Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tenure in academia

I'm a big fan of tenure, surprise surprise. A column today argues that the benefits of tenure are unclear and that

The truth is that tenure has served as an instrument of conformity since tenure votes are often glorified popularity contests. The fact that university professors donated to President Obama's campaign over John McCain's by a margin of eight to one is only the tip of the iceberg. Those professors who want tenure and disagree with the prevailing trends in their field -- or the political fashions outside of it -- know that they must keep their mouths shut for at least the first seven years of their careers.

I continue to be amazed by the unsubstantiated garbage that the WSJ will print on its Op Ed page. I have been involved in tenure decisions at my institution and they are not at all "glorified popularity contests" - they involve a very careful and rigorous scrutiny of the research record and potential for future research of the scholar in question.

There are many reasons why the US has the best higher education system in the world. I'd venture that tenure might be one of them, despite the musings of Ms. Riley, the Wall Street Journal's "taste" editor.