Tenure and Higher Education Quality
June 30, 2009 Education

I was thinking about tenure the other day. One of the common arguments in favor of tenure is made by folks that do not have tenure. They argue that over half of the courses that are taught in colleges and universities are done so by faculty off the tenure track. While this neither surprises nor alarms me what gives me a chuckle is that the arguments that non-tenure track teaching makes universities weak are being made by … non-tenure track faculty.

By the way, I made an idiot of myself on major network news yesterday in a short interview about whether tenure makes faculty lazy (I do not believe so). I had prepared for a discussion of the case in Denver, and on whether institutions had the right to hire and fire employees as they please … but it turned into something else. I tried to mention that the hosts themselves did not need the protection of tenure (nor folks in the media, think tanks, etc) in order to be encouraged to speak their mind, and do interesting work. Further, if they were fired for such a thing, there would be an opportunity for someone else to hire them if in fact what they were saying was important and had an audience (increasingly likely in this day and age). I must have offended them before I got to the point – I think they thought I was bashing them. They cut me off before I could make that clear, and I knew the rest of the interview was a goner at that point.

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