Letters: Tenure controversy

For several years, a controversy over the existence of tenure has simmered among members the Williams community. The central question relates to whether it is worthwhile to keep the existing tenure system, as opposed to creating a new system of long-term contracts for professors. Strong arguments have been made on both sides. One of Williams’ most devoted and vocal former trustees, Lamson Rheinfrank ’62, led a panel discussion on tenure on the campus last year.

I thought it might be advantageous to have an essay contest on the subject open to students. An ad for the contest will appear in this week’s Record with the terms and time constraints. If at least fifteen entries on each side of the issue are submitted, I will grant first, second and third place prizes of $5,000; $3,000 and $1,000, respectively, for those entries judged to be the best. The judges will be former Senator Bill Bradley; Chairman of the Board of the Coca-Cola Company and former teacher Doug Daft and actress, photographer, author, journalist and television interviewer Candice Bergen.

It seems logical that tenure most directly affects the students, so the contest is open only to students currently enrolled at Williams. If each side of the debate doesn’t receive at least fifteen entries, I will assume that there isn’t enough concern over this issue and will nullify the contest and withdraw the prize money. If we have enough interest, the three winners of the essay contest will be invited to a traditional debate, the winning side to receive $3,000 and the losing side $1,000. That debate will be open to an audience and will probably be televised if we can secure airtime.

I’m hopeful that the topic is of enough interest to attract contestants. If so, it will be the first time tenure has been attacked and defended in such a manner in America and would place Williams in the unaccustomed position of being at the cutting edge of an issue that is bound to attract attention and controversy for a long time.

Herbert Allen ’62