PS: Political Science & Politics

The Profession

When Tenure Protects the Incompetent: Results from a Survey of Department Chairs

John M. Rothgeb Jr.

Miami University (Ohio)


This research uses data from a national survey of political science department chairs to explore when tenure protects incompetent faculty. The characteristics of the responding institutions and the procedures and standards they use when evaluating tenure applications were analyzed to determine how they related to the protection of the incompetent. The results reveal that tenure is most likely to shield incompetent faculty when collegiality plays a role in tenure decisions and when departments focus on the quantity of articles an applicant publishes. The findings also show that when departments demand that candidates publish in prestigious journals and when higher authorities at the institution have reversed positive departmental tenure recommendations, the probability that the incompetent are protected declines.

John M. Rothgeb, Jr. is professor of political science and distinguished scholar of the graduate school at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He is the author of numerous books and articles on international politics and foreign policy and on the discipline of political science. He can be reached at