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Job Security

December 11, 2006

[Cross-posted in the comments section of InsideHigherEd]

I want to applaud InsideHigherEd this last week for a series of important data points. These figures, taken with the article “Rethinking Tenure” (, point to the larger trend of academic outsourcing.

The AAUP should worry about academic freedom when “more than 62 percent” have no option for tenure. I commented in the “Rethinking Tenure” article that one of the more telling quotes was that although only 10% of tenure applicants were denied, that the pool of tenure applicants was not 100% of professors, rendering that low percentage meaningless. It seems that I was right. 10% of 36 is still impressive. Good for tenure. But it seems that the 36 have already been vetted to a great degree. I would go further to say that having 10% of this more elite pool, one that has been vetted by granting a tenure-track option, is too high. The only answer to that percentage is that wholesale institutions are participating in tenure (Stanford high, Harvard about half) which skews the curve.

Do academics deserve job security (few others have this privilege). That seems to be a question everyone dances around but doesn’t ask. Why not let market forces regulate position and pay? It works for IT professionals, ballplayers and real-estate? Why not let the scholars battle it out, book by article by book?

Of course, an academic could hold a non-popular position that is ultimately proven right (Copernicus) and whose work no doubt would have been affected by such a Darwinian market structure. This is not to even mention quality of instruction—which also seems to be easily lost along the way.

I, again, applaud IHE for getting the word out. Now, what are some of the answers?


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