A revered status granted to extraordinary faculty members at an institution that allows them to stay in their positions essentially forever after they demonstrate excellence in teaching, research, and service. Like everything, there are pros and cons to tenure, which I will discuss below.

Pro: Tenure Protects Academic Freedom

Too often, the benefits of tenure for both universities and staff are considered only regarding the budget. But the benefits of tenure – and why it matters – lies in academic freedom. If the bulk of college and university staff in the classroom are ineligible for tenure, then it defeats the purpose of taking risks and teaching. Staff who aren’t protected aren’t free to teach in the most meaningful and beneficial way possible.

There’s no room for error or change or challenge for teaching staff who don’t have the security of tenure or even the security of a multi-year contract. Instead, staff must balance keeping students happy – whatever that means – with being on the job market and with participating in the research and publication duties expected of them even without hopes of a tenure track.

There’s also the issue of the rise in volatile politics. As local, state, and national policies veer in drastically different directions every election cycle, tenure protects those doing good work from becoming victims of politics.

Few have figured out how to preserve academic freedom when the outlook for tenure is bleak.

Con: Tenure Hurts New Research

Tenure helps young teacher and researchers work hard and stay the course, but the current tenure system also hurts them. The old guard holding onto positions until death or retirement, whichever comes first, prevent the opening of space for new research.

Additionally, tenure forces faculty to split their time, taking good researchers out of the lab and putting them in the classroom and forcing good teachers out of the classroom and into the lab because of a system focused on research income rather than merit.

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