Academic Tenure- Protecting Incompetence, Malingering, and Extremism

May 12, 2009

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[First published October 12, 2005] I have taught for most of my life in a university and had tenure. But I oppose its system of tenure. It has become a system that protects incompetent faculty, and a shield behind which many faculty take their salary, teach their courses from yellowed notes, do little real research, and spend much of their time socializing, pursuing personal interests, a hobby, or promoting their politics. It is an unbelievable life compared to that of the working stiff or the businessman. Faculty may teach six to twenty hours a week, depending on whether they are at a research university (one that has a Ph.D. program in most disciplines), or not. Aside from his teaching hours, the tenured professor is free to come and go. For those at a research university, teaching only six to nine hours, he may be expected to also counsel students, chair Ph.D. dissertations, and participate in department and university committees. But, through various ruses, he may avoid much of this. And indeed, if their incompetence and stupidly is known — and there are seldom secrets about this — he may be relieved of these academic obligations. Thus the dumber and less competent, the more free time to idle away at maybe $50,000-60,000 a year (if there is a faculty union, raises are across the board).

Those who suffer from this system are the students and fresh PhDs, from whom positions are held by the aged and feeble. With tenure, a guaranteed salary, and associated perks, these hanger-ons will not retire even when their lecture notes disintegrate from age and use.

There is something more here. The tenure system has enabled a coalition of leftist-socialist-Marxists (communist) professors to establish a politburo-like rule over an academic department. They control who is hired; who does not get tenure; the criteria for accepting graduate students into the department, and awarding them teaching assistantships, and grants; and the content of the curriculum. Because of tenure, this control is virtually impossible to change except by the death or, exceptionally, retirement of its members. And this is a wide-ranging coalition across departments and universities. They give good reviews to each other’s books; as peer reviewers, they recommend the publication of each others articles; as panel chairmen, they select who will be on a professional panel and who the discussants will be; and as grant application readers, they determine who will get funds for research; and perhaps most important, they decide what dissertations will be accepted. In other words, these tenured leftists move whole disciplines, such that they become marked by a dominant leftist ideology. Such is sociology, political science, and the humanities today.

The left shields their tenure by claiming it guarantees academic freedom. Don’t believe it. Even the tenured who disagree with the dominant left, or step on one of their icons (e.g., American “imperialism,” “greedy” capitalism, the Palestinian “just cause”), can be fired, or the conditions of their academic life made so miserable that they will leave. For the left, academic freedom is for the leftist professor, not the libertarian, conservative, or heaven forbid, Bush supporter. What applies to faculty is multiplied for students. To get a good grade and, most important recommendation (the coin of the academic realm), mirror the prof. on exams (if he claims white is black, then so it is), ask softball questions, or shut up.

What to do about this system? Legislators in some states are trying to pass an academic bill of rights (see link below) By itself, it will do no good as long as there is tenure to protect incompetence, malingering, and extremism. Other than getting rid of tenure (I favor five-year renewable contracts), the best way to deal with this is sunshine — transparency of what goes on with tenured academics. If outraged non-leftist faculty and students speak out with their personal stories, if what is going on within the university with tenure is disclosed, then this pollution will eventually be known by boards of overseers and regents, and those who support and fund universities and their projects. And students and their parents may start avoiding certain schools.

And finally, the poor worker, dedicated professional, and hard working businessman may see how their taxes or the tuition they pay for their children is being used. Especially, they will eventually see how while they work hard for what they earn, there is a malingering, money-sucking class like an ancient aristocracy, living within their university-castle, and surrounded by a tenure-moat

Links of Note

“The Tenure Debate — Near and Afar” ()

“Academic Bill of Rights”

Links I Must Share

“Why God Never Received Tenure at any University “

“Taking on the pro-Islamacists at Columbia U.”

Harvard Law prof Alan Dershowiz has a long track record of leftist political views and defense of human rights. After 9/11 he began to speak out openly on the need to confront militant Islamacism and terror tactics. So it’s not surprising that yesterday he took on Columbia Univ. and its faculty.

