Dr. Donnie Snider, associate professor of education, was greeted with confusion when he called his youngest daughter with the exciting news that he had received tenure.
“She said, ‘Daddy, I thought you had eight or nine years of teaching, not 10!'” Snider said.
Snider is one of eight professors awarded the permanent status of tenure this semester. This position secures exemplary professors’ appointments until retirement.
Professors who apply for tenure endure a laborious process that usually takes four years to complete, said Dr. Jeff Childers, associate professor of the Graduate School of Theology.
Childers is chair of the Committee for Tenure and Promotion, comprised of seven faculty members from various colleges. It examines professors for excellence in four areas: teaching; scholarship, including research and creative activity; service, both to ACU and the community; and collegiality, the individual’s treatment of colleagues.
Dr. Susan Lewis, associate professor of journalism and mass communication, said putting together a portfolio that demonstrates her progress in these areas was very difficult, but rewarding. She said she pursued tenure because she wanted a long-term position at ACU.
“I like teaching at ACU first because of the students,” Lewis said. “They have a higher purpose than just a college degree. Second is the innovation that exists here.”
The process to apply for tenure benefits both students and teachers by instilling habits of good educators into professors, Childers said. Once professors prove themselves, he said, the reward of tenure protects them from the possibility of censorship from a change in leadership or political environment.
“The main reason for tenure is to preserve academic freedom,” Childers said. “That’s why it exists.”
The student body benefits from having professors who are rigorously examined in their conduct both inside the classroom and out, Lewis said.
“At ACU, tenure means something a little different than at a secular university,” Lewis said. “It can give students some confidence that they’re being taught by someone who’s strong in their faith, as well as in their discipline.”
Dr. Mark Phillips, associate professor of management, said tenure has its pros and cons. While it provides professors with more latitude to pioneer new research, tenure can also protect a professor who has become lax in teaching from being disciplined.
“It can create opportunities for you to not do your job very well,” Phillips said.
But professors are not exempt from accountability upon receiving tenure, Childers said. ACU’s president, provost, and Board of Trustees review the annual accomplishments of all professors, regardless of status. While it is difficult for a tenured professor to be terminated, Childers said the university reserves the right to cut loose any faculty who commit severe grievances.
“They hold our feet to the fire even though we have tenure,” Childers said.
But Childers also said there are some qualified ACU professors who choose not to apply for a secure position.
“We have some people who don’t believe in it, and they famously have said ‘I will never apply for tenure,'” Childers said. “This is not a place that hounds them out or drives them away for not ‘conforming.'”
In his experience, Snider said receiving tenure was a relief.
“It’s really nice to have some job security,” Snider said.
Professors awarded tenure in fall, 2010
Dr. Mark Cullum, associate professor of history and honors
Sandy Freeman, associate professor of theatre
Dr. Stephen Johnson, associate professor of Bible
Dr. Susan Lewis, associate professor of journalism and mass communication
Dr. Mark Phillips, associate professor of management
Dr. Kenneth Pybus, associate professor of journalism and mass communication
Dr. Donnie Snider, associate dean and chair of graduate studies in education
Dr. Jerry Taylor, associate professor of Bible