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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Study: Tenured professors still predominantly male

(U-WIRE) SAN MARCOS, Texas–For many professors, the road to tenure is a long one, often riddled with extended hours of research, writing and work.
But the road is harder for some than it is for others.

According to an article in the Dallas Morning News, a study done in 1999 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that in the world of academia, men still outnumber women by a large margin.

The study found that more than 70 percent of tenured professors are men and that women professors are generally underpaid.

Achieving tenure requires professors to work 60 to 80 hours per week for about six consecutive years during which they teach, write grants and publish and present papers. The application for tenure is often a one-shot deal, according to the study.

If a candidate for tenure does not make it at the end of the six-year period, then the seventh year on staff is the final one, said Ted Hindson, a tenured political science professor at Southwest Texas State University.

Cynthia Opheim, chair of the political science department, said the process to become tenured takes into account a three-pronged look at that professor’s performance in teaching, scholarship and service.

Opheim said teaching is, of course, the most important aspect. Hindson agreed.

“Doing well in the classroom is the main objective,” Hindson said. “The students are the reason we are here.”

Opheim said the evaluation takes into account aspects of the professor’s work including student evaluations, teaching materials and in-class evaluations from other professors who are already tenured.

Opheim said the second aspect is scholarship, which includes publishing papers, presentations and the number of publications in which a professor is already published.

The third aspect is service, which can incorporate service to the profession, to the department and to the university, according to Opheim.

In the political science department, Opheim said professors work on campaigns, serve as election judges and serve on city councils, as Edward Mihalkanin, associate professor of political science, does.

The procedure leading to tenure involves a review process at several levels, Hindson said. The department’s personnel committee, made up of all the tenured professors from that department, must first approve the applicant.

The next step in the process is approval by the department chair and then the chair of the school, after which the applicant moves on to SWT President Jerome Supple for review. If approved at this level, the applicant moves on to the Texas State University System Board of Regents for final approval.

Hindson said he knows of no situation where the Board of Regents declined to approve an applicant.

“I wouldn’t say it is pro-forma at this level,” Hindson said. “But they generally back the president’s recommendation.”

Hindson said the process begins every fall and concludes every April.

Each tenure-track instructor is hired on a one-year basis, subject to review every year.

Hindson said the school is not obligated to rehire each person each year, but it generally does.

Tenure does not necessarily mean automatic exemption from all future review, however, Hindson said.

“Tenure does not mean you have a job for life,” he said.

Once a professor attains tenure, according to Opheim, that professor is subject to yearly performance evaluations known as post-tenure review. These evaluations consist of the same standards required to attain tenure in the first place, she said.

Opheim said the standards, such as publishing and presenting papers, remain the same, but the intense pressure to become tenured is lacking.

“Once you are tenured, you cannot become untenured,” Opheim said.

He said the faculty handbook outlines procedures for dismissing a tenured professor, which would happen only under the most extreme circumstances.

Actions that warrant dismissal might include conviction of a felony, a claim of sexual harassment leveled against the professor or incompetence in doing his or her job.

Opheim agreed that dismissals are rare and occur only under extreme circumstances.

“It would have to include egregious behavior on the part of the faculty member or extreme incompetence in one or more of the three areas [teaching, scholarship and service],” Opheim said.

Examples of extreme incompetence include poor performance evaluations, Opheim said.

However, the evaluations have to show poor performance for more than one academic year before any action is taken to remove the professor.

In some departments the number of tenured female professors is equal to or even greater than the number of tenured male professors.

Opheim said in her department, 18 of 31 professors have tenure. Of these, five are women.

“There is still a gap, but it is not as much as before,” she said. “Political science is one discipline where there are still more men than women.”

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