Toward a New Consensus for Tenure in the Twenty-First Century

The May–June issue of Academe starts out with Clark G. Ross’s discussion of tenure. We think we all know what the concept of “tenure” means, but, in light of recent challenges to tenure, we need to make sure that we do.

Ross begins his article by taking a look back at the historical origins of tenure, most notably the role of the AAUP’s 1940 Statement on Academic Freedom and Tenure in paving the way for continuous tenure appointments. Although tenured positons became a standard part of many higher ed. institutions, Ross looks at the factors that have caused these appointments to dramatically decrease over the last few decades:

In recent decades, however, the percentage of college and university faculty members holding tenure or eligible for it has decreased sharply. The absence of a legal mandatory retirement age, increased specialization within academic disciplines, and new financial constraints are among the factors that have contributed to the erosion of tenure. As higher education evolves, a more diverse range of faculty employment practices is likely to emerge.”

Ross’s article also includes a discussion of the variety of academic appointments that currently exist in undergraduate education at traditional academic institutions, as well as an assessment of the alternative faculty models currently being employed in higher education. As a growing block of professors find themselves on non-tenure tracks or with part-time appointments, it is critically important to understand the factors that initially led to the call for tenure, and the ones that are currently working to reduce the number of tenured positons.

A fuller discussion of this topic may be found in the May–June issue of Academe in “Toward a New Consensus for Tenure in the Twenty-First Century”, an essay by Clark G. Ross.

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