In these dog-eat-dog economic times, tenure is becoming an increasingly rare option for academic hopefuls. As a coveted job-security status, tenure has represented a holy grail for professorial types who are subsequently able to replace introductory course teaching with rarefied personal projects. However, for quality control purposes, tenure is only granted to those faculty able to flex their writing muscles. The clichéd expression “publish or perish” has been effectively used to steer lazy would-be professors away from top-ranked universities for generations.
Since the tenure system was established in 1900, budget-strapped college administrators have had little recourse for controlling, disciplining, harassing, or manipulating tenured faculty, “especially highly prolific publishers who continue churning out ever-increasingly irrelevant work,” added Fenton Bilswanger, President of Des Moines State University.
The situation seemed to come to a head in February 2010, when Professor Amy Bishop from University of Alabama at Huntsville took matters to the next level in allegedly “disagreeing” with the tenure process there. University administrators across the country were struck by what has been considered the ultimate stalemate breaker.
More recently, administrators have discovered a new avenue, one that had fallen into disfavor by most liberal institutions. Rather than relying on the natural demise of faculty, deans and provosts are encouraging tenure-clutchers to, in the parlance of the new model, “choose an alternative life/workstyle,” and “take a sabbatical from a stressful existence.”
Dean Arjun Prince of University-State University is being hailed by administrators across the nation as a deliverables process genius, for developing the John Swift Option, named for the 18th century author. USU is in the process of patenting the method to subsidize its new administrative offices.
Dean Prince had consulted with Dr. Maltheus Brimcleod, an emeritus English Professor, who reportedly told him, “Sometimes it takes a re-reading of the classics to solve perennial problems.” Prince added, “Of course, I don’t actually have time to read the classics, but I was told that the author’s work led to the “Swift Kickintheass Method” at West Point Academy, and which later became known simply as “swiftboating.” Dr. Brimcleod, who was one of the first to follow the new career track, could not be reached for comment.
Many core faculty members are suspicious of the new trend. One celebrated and highly published English professor at North-by-Northwestern University, who asked not to be identified because she fears for her life, likened the current academic climate to “a bad Monty Python sketch.” There have also been references to the similarity to the feared “death panels” of the recent health-care debates.
Committee-addled professors have since perished in droves. Dr. van de Gloot Ubberd, a tenure-track neuroscience researcher at Earthtones College, who recently opted for the Perish Package, could not be reached for comment. According to pre-perishing correspondence, Dr. Ubberd had been trying for tenure at Earthtones for 37 years, and was starting to lose hope of obtaining it.