Monday, October 8, 2007
Continuing our series of responses from various legal luminaries to the question: What is the single best idea for reforming legal education you would offer to Erwin Chemerinsky as he builds the law school at UC-Irvine:
Abolish tenure. Tenure is an institution whose time has passed.
Tenure purportedly protects professors against political pressure. Tenured professors presumably enjoy greater freedom to seek truth wherever it lies, without regard to the popularity or volatility of a proposition.
But tenure doesn't work this way. It shelters the lazy and the pedantic. They alone seek refuge in academic sinecures. Active scholars will find a home somewhere. Of all people, you know that. Tenure might have mattered when scholars rarely moved and global academic markets were constrained, if even extant. No more.
Those who deserve tenure don't need it. Those who need tenure don't deserve it.
Most universities lack the prominence and resources that would permit them even to consider abolishing tenure. Your school boasts assets that would enable it to lead the academy up from tenure. You have wealth. You are backed by the prestige of the University of California system. You are blessed with wonderful geography.
Most important of all is what you lack. Irvine Law is free from any obligation to incumbent faculty.
Erwin Chemerinsky, you have a blank slate. Use it wisely.
Start by signing a letter abjuring tenure. Pledge to hire only those professors who likewise agree to forgo tenure. Working at will, solely on the basis of current and future performance, promotes solidarity with your school's true constituents: your students, your graduates, and the legal profession at large. Except federal judges, everyone in this profession works without tenure. So should you.
For all the posts in the series, see here.