Off-Track Profs: Nontenured Teachers in Higher Education by John G. Cross

By John G. Cross

An research of non-tenure-track school at ten elite study universities and the results for undergraduate schooling, institutional governance, and American preeminence in larger schooling.

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Of course, a miracle didn’t happen and certainly it was some clerk who hit upon the solution or the unwritten decision, but in any case it couldn’t be discovered by us at least, by us here, or even by the head bureau, which clerk had decided in this case and on what grounds. —Franz Kafka, The Castle1 We are certainly not the first to puzzle over how academic policies evolve or struggle to identify the individuals who ultimately decide on resource allocations in the modern university. Kafka had an important insight.

Boards that have successfully recruited new presidents from outside rarely recognize that by doing so they have learned something about those individuals—that given the right incentives, they are moveable. Such leaders can equally well be hired away—perhaps just when they have finally acquired effective knowledge of how their institutions work. ”16 The pool of provosts is a popular one from which to recruit presidents. Since few presidencies are filled from within, an ambitious provost will move on to another institution as soon as possible.

They also choose when they want to teach, leaving the less desirable teaching times to untenured colleagues, without much regard for choosing times thought to be most effective pedagogically. 3 Tenure also provides an important status and economic symbol. A tenure review can be an ordeal, and surviving the tenure process at an elite university is a sign of recognition by one’s peers of the quality of one’s scholarship. Individuals in non-tenure-track positions are rarely first-rank scholars, and they are not likely to pass a difficult tenure review should they go through one.

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