Surviving austerity with honor

As times get tougher on campus, political infighting gets meaner, writes Rob Jenkins, who teaches at Georgia Perimeter College, in The Two-Year Track. He calls for academics to rediscover a sense of honor to cope with austerity.

 If ever any group of individuals should pull together, it would be college faculty in today’s unsettled (and unsettling) political landscape. Sadly, I’ve witnessed more dishonorable behavior in a single committee meeting than I’ve seen on a week’s worth of CNN news shows. When it comes to protecting their turf — their discipline, their textbook, their pet project — an alarming number of faculty members will lie, cheat, bear false witness, shout down, and intimidate their opponents. I’m not saying all faculty members are like that, or even most, but far too many fit that description.

If higher education is going to survive the current climate of budgetary “austerity” and cultural warfare, we’re going to have to rediscover, as a profession, the concept of honor. And when I talk about the profession, I mean from the top down: from presidents and chancellors to the lowliest classroom instructor. Because if we continue behaving the way we have, our narrow-mindedness and cut-throatedness, our in-fighting and self-aggrandizement — in short, our politicking — may ultimately do more damage to our cause than any external threat.

Commenter Insouciant suggests that tenure encourages petty politics.

Academics can get away with being petty, mean, nasty, and selfish because there usually is no great consequence of such behavior. They have tenure.

Replace tenure with a renewable 5-year review and contract based on performance, and we would see the civility and “honor” return to academia.

Of course, most college instructors  these days — especially at community colleges — are part-time adjuncts with zero job security and no say in how the college is run. There’s a huge gap in pay and prestige between the tenured minority and the untenured  majority.