Why we need tenure

Why We Need Tenure

Tenure is defined as “a means to certain ends; specifically: (1) freedom of teaching and research and of extramural activities, and (2) a sufficient degree of economic security to make the profession attractive to men and women of ability” (1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure With 1970 Interpretive Comments, 1990). I would argue that tenure is necessary for the following reasons: academic freedom, job security, and faculty/student recruitment.

To say that tenure is necessary in academia would be an understatement. Many ideas and discoveries may not have happened if without the security of tenure. Research can take many years to generate beneficial outcomes. Without tenure, many faculty would not have been able to create and communicate new thought processes which otherwise might have been censored or stifled. Alexander W. Astin stated that, “the underlying logic is really very simple: the quickest and surest way to the truth is to encourage the expression of diverse points of view and to promote active discussion and debate of these different views” (1993, p. 49). Another benefit of tenure is it allows faculty to grade students based on their achievements rather than their social status (Perley, 1997).

Tenure cannot replace a “real world” salary but it can ensure a certain degree of employed longevity. Today’s economic climate further emphasizes the need for tenure. Can you put a price on job security? Former Harvard University Dean, Henry Rosovsky says that tenure is:

A social contract in which professors achieve job security by accepting lower pay than their education, talents, and initiative would command in other fields. Faculty members have the talent and amount of time invested in their own education that would tend to make them very successful business people, lawyers, and doctors – people who make much more money than the average faculty member (Hobbs, 1997)

Some have said that tenured faculty focus more on attaining and maintaining their tenured, i.e. employed status, then actually teaching students. According to Henry Lee Allen, most tenured faculty spend roughly the same amount of time teaching as non-tenured faculty (1997).

Lastly, if tenure ceased to exist at OSU, the university would be at a distinct disadvantage in its faculty/student recruitment efforts. According to Stephen Rittenberg, vice provost for academic administration at Columbia University, “Our tenured faculty are perhaps the single most important factor determining the quality and reputation of our institution” (Karaganis).

Tenure must remain at OSU for the aforementioned reasons. If tenure were abolished at OSU and at other institutions, the faculty would “…threaten a revolt…, as well as plunge the institutions that might make the attempt into a morass of litigation” (Yarmolinsky, 1996).


AAUP, (1990). 1940 statement of principles on academic freedom and tenure with 1970 interpretive comments. retrieved Nov 03, 2004, from AAUP 1940 Statement on Academic Freedom & Tenure Web site: http://www.higher-ed.org/resources/AAUP_1940stat.htm.

Allen, H. L. (1997). Tenure: why faculty, and the nation, need it. THE NEA HIGHER EDUCATION JOURNAL, 75-88.

Astin, A. W.W. (1993). How are students affected? Change, 25(2), 49.

Hobbs, A. M. . (1997). retrieved Nov 03, 2004, from White papers Brochure, Draft 5a, December 18, 1997 Web site: http://www.math.tamu.edu/~arthur.hobbs/brochure.html#tenure.

Karaganis, J. (n.d.). Scapegoating tenure, or, what the media did and didn’t learn in econ 101 . retrieved Nov 03, 2004, from Metanews: scapegoating tenure Web site: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/21stC/issue-3.1/karagan4.html.

Perley, J. E.E. (1997, April 4).Tenure remains vital to academic freedom. The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Yarmolinsky, A. (1996). Tenure: permanence and change. College Teaching, 44, 115-118.

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