Tenure conjures up images of the aged professor who smokes a pipe and speaks his mind, but students might be surprised to learn that tenure is awarded to more than just elite dinosaurs.
"As of today, there are 855 tenure-track faculty members, of which, 177 are tenure earning," said UCF spokesman Gene Kruckemyer in an email.
Not all hires are on a tenure track, however. Some faculty members are hired as instructors or adjunct professors.
"It's a six-year-long process at this university — at others its seven years — but the tricky thing about the six-year process is that basically you need to be done after five because after five full years you have to put together your promotion to tenure binder that is essentially your best case for why you should be hired and given a promotion to associate professor," said Anthony Grajeda, associate professor in the Department of English, who earned tenure in 2007.
Those who are denied tenure have one year to secure a new job before they are let go by the university.
"I was hired on a tenure line and the job is divided up by ratios of how much of my job is given over to research, how much of it is teaching and how much of it is service. Fifty percent of my job is supposed to be for research, 40 percent is given to teaching and 10 percent for service," Grajeda said.
Each college has different requirements for securing tenure. English professors must publish peer-reviewed publications, while the sciences often work under a model where research grants count for a lot more than individual research.
"You get evaluated at three different levels: At your department's level so you have the tenure committee [and] the department chair; then at the college level you have the college committee, then you have the dean; and then at the university level you have the university committee and you have the provost," said Jonathan Matusitz, associate professor of Human Communication, who is also tenured.
One of the misconceptions of tenure is that once it has been awarded, a professor can say or do whatever he or she wants without repercussion of being fired. This is not true.
"[Tenure] does provide for some job security. I no longer have to worry as much about whether or not I'm going to have a job next year, [but] it's no guarantee," Grajeda said. "We're still evaluated every year by the chair and that goes through the process of the dean and the college so it's not as if we're given a pass and once you make it you can coast."
Matusitz, who received tenure in 2012, stirred up some controversy when the Council on American-Islamic Relations accused him of anti-Islamic statements he made in a speech outside of the classroom in January.
"My focus on terrorism, that alone is controversial, so whatever stance you take when you study terrorism you're going to make people happy [and] you're going to make other people unhappy. That's the nature of the beast," Matusitz said.
Grajeda and Matusitz agreed that tenure is mostly positive because it offers professors more freedom in their research, however, each also noted there are negative effects.
"The process is not conducive to the best scholarship. If you are extremely anxious and the clock is running where you only have a certain amount of time to produce so much work that needs to be published, you might only be publishing to get published," Grajeda said.
Matusitz said that some professors who gain a tenured position stop publishing and abuse their power.
"They're less afraid of any retaliation from students, from the university and I think that that's wrong," Matusitz said.