“Herd Behavior At Institutions Of Higher Leftism”

Mark Bauerlein, a professor of English at Emory University writes on the effects of left wing groupthink at universities, and the effect it has on career advancement and curriculum.

RJR: I’ve seen it all.

Students Fight Back: Introducing

The recent firestorm of controversy over the Campus Watch website may be only the beginning. Now a new website called has the potential to draw wide public attention to the abuse of fairness and trust regularly practiced in today’s politically correct college classrooms.

RJR: This is the way democracy is supposed to work.

Freedomist Network

On Ward Churchill and Academic Leftmania

March 16, 2009

[First published February 25, 2005] I have read Ward Churchill’s “’Some People Push Back’ On the Justice of Roosting Chickens,” (link given below). It’s a propaganda piece, and could have been written by Bin Laden with hardly a change in wording.

Churchill has become a popular figure on campus and is often invited to give speeches and talks, and indeed, has even been invited by faculty to speak at the University of Hawaii, from which I retired years ago. In light of this, I want to say a few words about the leftist university climate in which an ignorant fraud, and expressed enemy of the United States like Churchill, can thrive. I’ll focus this on two hallowed academic principles. But first, a word about the leftism of the university.

The university is institutionally diverse, with schools and departments of law, medicine, business, engineering, natural sciences, social sciences, and so forth. Generally, the faculty in business, engineering, natural sciences, mathematics, agriculture, and related, are least on the left, although as I understand the latest polls or surveys, Democrats still dominate in them. However, it is the humanities, social sciences, and law, and such programs as ethnic studies, woman studies, peace studies, and such, that are most dominated by the left. So, when a survey claims that 85 percent of the faculty vote Democrat, and that covers all the way from engineering and the hard sciences to the humanities, then the figure for the humanities and social sciences alone has to be much higher. Indeed, judging from my experience, a conservative or Republican in these fields is extremely rare, say, one out of thirty, or forty faculty. There are more communists (they call themselves Marxists), than either libertarians or conservatives together, and It appears to me that those on the left outnumber the average liberal and moderate Democrat.

Now, as to the two hallowed principles. One is diversity. There is none in political orientation. The left has captured the university and fight to maintain their control. They refuse to hire or give tenure to those perceived conservative or nonsupportive of their ideology. It is done cleverly, you see, by pointing to problems in a candidate’s research or lectures. For example, if a candidates supported Bush’s foreign policy, they would find his research inadequate, insensitive to Iraq deaths, hawkish, nationalistic, and so forth.

This also extends to sending out invitations to speakers. Almost always, these speakers are liberal or left; hardly ever conservative or libertarian, unless certain conservative student groups fight like hell to bring one. And even then, hostile leftist students may so threaten disruption, that the university administration may use this as an excuse to cancel the engagement they didn’t want anyway.

The second hallowed principle, which you hear often in defense of Churchill, is academic freedom. After almost forty years of being in a university as a student and teaching, I have seen the campus go from the existence of a wide range of extensive academic freedom to a narrow band in the social sciences and humanities. I’m retired now, but if I were teaching, I know many things I believe related to my field that I could not say on campus or while teaching. What we have now is a leftist enforced control of speech such that every academic has academic freedom as long as they stick close to the liberal-leftist line.

To put this bluntly, academic freedom is now a charade, a leftiwocky, most often expressed by liberal and leftist faculty and ideological innocents to protect these faculty from outside criticism.

How do they enforce this? If a faculty member does not have tenure, he had better hue the liberal and leftist line if he wants it. If he has tenure, then at least through their control of the department chairmanship and major committees, they can make a conservative or libertarian professor suffer a thousand cuts: worst parking spaces, worst offices, no assistants, no promotions (if possible), no salary increases (if not automatic) or merit increases, heaviest teaching load, assigned largest and most elementary courses, many committee assignments (but never a chairmanship), no travel allowance, no research support, a campaign among leftist students to get others to avoid their classes, and plain old social isolation. It has to be an unusually dedicated faculty member to stick this out. And this is just at the department level. What a dean can do is far worse, such as using leftist student complaints to set up a Star Chamber investigation.

