‘The Faculty Lounges’

By Dan Berrett

It will surprise no one familiar with her work that Naomi Schaefer Riley is not a fan of tenure. In recent years, the former writer and deputy Taste editor of the Wall Street Journal and author of the book God on the Quad has emphasized themes, both in writing and on panels, of what she sees as the damage that tenure can wreak.

In her new book, The Faculty Lounges and Other Reasons Why You Won’t Get the College Education You Paid For (Ivan R. Dee), Riley fleshes out this argument, mostly through choice anecdotes, to buttress her view that tenure has become too costly to the enterprise and harmful to the quality of higher education (faculty unions come in for criticism, too, but that’s mostly confined to one chapter). In prose that is vigorous and readable — if also prone to sweeping generalizations — Riley maps out several facets of her critique. Her book, which is the subject of a session today at the Heritage Foundation, is starting to garner publicity in advance of its June 16 release.

Tenure, argues Riley, leads to the ideological ossification of faculty members and protects the incompetent (this stance echoes her own recent writings). She also blames tenure for allowing senior faculty members to set their own schedules in a way that often minimizes their contact with students, particularly those at the introductory levels (though this is typically more of an issue at top-flight research institutions than, say, community colleges). In addition, tenure prevents the freer flow of labor and, Riley says, enshrines dual strata of haves and have-nots in academe, which leads to the steadily worsening plight of adjuncts.

Continued at: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2011/06/08/new_book_takes_aim_at_tenure_and_its_impact_on_
higher_education

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