AU should restructure tenure system
College is more competitive than our parents remember. Students compete to get into top tier schools while universities themselves compete to attract the best students and faculty.
University of Pennsylvania Professor Adam Grant has a proposition which will help universities stand out in this process. AU is uniquely qualified to implement his idea. In The New York Times, Grant pointed out that the current tenure model gives tenured professors dual responsibilities: they must research and teach at the same time. While this makes some sense from an administrative perspective, universities lose out in the long term.
Some professors may be stalled or simply become lazy in their research, but are beloved by students. Others consistently produce brilliant papers and mediocre lectures. Researching and teaching are vastly different skills. According to Grant, they require nearly opposite cognitive skill sets. He proposed splitting the tenure track into three separate tracks. Research, teaching and research/teaching so those who do possess both skills won’t be limited.
AU can benefit from adapting this restructured form of tenure. For one, it would help the university stand out to the ideal AU student. This structure would almost guarantee a higher quality of teaching, which is the closest guarantee we can get to a higher quality of learning. Students who prioritize their learning when searching for a school are the exact kind of students AU tries to reach out to in admissions. These are the kids who are passionate, driven and curious about the world.
Knowing a school is full of educationally driven students would naturally attract professors who are drawn to, and good at, the teaching aspect of their job. Everyone wants a captive audience. Good teachers love to teach students who love to learn.
Having a similar tenure system track at AU would put professors who are passionate about teaching in an environment conducive to teaching. They would be able to bounce ideas off one another and talk about teaching and learning strategies. Our teaching professors would feed off the students and each other, creating a better university learning environment for all.
Most of all, AU’s location in D.C. would bring amazing researchers to this campus. Not only would researchers focus solely on their research, but thrive within the culture of our city. People here are passionate. Researchers would be able to present to people who are excited about what they are learning. These factors make AU a dream date for researchers, and help us produce groundbreaking findings.
AU should restructure their tenure to get more out of our professors and give more to the students. It is the basic economic principle of specialization. When people specialize and produce only what they are good at and then trade, everyone benefits. Let researchers research and teachers teach so that above all, students can learn.
Shelby Ostergaard is a Sophomore in the School of Public Affairs.