Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

More on the ABA's Proposed Modification of the Tenure Requirement

ABA Logo Following up on this morning's post, ABA Minority Proposal Softens Removal of Tenure as Accreditation Standard: my Pepperdine colleague Mark Scarberry shares his thoughts on the proposals:

Neither the draft supported by the majority of the ABA subcommittee nor the Wolff/Barry minority draft requires that tenure be retained. Either one would, I think, provide less protection for the maintenance of a tenure system than the current standards provide. But it must also be said that the Wolff/Barry minority draft would seem to require that, if a school retains tenure, more faculty be eligible for tenure than under the current standards. If tenure is available to anyone, it must be available, at least under one reading of the minority draft, to all full-time faculty (other than, I suppose, short-time visitors). It is not clear that the minority report would result in tenure being more firmly established; the equality requirement might lead administrators to try to eliminate tenure prospectively for everyone rather than having to extend it beyond its current scope. And a required equality of treatment might lead to faculty not currently eligible for tenure being asked to reapply for tenure track positions in a competitive process. Perhaps it would require such faculty to take on additional work in order to earn tenure, such as publication requirements that at many schools do not now apply to faculty who are not eligible for tenure. In any event, whether tenure should be made more widely available or not, it should be recognized that the minority draft would create more of an all-or-nothing situation, in which schools could choose to lift up the status of faculty slots that are not now tenure track slots or to eliminate tenure (or make it harder to get) for faculty slots that currently are tenure track slots. As a practical matter, I suppose the minority draft would be more likely to result in schools making more faculty slots be tenure track slots than is presently the case.

Thus the minority draft seems less addressed to the need to retain a tenure system than to a desire to extend the tenure system to those who currently are not eligible for tenure. Its merits should be considered with that purpose in mind. But I may not be reading it correctly.

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