Home > Education > The End of Tenure

The End of Tenure

There are tough times ahead for academics, or is there? The face of higher ed is changing to a more market oriented version of business/customer. One such aspect of this change is the elimination of tenure. One issue is the ability of tenured professor to say things non-tenured would not because the non-tenured do not have protection:

Now that tenure is disappearing across higher education, you don’t hear the same kind of debates. What people in higher education do talk about is whether the system that has grown over the last 20 years—heavy on adjunct professors who are paid as little as $1,500 per course—is what educators would have designed if the destruction of tenure had been more purposeful. The universal answer to that question appears to be: No.

“To think the way some of the finest higher-education institutions in the nation educate students is with gypsy adjuncts who have to teach at two to three different places, that would not have been what you would have wanted,” says Ronald G. Ehrenberg, a professor of industrial and labor relations at Cornell University. “You want faculty with a vested interest in the institution.”

The AAUP has for years argued for the necessity of tenure. This spring Cary Nelson, president of the association, visited Principia College, a liberal-arts institution in Illinois where there is no tenure. “You could cut the fear with a knife,” says Mr. Nelson. “Faculty members are guarded, they’re not making courageous decisions about what to say, what to think, and how to challenge their students.” (Jonathan Palmer, Principia’s president, told The Chronicle that simply isn’t true. “Tenure in and of itself does not induce or allay fears of faculty members,” he said. “The deep, rich conversations we seek among our students and ourselves are not tied to tenure, but to the continuing desire to stretch, liberate, and educate.”)

Another problem is that it is bad for the students (and hence the bottom line of the institution):

Vanishing tenure may be bad for students as well as teachers. A couple of dozen studies over the last decade have shown that as the proportion of professors off the tenure track rises, the proportion of students who return to college the following year and eventually graduate declines. Some researchers, like Ms. Kezar, say that may be because contingent instructors typically lack teaching resources, including offices, supplies, or professional-development opportunities.

Categories: Education Tags:
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.
You must be logged in to post a comment.