For those looking for academic employment, there are two main options: tenure track and non-tenure track. Check back for the latter in my second post of the day, when I’ll be writing about the issues facing non-tenure track faculty, especially adjuncts. But in this post, I’ll focus on issues related to tenure.
Tenure is a hallmark of the academic profession. It has long existed to provide safeguards for those entrusted to examine the hard issues and research questions that may not be popular or even popularly understood. It guarantees a right to due process before dismissal from employment. And our society would be much worse off without such protections.
But tenure has gotten a bad rap. According to much of public opinion, and unfortunately according to some in power in universities and our nation’s legislatures, tenured professors are paid too much to work too little, and can’t be removed from duty even if they’re doing a terrible job. Little attention is paid to the ways that tenure advances our society, and the public message instead focuses on the myths about the tenure system. As a result, lawmakers and university leaders have, at times, taken to undermining tenure, whether because they believe the myths about it or as a shortsighted financial “solution” in a bad economy.
The APA stands with other academic associations and disciplinary societies in supporting tenure and working to preserve this important practice. For philosophers who feel their tenure rights have been violated, our Committee on the Defense of Professional Rights of Philosophers can be an excellent resource and ally. The APA, like the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), censures institutions when “conditions for academic freedom and tenure are unsatisfactory at a college or university”; these institutions are also marked in Jobs for Philosophers so that applicants considering employment with such institutions can be aware of their censured status.Unfortunately, I don’t anticipate that attacks on tenure will go away anytime soon, but so long as we are around to do so, the APA will continue to fight for the institution of tenure and for our tenured members’ rights.