by Orlando Rodriguez
Colleges are not collegial, and tenure (guaranteed lifetime employment) does not foster an open exchange of ideas. Four-year universities can be narrow-minded institutions (Yes, it is possible to be liberal and narrow?minded) where too many professors in the social sciences scream, back stab, manipulate, and lie to wipe out ideas that are a threat to their own research and academic status.
Too often, social science research is not about obtaining truth or justice. It is about the self-interests of tenured professors and their egos. This can be bad for aspiring young Latino professors who want to challenge established views and shed light on the reality, and diversity, of the Latino experience.
The problem is that obtaining influence and job security at a university requires earning tenure. However, to receive tenure you have to convince a bunch of already tenured professors that you deserve it. Typically, these tenured professors are older with entrenched beliefs that they do not want questioned. Ironically, in order to get tenure and the freedom to speak freely, you must first conform to the status-quo. In short, you have to shut-up before you can speak-up, or risk being blackballed by los muy cliquey academicians.
In A Tenured Professor by Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith, one of the characters says, “Tenure was originally invented to protect radial professors, those who challenged the accepted order. But we don’t have such people anymore at the universities, and the reason is [sic] tenure. When the time comes to grant it nowadays, the radicals get screened out. That’s its principal function. It’s a very good system, really – keeps academic life at a decent level of tranquility [sic].”
Consider a young Latino economics professor interested in researching Latin Americans who put their savings into U.S. banks. Older non-Latino professors may consider this a trivial topic because their stereotype of Latinos is Desi and Lucy and fruit hats. An outspoken young Latino professor who wants to research the link between increasing corporate profits and undocumented workers may not get tenure at a university that has significant business funding, or a very large stock portfolio. Such harsh realities contradict the facade of idealism that universities market.
Professors justify tenure as necessary to ensure that our colleges remain places where ideas are freely discussed and research is unbiased. Ask anyone who has been in a master’s or Ph.D. program just how free they were to argue against traditional tenets. A better alternative would be to eliminate tenure and rely on freedom of expression as granted to us in the 1st Amendment. This would allow all those aspiring radical Latino professors to say what they really believe.
To learn more about Orlando, visit his Bio Page.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of
the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.