graduates of Iowa’s public universities would decline accordingly.
And the Number One reason why tenure benefits students and all Iowans: Tenure is indispensable to academic freedom. It allows professors the independence to do the best work they are capable of doing without fear that they will be fired for their opinions or conclusions.
We appreciate the vigorous support for tenure from the Iowa Board of Regents, Univ. of Iowa President Bruce Harreld, the Univ. of Iowa Faculty Senate, and the national AAUP. We join them in recognizing the enormous value flowing to all of us from the tenure system.
• Katherine Tachau is president of the University of Iowa chapter of the American Association of University Professors. Lois Cox is chairwoman of the group’s David C. Baldus Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure.