Board of Trustees Awards Tenure to Seven Faculty Members

During the February Board of Trustees meeting, seven Colorado College faculty members were awarded tenure. Effective July 1, 2017, Helen Daly (philosophy), Scott Krzych (film and media studies), Christina Leza (anthropology), Corina McKendry (political science), Habiba Vaghoo (chemistry and biochemistry), Dana Wolfe (political science), and Naomi Wood (Spanish and Portuguese) will be promoted to the Associate Professor position. On Feb. 27, President Jill Tiefenthaler and Dean Sandi Wong informed the faculty of their promotion with a celebratory bottle of champagne.

According to the Faculty Handbook, “The award of tenure attests to the College’s judgment that a faculty member has demonstrated a level of ability and achievement as both teacher and scholar that is consistent with the professional standards of the nation’s premier liberal arts colleges. The award of tenure expresses—as well as the college’s confidence—that the faculty member will contribute significantly to the intellectual and collegial life of the college over an extended professional career.”

As one of the greatest distinguishers in the academic community, tenure adds another layer of credibility, integrity, and insurance to a professor’s work. “Tenure is what allows faculty to teach and research with integrity,” said Professor Helen Daly. “It takes courage to challenge a dominant theory even when your job is secure, and it could wreck your career to challenge a dominant theory when your colleagues can fire you for disagreeing with them. If we want new ideas, pursued with sincerity and integrity, we need faculty who are free to follow the evidence as they see it, without concern for what’s politically acceptable. Faculty who feel insecure in their jobs may question their ability to teach with integrity.” Essentially, tenure separates a professor’s job security from academically-based scrutiny or criticism. With the demand for censorship and trigger warnings on the rise from parents and students at colleges and universities across the country, tenure allows professors to approach both their research and teaching methods without fear of sudden retaliation or retribution.

However, with school budgets shrinking across the country, the number of tenured professors, especially at larger public universities, is drastically decreasing, making tenure-track and tenure even harder to come by. Schools are increasingly choosing to contract with professors for one or two years. This arrangement often includes more strenuous class schedules for professors and sometimes juggling courses at more than one school, potentially reducing a professor’s time and ability to conduct research.

For a professor to earn tenure at CC, they must demonstrate their ability to teach, conduct research, and show a willingness to help govern the college. In addition, each department has their own subject-specific criteria that the professor must meet. According to President Tiefenthaler, candidates are not compared to each other, but rather to the standard set by CC. When hired to tenure-track positions, professors undergo a three-year review before undergoing the full tenure review during their sixth year at CC. During their review, a professor’s tenure file—containing evaluations, peer and student reviews, letters from the college, professional statements, and the like—is evaluated by peers, the Personnel Council, the Dean of Faculty, the President and, finally, the Board of Trustees. Each level of review adds more comments and recommendations, but ultimately the Board of Trustees, taking into consideration the opinions of peers, students, Deans, and the President, have the final word. Failure to obtain tenure after their evaluation results in the professor leaving CC to seek another position.

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