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Utah to do away with professor tenure?

From the Leiter report: Lawmaker's bill would end tenure for Utah profs

This deserves a long scree, but it's late and I have a reading list quota still to meet. So I'll limit myself to two points:

  • One of the main reasons for tenure is to protect faculty who express unpopular opinions. Academia at its best should be about the free exchange of ideas. Recently a Brooklyn College adjunct had his contract threatened because of his views. Ultimately he was allowed to teach there, but only because of pressure put on the university administration. Adjuncts lack the kind of protection tenured professors get. I have no problem with bad teachers losing their jobs, but taking away tenure full-stop is going too far.

  • Tenure takes years to reach. All over Utah there are people who have been doing the things academics are supposed to do - teaching, writing papers, supporting their universities - in the expectation that if they met benchmarks they could reasonably expect tenure. It's not a hard-and-fast promise, true, but still it's an expectation agreed to by both sides. Which makes this monumentally uncool.

So much for the non-interference of government in private business, I guess...



Feb. 16th, 2011 06:26 am (UTC)
Subsidies always blur the line between public and private, but I think the idea that these colleges have been historically state colleges, funded before subsidies became big, and that "public" is a part of their identity, makes them more open to state regulation than a private business receiving a subsidy that doesn't advertise that fact.

I should add that all private colleges get government money indirectly, if you count student aid as government money, and that the feds have used that to enforce compliance with affirmative action laws. (Two schools refused, the government pulled federal aid, and they've gotten their aid privately, as conservative cause celebres, ever since.) I guess my point is that it could be much worse? I hope that the academic outcry over the idea is loud enough to kill the bill.



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