To be clear, I am not saying that liberal of leftist academics are more incompetent, more biased, less intelligent, less productive, or poorer teachers than conservatives or libertarians. I am not saying they all are bad people or academics in some sense. A lot of the good work in my area on international relations, foreign policy, and the democratic peace has come from these academics. I will say this, however. In general, they are less open minded, less tolerant of opposing ideas, less willing to engage them, and more self-righteous.

Something has to be done about the lack of diversity and freedom of speech on campus and, I’m afraid, we simply can’t wait until the passage of several generations of faculty moves universities more towards the center. What should this be? Well, that will take another blog or so.

Link of Note

”’Some People Push Back’ On the Justice of Roosting Chickens” (nd By Ward Churchill)

 On the morning of September 11, 2001, a few more chickens – along with some half-million dead Iraqi children – came home to roost in a very big way at the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center. Well, actually, a few of them seem to have nestled in at the Pentagon as well. . . . it may not have been (only) the ghosts of Iraqi children who made their appearance that day. It could as easily have been some or all of their butchered Palestinian cousins.
Or maybe it was some or all of the at least 3.2 million Indochinese who perished as a result of America’s sustained and genocidal assault on Southeast Asia (1959-1975), not to mention the millions more who’ve died because of the sanctions imposed thereafter.

Comment by Colleague Two
Colleague Two is a professor of international law.

The problem with Churchill is not merely that he’s a left-wing screwball, but that his whole life has been one big lie. He got a job as a professor pretending to be a “Native American” and that’s been proven false. He portrayed himself as a Vietnam war hero and turns out he was a Public Affairs specialist who changed reels on a movie projector.

The Intellectual Trap Of “Understanding”

December 19, 2008

[First published April 3, 2004] I will put aside the horror I feel over the Islamicists (Islamic fundamentalists, Islamo-fascists) democide and genocide bombing (so-called suicide bombing). I will assume that all who visit this blog hate as I do the mass murder of thousands of human beings by these international gangs of murderous thugs, often supported by one Islamic dictatorship or another.

At this moment, I want to post this commentary to those who teach the young, as I did for over thirty years. The problem of teaching such democide is to communicate understanding of why the murderers do so, as we have seen the major media attempt to do. To the open-minded intellectual and teacher, to the rational minded, this seems what we should be about. As so many have said, understanding is not only the first step of wisdom, but it is the necessary condition of the eventual control and elimination of such violence.

But herein is the trap.

Hypothesize that one is a teacher on September 4, 1939, three days after the invasion of Poland by Germany and the outbreak of WWII. As one would know then, this invasion tripped the British-French declaration of war. This was the outbreak of a European war, and it was discussed everywhere, with photos in the newspapers of dead and dying soldiers, tanks, cannon’s barking, and all that. One’s students, of course, want to know what is going on. Why the invasion? Why the war? As a teacher, one now has an obligation to explain.

To do so, let us say that one tries to get one’s students to understand why Hitler invaded Poland. One therefore goes into the Versailles Treaty, and its heavy reparations on Germany, the unfairly perceived blame that Germany had to suffer, the loss of German dignity and honor, and then the Polish attacks across the border (German propaganda widely believed at the time). And of course, there was the “hypocrisy” of the Allies, what with Britain’s military actions and democide in South Africa and India, and France’s rapacious imperial rule and democide in Indochina, Algeria, and elsewhere in Africa.

After this lecture, what is the student left with? One might feel that now one has communicated understanding, and fulfilled one’s teaching role. And what are the consequences? Out of the best of intentions and commitment to understanding, one has unconsciously provided aid and sympathy for Hitler. One has argued, in effect, Hitler’s side, and thus given aid and comfort to the enemy of freedom and a rapacious murderer.

