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Just For Fun: On The Joys Of Tenure…

July 24th, 2013 · 4 Comments
Just For Fun

I don’t really have a strong view on tenure one way or the other, and I get that tenure is supposed to insulate intellectuals from being fired because the higher ups don’t like the results that they find or the discoveries that they make (or even what questions they are trying to answer in the first place). That said, I do think it’s funny that a group of people so quick to point out the bad incentives that protections such as unemployment insurance create are remarkably quiet regarding the incentives to produce (or lack thereof) that the tenure system creates.

Tags: Just For Fun

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jeff // Jul 24, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    The issue is similar to Supreme Court justices. When we were seeing decisions like Roe V Wade while conservatives were elected, liberals like myself were all convinced that the lifetime appointment of Supreme Court justices was a good thing. Now we are seeing decisions like “Citizen’s united” and “AT&T MOBILITY LLC v. CONCEPCION ET UX” and liberals have to feel a bit frustrated by the turn of events.

    It’s probably a good thing in balance…

  • 2 scott // Jul 24, 2013 at 11:01 pm

    Jodi. WTF? Tenure comes after five years for the most part, which is really the minimum required for a professor to prove themself. Many tenured professors are young and vibrant with new ideas. And look at the output of tenured professors! Can it be said to really reflect the ideas of the “old, wealthy, and powerful” ? This characterization is a straw dog meant to accomplish…. what? Yes, there are sour old jerks who are tenured, but more as a representative sample than an exclusive group. My partner is up for tenure this year… a scrappy, hard working innovator who will make $55,000 a year, doing dynamic work challenging the state on poverty initiatives. Old, wealthy, and powerful? Hardly…

    Of course I do appreciate that economists are old fuddy duddies, if that’s your point…

  • 3 Robert Woodward // Jul 25, 2013 at 9:52 am

    The nation’s public discourse is taking a decidedly anti-academic swing, even from Obama. Especially in this environment, I’d recommend greater care in propagating half truths. Old tenured faculty may be among the richest and most powerful among academicians. But with a very few exceptions (OK, maybe a few of your professors), we are neither rich nor powerful compared to the legislative and political forces that would dearly love to pressure us to adopt their rhetoric.

  • 4 Will Wheeler // Jul 29, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    I really like Carmichael’s JEP paper on tenure (‘‘Incentives in Academics:
    Why is There Tenure?’’). If you assume that administrators can’t adequately evaluate researchers across multiple disciplines, or even subfields within a discipline, and so incumbents have to perform the evaluation, tenure is necessary. Otherwise, incumbents will never recommend hiring someone better than themselves.

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