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A tenured appointment is an indefinite appointment that can be terminated only for cause or under extraordinary circumstances such as financial exigency or program discontinuation. Tenure defends the principle of academic freedom, which holds that it is beneficial for society in the long run if scholars are free to hold and examine a variety of views. Elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers can also be granted tenure in some places.
Since 1915, the American Association of University Professors has developed standards to guide higher education in service of the common good. The modern conception of tenure in US higher education originated with the AAUP's 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure. Jointly formulated and endorsed by the AAUP and the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), the 1940 Statement is endorsed by over 250 scholarly and higher education organizations and is widely adopted into faculty handbooks and collective bargaining agreements at institutions of higher education throughout the United States. This statement holds that, "The common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition" and stresses that academic freedom is essential in teaching and research in this regard.
Some have argued that modern tenure systems diminish academic freedom, forcing those seeking tenured positions to profess conformance to the level of mediocrity as those awarding the tenured professorships. For example, according to physicist Lee Smolin, "...it is practically career suicide for a young theoretical physicist not to join the field of string theory." Some U.S. states considered legislation to remove tenure at public universities. However, many argue, among other things, that the job security granted by tenure is necessary to recruit talented individuals into professorships, because in many fields private industry jobs pay significantly more. Economist Steven Levitt has suggested that if tenure is removed, universities will need to raise faculty salaries to compensate for the lost job security. He also states that it would attract those who teach for the love of teaching rather than those looking to retire.
A further criticism of tenure is that it rewards incompetence, as once a professor is awarded tenure, he or she may coast, knowing that their removal is difficult or expensive to the institution.
- Other tenure
- Lee Smolin, The Trouble with Physics
- Flaherty, Colleen. "Killing Tenure". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
- Levitt, Steven. "Let’s Just Get Rid of Tenure (Including Mine)". Freakonomics. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
- Jürgen Enders (June 29, 2015). "Explainer: how Europe does academic tenure". The Conversation (website).
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