Why? Three things are missing in this. One is the character of Hitler, his worldview, and how he runs his country. Two, his intentions–what he after and what would the world be like if he won this war. And three, as important, not only their sins, but also the virtues of his enemies should be highlighted.

Only all this together, I submit, would provide a solid basis for students’ evaluating what is going on.

Now, with regard to the Islamic terrorists, the same holds. I have seen much in the major media, sometimes written by professors, and which can only reflect what they teach, attempts to understand why the terrorists have committed such murders as 9/11, and recently the Madrid bombings. But note what is missing.

1. In international and virtually all civil laws, it is the greatest evil to murder innocent people en masse. Conscientious governments, diplomats, anti-war organizations, academics, and others have worked for centuries to limit and restrain attacks on civilians, with much success until the Islamicist terrorism. We have the history of the various Hague Conventions, the Geneva Conventions, the Genocide Convention, and now the International Court of Justice. Yet, these murderous attacks go on without much reference in the media to this barbarous regression to the extermination of men, woman, and children during the times of the Ancient Greeks and Romans, Genghis Khan, and the European Middle Ages. Or, look at these murders another way. The terrorist attacks are comparable to serial murder within a state by a citizen, but here done on foreigners. In this case, the attacks are the greatest serial murders ever committed in written history by civilians (not governments, or their agents). Surely, an understanding of this butchery requires this context.

2. These serial murderers belong to a fanatical belief system that is even more totalitarian and absolute than that practiced by communist countries. Were these Islamicists in power, there would be no human rights, no freedom of speech whatsoever, no freedom of religion at all. Even those of different sects within the Muslim faith would be killed. Any dissidents would be murdered, as would any one with different political beliefs, or who even inadvertently criticized Mohammed. All women would be, in effect, enslaved. And even buy and sell slavery could be condoned or practiced, as in one of their supporting regimes, Sudan. In sum, these people would, if they had the power, create an absolutist, slave society.

3. As to the sins of the United States, yes, there has been many, but also there have been greater compensating virtues that also should be mentioned to students (you can’t assume they know these, anymore than they know the value of their right arm until it is cut off). Americans fought a war to end slavery, the greatest war fought between the Napoleonic Wars and World War I. Compared to other countries, the rise in power, wealth, and influence of minorities and women within a comparatively short time has been incredible. Compare the hatred and discrimination the Irish, Italians, Asians, and others suffered their first decades in America to now. America has been one of the most commiserating and helpful nations in times of human disaster, giving of itself tremendous aid and support to other countries, regardless of enemy or friend. During the communist Civil War in Russia, American food aid saved several million lives. Then closer to our time, consider the aid to Somalia, which may have saved a million alone. Then consider that in 1945 the United States emerged as not only the most powerful nation, but also in full control of its former enemies, Japan, Germany, and Italy. Yet, did it exploit them to create a Roman like empire? No, it gave them all massive aid to recover from the war, and then gave them back their freedom. Now, with the collapse of Soviet Power, there is only one superpower in the world, the United States. But has it used that power to rule the world. Hardly, the easy evidence is how many weak nations and self-professed enemies can thumb their nose at America, as long as they do not endanger its security, as did Afghanistan and Iraq under Hussein.

I could go on mentioning how open American borders have been, how it is a beacon of freedom, and the great freedoms Americans enjoy, including the ability to emphasize its sins, even in the face of a national tragedy like 9/11, as evidenced by the existence of this website. And that in the terrorist’s world, many who visit this site would by now probably have been executed, many with torture beforehand. I hope that visitors can fill in the rest of America’s virtues themselves. But the point of this commentary is not to focus on these virtues alone, or to ignore the vices often italicized in the media, but to point out that this should be part of a balanced understanding of Islamicist terrorism, along with the atavistic barbarism of civilian mass murder, the intentions of the terrorists, and the consequences were they successful

Only, I believe, when we communicate to students and others about contemporary terrorism in this way will they truly understand what is going on.