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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Seven Carleton Faculty Earn Tenure

<ring, Carleton awarded tenure to seven faculty members:  Roger Bechtel (theater), Catherine Fortin (linguistics), Tun Myint (political science), Asuka Sango (religion), Katherine St. Clair (mathematics), David Tompkins (history), and Jennifer Wolff (biology). The announcement came on March 12, and their tenure will be effective September 1.

The Merriam-Webster Online dictionary offers one definition of tenure as, “the right to keep a job (especially the job of being a professor at a college or university) for as long as you want to have it.”

This right (which in some cases extends to K12 teachers) and the controversies surrounding it have a long and storied history. According to a 2008 article in TIME magazine, the issue of tenure headed the agenda of the National Educators Association conference in 1887 at a time when worker rights were at the forefront of many public debates.

The educators’ goals included freedom from meddlesome administrators who could ban them from teaching controversial books and could fire female teachers for getting married or becoming pregnant. Tenure was seen as a protection both from the institution itself and from the whims of the surrounding community.

By the turn of the century, the issue of tenure had become politicized, and it remains so to this day. Opponents of tenure tend to argue that it extends harmful protections to poor teachers, but supporters counter that it is a necessary safeguard of academic freedom.  Both sides would probably agree, however, that receiving tenure from an accredited institution is a great honor.

But what does tenure mean here at Carleton? According to Dean Beverly Nagel, “At Carleton, as at other colleges and universities, [receiving tenure] means that a tenured faculty member can’t be dismissed for pursuing unpopular or controversial theories or ideas in their scholarship or teaching.” As for how it is earned at our institution, Nagel said, “At Carleton, faculty earn tenure based first and foremost on excellence in teaching. In addition, it is earned based on the faculty member’s accomplishments and trajectory for continued growth in scholarly and/or creative work, and his/her service to the department, the College, and the academic community.”

Faculty and staff alike seemed pleased with the results of Carleton’s recent, and extensive, tenure deliberations.

As Roger Bechtel said, “I don’t know of any other school at which the President and the Dean devote so much time and energy reviewing candidates’ scholarship and artistic materials.  That means a great deal to me personally, because I know they understand what I do and what I try to teach — I’m not just the guy who does the school play.”
David Tompkins echoed a similar sentiment, saying, “The past six years have shown me in so many ways that I’ve found an academic home, and I’m very happy that the Carleton community reciprocates those feelings. Receiving tenure here is a great honor, and also a great thrill.”

Beverly Nagel offered a cheerful benediction to the newly tenured professors, saying, “I congratulate these newly tenured faculty on their many and impressive accomplishments and am delighted that they will be members of our faculty for the long term!”

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