But here’s the thing that Walker, and Vos—and probably the general public—just doesn’t seem to get: To the majority of American faculty, quibbling about tenure is irrelevant, because they are ineligible for it and always will be. “How do you prove that tenure is necessary when a majority of your colleagues have been working without it?” asks long-term “visiting” professor John Warner in Inside Higher Ed. “Where will tenure be in 10 years?” asks Josh Boldt on Vitae. “No adjunct professor should care.” . . . .
Instead of fighting about tenure, perhaps we should decide what the post-tenure university should look like. Out of extreme cynicism comes extreme pragmatism, and now is the best time (possibly the only time) for professors to maintain the approximation of an intellectual vision rather than the gleeful strip mall–ification of some pandering governor or executive slumming it as an administrator. . . .
Yes, there are problems with tenure, but they are not the largely fictitious ones championed by right-wing jerks. The problem with tenure is not that it allows “elites” (who make $50,000 a year) a “job for life” (nope). It’s that too few people have it so there’s nobody left to fight for it, and for the academic freedom it promises. What few tenured academics remain are handed just enough disproportionate power to maintain just enough acrimony that everybody is too busy being at each other’s throats to mind the store.I'm still convinced that a system where the great majority of faculty are tenured or tenurable is the best option, but, as an almost-certainly-permanent (if relatively privileged) member of the contingent class, I'm finding it harder and harder to get excited about threats to tenure per se (as opposed to, say, broader threats to faculty governance, which at this point start with the fact that, at many institutions, the great majority of the faculty have neither opportunity nor time to be involved in governance at all). At the very least, having a conversation about what a functional system without tenure would look like might give us a chance to identify more clearly what's wrong with the current system.
Full article here.