Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Adios, tenure

The figure stunned me -- less than 30 percent of higher education faculty have tenure.

As the Chronicle of Higher Education notes:
What does vanishing tenure mean for higher education? For starters, some observers say that college faculties are being filled with people who may be less willing to speak their minds: contingent instructors, usually working on short-term contracts. Indeed, the American Association of University Professors says instructors need tenure to guarantee that they can say controversial things inside and outside the classroom without being fired. (For more on what academic freedom is...and isn't...consider this report.)
But others argue that the disappearance of tenure is actually not the worst thing that could happen in academe. The competition to secure a tenure-track job and then earn tenure has become so fierce in some disciplines that academe may actually be turning away highly qualified people who don't want the hassle. A system without tenure, but one that still gave professors reasonable pay and job security, might draw that talent back.
As the release of the U.S. Dept. of Education report nears, I'm curious to see in which disciplines and in what kinds of universities are we seeing the decline in tenure. Moreover, as tenure positions are being cut, how will Ph.D. and similar terminal-degree programs suffer in terms of enrollment?

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