Academic Tenure

March 1, 1974

Report Outline
Tenure Debate Amid College Stringency
Growth of Professional Protection
Proposed Changes in Tenure System
Special Focus

Tenure Debate Amid College Stringency

Faculty Dismissals in Campus Economy Moves

Academic tenure—the prevailing system of faculty job security—has been under fire for one reason or another ever since the concept was first formally introduced in 1915. The deteriorating economic situation now facing many American colleges has resulted in another and, in some ways, a more serious attack on the system. As long as the criticism of tenure focused primarily on the protection it afforded radicals or alleged subversives, or even incompetents, educators could defend the practice on the ground that its retention was essential for academic freedom. But in the last few years, as colleges and universities have been forced to economize and as many young Ph.D.'s have been unable to find employment, it has been argued that academic freedom can be protected in ways other than the granting of a lifetime job.

The tenure question becomes increasingly bound up with faculty unionization, which has been described in The Chronicle of Higher Education as “on the threshold of becoming higher education's ‘issue of the decade.’ “ Faculty unrest seems to be replacing the student unrest of a few years ago. And at no time of year is it more apparent than in the spring when teachers and administrators both must think about job needs and availability for next fall.

Noisy tenure battles already have erupted, among other places, at Southern Illinois University, Bloomfield (N.J.) College, and the University of Wisconsin. Southern Illinois, beset by a 20 per cent enrollment decline since 1970 and deep budget cuts, has ordered the dismissal by June 15 of 104 faculty and professional staff members, including 28 who hold tenure. Bloomfield, with a similar problem, has ordered tenure abolished and the faculty reduced from 72 to 52—an order that is being fought in court by the American Association of University Professors. In May 1973, the University of Wisconsin sent layoff notices to 88 tenured faculty members on nine of its campuses but later rescinded 19 of the notices.

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BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
General Employment and Labor
Teaching