Monday, September 3, 2012
I recently read that Graham Spanier, the former president of Penn State, who was terminated by the board because of his part in the cover-up of Coach Sandusky's misbehavior, will retain his tenured professorship at the college. Many people might think that his dismissal from the presidency should also result in termination of tenure, but it doesn't work that way. This news reminded me that I have often felt that "lifetime" tenure is undesirable. As our expectation of life continues to increase, we may be left with some very elderly Supreme Court justices. I do not suggest a mandatory retirement age, as there are clearly many competent minds capable of excellent work after (say) the age of 80. We can only hope that those who are in the early stages of Alzheimer's (or other forms of dementia) will be encouraged to resign. Perhaps regular medical examinations would be practical, but at present there is no way of forcing involuntary resignation. Perhaps it is more realistic to hope for a change in the tenure arrangements for schoolteachers. I have often discussed this with my wife, herself a retired teacher. Perhaps the best suggestion is a "rolling 3 year tenure". This would work by granting two further years of tenure to those worthy of it, while giving a couple of years to those not given such an extension, in order for them to find other employment. In the Episcopal Church, a Rector has unlimited tenure, unless he or she agrees contractually to a more limited arrangement. A major problem with this system is that when there is dissension between a Rector and the Lay leadership of the parish, it is often extraordinarily difficult for the Bishop to find some other suitable Church employment for the cleric. Perhaps the most practical solution is to arrange for early retirement or some employment for which the clerics skills and experience can be applied. I'm not suggesting this is easy!