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Maverick Mark “Tenured” Taylor Slams Tenure

Crazy cowboy philosopher and Columbia Department Chair Professor of Religion Mark Taylor came out swinging today with a New York Times opinion piece condemning his own job. The longtime gloom-and-doom prophet of educational decay made his stand against the tenure system, calling it a financial and intellectual blunder and accusing its defenders of acting purely out of self-interest.

Yet for Taylor, a man who once claimed that, “Graduate education is the Detroit of education,” these are soft words. And at least he has an alternate plan—seven-year renewable contracts for high-performing professors.

We shot Taylor a few questions about his seven-year plan. He responded: “The seven year idea is my own and I have been promoting it for more than a decade.  It does not have a chance at Columbia or most other places.”

Tenure…it’s a movie!

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  • not so original says:

    @not so original Professor David Helfand has been arguing -since 1981 – that professors should have five year appointments. Not incidentally he also turned down his offer of tenure.

  • Alum says:

    @Alum I echo the first comment. Prof. Helfand’s arrangement is no secret; someone as interested in tenure as Prof. Taylor must know about it. Maybe his idea and Helfand’s have important differences. If so, I’d be interested in learning what they are.

  • Another Alum says:

    @Another Alum As a former graduate student myself, I’ve seen that tenure is a pretty broken system. I just went for a M.A. myself, but then number of brilliant PhD student dropouts I’ve come to know is astounding. These people know many languages and are teaching at fine universities, usually for almost no money, and usually great frustrating and leave academia. Those that do get PhDs are languishing in non-tenure track positions, overworked and underpaid.

    This system needs to be fixed, lest the quality of education at most of America’s colleges and universities be greatly diminished.

  • Tenure says:

    @Tenure In the current system, people spend 7 years playing politics to get tenure. Under Taylor’s system, people would apply for a new contract ever 7 years, so let’s figure that they would have to spend the last 2-3 years of each contract playing politics. An academic career can last 30, 40, 50 years. Let’s say 40, for argument’s sake. That’s 5 contracts, which means 10-15 years of kowtowing to the powers that be. So we get more intellectual conformism and sycophancy from professors.

    Not to mention the fact that academic projects tend to be long-term projects. It can take five, ten, fifteen years for a full idea to come to fruition. Do we want our professors to just work on the 7-year calendar, constantly scraping up something to show to the panel reviewing their applications? Or do we want them to actually spend their (at least tenured) careers doing meaningful research?

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