The case of Marc Lamont Hill, the social justice warrior at Temple University, is a classic example of what’s wrong with tenure, which guarantees a lifetime job in academia.
Hill engaged in hate speech in a presentation to the United Nations. He got fired at CNN, where he worked as a political gabber. At Temple, however, some of his colleagues supported his First Amendment rights, while the Board of Trustees only “condemned” his statements. For some background, see http://datechguyblog.com/2018/12/04/my-colleague-marc-lamont-hill/
My colleagues referenced some nonsense about a right-wing conspiracy against Hill and others. See http://feature.politicalresearch.org/war-on-the-ivory-tower
Simply put, tenure saved Hill’s bacon. Without tenure, he would have been fired for his outrageous statements–as would have happened in any other job outside of academia, the federal judiciary, and perhaps professional sports. The First Amendment would not have protected him. Tenure did.
The tenure system in the United States and Canada is a relatively recent practice, which dates roughly to the beginning of the 20th century. Fast forward to World War II when a shortage of college teachers existed as thousands of GIs entered higher education. That problem led universities to offer lifetime jobs to professors.
It’s not easy to get tenure. But once somebody gets it, it’s almost impossible to get rid of him or her.
Here’s how it works in most cases. Someone gets a doctorate by the age of 30 or so and gets a job as an assistant professor on a tenure track. To get tenure within seven years, an educator usually must publish a minimum of two articles a year in obscure academic journals that are reviewed by his or her peers. Almost no one outside of academia reads these articles.
For promotion and tenure, the individual must be a reasonably decent teacher, although research holds far more weight. That’s where the famous “publish-or-perish” meme comes from.
The individual must perform service, including participation in university committees. Nevertheless, these tasks are far less important than research and teaching.
Once someone gets tenure, he or she is supposed to continue researching and teaching well. But there are few checks and balances except to limit pay raises and promotion from associate professor to full professor, which means more prestige and more money.
The bottom line: someone in their mid-30s has won the academic lottery, with job security until retirement whenever the individual decides to quit. About the only reason someone can be fired is when they make stuff up—such as Ward Churchill at the University of Colorado—or the department in which he or she works gets significantly downsized or eliminated.
Apart from these instances, a tenured professor can do almost anything, including expressing the party line of terrorist organizations like Hamas—as Hill did.
Universities have gotten around some of the problems of tenure by hiring more professors on contract. But that creates a two-tier system in which nontenured faculty often are treated as second-class citizens.
More important, the tenure system has a stranglehold on elementary and secondary education in many states as the structure seeped into K-12. Many of these tenured teachers have leftist views that influence many young people.
As a full professor with tenure, I admit that I am being a tad hypocritical here. I won’t give up my job security until forced to do so. It’s an awfully good deal.
Nevertheless, the tenure system needs substantial revision because it has created permanent jobs for many who don’t deserve them and a platform to spew the philosophy of social justice warriors and hate groups without any significant repercussions. Unfortunately, any changes about tenure are unlikely anytime soon.