Tenure Trap

By Clifford Eberhardt

Chapter 1        

            Nelson sat on the couch in the part-kitchen, part-living room of his three room flat. He put his coffee on the side table, lit a cigarette and settled back to open the manila envelope he had received in the mail the day before from his friend, Horace King.  The envelope contained a cover letter stapled on top of several other documents.  On the top of the cover letter, attached by a paper clip, was a copy of a newspaper article from a local Boston newspaper.  Nelson separated the article from the other stapled documents and read aloud. 
Mayhem and murder at Lulane University
            Yesterday, five professors at Lulane University were killed and nine wounded when a disgruntle colleague opened fire with an automatic pistol upon other faculty members who belonged to what a university spokesman called the Faculty Senate.  Four of the wounded were listed in critical condition with the other five being in either fare or stable condition.
            Members of the faculty, who wished not to be identified, said that Dr. James Baker, a member of the Chemistry Department was very upset about not making tenure and took his frustrations out on his colleagues. It was well known that the Faculty Senate had accused Dr. Baker of falsifying his research.
            “Dr. Baker had been making threats ever since he was denied tenure last semester,” one professor said anonymously.  “I suspected that with all the fuss he made about being cheated out of tenure, something would happen.  But I never thought he’d go this far.”
            Eyewitnesses to the tragedy said Dr. Baker walked across campus wearing a raincoat.  “He walked very slow, shaking his head from side to side.  On several occasions he stopped and talked to himself, then headed for the Administration Building where the Faculty Senate was meeting to kick him off the faculty next fall semester,” said Paul Johns, a junior majoring in Political Science.  “After Dr. Baker went into the Administration Building, there were a number of gun shots... then there were screams, shouts for help and cries.  There were more shots and then everything got quiet.  The next thing I saw were people running out of the doors and taking cover.  Finally, Dr. Baker came out of the door with a big smile on his face, put the muzzle of the pistol under his chin and pulled the trigger.   It was just awful Johns said!”
            When asked what would make a professor go to this extreme, Dr. Larry Means, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences said,  “I don’t know what sent Dr. Baker off on the deep end.  We had a number of professors denied tenure this year and none of them went crazy.  Sure, we have a tough tenure-track, but that is to insure we always get and keep the best professors.  We pride ourselves as being the finest educational facility in this country.  And this tragedy with Dr. Baker will not hold this university back.
            “I think that sometimes professors take this tenure thing too far.  It is not worth killing for.  I liked Dr. Baker.  He was a good professional,” said Dr. Horace King, tenured professor at Luanne and president of the Faculty Senate.  “I also think that the Tenure Board has gone too far in denying some of the faculty members tenure, and that the track should be extended to six years instead of three.  Three years is just too short of a time to judge a good professor.”
            Dean Means further said that the university would have a memorial service Friday for the families of the professors who were killed.  He also said,  "We all at Lulane share the families loss.  They were all great professionals and dedicated educators who always gave of themselves and asked little of others.”
            University officials are withholding the name of the slain professors until after their funerals.  Dean Means also announced that Dr. Herbert Lancaster, the president of Lulane, will issue a statement about plans to hold a self-study to determine if there are problems with the universities tenure process. It would be disingenuous not to do so.

            “Damn! That’s some shit!”  Nelson thought aloud, after laying the article on the table.  “They got holes all through their work force.”
            Nelson picked up his coffee, blew on it and took a sip.   He took a long deep drag on his cigarette and laid it inside the ashtray. Next, he read the letter from his friend:
            “Dear Nelson, Here is the application and job description you asked me to send you last week.  I also added the article so you will know what you may be in for at Lulane.  It can be a trip up here if you buck the administration, but other than that, the pay is decent and it’s a good place to use as a mailing address. There are a number of openings they have to fill before August and there are two in the Communication Department; with your credentials you will be a natural for either one. 
            "I have been keeping up with your career since we left graduate school at Brinkley.  Those were the good old days when we thought we could save this world.  It appears that we fought a good fight but lost the war because the world is still the same, and in some cases worse.
            If you need me for a reference, let me know. I have a little pull around here.  If you are really interested in the position, get your application in as soon as possible.  Good luck my friend. And I look forward to seeing you soon.
            “Always a friend, Horace.
            Nelson smiled after reading the letter from his friend.  He took another sip of coffee and another hit from the cigarette.  He blew the smoke through the sunrays coming through the window of his small, one bedroom flat in the Benson Hurst.  It was a long fall from his plush, Upper Manhattan apartment, to a rundown flat in South Brooklyn.  A fall from being one of the country's leading newspaper editors to being unemployed. The frustration of the past two years was hard for Nelson Bacardi editor. It was hard for him to accept writing a novel for a small commission in place of his six figure salary as edtior.
            With the cigarette in the side of his mouth, Nelson folded the letter back and looked at the job announcement:
            Lulane University, Boston Massachusetts
            Academic Vacancy Announced
            The School of Arts and Sciences
            Department of Communication and Information Science
            1. Proposed Appointment to Assistant Professor (Tenure-Track), or Lecturer
            2. Available for the Academic year 1993-94.
            3. Placement of salary schedule is dependent upon academic preparation and professional experience with salary rang between $45,000 and $125,000.
            4. Teaching load is 9 semester units with the rest of the time devoted to research and publishing.
            5. Course Level is primary graduate and upper division.
            6.  The successful candidate is expected to be able to teach courses in the following areas:  writing composition, writing mechanics, newspaper writing, advanced reporting, editing, media law, politics of media, news gathering, investigative reporting, feature writing, desktop publishing and editorial writing.  Additional responsibilities will involve working with faculty and students.  The exact assignment is dependent upon department needs.
            1. A Ph.D. in communication or fields related knowledge of journalism and writing a plus.  Successful candidate must have demonstrated ability in all areas of newspaper work and knowledge in the latest in computer technology.
            2. Successful candidate should have above average oral and written skills.
            General Information:

            Lulane University is a private Ivy League University in the city of Boston Massachusetts.  The current enrollment is approximately 5500 on a 400-acre campus.  The faculty is made up of some of the most honored scholars in the United States.  Among them are several Pulitzer Prize winners; five best selling authors and two Noble Prize winners: one in literature and one in chemistry.
            Send letter of application, resume, four letters of reference, salary history and academic transcripts in confidence to:
            Dr. Calvin Goodwell, Chair
            Department of Communication and Information Science
            100 University Square
            Boston, Massachusetts
            Filing Deadlines:
            To insure full consideration, applicants are encouraged to have all application information on file by July 10, 1993.
            Nelson finished reading the rest of the documents; drank the rest of his coffee and went to the bedroom and came back with his briefcase.   He opened the briefcase, put a large folder with large rubber bands around it inside and closed the top.  He then went the shower to get ready for his appointment with Dan Everett, his book agent and editor. And for Nelson, it would not be good news. He han't been back in New York since the libel sue that got him fired from the National Informer. Put simply, libel is a form of defamation expressed in writing that injures a person's reputation. If a newspaper knowingly publishes a false statement about  someone it' called overt malice.
           Second Installment

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