- S/he begins as Assistant Professor, if hired as a “ladder” faculty instead of a year-to-year appointment as a Lecturer or Instructor, which was Obama’s title at Chicago Law School. This is the probation period, which lasts 4 to 6 years, depending on the college/university.
- At the end of the Assistant Professor period, the individual is evaluated for the much-sought goal of tenure. A tenured professor is assured job security, but not advancement/promotion, and can be fired only for reasons of professional/criminal misconduct or a dire university financial crisis.
- If tenure is conferred, the individual is also promoted to Associate Professor rank.
- Promotion to the next and last rank of Full Professor is dependent, not on years served, but on merit — excellence in research and publication, and the attainment of a national, if not international, reputation. Academics have retired as Associate Professor, never having been promoted to Full Professorship.
- The last honor/distinction conferred on an academic is to retire as an Emeritus (or the feminine Emerita) — a title that may be given to a full professor who retires in good standing. According to the American Council on Education it is typically awarded for “long and distinguished service” although standards for granting professor emeritus status vary from one institution to another.
So it is most interesting that the University of Illinois-Urbana (UI) has denied the Emeritus title to William Ayers — former member of the 1960s radical Marxist group Weather Underground; unrepentant domestic terrorist; and Chicago buddy and ghostwriter of Barack Hussein Obama. Well done, UI trustees!
By Jodi S. Cohen – Chicago Breaking News – September 23, 2010
The vote, at a U. of I. board meeting in Urbana, was unanimous and came after a passionate speech by board chair Christopher Kennedy, who invoked the 1968 assassination of his father, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in saying that he was voting his “conscience.”
Ayers, the Vietnam War-era radical, had been an education faculty member at UIC since 1987. He retired effective Aug. 31 and then sought the emeritus faculty status, a largely honorific title that includes some benefits such as library privileges. A co-founder of the Weather Underground anti-war group, Ayers was frequently in the media spotlight and, as such, was one of the university’s best known faculty members.
While trustees regularly vote on emeritus appointments, they rarely comment about them. But in an emotional statement, Kennedy discussed his reasons for voting against Ayers’ request.
“I am guided by my conscience and one which has been formed by a series of experiences, many of which have been shared with the people of our country and mark each of us in a profound way,” Kennedy said. He said he could not confer the title “to a man whose body of work includes a book dedicated in part to the man who murdered my father.” Kennedy was referring a 1974 book co-authored by Ayers, “Prairie Fire,” which was dedicated to a long list of people including Robert Kennedy assassin Sirhan Sirhan and “all political prisoners in the U.S.”
Ayers became a controversial figure in Barack Obama’s presidential campaign because they worked on a school-reform initiative together, leading opponents to say Obama was linked to a “terrorist.” UIC was forced to release more than 1,000 files detailing the activities of that group. The university also faced questions in 2001 after Ayers wrote in his memoir about helping with the non-fatal bombings of government buildings.
According to the UIC faculty handbook, the granting of emeritus status is “based on merit” and is “an extraordinary title that is given for extraordinary service.” Kennedy said he hoped faculty, staff and Illinois residents “understand my motives and my reasoning” and concluded: “How could I do anything else?”
Ayers could not be reached for comment, and UIC School of Education Dean Vicki Chou did not return a call from the Tribune. She told the Tribune last month that Ayers has “been really a very good colleague here” and “the good far outweighs any negative press.”