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"Will You Get Tenure?"



"Will You Get Tenure?"


A pamphlet distributed by the New York Teacher's Union describing explaining the tenure process in the CUNY system


Labor unions and education--United States
College teachers--Tenure--United States--Handbooks, manuals, etc.
Queens College (New York, NY)


College Chapter, New York Teacher's Union




Queens College Department of Special Collections and Archives (New York, N.Y.)



Date Created



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New York (NY)


Will You Get Tenure?
Some Facts
presented for the information of non-tenure teachers at the four municipal colleges by the COLLEGE CHAPTER OF THE NEW YORK TEACHERS UNION
You are probably wondering: "What are my chances of survival at City College?"-or, at Hunter? at Brooklyn? at Queens?
This is a vital question for a large proportion of those now teaching in the City Colleges. For, although the figures are not easy to get, it is probable that at least a quarter of the present faculty members are not protected by tenure. And taking into consideration the heavy teaching loads of those in the lower ranks, more than half the teaching load in the City Colleges is carried by supposedly "unqualified" ( untenured) personnel. The purpose of this leaflet is to give you some facts on tenure so you will be better able to answer that question about your chances.
First of all, as you well know, you are on probation.

What is Probation?
When you were hired, did you assume that if you proved a good teacher you could continue as long as there was work to be done? Or did you expect that you would probably be automatically fired without cause when three years were up, if not before?
As these two opposing assumptions imply, there are two opposing theories of probation. The most commonly accepted is that of presumptive tenure, which means that appointees receive tenure after their probationary period unless they have failed to meet a standard of competence set in advance. This is the theory followed in the elementary and high schools, in most Civil Service jobs of all kinds and-formally or informally-in most of the hiring done by private industry. Under this system, most who are hired for jobs on probation are retained. If a large proportion are not, ineffectiveness of the initial hiring process is suspected.
Presumptive tenure is not, however, the theory of probation followed in the City Colleges. This is the most important of all the facts you should know in order to understand your situation. When the present tenure law was formulated in 1940, a quite different principle was followed. No reason has to be given for terminating your services; no reason respecting your competence
or character need even exist. The mere suspicion that someone better for the job might be found is sufficient. The fact that a new and inexperienced person may be available at lower pay is also sufficient. And of course personal dislikes, racial or religious discrimination, can be--and often are—the unstated reasons for denying tenure.
Over all, about half the teachers hired by the City Colleges are dropped. In some departments, dropping is the rule and conferring of tenure the exception. This might seem to indicate there is a shocking amount of poor teaching continually going on in the City Colleges. But it actually indicates only that when new teachers are hired, the system has decreed in advance that a great
number are eventually to be dropped regardless of how they do. In other words, "probation" in the City Colleges is a euphemism meaning, largely, "temporary job running a maximum of three years". In a few departments, this situation is candidly explained to new teachers. But generally, when he is hired the new probationer has no idea, and is not told, that his job is likely to be temporary.
Probationers may be hired at any grade--tutor, instructor, assistant professor, associate professor or professor. By far the great majority, however, are tutors or instructors. The proportion of tutors has risen steadily in the last ten years. Tutor is a peculiar rank virtually unknown, and carrying no prestige, in other colleges or universities where full time teachers begin with the rank of, at least, instructor. Although this seems only a superficial question of nomenclature, it operates as a further serious disadvantage to City Colleges probationers. The sad and unjust truth is that the college teacher with only the title "tutor" in his background is probably at a greater disadvantage in the academic world than he would be were his title "Fellow".
Although there is a good deal of vague talk of the "requirements" for tenure, no probationers in the City Colleges can be sure of receiving tenure by meeting specified requirements.

