Death of tenure
from David Ruccio
The rise of the corporate university means the death of tenure.
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, tenure is disappearing across higher education.
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 even further in 2009, dropping below one-third. If you add graduate teaching assistants to the mix, those with some kind of tenure status represent a mere quarter of all instructors.
The sharp decline in the percentage of tenured faculty members, and the rise of “casual” academic labor, represents a threat to many aspects of higher education: to the living and working conditions of untenured faculty members, to the quality of education received by students, and to academic freedom.
The changing percentages of tenured and untenured (full-time and part-time) faculty members is both a condition and consequence of the rise of the corporate university. It is a condition, in the sense that academic administrators have more control over the university the more casual the labor is that they manage. It is a consequence, because the increasingly privatized, market-oriented university balances its budget and makes higher profits by hiring fewer tenure-track faculty members and more adjunct faculty members and graduate students to teach classes.
One of the results is that the freedom of speech of faculty members—in their publications, in the classroom, and in the university—is threatened:
According to Mr. Nelson [Cary Nelson, president of the AAUP], though, the biggest loss isn’t what professors can’t say in the classroom. It’s what they don’t say to the president or the trustees—or to politicians. “The president doesn’t really care what you say in your World War II-history class,” says Mr. Nelson. “You can say what you want to about your subject matter, but don’t think you can say what you want to about the president’s edicts.” Indeed, what’s disappearing along with tenure, say its advocates, is the ability of professors to play a strong role in running their universities and to object if they think officials are making bad decisions.
Unfortunately, the ethos and economics of the corporate university point in the direction of even further declines in tenure and threats to academic freedom for the foreseeable future.