Education ForumINFRASTRUCTURE

Tenure and the Future of the University

Science  29 May 2009:
Vol. 324, Issue 5931, pp. 1147-1148
DOI: 10.1126/science.1172995

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Summary

The fundamental rationale for the tenure system has been to promote the long-term development of new ideas and to challenge students' thinking. Proponents argued more than 60 years ago that tenure is needed to provide faculty the freedom to pursue long-term risky research agendas and to challenge conventional wisdom (1). Those arguments are still being made today (2) and are still valid. However, a 30-year trend toward privatization is creating a pseudo–market environment within public universities that marginalizes the tenure system. A pseudo–market environment is one in which no actual market is possible, but market-like mechanisms (such as benchmarking and rankings based on research dollars, student evaluations, or similar attributes) are used to approximate a market.