Summer 1991 // Volume 29 // Number 2 // Commentary // 2LET2

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Fear and Intimidation? 2


Patton's Spring 1991 Editor's Page brings up one of the great fallacies of the 20th century-that Extension people enjoy the same liberties that academics do.

I've been an Extension specialist and administrator for 18 years and an academic department chairperson for five years. Although there are tenured resident instruction people in the department, those of us with Extension appointments have annual contracts. Thus, I've witnessed first hand the inequity of academic freedom Patton speaks of.

While tenured academics enjoy the rights and privileges of autonomy, self-determination, and security with broad organizational guidelines, Extension people operate under tighter controls-program planning, plans of work, annual appointments and review, close supervision, political stakeholder requirements, and clientele expectations. One professor in the College of Arts and Sciences summed it up when he referred to Extension people as "government workers." At the University of Vermont, every Extension faculty member, regardless of rank or years of service, undergoes a rigorous performance review every four years, while resident instruction faculty, once tenured, undergo this same process only if they wish to be promoted.

Would you speak your mind on critical organizational and ethical issues, knowing that your contract runs out June 30th? I'm not sure you'd call that lack of conviction-more like a healthy dose of common sense to me. Simply put, it's easier to control people who are kept on a short organizational leash. And, until Extension faculty enjoy exactly the same rights and privileges as academic faculty, to expect them to exercise "the most fundamental ideals of intellectual integrity, academic freedom, and independent judgment," is a little naive, Pollyannish, and, like the current system, simply unfair.

Thomas F. Patterson, Jr.
Extension Associate Professor and Chair
VOTEC Department
University of Vermont-Burlington