Monday, October 29, 2007

Tenure and Academic Freedom

The AFT has a new report on academic freedom, with InsideHigherEd coverage.
It’s always been the dilemma for advocates of academic freedom: do you try to get everyone on the tenure track, or do you try to increase the protections of faculty off the tenure track? Of course, the solution is to do both at the same time. The more protections for adjunct faculty, the less incentive a university has to get rid of tenure-track lines. I agree with the AFT that 7 years should not necessarily be the standard for tenure. For adjunct faculty, a tenure system should take only 3 or 5 years, since they are being evaluated on their teaching competence and not their research (which requires a longer trial period to demonstrate excellence). A shorter tenure period for adjuncts (similar to what unionized K-12 teachers get) would help protect academic freedom, would help adjuncts retain positions (since if their jobs were converted to traditional tenure-track positions, they might lose them), and would reduce the incentive to get rid of tenure-track faculty.

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