Is Tenure A Good Or Bad Thing For Professors? Or Is It Both?

One recently tenured professor weighed in on the thorny issue. Is Tenure A Good Or Bad Thing For Professors? Or Is It Both? Giphy

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There’s been a long debate over the concept of tenure, which is a form of job security afforded to some professors that makes it more difficult to fire them.

Taking a broad look at the concept, it makes sense to protect professors from losing their jobs — particularly those who teach controversial subjects that could result in ideological backlash from administrators.

But when you start to parse the topic a bit further, it’s easy to see why not everyone agrees that it’s such a great idea.

Focusing on the cons

Especially from the perspective of a tenured professor, there are plenty of pros to the system. But let’s take a look at where the concept begins to attract criticism.

  • Not everyone receives it, which leads to concerns about favoritism or bias.
  • It can be difficult to remove professors even if they’ve been accused of wrongdoing.
  • Some staff focus so intently on tenure that they lose sight of other responsibilities.

Professor Amy J. Ko took a much deeper dive into the issue in a recent blog post and paid particular attention to the ways that some tenured professors seem to abuse their privilege and power (whether intentionally or not).

Creating Godzillas

Once staff members reach elevated status — particularly upon receiving tenure, as Ko did in 2020 — they naturally wield a great deal of influence. So much power, in fact, that they might not even realize the weight that their words and actions carry.

“It was only once I had formal kinds of power — chairing a conference, overseeing an academic program, that I started to see just how invisible my power had been to me,” the professor wrote.

Comparing this power to that of Godzilla, Ko (with the help of those around her) identified the “trail of damage” that she left behind her. Now, she’s working to help others understand that with great power comes great responsibility.

Chris Agee
Chris Agee August 14th, 2023
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