On the latter topic, Jeff has suggested that, before we believe anything in particular about Ave Maria's situation, we use these two rules of construction:
My impression of this is that a good default position is:
1. Do not trust faculty versions of any story pertaining to a dean.
2. Do not trust a dean to play it straight with information, particularly
Here's how I weave these two threads together:
First off, I think that tenure is still a good idea, but it must be coupled with real post-tenure review to avoid the problem of tenured faculty members who coast after they receive tenure.
The problem with post-tenure review run by the faculty is that there's a tendency to ignore bad behavior by colleagues, on a "there but for the grace of God go I" theory. So professors who don't write for years and years, teach poorly, and do little service don't get targeted for review, and (in my experience) they don't get the assistance of gentle peer pressure to improve, either.
The problem with post-tenure review run by the administration is that there's a risk that a bad dean will use PTR as an offensive weapon for people whom he wants to punish, rather than as a tool to help the school stay on track, with everyone performing her or her job duties.
If we can't leave PTR in the hands of the faculty or the dean, then what good is it to have PTR on the books? And without PTR, there's no way to guarantee that people who have earned tenure will continue to perform their duties as professors. I don't know the answer to this conundrum, but we have to find the right answer.
I recall that, at least during my time at Nebraska, the law faculty's standard for triggering PTR was that the professor had, over some period of time, failed to do that which had earned him tenure in the first place. That's really what PTR is all about, right? Tenure is such a privilege that professors should continue to perform their duties responsibly. Otherwise, a school is left with the "rights without responsibilities" situation.
I prefer to think that the global statements that Jeff made (in the block quote above) is borne of frustration. His statement reminds me of the "never trust anyone over 30" slogans of the sixties. Now that that group is well over 30, I'm guessing that some of the folks who repeated that slogan think that they may have made a mistake.
It's a sad situation if we state categorically that we can't trust deans or faculties. I guess I'm twitchy about those statements because I've been a dean, and I am a professor (and was one, even while I was serving as a dean). Individuals lie. Individuals tell the truth. Group membership really isn't a predictor for veracity.