Debating the Value of Tenure

Tenure is under fire both economically and politically—as the percentage of faculty who are tenured or on tenure tracks declines and as state governments undermine the legal standing of the concept, as they have in Wisconsin.

So we all need to be better prepared to defend the concept, whether in professional or personal conversations or in writing, such as in op-eds for our student newspapers or for the broader media serving surrounding communities.

What follows is a list of resources on the value of tenure. I have tried to organize the list coherently, and it includes, near the end, some items that argue against the value of tenure. It is as important to know what we are arguing against as what we are arguing for.

Lastly, at the very end, I have included links to two other bibliographies on the topic.


“Some Implications of Tenure for the Profession and Society”:

“The Eroding Foundations of Academic Freedom and Professional Integrity”:

“The Truth about Tenure in Higher Education”:

“Why State Lawmakers Must Support Tenure at Public Universities”:

“How Tenure for Professors Helps Students”:

“Tenure’s Value to Society”:

“The Value of Tenure”:

“99 Problems but Tenure Ain’t One”:

“Tenure Isn’t the Problem. Government Is”:

“A Response to Critics of Tenure”:

“Time for a New Strategy”:

“Making Tenure Viable”:

“Report of the UNC Task Force on Future Promotion and Tenure Policies and Practices”:

“Some Thoughts on Tenure”:

“Higher Ed Tenured Women Face Difficulties in Pay, Representation Gap”:

“Keep Tenure. Fix the Problems”:

“What Are Some of the Pros and Cons of Academic Tenure in Higher Education?”:

“Tenure Issues in Higher Education”:

“Tenure Issues in Higher Education”:

“The Business of Higher Education”:

“Tenure Issues Fuel Anxiety on Campus”:

“Tenure Flashpoint in Kentucky”:

“The New State U”:

“University Tenure Rates Declining”:

“Tenure and Incompetence”:

Should Tenure for College Professors Be Abolished”:

“Tenure as a Tarnished Brass Ring”:

“It’s Time for Tenure to Lose Tenure”:


Additional resources are available at:

the MLA background materials for a resolution supporting tenure–


the ERIC cribsheet on tenure—



2 thoughts on “Debating the Value of Tenure

  1. Great resource, Marty, thank you for posting! A recent op-ed by two retired UW-Milwaukee professors, one in economics the other business, includes a good short description/defense of tenure at a research university: “Contrary to the view of Gov. Scott Walker and many legislators and regents, major research universities operate quite differently from the way business firms do. In a conventional firm, talent is arrayed from top down, whereas talent resides at all levels in research universities, from the recently hired young scholar to the seasoned professor. To be considered for a position as an assistant professor at a top-tier research university requires graduation from a top doctoral program with high grades and evidence of future research productivity. Once hired, the assistant professor usually has six years of probation in which to produce a significant peer-reviewed research record and evidence of strong teaching performance. Only then is an application for tenure made. The tenure review process will take several months and involve evaluation by scholars from around the world as well as from the home university. The granting of tenure provides the right to work hard after half a life of working hard. In an effort to create new knowledge, professors routinely reach far beyond the boundaries of their campus, state, and country; this is referred to as the “peer-review” research process. Professors who can function at this level of professionalism produce great benefits for the state, and currently we are at risk of losing far too many of them.” The entire op-ed is at

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