Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

From the Archives: Replace outdated ‘tenure’ with meaningful evals

This column initially appeared in the April 27, 2000 edition of The Whitman Pioneer. The opinion was written by The Pioneer’s managing editor and appears as it was initially ran; the only edits are to spelling. 

At Whitman, we pay too much money to have bad professors. Now, I’ve heard the “pay too much money” complaint before, and I’d like to assuage your suspi­cion that perhaps I’m going along the same lines as, “We pay too much to have dry chicken in food service,” or, “We pay too much to have single-ply toilet paper.” Of course, those are legitimate complaints in their own right, but I’m writing about something much more fundamental to the college experience.

As a Student Academic Advi­sor, I have the unique luxury of hearing comments about how good or how incredibly bad Whit­man College professors are. As a student, I am greatly concerned about professors who are unrea­sonable, eliminate motivation, are downright asinine and/or are sim­ply mean. As a member of the Whitman community, I am horri­fied that such people are allowed to affect our institution adversely.

I am not concerned with diffi­cult classes, but rather with diffi­cult professors. There is a fine line between a class being too hard or too easy, but there’s a definite line between quality and bad profes­sors. I daresay that every student has disliked a professor at this col­lege; the problem arises with pro­fessors whom everyone dislikes.

Recently, professors have voiced concerned that Whitman students do not realize the im­portance of classes. Of course this could not be further from the truth— we chose Whitman because of its academics, its small class size, and its “most accessible faculty” rating. There are more out-of-class opportu­nities at larger schools, but we chose a college where we could interact with professors.

However, no one wants to in­teract with a bad professor. No one wants to try to hunt down a professor who has office hours at 7:30 a.m., and half the time isn’t even there. No one wants to go to a class where the professor makes the student feel stupid. Perhaps if professors made every lesson ex­citing (or at least worthwhile), stu­dents would never miss a class. Classes are taught for students, and thus it is right for students to decide whether professors and classes are worthwhile.

We all have friends at big state schools who can decide whether or not to go to class. They are treated as adults who can make decisions of their own. At Whit­man, do we not have the ability to decide if a class or professor is worth our time? Are we not able to decide on our own how much we want to learn, on a daily basis?

Fortunately, the Whitman Col­lege faculty is usually receptive to student complaints about non-tenured professors. This can possibly lead to professors who hang around during end-of-the-year evaluations, profs who bake cookies and who plead, “‘Good’ isn’t good enough—I need ‘excellent’ ratings!” But, if a professor is good enough on their own, they shouldn’t need to resort to such measures.

I’ve heard that some professors are thinking of a ten-year plan Whitman College. Here’s an idea for professors: self-regulate. Abol­ish the outdated notion of tenure as the end-all professor position. Stability is nice, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of quality teachers. If a professor is no longer up to par, the should not be teaching here. All too often, I’ve heard a professor tell a class, “Say whatever you want on evaluations; I’ve got tenure!”

Perhaps part of this ten-year plan should be a review of every professor, every several years, with the very real possibility of removal. This would ensure professor stabil­ity, and yet get rid of professors whose teaching has deteriorated over the years. Whitman demands the best, but tenure eliminates com­petition in what should be a capi­talistic market.

Only when Whitman can promise perfect classes and perfect professors should Whitman expect perfect attendance. This is not high school— we are here because we want to be, and we should be able to be absent for the same rea­son. Student learning is student driven, not professor imposed. A ten-year plan? We deserve better.

Kelan J. Lowney is a sophomore sociology major. He believes that the future is now.


Editor’s Note: Whitman College updated its attendance policy in Jan. 2023, and with the exception of absences related to Whitman College sponsored events, religious activities, ADA accommodations or senior evaluations, the policy regarding attendance is at the discretion of each individual professor.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Whitman Wire Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *