We’ve been discussing tenure a lot in class, so I decided maybe I should look up a little bit more about the statistics. In a 12/10/12 article, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that the proportion of college instructors who are tenured or on the tenure track dropped from 57 percent in 1975 to 31 percent in 2007 – woah!? That’s a lot, but is a good thing or a bad thing?
The pros of tenure are generally include protection for free intellectual inquiry – the ability to follow truth wherever it may lead. It protects faculty who hold and espouse unpopular opinion from retribution by those who disagree with those opinions. Tenure enables distinguished scholars to continue to teach long after others their age have retired. The cons are that it protects free intellectual inquiry, protects faculty who hold unpopular views from retribution, and enables old guys to work after they should have retired – which is exactly what we talked about today (yes, I’m writing this one in real time).
Some academic researchers have concluded that the work required to obtain tenure drives away talented young people. The data does indicate the percentage of Ph.D. candidates aspiring to become tenure track university faculty declines while these students are in graduate school. A vast literature on this subject exists in the peer reviewed journals. A Google Scholar search on the issue resulted in 245,000 hits. A quick review of few abstracts indicated results all over the map, so I’m not really sure what to believe. I do know that I’m nervous about it though! I plan on doing academia a little later on in life, but still, it’s a daunting task. I see how hard the new professor in my lab works. If academia is where I want to be though, I’ll figure it out, I’m sure.