Have you ever wondered what these professors are actually doing or thinking when they’re not teaching? Richard Levine’s first novel, “Tenure,” digs into the lives of several professors and administrators to reveal what their lives are really like. The novel paints a picture of university life that most students never see. This includes professor’s dealing with similar issues that students deal with such as affirmative action, sex, competition and sexual orientation.
“Tenure” revolves around two characters, Prof. Billy Mann and Prof. Abraham Smith. Both professors are in the running for tenure in the literature department at an unnamed university that strongly resembles our own. When the administration decides that only one permanent appointment will be distributed, the department goes wild. Besides Billy Mann and Abraham Smith, the older professors of the department want to bring in a professor from outside the university.
The novel addresses some serious issues such as sexual orientation affecting positions in the university. The chair of the English department is married with two children; however, the reader discovers that he also is involved in a homosexual relationship. He is always extremely anxious that someone from the university will spot him with a man, something that would jeopardize his position.
Affirmative action and treatment towards minorities is brought up in the novel several times. The African-American group on campus is campaigning for a separate student union. Issues come up such as whether this action will segregate the student body even more or create equality.
Levine is the author and editor of five books about Victorian literature but this is his first novel. Though at times “Tenure” is captivating, its more than 400 pages seem to drag on. Students will be most interested in this behind the scenes look at academia while professors may find the book’s contents far fetched and unrealistic.