Tenure Bleak House

A poignant tale about a comp lit professor denied tenure in 1976 and still fighting it:


From the issue dated October 17, 2008

Joseph M. Hayse’s three-decade quest for tenure is littered with bodies. It has outlived the careers of most of the people involved — and several of the people themselves.

In 1979, Mr. Hayse filed a lawsuit against the University of Kentucky that has turned into a legal Ping-Pong match anecdotally described as the longest-running court battle in the Bluegrass State, and perhaps the lengthiest tenure dispute in the country.

On paper, at least, Mr. Hayse, 71, has won favorable court rulings from the state’s circuit, appeals, and supreme courts. But he has not won tenure, and his suit lingers on. So does his anger at the university.

“I just hate to let them off the hook,” says Mr. Hayse, who retired in 1999 after nearly 21 years in a state-government job….

Mr. Hayse, so far, is winning the war of attrition. The dean who was found to have improperly denied Mr. Hayse’s tenure applications died more than a dozen years ago, two of the university’s general counsels have succumbed during the long-running dispute, and the university’s president at the time of the original suit is now deceased. Two other presidents have also come and gone: Both are retired…

Can’t help but think of Dickens’s Miss Flite waiting to release her birds on the day of judgment.