Tuesday, January 7, 2014
National Law Journal: Law Professors Give ABA an Earful on Tenure's Future, by Karen Sloan:
The ABA proposal to eliminate its tenure requirement for law schools drew a hostile reception during the Association of American Law School’s annual meeting in New York over the weekend.
An overflow crowd of law professors packed into a meeting room during a panel discussion on Saturday to express outrage over the idea. The ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar billed the discussion as an opportunity to learn about the myriad changes on the table as it updates its accreditation standards.
The list of changes under consideration is long, including increasing the number of practical skills credit hours students must take and allowing more credits to be earned via distance education. But it didn’t take long for the tenure discussion to take center stage, as law professors lined up to voice concerns that eliminating the tenure requirement would jeopardize academic freedom.
The discussion grew tense at moments, with some audience members accusing ABA leaders of being more concerned with the interest of law firms and corporations than with the quality of legal education. Others alleged that leaders had not fully considered the implication for minority group faculty of removing the tenure requirement. The discussion was interrupted numerous times by applause from the audience following passionate remarks defending the importance of tenure. ...
Saint Louis University School of Law professor Jeffrey Lewis, chairman of the ABA committee examining the standards, took the occasion to explain the two options on the table regarding what has been dubbed “security of position.” The first is that all fulltime law faculty must have some form of “security of position” that protects academic freedom, but that does not necessarily have to be a tenure system as traditionally understood. The second option would eliminate any reference to security of position, but would require schools to provide job protections sufficient to attract a competent faculty.
Under both options, tenure would be considered a safe harbor, Lewis said—that is, if schools opt not to maintain a system of tenure, the onus would be upon them to prove to the ABA that their policies would protect academic freedom.