Reports of 4 people shot, 3 killed at Univ. Alabama Huntsville

It’s possible he wasn’t in a tenure-track position, and was applying to get one?

Damn, now I’m curious. The trouble is, it was so long ago, that the people (that I know) who would remember what happened well enough, probably don’t want to. :/

That’s more likely, since adjuncts and instructors often apply for tenure track positions within the school they are already at.


Yeah. He was an associate professor, so it makes sense that he was applying for the position.

Now my uncle? He was denied tenure for real. He later (after I got booted from the PhD program myself) described the experience to me thus: “It took me nearly ten years before I recognized what a narrow escape I’d had.”

In defense of Tyjenks’ understanding of his mom my (admittedly limited understanding, although I do hold a masters of library science) is that tenure in university libraries can work differently than in other departments. In cases where the librarians are primarily, you know, librarians instead of library science professors, there could be tenure tracks that revolve more around service than around research and publication.

The difficulty of tenure varies by institution and department, and the black marks of not receiving it vary with that difficulty. I read once, for example, that Harvard almost never grants tenure to assistant professors. It’s widely known, and the prestige for teaching at Harvard for 5 years apparently outweighs the shame of not having tenure.

What a weird story. The accused is Harvard educated, apparently quite well respected in certain circles, and is married. I can see being denied tenure at 40 being a bit tough to take, but it appears she had other avenues to pursue.

Then are reports that suggest she may have been in denial about what happened when she was arrested.

No excuses for this particular person but tenure is getting harder and harder to come by. Universities are realizing that a contract work force is much cheaper than a tenured one and so are highering far fewer tenured positions than they were even five years ago. And from what I’ve seen, at least in the UofT (the largest university in the Americas mind), most newly tenured profs are either hand picked from recent ultra hot doctoral grads or are reputable established foreign profs.

You can get an academic job if the above is not the case but you will be making an itinerant faculty salary which is quite miserable. Like forty to forty five thousand dollars of miserable with your doctorate.

Tenure is, I would suspect, on its way out. The president of Ohio State is interested in changing the system, in effect moving away from it, and that’s at the country’s largest state university (or at least one of them, the numbers escape me at the moment). Many universities are looking at alternatives due to financial considerations and labor flexibility issues, as the nature of higher education changes. Even research institutions are having to consider a much broader array of options than they’ve had to in the past.

Where I teach, we don’t have tenure. It’s a small, private college (2000 undergrads), where our evaluations are generally at a minimum 50% on teaching–often 75%. The only research people do is pretty much on their own time and mostly on their own dime. I have given a few papers every year but often they’re in teaching and learning or other areas rather than the areas where I have my graduate degrees (foreign affairs and history), and my publications are generally therefore in conference proceedings or things like that. When you teach a 4/4 load, often with summer classes too, there’s not much time for serious archival work. And many of us do a lot of curricular design work and other “service” stuff because we’re a very student-focused college, which also eats up time and energy.

The trade off is that, while we don’t have tenure per se, I think the only full-time faculty to leave have either died or taken other jobs. So far even in this economy we’ve managed to keep getting (small but real) raises rather than cutting positions. We have decent benefits and a fair amount of influence in how the school is run, so there’s zero interest in a tenure system, pretty much. Of course, we also don’t have research as our mission, and that’s where tenure really shines.

My only real gripe with the tenure system, other than the obvious issues with how soul-scorching the whole process of getting it can be, is the assumption at so many institutions that “teaching is easy.” Good teaching is far from easy, as any good teacher can tell you. Any place where the culture assumes otherwise is definitely not interested in actual teaching. Which may be fine, depending on its mission, but given the increasing competition from online and for-profit colleges these days, even the big dogs are going to eventually have to pay attention to the students.

What happened in Huntsville is pretty scary, though. Faculty already are well aware of the potential issues from disgruntled students; adding disgruntled colleagues to the mix ain’t helping.

I teach at a school similar to Wombat’s (by description). I AM tenure-track, but I agree with the general premise that it should go away. Obviously, I’m not going to be stupid enough to turn it down if offered to me, but I would have no problem with them getting rid of it before I get it (and not grandfathering me in, either). It’s an outdated system and has become far too political at most institutions. Obviously, not all schools are student focused, like mine and Wombat’s. But tenure has never done students any favors, and the university system in general is already becoming more about profits (funding, really) than students. Tenure supports that in the worst ways, so I’m all for getting rid of it.

To clarify, tenure at my institution is not based on research (though research is a part of it; it’s pretty easy to satisfy that part for the reasons Wombat listed). It’s based on teaching and service, mainly. At UAH, especially in the sciences, it’s based on research more than teaching. UAH is not a big school, despite what the numbers even suggest. It’s largely a commuter school, but it has a lot of prestige in the science/engineering aspects because of it’s closeness and relationship to research park in Huntsville (Boeing, Lockheed, and a bunch of other tech places).

