Tenure and tethering

Though “tenure” and “tether” have no etymologically common roots, I am a poet, and so I think of words in associations made through use, sound, image, etc.

According to the online etymology dictionary of Oxford English, here are the quick synopses of the roots of the two words.

tenure (n.)

early 15c., “holding of a tenement,” from Anglo-French and Old French tenure “a tenure, estate in land” (13c.), from Old French tenir “to hold,” from Vulgar Latin *tenire, from Latin tenere “to hold” (see tenet). The sense of “condition or fact of holding a status, position, or occupation” is first attested 1590s. Meaning “guaranteed tenure of office” (usually at a university or school) is recorded from 1957. Related: Tenured (1961).

tether (v.)

late 14c. (implied in tethering), “confine by a tether,” originally of grazing animals, from tether (n.). Figurative use also from late 14c. Related: Tethered. 


tether (n.)

late 14c., “rope for fastening an animal,” not found in Old English, probably from a Scandinavian source akin to Old Norse tjoðr “tether,” from Proto-Germanic *teudran (source also of Danish tøir, Old Swedish tiuther, Swedish tjuder, Old Frisian tiader, Middle Dutch tuder, Dutch tuier “line, rope,” Old High German zeotar “pole of a cart”), from PIE root *deu- “to fasten” + instrumentive suffix *-tro-. Figurative sense of “measure of one’s limitations” is attested from 1570s.

Perhaps there is something to be said of the connection between the two words.  “Tether” can be sourced to the late 14th century, while “tenure” is first seen in the early 15th century.  There isn’t too much distance in time, but there is an extreme difference in power.  “Tenure” is associated with right, the holding of a status from a stance of authority, while “tethering” is connected with an animal fastening through rope.  The animal has been controlled by another person’s dominant act of asserting a rope around its body.  If used in the figurative sense, as indicated above, the “tether” reveals “one’s limitations”, but I believe that it goes beyond that.

When a being is attached to something inanimate, there is an extreme demonstration on power from the person that has claimed the other being.  The being is located in time and space for the sole purpose of the one who tethers.  When a being is tied to another person, there is a mutual measure of limitations. The bond can be mutually beneficial or it can lead to a feedback loop of poison.  If I associate tenure to tethering, which aspect of the latter plays out in the former?  
I’m still figuring that out.  I’m reading The Black Academic’s Guide to Winning Tenure -Without Losing Your Soul, which has supported me thinking more deeply about what tenure now means to me, what it means to hold status in a place, to also be tied to it, in a way.  
In being granted tenure, one thing I see is that I have received a stamp of approval for my work as educator, teacher educator, scholar, poet.  I can be radical in my social justice mindset; I am highly passionate in my work with high expectations for self and others.  In my future, I see more investment in the social justice work at the university, not less; I also see my work as extending beyond the limits of the university and yet supported by it. 
If I am tied to the university, I am not powerless in that act.  I made a choice to accept the position, and I make a choice each day to continue in the work, recognizing that the university gains much from me as I do from it.  Yes, I associate tenure to tethering because of sound, but I am not being led to the chopping block.  Maybe that’s what we who are pursuing tenure must decide:  if we are being led, if we are leaders, or if we are walking together on a path.  Ultimately, there is no one path; it is a relationship of choices and decisions, particularly that of determining if the path walked is one transformation/justice/life or if it is of stagnancy and (mental, spiritual, physical) weakening or death.  
A relationship between the professor and the university can, indeed, be poisoned with toxicity or it can lead to a mutual flourishing.  I am interested in finding that in my life.  
#twt #15of52essays #52essays2017

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