Approximately 57 percent of the full-time faculty on campus have tenure, meaning they have a permanent contract with Blackburn. According to education.com, these professors have guaranteed employment unless they are fired for “just cause” such as severe misconduct. This website also explained that tenure was put in place during the early 20th century to prevent educators from being fired unjustly. A professor can apply for tenure at Blackburn after their fifth year of teaching here. Although tenure sounds like a positive, there are rumors that the faculty may change in negative ways once they achieve this status. The National Education Association (NEA) laid out two common myths about tenured professors: they don’t work very hard and they can do or say whatever they want.
Junior communications major Patrick Benedict is most familiar with three tenured professors: Chair of Education Dr. Kelly Chaney, Chair of History Dr. Jan Zimmerman and history professor Dr. Gary Long. He noticed that some tenured professors are more willing to extend deadlines as long as they feel their students are learning and comprehending material. They also aren’t as concerned with updating grades constantly. “In a way, [tenure] lets them have more freedom to teach the class they want instead of having to constantly be doing things for grades,” he said. Yet Benedict came to the conclusion after comparing his professors that teaching styles may not be affected by tenure at all. “I feel like being tenured only really affects some teachers,” he said. “Some teachers go ahead and do what they do and trust in their natural ability to be able to just teach the way they want and still continue to have their job.”
English and communications professor Dr. Mark Benedetti has been teaching at Blackburn for two years and doesn’t have tenure. He considered his experience as a student and as a graduate student teacher when reflecting on the difference between tenured and non-tenured professors. “I thought that typically tenured faculty were better teachers,” he said. “Probably because they have more experience with it and tried out more things and developed more knowledge and such. Experience will make you better at things.” He also found that tenured faculty at other institutions have high expectations for their students’ knowledge. “It seems like the longer people are at institutions, the more they assume their students would know…” he said.
Chair of English and communications Dr. Naomi Crummey was granted tenure in 2011. She compared her teaching style both before she received tenure and after. In her opinion, she didn’t see a change and has been pretty consistent. She said, “I’ve changed to quizzes maybe in the last two years but…I think I’m a collaborative and workshop-based, discussion-based person. I’ve always been that way.” When she thought about other professors, she claimed she didn’t see a shift in style once they were tenured.