Boookshelf

How tenures detrimentally impact the student body’s satisfaction with their education

C/O Erol Ahmed

Imagine this: you just finished a gruelling midterm. Every part of you is sweating and it is taking every ounce of energy in you not to cry. Instead, you pool your remaining bodily resources in order to absorb the shock of what just happened.

You slug past the next couple of hours as you wait for the (inevitable) fury of students rushing towards the Mac subreddit to vent away their frustrations while folks in similar positions give their sympathies. You are an audience member to that subreddit and you wonder to yourself: how on Earth is *insert professor* employed?

For many new students in a challenging university like McMaster University, this thought surely has crossed students’ minds plenty of times with each evaluation season. Once you’ve been in the education system too long, it is easy to get desensitized towards just how odd this phenomenon is in post-secondary learning.

Despite the countless negative student evaluations and scathing Rate My Professor reviews, why does it appear that many faculty members appear to evade any consequences? After all, is it not the case everywhere else that if you do a bad job then you are bound to face the consequences?

Despite the countless negative student evaluations and scathing Rate My Professor reviews, why does it appear that many faculty members appear to evade any consequences?

One word: tenure.

It took me a while to really understand the concept. Essentially, tenures are the ultimate mode of job security an educational institution can possibly offer to its professors and is a process by which an academician can become a permanent faculty member of an institution without fear of reprisal due to their academic interests.

Since tenures are highly sought after, an academician must undergo a gruelling process to prove their worthiness and demonstrate why they deserve tenure to a larger committee.

Although being tenured may be an ideal position for an academic intellectual who has dedicated their life to pursuing a field of study, I strongly believe that the way tenure stands now serves to greatly disservice the student body.

While I am absolutely in favour of hardworking professors reaping the fruits of their labour and enriching our universities with their expertise, tenure can definitely be done in a manner that protects the professors from unjust treatment without compromising on taking student critique seriously.

While I am absolutely in favour of hardworking professors reaping the fruits of their labour and enriching our universities with their expertise, tenure can definitely be done in a manner that protects the professors from unjust treatment without compromising on taking student critique seriously.

I believe that addressing student opinion surrounding a faculty member should be done promptly and in a manner that makes student voices heard is the best way to change our places of learning for the better.

It is too often that students internalize the hopeless, long processes required to bring any matter to attention and instead bicker among themselves until there is a negative stigma around specific faculty members, departments and courses.

Tenures indirectly allow student criticism to increase and grow more and more severe against particulars of an institution throughout the years. This fosters an incredibly negative student opinion of certain faculties, which in turn allows for students’ perceptions of the reputation of the department and its members to supersede their passion for the subject.

If universities want to remain relevant as legitimate institutions of learning, we have a collective responsibility to change the culture of silencing student criticisms and adopting a student-first approach. It is students who drive it forward and if we wish to make progress in student satisfaction, it must start with a strong reevaluation of the outdated tenure system.

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