By Brendan Luke
“Tenure is important as a way of attracting and retaining talent,” Dr. Jonathan Culp, a recently-tenured associate professor of politics, said in an email. “At the same time it’s a process that allows you to kind of sift through the people who are hired to see if they are really a fit.”
Dr. Charles W. Eaker, the university’s provost, said that to his understanding, UD conducts the rank-and-tenure process in a way very similar to that of many universities. The only difference he noted was that UD has only one rank-and-tenure committee, whereas at larger universities there can be more than one.
There are three main criteria that UD’s rank-and-tenure committee uses to determine a teacher’s merit: the professor’s scholarship, ability as a teacher, and service to students and the UD community at large.
“Student evaluations play a big role in our understanding of how effective the person is as a teacher,” Eaker said. The committee reviews each junior faculty member in his second, fourth and sixth years.
“We give positive and negative things after the reviews,” Eaker said.
The committee makes recommendations and, if merited, ultimately confers tenure after the third review.
Service to UD is also important. The category includes things like organizing panel discussions; advising students; writing letters of recommendation; serving as a sponsor for clubs; and helping in the admissions department.
Eaker, who has been at the University of Dallas since 1976, said that he felt that the tenure system provides faculty with a level of comfort in knowing that they have been recognized for meeting high standards of teaching. He called it a “mark of distinction.”
“I think it’s a good process because it encourages faculty to become better teachers, it encourages them to become better scholars,” he said.
How do the professors feel about the process?
“Since the stakes were so high, and since receiving tenure is never a foregone conclusion, I definitely had periods of anxiety,” Culp said.
However, he said he felt that the support and encouragement he received from his colleagues helped him, especially as the final review approached.
“In the end, as in the rest of life, I just had to do my best and trust in God,” he said in an email.
“You do become very nervous,” said Dr. Thomas Jodziewicz, who has been tenured since 1986. “You’d like to be here, and we enjoy being here.”
Alluding to an early difficulty getting work published, he stressed that while there is a healthy balance between teaching, research and service expected of UD professors, “the emphasis here is definitely on teaching and service.”
Culp expressed similar sentiments, adding that his own focus on teaching and involving himself in the UD community led to an initial lack of scholarship.
“[I] had to pivot and put more energy into writing [after the first few years,]” he said.
Jodziewicz expressed his fondness for UD’s students.
“Not that they contribute enough once they become alumni!” he joked. He noted the immense “proprietary attitude” UD students come to have for the school.
“Over the years, my impression of tenure — and I’m very glad I have it — is that, in effect, you are creating some memory. You’re not changing your faculty every two or three years. You have people who have met certain criteria, and then are expected to participate. It becomes more of a family kind of thing,” he said.”You become a sort of memory for the institution.”
Our tenured professors have formed an integral part of the spiritual, academic and social community of UD from its inception. Generations of students have passed through, and these professors remain, passionate and seasoned veterans of the intellectual tradition this university has been blessed with. Jodziewicz’s memory metaphor is particularly apt: Our university, like most, lives and breathes. It is made up of the students, staff and professors who pass through it. Tenure is a unique tool that allows us to hold on to those beloved, challenging and powerful individuals who have as their vocation the education of successive generations of UD students.
Tenure allows junior faculty like Culp to step further into the familial academic community of UD, to join giants like Eaker and Jodziewicz — and a long line of professors before them — in the teaching endeavor.
“For a number of years now I’ve had people come up to me and say I’ve taught their mother or father,” Jodziewicz said. “But I’m still a few more years away from that first one who’s going to tell me I taught their grandfather or grandmother. We’re not there yet, but that’ll be amazing. That’ll be amazing.”