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On Tenure and Tenure Track-关于终身职位和预备终身职位(中英对照) 精选

已有 11910 次阅读 2010-2-21 01:19 |系统分类:教学心得

There has been a great deal of discussion on Science Net lately on the tenure system in US academia. Here I just want to add my two cents worth:
 
1. By “tenure track” we mean that a tenured position exists in the department for a young scholar appointed to this position. If s/he eventually attains certain standards and reputation established by the department, then s/he will be promoted to “tenure”. In such case, a scholar is not competing with anyone else for the position. The fund for the position already exists or has been approved by say, the state legislature as often the case in state universities. In a sense, attaining “tenure” via a “tenure tracked” position is an easier task. Of course, in some well known state university such as UC Berkeley, the departmental standard for a “tenure tracked” position can still be very high.
 
2. On the other hand, in many first rate universities, particularly private universities, such as Harvard or Stanford, getting tenure means competing with everyone in the rest of the country and the world. The department has no obligation to promote you even if you are excellent when there is a better candidate from inside or outside who is willing to come. In such cases, the search committee literally searches far and wide and intend to appoint the best POSSIBLE candidate. You are merely guaranteed to be one of the contenders.Being an insider is a double edged sword since the department knows your strong as well as weak points better than other candidates. Thus, being appointed as a non-tenured assistant or associate professor does not mean a position is guaranteed to exist in the future. In fact, the department may change her mind about whether or not a position in your specialty is in her best interest. Thus, being denied tenure, say at Harvard, is no indication of failure or something to be ashamed of. In my own experience (historically, at Harvard one in four inside candidate receives tenure via promotion), I have seen persons being denied tenure in our school who later on win big award of the profession, being elected as academicians, and lead otherwise very successful careers.
 
3. In this sense, you can say that the ease of getting tenure in a tenure tracked position can vary from school to school, while the standard for tenure in a first rate university in the US is absolute or “world class”.
 
4. Finally, as pointed out by others, being granted tenure only guarantees that you have complete freedom of speech and inquiry. You need not have fear for your job (in the 1950 era of McCarthy and fear of communism, Harvard bent over backwards to protect a couple of her left-wing faculties against FBI and government harassment). In science and technology, if you cannot get funding for your own research, tenure means very little job security and/or satisfaction.
 
5. Tenure does not mean absolute job security no matter what. In fact the official language when tenure is granted at Harvard is called "appointment without limit of time", i.e., there are no definite termination date. But nothing is said about terminatiuon cannot take place. You can still be dismissed for committing high crime or moral turpitude. Also if an entire department is being abolished, tenure does not protect you. I remember in the 70s, Yale decided to close her small department of operations research. A well known tenured scholar in the subject had to look for a job elsewhere.
 
关于“终身职位”和 “预备终身职位”
 
近来科学网经常出现关于美国大学终身教职制度的讨论,我想就此问题略抒己见:
 
1. 在美国大学,年轻教师获得“预备终身职位(tenure travck)”且达到学校设定的标准后便有可能获得终身职位(tenure)。一般有“预备终身职位” 的大学都设有终身职位基金,许多州立大学的终身职位更是通过了州立法机构批准。某种程度上,通过“预备终身职位”获得终身职位相对容易。而在诸如加州大学伯克利分校等名牌学府中,预备终身职位的标准仍很高。
 
2. 获得一流大学,特别是像哈佛、斯坦福这种私立大学的终身职位意味着要与全天下的人一决高下。若有其他更好的候选人,那么即使你已经获得了该校预备终身职位且非常优秀,也不会被授予终身职位。招聘委员会将尽可能寻找最佳人选。系里对本系教师的长处和短处了解更为全面,因此本系教师在竞聘终身职位中并不总是比外来人士占有优势。因此,被任命为非终身职位的助理教授或副教授并不意味着进了保险箱,因为学校可能调整岗位设置以实现利益最大化。所以,在哈佛等一流大学,未获终身职位绝不表示失败,不必为此而感觉脸面无光。据我所知,哈佛曾有四分之一的内部候选人获得终身职位,而未获终身职位者之后有的摘得其专业领域的重要奖项,有的当选院士,也很成功。
 
3. 可见获终身职位难易程度因校而异,一流大学的标准绝对是世界一流标准。
 
4. 最后,正如有人指出的那样,终身职位只能保证职位获得者的言论和质询自由(在麦卡锡主义盛行、恐共情绪发酵的上世纪50年代,哈佛曾竭力保护一批左翼教员不受美国联邦调查局和政府骚扰)。但是,如果不能获得科研经费,终身职位也不能带来工作上的安全感与满足感。
 
5. 无论如何,终身职位都不是终生的职业保证。事实上,哈佛对终身职位的官方表述是“无时限的任命”,即没有明确的终止日期。但这并不意味着任命不会“终止”。犯有重罪或道德堕落者仍会被解聘。如果整个系都被取消,终身职位也就没什么意义了。我记得70年代耶鲁大学取消运筹学系时,该系一位著名学者就只能另谋出路。


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