What Are the “Requirements”?
In some departments a Ph.D. is a prerequisite. In others, a Ph.D. or its "equivalent" is acceptable. The meaning of an "equivalent" has been defined in some departments; in others it is unspecified. A Ph.D. or its "equivalent" improves your chances, but probationers with doctors' degrees and no criticism of their teaching records are often denied tenure. At the time the present tenure law was formulated, President Robinson of City College was reported to have remarked, "Ph.D.'s are as cheap as bags of coal."
By and large, more emphasis is put on the doctor's degree in the City Colleges than in most colleges and universities. Fifty-six percent of the City Colleges' faculties have Ph.D.'s as compared with thirty percent of the faculties of the colleges and universities in the North Central College Association.
This brings up an anomaly in the probationer's position. Although academic advancement and scholarship are stressed as tenure requirements, achievement of these goals is made as difficult as possible. There are no provisions for allotting time or facilities for research. The probationer carries a teaching load of fifty to one hundred percent more hours than is common in leading colleges. In addition, in some departments non-tenured teachers are expected to perform administrative chores theoretically the responsibility of their superiors. Low pay makes it necessary for many to do extra teaching at night. The probationer has only a small margin of time and energy left for work other than teaching, yet "excellent teaching" is not considered in itself a basis for tenure.
The time requirement for tenure eligibility is usually three years' continuous service. After three years, in virtually all instances, you must obtain tenure or be automatically dropped. A probationary tutor (but not an instructor) can be continued a fourth and a fifth year without tenure while completing a Ph.D. Persons hired in the professorial ranks are sometimes given tenure after one year of service.

Who Decides Whether You Get Tenure? .
You are recommended for tenure by your Departmental Appointments Committee, which is composed of certain members of the tenured faculty of the department, elected by the tenured faculty of the department. If you are refused recommendation by your Departmental committee, your chances are killed then and there. This committee refers its recommendations for tenure to a faculty Committee of Personnel and Budget, commonly called the P. & B. Committee. Hunter, Brooklyn and Queens each have one P. & B. Committee, made up of department chairmen. P. & B. may accept the secret recommendations of a sub-committee. At City College, departments are grouped under three P. & B. committees, made up of chairmen and subchairmen. Recommendation by your Departmental committee does not signify that you will get the approval of the P. & B. Committee. Here is a spot of high mortality for tenure recommendations, particularly at the City College.
At City College, recommendations then go to a Review Committee, composed of the four deans and the president. At Hunter, Brooklyn and Queens, this step is skipped. At the next stage, the president of the college concerned has power to veto an approved recommendation for tenure. The recommendations which survive these various steps are presented to the Board of Higher Education, which usually automatically approves what has been decided. The minutes of the Board of Higher Education can be obtained in the college libraries. It is customary for minutes of P. & B. Committees to be available in department offices, but in some departments they are very difficult to obtain.
If recommendation for your tenure is turned down on any level, you may make an appeal beginning at the next higher level, and work on up to the Board of Higher Education. Since, however, the tenure law does not require the giving of any reasons for the dismissal of a probationer, and since probationers have no rights, the various appeals bodies do not regard appeals very seriously. It is almost unheard of for a petitioner to obtain a hearing at any stage of his appeal, and appeals are almost uniformly unsuccessful. In some instances, all appeals have been tabled by a single motion, without any individual consideration.
At any stage of the recommendation process-particularly the first two, involving the Departmental committee and the P. & B. Committee-many factors, of which you may not be aware, may be held against you.

