THE TENURE BEAST
by Terrance Boult
I chose to tilt at windmills,
though it 's generally well known
What happens when you hit your head
on walls of ivy and stone
But I have tilted for I see
the tenure beast grind away
at science and at education
-- crushing more every day.
Some say the beast is ugly,
though its heads are never seen.
The beast has eyes-a-plenty,
and while its aim is oh so keen,
it looks not deep within its foe
-- it sees but surface flaws.
When it finds one, it attacks,
with fire and teeth and claws.
Do not despair; don't run away;
don't let it turn your heart to stone.
For if you look into its soul,
the beast's fears are your own.
It wants what 's good --
what 's right -- what 's true.
But making that decision well
is very hard to do.
It wants to be quite certain,
that now and forever more
high quality exudes from those
it lets within the door.
Its ancient measures served it well,
in all the years gone past.
So can you really blame it when
it wields them now steadfast.
Pubslishing was, in days of old,
time consuming for all involved.
Though technology has changed all that,
the tenure beast has not evolved.
It may have raised its secret number
needed to let someone go round,
but it rarely checks the contents
to insure they're new and profound.
We all have grown so busy
maintaining the niches in which we live
Few take the time to read the work,
before an opnion they do give.
Thus have many cliques been formed --
small bands of related knights,
Who praise all those that praise them back,
with the convictions of wind blown kites.
If you feel some've made it 'round the beast
who really aren't that good,
who oversell their research or
don't treat students as they should.
Then note the beast is getting fat
its moves well known and slow.
Thus one can skirt on by it now
if the shadowy path you go.
I chose to stand and face the beast,
exposing all my armours chinks.
I published as I thought was right,
I criticized what I felt stinks.
I helped my students forge their swords
rather than pad my ``vita-shield''
Though the beast was near at hand,
my path I would not yield.
I could have done more research,
of this there is no doubt.
But students would have suffered,
and they're what it's all about.
I could have had more papers
and put my name on my students' work,
but nothing more would now be know,
except that I could be a jerk.
I could have done less teaching,
the beast cares nought for undergrad courses.
I could have cut back, way way back
on developing department resources.
I could have been more famous
carving a hollow niche to call my own.
But I'm happier with the breadth I have,
the intellectual seeds that I have sown.
I'd put my record against the rest
both in science and education.
But they are not what matters here:
the beast demands recognition.
If you want to get around the beast,
polish up your armor friend.
Don't just do good work, spread your name;
its more than publish or perish in the end.
Though I've not gotten tenure,
it has not been all for naught.
There is the research I have done,
the many students taught.
I hope that I've accomplished more:
causing the beast to stop and wonder,
which is some progress, I do believe,
toward tearing it asunder.
To those who helped me in the fight
I express my undying thanks.
And muchas gratias to the rest
who filled out the ranks.
The failure was not one of this group,
we fought both tooth and nail.
But the well entrenched tenure beast
did finally prevail.
I've tried to be honest with mysef,
and help everyone to do their best.
If the beast does'nt want me as I am
then its time to leave the nest.
So if the tenure beast does roars at you
think of this poem and reply with a laugh:
"My scholarly quest is the highest truths
even if they spell my own epitaph."
Fear not my friends the tenure beast
its bite inflicts no pain
to those who fight the goodly fight --
the scholar's soul to gain.
The inner strength you give yourself
by giving first to others,
provides a shield against its teeth,
the beastly fire it smothers.