Weakening Tenure is an Attack on Academic Freedom
By Benjamin Ginsberg
Since World War II, Canadian and American universities have offered faculty members tenure, the promise of lifetime employment to those who complete a six- to 10-year probation period. During this time, professors’ teaching, writing and research are scrutinised by their colleagues to determine whether a tenured appointment is merited.
The tenure system arose during a period when qualified faculty were in short supply and, for many years, served as an important non-pecuniary tool for faculty recruitment. At the same time, tenure helped to bolster the academic freedom without which research universities in particular run the risk of being crippled by administrators and other functionaries committed to defending established corporate interests and familiar modes of thought.
Today the tenure system is under attack in both Canada and the US and may well disappear during the next few decades. In both countries, less than 30% of college and university instructors are currently tenured or on the tenure track. A growing number of college teachers are part-time ‘adjuncts’, hired by the course or on a short-term contract.
- Three Faculty Communities: Academic Labor across Institutional Types. (hollymccracken.wordpress.com)