Friday, March 10, 2006

New horizens ... in closer focus

My previous post contained some misunderstandings, which I need to correct.

From the time that I was hired as an assistant professor at Korea University, I had been told that the university hired foreigners only for nontenure track positions and that after three years, a foreign professor would have to leave.

However, the current university president, Euh Yoon-Dae, wanted to change that policy and open Korea University to foreign professors in the interest of globalizing the university and thereby raising its status as an educational institution. His aim is to make Korea University one of the top 100 universities in the world. Currently, it stands at about 185th on the list.

The policy on foreign professors seems to have been changed, for I learned last night that an American has been hired for a tenure-track position teaching modern American poetry.

In principle, then, there should be no problem in hiring me for longer term, either as a professor on a renewable contract without time limits or as a professor in a tenure-track position.

However, the national legislature has recently passed a law requiring institutions to hire workers permanently if they are contracted to work for more than three years. This is an ill-considered law because institutions will simply not recontract a worker after a third year. This law illustrates yet another law -- the law of unintended consequences.

One of the consequences in my case is that Korea University cannot renew my contract for a longer period without making my position permanent. In other words, I would have to be given a tenured position.

That sounds okay to me.

However, according to university policy, the department cannot hire someone for a tenure-track position unless two conditions are met:
1) the position is advertised and open to all qualified applicants

2) the applicant is not currently employed by Korea University
I, of course, am currently employed by Korea University.

Thus, the new national law and Korea University policy on tenure join in a way that forces the department to let me go at the end of this academic year, when my current contract ends. That will be at the end of February 2007.

I am told that six months after that, the department could rehire me on a contract basis but that I would not hold the position of assistant professor and I would not be able to teach the same courses on Medieval English literature. I presume that this is a consequence of the national law, intended to prevent institutions from firing and rehiring several months later for the same position.

I also presume that after six months, I could apply for a tenure-track position in Medieval English literature if one were offered, but I am not certain about this possibility.

Obviously, a lot has yet to be clarified, and I'll update all accidental readers on this momentous if boring complication to my career.

Meanwhile, I am the "Image of Perplexity" ... precisely like the puzzled man above, whose visage is borrowed from the University of Rochester's Philosophy Department and who is asking himself, "What is real? What can I know? How should I live my life?"


At 11:23 AM, Blogger Jessica said...

My parents are both professors, and I know the pains of not-yet-tenured well. Good luck to you and your family, and remember that uncertainty often breeds new opportunities.

At 11:54 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I've had too many of those opportunities, but thanks for the good wishes.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:15 PM, Blogger amba said...

That's like something out of Catch-22!!

At 3:42 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...


Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good luck on sorting out this career confusion. There's nothing more unsettling than that kind of uncertainty. I hope you find a way to do what you want, where you want to.

At 2:46 AM, Blogger Saur♥Kraut said...

What a terrible shame. A very close family member of mine is a college prof and it's incredible the lengths they'll go to to keep out excellent profs and people who truly want to teach!

BTW, I linked to you today. I've been reading for a while, and am very impressed.

At 6:29 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

James, thanks for the thoughts.

Saur, thanks also. In this case, I don't think that the university is especially against me, just that I've landed in a difficult position due to political changes.

By the way, I've added you to my blogroll, too. (And I generally go by "Jeffery.")

Jeffery Hodges

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