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End of tenure forecast. What about academic freedom?

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An economics prof explains:

Faculty tenure became a part of American universities in the early and mid 20th centuries when enrollments were growing robustly and the demand for college professors was substantial. In the golden years when I went onto the job market (in the 1960s), the demand for professors was growing faster than the supply of new ones, so young untried assistant professors like me got double digit annual salary increases and achieved tenure quickly—for me at 28.

Compare that with the 21st century academic environment. Higher education is a mature industry. Enrollments are stagnant or declining. Exuberant late 20th century growth of Ph.D. programs by schools seeking prestige and research grant monies led to an oversupply of scholars with newly minted doctoral degrees. A favorite undergraduate student of mine is just finishing his Ph.D. at Duke and, pre-COVID-19, signed a contract at Penn (Wharton School) to be an assistant professor this fall. If he is granted tenure in a few years, Penn will be making a commitment with a lifetime present value of several million dollars—a huge unfunded liability. Few schools can afford to do this anymore.

Richard Vedder, “Tenure Is Dying” at Forbes

That may reduce tuition fee bloat but it won’t be good for academic freedom, a point that Vedder acknowledges: “The rise in political correctness has been accompanied by a decline in tolerance of alternative points of view.”

The thing is, absence of academic freedom makes many degrees worth much less—unless all a student wants to know is how to be unemployed and resentful, with a bunch of letters after his name.

See also: Cancel Culture lets an ID-friendly paper slip through the cracks. At ENST: “Sure enough, after Darwinists discovered the article, they succeeded in obtaining a “disclaimer” from the journal’s editors, who proclaimed their bias against ID. But the disclaimer actually made publication of the article all the more significant.”

2 Replies to “End of tenure forecast. What about academic freedom?

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    Nope. Tenure is the cause of the rigidity. If tenure loses its force, orthodoxy will lose its force. Tenure doesn’t protect serious dissidents from firing, it simply prevents them from being hired. Without tenure there will be less selective pressure. It’s hard to say how that will play out, but it won’t automatically cause LESS freedom.

    The immediate effect will be seen in the signal-to-noise ratio of projects and publications. There will be a LOT less meaningless pubs, because quantity will no longer be the sole measure of a career. More energy will be focused on subjects that a student finds truly interesting.

    We won’t get more real variety in thinking until we get more variety in funding. We need a new Trinity House.

  2. 2
    AaronS1978 says:

    I am 100% fine with tenure being stripped away

    It is enabled professional idiots to rule the roost because they can’t be fired

    The danger of being fired might light a fire under their asses to be good again

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