Just to add a few things:

Robert mentioned 5 years, but I consider that to be on the low end of the tenure path–a lot of schools go 7 years. And any place with any decent system at all has assigned the new faculty member a “mentor” who is supposed to guide them toward their tenure, telling them what they should be doing, suggesting things, pushing them, etc. If this woman was that certain she wasn’t going to get tenured, it was either because she had completely failed in the accomplishments that had been laid out for her, or because she was such a bad fit for personality or for departmental politics (which are often a huge factor–the internal politics of academic departments can make the US Congress look like a love-fest) that she stood no chance at all.

As to whether tenure should go away? I see it as a lot like unions–in theory, unions serve a very valuable purpose in protecting workers from the predations of employers. In practice, they are often even more corrupt than the employers they are set against. Tenure can serve a very valuable purpose in protecting faculty to pursue unpopular or politically risky research and writing, but in practice, it often becomes an excuse to become lazy and hide-bound.

Yes, my tenure period is 6 years. Five is a bit traditional, but it can vary. I should have said that, so thanks. We don’t go the mentoring system. We have a review 3 different times in the process. So my second year review is this year (should be this month, actually), and I’ll be told what I need to improve and where I’m doing well. It also means we are creating our tenure profile all along, so we aren’t trying to get everything together at the last minute. My folder will get bigger each year as I add to it, and then I won’t have as much to do when it’s time to go before the committee.

And yes, I would guess that this woman was not selected because of fit with the dept. That’s a big part of tenure. Perhaps they thought she was psycho?

Associate Professors usually have tenure. Assistants are usually on the tenure track.

Assistant —> Associate ----> Full


So you still are receiving guidance along the way. That was the point I was getting at. If your committee genuinely cares about whether you get your tenure or not, they are giving you at least some feedback as to how you are doing.

Especially given the circumstances, its pretty clear this woman knew going in that she wasn’t going to get tenured. And that she was psycho.

You left out ---->Emeritus. :)

We had one old boy at MSU who was at least 80. Emeritus, but still taught one class every semester or two. Still hung out at his office every day. Took him 20 minutes to walk from the main departmental office to his own, not more than maybe 100 feet away in the same floor of the same building. Everyone in the department wished he’d bloody well retire, but apparently he had no life outside the department, so he just tottered on each day.

Horrific tragedy to involved discussion of loosely connected minutia in only 8 posts. That may be a new record.

Yep. I was supporting you, not disagreeing. I was just noting the different ways it’s done. And yeah, bringing a gun to the meeting would suggest that she planned the whole thing. Hopefully, that makes it hard to claim temp insanity.

Actually, it’s very related because it’s about motive. The tenure system is VERY political and VERY stressful for those involved. It pushed this woman over the edge, so I think it’s worth explaining how it works.

It is actually quite common (at major research universities) to apply for tenure several times over several years. The way it works is the candidate submits an application which is considered by the department. The department then makes a recommendation to the Dean, who usually but not always goes by the department’s recommendation.

If the department is going to make a negative recommendation, what happens is the Head will advise the candidate to withdraw the application and try again next year. If the candidate is running out of time they will usually be granted an extension and sometimes two. Which means that a person could several years in a row submit applications and, in effect, get denied several years in a row. Technically this is not true because the application is withdrawn rather than denied, but that’s splitting hairs.

At research schools there is one and only one way to get tenure: you must have produced a solid body of research. Denial is black mark, but whether it means the end of your academic career depends on where you’ve been denied. Being denied at Harvard is no big deal, you’ll have a soft landing at another major research institution, maybe ranked 30 instead of top 3. If you get denied at a school ranked 200, well, your research career is probably over. A denial at Alabama-Huntsville would be a career-ending blow.

I find it strange that the denial was apparently announced at a faculty meeting. You wouldn’t typically deliver such news to someone at an open meeting.

That is odd, yes.

And perhaps at major research places you can apply more than once, but usually tenure is about having a probation period, which means that if you don’t get tenure by the time that period is up, it’s over for you. At any rate, that’s how it works in the all of the departments I know of at UAH, which is the relevant sample here. I don’t actually know much about the biology dept. though.

That’s the part I missed when talking to my mother. Several applications.

Thanks skedastic. I feel partially redeemed.

Holy crap!!! 24 years ago, the suspect shot and killed her 18 year-old brother in Massachusetts in their home.

She fired at least three shots, hitting her brother once and hitting her bedroom wall, before police took her into custody at gunpoint, he said.

Before Bishop could be booked, however, the police chief back then called officers and told them to release her to her mother, Frazier said. The shooting of the brother, Seth Bishop, an 18-year-old accomplished violinist, was logged as an accident, but detailed records of the shooting have disappeared, he said.

“The report’s gone, removed from the files,” he said.

As Bishop was being taken to jail in handcuffs she said: “It didn’t happen. There’s no way.”
I think that denial was about Friday’s shooting.

Friggin’ nuts.