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Many faculty leaders at institutions around the country believe that tenure shields incompetent professors from dismissal, according to a study published earlier this year.
John M. Rothgeb, Jr., a professor of Political Science at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, undertook the study in response to statewide debates about the effectiveness of tenure in ensuring faculty quality. The study, “When Tenure Protects the Incompetent: Results from a Survey of Department Chairs,” was published in the January issue of Political Science & Politics (PSP). The results of the study were covered in January by Inside Higher Ed.
Rothgeb collected surveys from 361 political science department chairs at institutes granting doctoral, masters and baccalaureate degrees. The surveys asked the department chairs whether tenure “has shielded incompetent faculty from dismissal,” and 62 percent responded that it had.
“Whether large, medium or small, unionized or non-unionized, rural or urban, or public or private, department chairs report that their colleges and universities confront problems stemming from tenure as a protector of the incompetent,” Rogthgeb wrote in the PSP article.
The survey also asked a number of other questions to try to determine what institutional factors may lead to tenure protecting poorly performing faculty. Rothgeb’s statistical analysis of the survey data found that three key factors — administration overriding faculty recommendations for tenure; institutions using collegiality as a criterion for tenure; and emphasizing “quantity” over “quality” in academic publishing in faculty evaluation — were all linked to a higher likelihood of reported faculty incompetence.
An abstract of Rothgeb’s study, as well as a link to purchase the article from PSP, is available here: http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract
Inside Higher Ed’s coverage of the study, which includes interviews with Rothgeb and other university faculty responding to his findings, is available here: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/01/07/study-links-tenure-criteria-long-term-professor-performance