The AAUP today released an important new report on the violation of faculty rights at two Louisiana public universities, Northwestern State University and Southeastern Louisiana University (pdf of full report).
AAUP Associate General Secretary Jordan Kurland called it, “the worst situation the AAUP has encountered of using cutbacks in funding as an opportunity to select unwanted tenured professors for release.” In some cases, the tenured professors were fired and then offered jobs teaching their old courses at less than half the pay.
Cases like these should reveal what a lie it is to call a tenured professorship a “job for life.” In reality, plenty of tenured professors get fired, some of them for good reasons. No one, especially not the AAUP, has ever said that tenure means a job for life. The purpose of tenure is to prevent the arbitrary firing of long-term faculty, which often happens for political reasons. Tenure is simply a requirement for due process. And cases like what happened in Louisiana in the wake of Katrina show what would happen constantly in an academic world without tenure.