The Problem With Tenure

How the administration fails to protect its students

Yasmine Elsayed (she/her) // Contributor
Siobhan Barry // Illustrator

Capilano University outlined its views on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) in a policy that was published in 2018. This proposes the question, does that document hold up against faculty members? More on that later.

Due to many student complaints, it shows that the policy is not enacted properly. Because the university is not taking action, certain professors were “allowed” to make explicit comments that left students uncomfortable and for some, severely traumatized. Even if a student decides to report a professor, it has been proven by several students that the university either responds with extreme vagueness or simply does not provide any sort of resolution to the problem. This also begs the question; how can we fix this? There isn’t much the students can do, unfortunately. So much of the responsibility falls on the students to keep their professors in check and because of their schoolwork, no one has the availability and the mental capacity to constantly do that.

What we can do, as students, is we can urge the university to be stricter or more accurately start putting the policy into action since it is four years long overdue. According to the policy, the next revision should be in 2023. Maybe then, they will go through the numerous complaints and finally take action.

Now that we know that the EDI policy is lacking, simultaneously, professors are tenured. This does not help. According to George Justice in an article for The Conversation, tenure is a desirable achievement that practically protects professors from being fired unless there is an extreme reason provided. He elaborated by saying, “A key idea is to allow faculty to speak freely – whether on campus or in public – without fear of reprisal.” And, since there is no reprisal, knowing that tenure exists, since there is no reprisal, once tenure is achieved, the interpretation and/or ignorance of said EDI policy falls to the professor’s own consequence-free discretion.

In order to better understand the extremity of this situation, I reached out to a student to tell me about their experience. This student chose to stay anonymous, which in this case, is both unfortunate and a reality.

I have written the interview below,

Q.) Why are you choosing to remain anonymous?

A.) to prevent any further bullying from professors. They are already doing that constantly via emails. For the sake of my mentality and peace of mind, I choose peace.

Q.) Do you think that your professors make inappropriate comments in the classroom? For example, discriminatory comments or anything like that?

A.) Yep. For example, one professor doesn’t give us any trigger-warnings regarding r*pe scenes, racist scenes or aggressive scenes. [He] only gives us warnings about fart and poop jokes. He uses outdated transgender terms. There were multiple jokes about Chinese people and Jewish people. It’s appalling.

Q.) Have you tried reporting any of your professors?

A.) Yes! All of them! I reported them all for pressuring me and bullying me through emails; it gave me a lot of anxiety.. I have a letter which allows me to attend class online occasionally with no reason to provide a doctor’s note. I reported them for bullying me, for casual racism, and sometimes I would call them out in class. One of the professors is so casually racist that a white person would just never notice it — to the point where they would agree with him. Sometimes, students jump in on it too because they think it’s okay, since the professors do it all the time.  

Q.) when you reported the professor, did the university do anything about it? 

A.) They met with other students from our department twice, and they were like, “yes, this is not right, we’re going to sit down with you to talk further about it with the Student Conduct present in the meeting.” But the administration said that they can’t “control” what the professors do and they emphasized that it was wrong but they “couldn’t do anything about it.” They’re the administration — how? Access informed us that what we’re going through is illegal. They said that every single thing that the professors are doing is actually illegal. She said, “this is sueable.” We tried to talk with our department but the dean shut us down. And the Student Conduct didn’t do anything, not even support us. The dean is quite passive aggressive. It’s disgusting. If you’re not going to do your job, then leave. The dean actually protects old white men, tenured profs. He brings in people through connections,through  nepotism. Legit, one of our professors (he knows who is) has a diploma and he plagiarized someone else’s work. I called him out in class, [and] he was flabbergasted. 

Q.) If you could say one thing to CapU, what would you say?

A.) Get your shit together. Get better professors. It’s not my fault that I’m paying so much in tuition fees and you can’t even afford to get one freaking decent professor.

Q.) Did you know that CapU has an EDI (Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) Policy that is supposed to protect the students?

A.) No, wtf

Q.) How do you feel now that you know?

A.) effed up, what? They were supposed to tell us! Read them to me like you’re about to read me my Miranda rights. Seriously, why would they withhold such critical information?

Q.) Now that you know this, are you going to do something?

A.) Probably not. They’re really not letting you do anything, and even if you try to do something to stand up for the rest of the students, they’re still going to bully you until you give up. So, that’s what I did. I tried everything I could. I even confided in some of my professors, and they still didn’t listen. 

To conclude, the student that I spoke to was very hesitant to do this interview. They sat with me for a while trying to edit the interview down so they could be as anonymous as possible. This goes to show that if they are that scared, there is something fundamentally wrong with how the university operates. The students are afraid of their professors. The student expresses that this is actually sad that they have to hide. They are afraid of punishment.

The university should be a place where the students are allowed to feel safe and welcomed. Unfortunately, they have grown physically and mentally tired. The more this goes on, the more students will have no choice but to give up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *