Paul L. Caron

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Straight Talk About Tenure

Brian Tamanaha (St. John's) has a provocative post on Balkinization:  Straight Talk About Tenure.  Here is the opening:

What would happen to a full time (40 hour a week) employee who shirks much of the job and actually expends only about 20 hours a week on job related activities? The employee shows up at the office a couple of days each week, and (implicitly) claims to be working at home the rest of the time, but has little to show for it.

In just about every job in America, an employee with these work habits would be fired. But not law professors with tenure. As long as they show up to teach their classes, they can't be touched, at least not without a nasty battle that Deans rarely undertake. Schools may try to wring more productivity out of these minimal perfomers with committee assignments, but that's about it. Desperate schools have resorted to offering lucrative buyouts to entice these professors to leave, but the job is so easy that they have little reason to accept. Year after year, these professors take home their $150,000-plus for working about 20-25 hours a week, 28 weeks a year. It's a great gig! And everyone else at the school pays (especially students footing the bill).

I raise this unpleasant subject because the American Law Deans Association is apparently pushing a proposal [blogged here] to get the American Bar Association to stop imposing tenure requirements on law schools (from Instapundit). The proposal focuses on tenure requirements (or their equivalent) for clinical professors, but its implications are broader. No doubt this effort will raise an outcry of protest from many in the legal academy in the name of preserving academic freedom.

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