The dangers of tenure: does job security allow professor bias?

During my time in college, I have had the experience of meeting multiple professors who have played key roles in the shaping of my life. Some taught me academic tools, some taught me life lessons and some taught me about the harsh realities of life within the academic community.

Like so many of my fellow students, I have been forced to realize that although every professor has pledged a part of his or her life to educating pupils, some professors not only fall short but purposely drop the ball because of personal prejudices, insecurities and their own selfish desires.

While I strongly believe that my university will not stand for hatred, there exists a certain loophole among academia that opens students up to the dangers of such prejudice and ignorance: tenure.

I fully support the idea of professors whose hard work and dedication have proven them to be a critical part of an academic community being awarded such a high honor. However, through recent experiences I’ve come to see a different side of this gift.

I know I’m not the only student who has had this unfortunate experience. Students pay high tuition rates and go through high-stress situations. And we risk our college careers and future goals on the occasional prejudicial professor.

While I’m aware that students are given the right to choose our classes, professors and schedules, it would be ridiculous to make the assumption that all college students are afforded the luxury of avoiding these bad apples. Professors are assigned a general education course, which is filled with newer students who haven’t had time to adjust to such a major transition.

Our university has done a phenomenal job of aiding in this transition with the implementation of University Life classes, supportive residential staff and the counseling and testing center.

However, despite the hard work of so many at FMU, like every other university, students’ futures are still put at risk as they sign up for classes without prior knowledge of the hidden beliefs of some of the professors they’ll be interacting with. With that said, I can’t help but wonder why we aren’t doing something to change such an important negative factor in the lives of our students.

College is meant to be a time where students are exposed to different viewpoints, some of which should be challenging – for without them we do not grow. We are taught to think openly and critically, to face adversity with historical evidence, to practice rhetorically sound argumentative skills and to foster a deep desire to rid the world of both ignorance and prejudice. While I agree that we do not simply learn these skills from lectures and Power Points, I cannot support students having to face such negativity when dealing with their educators.

If you look at the definition for the Latin word for education, “educere” is among the first to be mentioned. This term is commonly defined as the ability to lead a student out of ignorance. In fact, world-renowned educator and public speaker, Jane Elliot, has preached that same definition during her speeches about the fight to end racism in the U.S.

So if part of an educator’s goal is to rid prejudice and ignorance among students, why are we allowing these few educators to perpetuate those same dangerous beliefs while covertly affecting our GPAs and futures?

It breaks my heart to say that there are professors who have abused the gift of tenure to further their personal prejudices.

There is a professor who, after a student vocalized her opinion of the professor’s lack of teaching, grading and organizational skills, sought to personally affect the student’s grades despite the student’s dedication to completing her work. I know the student has sent dozens of emails and never receive a reply. After completing work and receiving help to insure her work was satisfactory, she not only did not get a single assignment back but was never notified of her grades. The professor claimed she lost the assignments.

When the student vocalized her worry to the professor, she was specifically told not to worry because she was perfectly fine. This obvious lie jeopardized her standing in that classroom and in our university. I watched that students, whose standing in the university was already on this ice, stress for months about her work in that class.

After a semester of doing everything in her power to regain her standing and earn the first college degree in her family, her chance was cruelly snatched out of her grasp by a professor who had nothing to lose. She clearly chose not to do her job and instead she failed a student who deserved better.

However, the student was handed a letter kicking her out of the university she worked so hard to stay in. Upon discussing her options with her superiors, she was told that because her professor had tenure there was nothing they could personally do. When the student wrote a letter arguing why she should be reinstated and explaining her predicament with her professor, she was once again turned away. Now, that student is working a minimum wage job and has given up all hope of finding the education she deserves.

I cannot understand why there are professors who stonewall students striving for success because of disagreements and insecurities. It breaks my heart to know that there are professors in the academic community who would rather destroy the careers of students than admit that their teaching styles are at best outdated.

I’m not claiming to have an answer to this problem. Instead, I’m merely hoping to start a conversation that has been on the back burner for much too long. We deserve better.