Sunday, December 14, 2008


The longer I spend in grad school, the more frustrated I get with all the political maneuvering and bureaucratic red tape. For example, last week one of the older male faculty members in our department made an inappropriate comment to one of my labmates about her not wanting to eat too much because she's looking a bit "husky". Now, mind you, this girl is anything but, probably in the best shape of anyone in lab, so this comment couldn't be more misplaced, but regardless, it's bound to hurt. Not to mention the fact that comments like those are what often lead to eating disorders and a decreased self-confidence, but that's a rant for another time. Yet this professor felt it necessary and appropriate to say something.

So the question is what do we do. Turns out this same faculty member has made comments to multiple labmates (past and present) before about the way they look, has hit on multiple females before (even slapping one's rear end at one point), and has been approached by superiors about it repeatedly. In fact, he was canned from the dean's office and no longer allowed to have female employees because of a sexual harassment complaint of an ex grad student. So why is he still employed by Emory?

Unfortunately, there's something in the academic world called tenure. For faculty, it's job security earned by hard work early in your career. In laymen's terms, it means the University can't fire you for much of anything. While I understand the faculty concerns, it seems to me that there needs to be more lenient definitions of what is actually grounds for termination. It's likely that Charles Nemeroff, the ex chair of Psychiatry who is currently under investigation for not disclosing money he got from pharmaceutical companies that directly conflicted with his research, will have a similar fate. Unless he's actually prosecuted and imprisoned, it's unlikely that Emory will do anything other than shuffle him around.

Tenure is why it is ridiculously hard to get rid of bad teachers at every grade level. While designed to protect/reward teachers for good work, it seems to be abused at every step along the way. Most schools would rather avoid the hassle, leaving those who are directly influenced by certain faculty's behavior to deal with the consequences.


Moshe Jacobson said...

I agree that tenure is a ridiculous notion. It encourages stagnation and reuse of old, dying methods instead of the fresh, new ideas brought by most young un-tenured professors. I'm sure it was invented by a board of old decaying professors somewhere, who figured it would be a good idea to protect people like themselves from ending up jobless in their old age, with no further marketable abilities. If it's important to you that this problem be fixed, you need to use the power of numbers that you have with everyone who has been a victim of his misbehavior. Complain until something happens!

Constance said...

Glad you're blogging... tenure is a tricky subject, and I think you're right, it should probably be abolished. I guess the hard part is that it will be profs themselves who would have to lobby to end tenure, and the policy change would have to happen one university at a time. Yet who would take a job at a school that doesn't offer tenure when they can have better job security someplace else?

Moreover, I can imagine that certain profs would argue that tenure allows them to engage in less traditional research or activities that are fundamental to the school setting. For example, my mom, a law prof who in her heart disapproves of tenure yet reaps its benefits, has been able to found a Center for Law, Health, and Society and work towards an additional Master's degree since earning tenure. By doing this, she has expanded GSU's health law program a hundred-fold, causing it to be in the top ten health law programs in the US - yet she could never have done this kind of work before tenure. It's taken away from her teaching and research time, and doesn't fit into the general law prof C.V.

In conclusion - I do think tenure needs some serious adjustment, but some of its benefits are worth keeping.

Tinggroup said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Crazy Guns said...

Amanda DELETED a comment!!!

Devil's advocate....
Tenure is not to problem. Guns don't kill people. Guilty until proven innocent.

This is more of a feminist issue though.

I agree that tenure is a STUPID idea....unless I have tenure. I doubt anybody is secure enough in their job that they aren't afraid of getting fired.

Constance has a point though. Tenure is SUPPOSED to be an award for those that work hard for a school or whatever.

I firmly believe that you are not going to stop a jerk. You will just be able to deflect him. Either he has friends high up or tenure or great credentials or a rich dad. This is how jerks thrive. You can't hate on the idea of job security because some sick dude touched your butt. Even if you DID fire him...he won't learn anything....he's a bully. You only would have solved the problem for you and NOT other women.

There are other ways. You can tell the dude directly that you don't appreciate his comments...MAYBE he gets comfortable with women and says these things. If he fires you over that you can always sue. You can pay a crackhead $100 to beat him up. You can be friends with his wife. YOU can get Tenure.

This is in no way me saying that this man is in the right. But he's not going to respect women more (or you guys at least) if you use tenure as the reason you let him talk to you like this. LOL

Billie Jean King would have told him that she doesn't appreciate it right away or she would have gotten tenure herself and then came to the office to scream at him every time he did it to someone else.

Evelyn said...

I hope your friend lodged a complaint against this professor.