As noted in the Chronicle, here, tenure is a disappearing reality:
Over just three decades, the proportion of college instructors who are tenured or on the tenure track plummeted: from 57 percent in 1975 to 31 percent in 2007. The new report is expected to show that that proportion fell below 30 percent in 2009. If you add graduate teaching assistants to the mix, those with some kind of tenure status represent a mere quarter of all instructors.
The idea that tenure, a defining feature of U.S. higher education throughout the 20th century, has shrunk so drastically is shocking. But, says Stanley N. Katz, director of Princeton University’s Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies, “we may be approaching a situation in which there will not be good, tenure-track jobs for the great majority of good people.”
The question is whether this is a good development or a bad development for higher ed. There are reasonable arguments on both sides. On the one hand, tenure has been used, historically, as a buttress against abusive administrators–the college history of places like Harvard and Princeton abound with intellectual persecution of professors. But that was over 300 years ago. Do such protections have to apply on the 21st century? Beyond that, a stable professoriate means a college has a solid identity. Take away tenure, and you take away an identity.
Still, what business guarantees a person a job? Tenure can be abused by lazy faculty. And, there is evidence that it has allowed irresponsibility to thrive. That cannot be good for higher ed either.
There are certainly more we could talk about in regard to this issue.
But, there is more going on here. At the same time tenure is disappearing, colleges are restructuring. This has led to faculty layoffs and other budget cutting measures.
Clearly, higher ed is undergoing a lot of changes.