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A Debate on University Tenure


With only 8 percent of private employees belonging to trade unions, job security outside government employment has become a sometime thing. One group of employees, however, does have nearly total job security: tenured university professors. Faculty tenure is under attack as never before in the past 50 years. I like tenure, but why should my group of workers get special protections against the vicissitudes of demand for our “product?” Self-interested arguments about job protection are unsatisfactory. I recently “debated” a journalist on this issue, with the resulting short video from the Texas Tribune:

I believe higher education is a special case—without tenure we would not be Socrates’s “gadfly on the body politic.” But with gadflies increasingly unwelcome, our protections are in danger of being removed at all but the fanciest private institutions.