What Are the Chief Obstacles to Your Chances?
First: The administrations' policy of keeping a large proportion of the teaching staffs on untenured status (the theory of the so-called "fluid bottom", supposedly to allow easy adjustment to drops and shifts in student enrollment). This is a specious reason for the system because (a) increased enrollment at the City Colleges is not in the nature of a temporary boom but of steady increase, and (b ) the law provides that tenured teachers can be laid off by reason of decreased enrollment. Whatever the motives behind maintenance of the "fluid bottom", it has these results: it keeps a great part of the teaching staff on beginners' pay, without any faculty vote or voice, without any recognized academic freedom, constantly on tenterhooks, supposedly ready to do "anything" to please. As for your chances, the "fluid bottom" automatically cuts them pretty drastically. Under this policy, only a fraction of those appointed can achieve tenure, and a large number of those who come up for tenure each year must be dropped in order to maintain the percentage of those who can be dropped without reasons and without trial.
Second: Personal prejudices or dislikes. The system offers unhampered opportunity for department heads or Appointments Committee members to indulge every sort of irrelevant personal objection or whim. You are probably able to judge yourself whether or not you are unfortunate enough to need to count on such an obstacle. Because no reason need be given and because many persons are denied tenure in any case because of the system, this is a difficult -- if
not impossible-- obstacle to fight.
Third: Racial Of religious discrimination. If you are Jewish, your chances for tenure are less than if you are white, non-Jewish. Of 50 candidates who survived co the point of tenure eligibility at City College in 1949, 96 per cent of those who were white, non-Jewish were retained; 52 per cent of the Jewish candidates were retained. Of 27 probationers in four departments who had not yet completed their probationary years, 22 per cent of white, non-Jewish candidates were dropped, 89 per cent of Jewish candidates. Some departments of course do not equal this degree of discrimination .and some even avoid discrimination altogether.
As a really flagrant example of P. & B. discrimination, the fate of recommendations for promotion made by the Chemistry Department at City College may be cited. Five people were recommended in preferential listing by the department: the first choice was Jewish, the second Jewish, the third Negro, the fourth white, non-Jewish, the fifth Jewish. The only one of these recommendations not rejected by the Science P. & B. Committee was the fourth choice, the white non-Jew. So obviously discriminatory was this action that the Review Committee (unique to City College) felt impelled to restore the first three candidates to the list of recommendations.
The "no inbreeding" policy of the City Colleges--denial of tenure to qualified personnel solely because they are graduates of the City Colleges or are New Yorkers--is ostensibly a method of avoiding "urban provincialism".
In actuality it is used inconsistently. In the case of 21 City College graduates, for example, who had managed to reach tenure eligibility and of whom 7 were white, non-Jewish and 14 Jewish, the non-Jews all received tenure, while 8 of the Jewish candidates were dismissed. As another instance, in one department where 5 Jewish City College graduates were up for reappointment
(without tenure) , all were notified they were being dropped because keeping them would constitute "inbreeding". In the same department, at the same time, 2 non-Jewish City College graduates were rehired without any mention of "inbreeding".
Anti-Negro discrimination appears to occur in the original hiring process. In the uptown branch of City College, for example, there were no Negro teachers with tenure prior to 1949. In that year, 2 Negro probationers were reappointed with tenure, one was reappointed without tenure and one was dropped. These four men and three clerical workers, incidentally, represented all the Negro employees of uptown City College in jobs other than maintenance or food handling. It was not until 1949 that a Negro teacher attained tenure at Hunter College. This is the only Negro member of the teaching staff there now; there are no Negro probationers. It appears that hiring must be unduly limited for Negroes.
In addition .to probationers for tenure, there is another growing category of teachers in the City Colleges with even less chance for security-those on temporary appointment, and lecturers.

What are Temporary Appointments?
Applicants may sometimes accept five- and ten-month appointments in the hope of reappointment and final achievement of tenure. They never come up for consideration for tenure, however, unless they are given a regular, twelve-month probationary appointment. In practice, this is one way of facilitating a policy of rotating teachers out before the question of tenure
can arise. At Hunter, it has long been a policy to keep at least 10 per cent of the staff on five and ten-month appointments, many with full teaching loads. A recent message to department chairmen at City College indicates that this policy is now being officially extended to that institution.
Lecturers are theoretically what the name implies-persons hired for special classes as, for instance, practicing experts called in. Actually, however, lecturers often carry full teaching loads, at beginners' pay, and their work is indistinguishable from that of tutors. Like temporary appointees, lecturers have no rights, do not come up for tenure no matter how long they teach.
In addition to the basic job insecurity they entail, temporary appointments have the disadvantage of depriving teachers of opportunities for pension rights, R.I.P. membership, and sick-leave pay, which are available to probationers for tenure.

What Advantages or Privileges Come With Tenure?
The foremost advantage is job security. Tenured teachers can be discharged for incompetence or character defects, but the reasons must be presented and acted upon officially. They must have a public trial and the right to legal counsel They cannot be discharged capriciously. Tenured teachers can also be laid off as a result of enrollment drops or budget cuts but are then placed on an eligible list with preference rights in rehiring.
They have a voice, by vote, in selection of Department Chairmen, Faculty Council and Appointments Committees.
In addition, "general" advantages of teaching in the City Colleges are often cited.

