Academic tenure

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A tenured appointment is an indefinite academic appointment that can be terminated only for cause or under extraordinary circumstances, such as financial exigency or program discontinuation. Tenure once defended the principle of academic freedom, which holds that it is beneficial for society in the long run if scholars are free to hold and examine a variety of views.

Since 1915, the American Association of University Professors[1] has developed standards to guide higher education in service of the common good. The modern conception of tenure in US higher education originated with the AAUP's 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure.[2] Jointly formulated and endorsed by the AAUP and the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), the 1940 Statement is endorsed by over 250 scholarly and higher education organizations and is widely adopted into faculty handbooks and collective bargaining agreements at institutions of higher education throughout the United States.[3] This statement holds that, "The common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition" and stresses that academic freedom is essential in teaching and research in this regard.

Some have argued that modern tenure systems diminish academic freedom, forcing those seeking tenured positions to profess conformance to the level of mediocrity as those awarding the tenured professorships. For example, according to physicist Lee Smolin, " is practically career suicide for a young theoretical physicist not to join the field of string theory."[4] Some U.S. states considered legislation to remove tenure at public universities.[5] However, many argue, among other things, that the job security granted by tenure is necessary to recruit talented individuals into professorships, because in many fields private industry jobs pay significantly more. Economist Steven Levitt, who recommends the elimination of tenure in order to incentivize higher performance among professors, also points out that a pay increase may be required to compensate faculty members for the lost job security.[6]

A further criticism of tenure is that it rewards incompetence, as once a professor is awarded tenure, he or she may coast, knowing that their removal is difficult or expensive to the institution.[7]

As of 2015, most tenure-track academic positions in the United States went to Ivy League PhD graduates.[8]

See also


  1. ^ "AAUP". Retrieved 16 October 2017. 
  2. ^ "1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure – AAUP". Retrieved 16 October 2017. 
  3. ^ "What is academic tenure?". Retrieved 16 October 2017. 
  4. ^ Lee Smolin (2008). The Trouble with Physics. Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-101835-5. 
  5. ^ Flaherty, Colleen. "Killing Tenure". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved 9 March 2017. 
  6. ^ Levitt, Steven. "Let's Just Get Rid of Tenure (Including Mine)". Freakonomics. Retrieved 9 March 2017. 
  7. ^ "Study links tenure criteria to long-term professor performance". Retrieved 16 October 2017. 
  8. ^ Clauset, Aaron; Warner, Joel (February 23, 2015). "The Academy's Dirty Secret". Slate. Retrieved October 16, 2017. 

Further reading

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