How Do the General Advantages in the City Colleges Shape Up?
This is a mixed picture. These good points are frequently cited: three years' probation for tenure represents "quick tenure" as compared with 3 number of other colleges; no discrimination at City Colleges; high academic standards and eager students; annual mandatory increases in pay. The disadvantage most frequently cited is: few research provisions.
Enough has already been said to indicate the extent of the blessings of "quick tenure" and "lack of discrimination". High academic standards and an eager student body are indeed advantages, in reality as well as "on paper". One of the most distressing aspects of the discriminatory hiring and tenure policy, in fact, is the implication it carries regarding the college administrations' attitudes toward their own student bodies.
Salaries at the City Colleges look high on paper, but over-all they are low. For example, professors' salaries look good in comparison with those of most other colleges, but only 6 per cent of the City Colleges' faculties are of full professorial rank, as compared with an average of 30 per cent for colleges in the North Central College Association.
The emphasis in promotions is on scholarship, yet probably no other leading colleges or universities (and few obscure ones) offer so little encouragement to scholarship, or provision for it. Teaching load is heavy, yet good teaching is not always as important to advancement as it should be.
Ironically, in spite of official policy, an inevitable New York "inbreeding" exists-an "inbreeding" due to poor employment and career conditions which do not attract persons from outside New York. Thus, of the degrees received after 1930 by members of the teaching staffs, 71 per cent of the B.A.'s and 55 per cent of the Ph.D.'s were conferred in the New York area. The hard facts of economics and lack of professional opportunity speak more insistently than "policy".

How Make a Happy Ending?
It is not possible, today, to write a happy ending to this analysis of your situation. It would be nice to tell you, at least, that if you get by all the obstacles and achieve your tenure, you are set for a good chance in a satisfying professional career. But the same cheap labor policy and apathy toward the fundamentals of a scholarship and teaching career, as exemplified in probationer policy, go too deeply through the whole system.
The situation cries for improvement at so many points, the places are many where the struggle for "a happy ending" could begin.
Perhaps the most logical beginning is that expressed in the simple and it would seem-self-evident premise:
No teacher who meets requirements for tenure and who has satisfactorily performed his duties during the three years' probationary period should be denied reappointment with tenure except for explicit cause.
Logic, unfortunately, isn't enough by itself. The only way to transform that statement into a reality is by organization, by a concerted effort through the Union. Experience has shown this method can work. No one in the city colleges had tenure until the present tenure law was passed in 1940. That law was won by non-tenured teachers through unified organization and effort.
Winning gains of this sort requires something else too - solid, factual information in presenting our case. This very leaflet does not contain as many facts as it should, facts all of us ought to know about our situation. There are many areas of information on probation, temporary jobs and
lectureships, in which data - though sufficient to give a general picture of actuality and its trends - are still fragmentary.
The only way to make the hard facts reasonably complete is to get data department by department. You will soon receive a questionnaire asking about the situation as you know it in your own part of the city colleges. We earnestly hope you will fill it out as a first concrete and practical step toward making a reality out of presumptive tenure in the city colleges.

This leaflet has attempted to give the general picture, but departmental conditions and individual cases vary. It may not have covered some facet of your own situation. If you have any questions or problems regarding tenure, the Union would like to help you. Tenure advice is available at the Union office. Write to the College Chapter, Teachers Union, 206 W. 15th Street, New York 10, N. Y. A tenure adviser will be at the Union office Tuesday and Thursday afternoons after 2 p.m. Call WA 4-5524, and ask for the College Chapter. Or hunt up the Union representative at your own campus.
City Uptown- Professor Herbert Birch, Department of Psychology.
City Downtown - Dorothy Greenman, Office Department of Accounting.
Hunter-Dr. Henrietta Friedman, Department of Classics.
Brooklyn-Professor Joseph Bressler, Mens' Hygiene.
Queens-Professor Oscar Shaftel, Department of English.
206 W. 15 Street, N. Y. 11
WATKINS 4-5524

Original Format

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College Chapter, New York Teacher's Union, “"Will You Get Tenure?",” Queens College Civil Rights Archives, accessed May 24, 2022, http://archives.qc.cuny.edu/civilrights/items/show/205.