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Feb28-12, 11:59 PM
P: 6,863
Quote Quote by deRham View Post
To be clear: we don't even have to reduce tenured professors' salaries or the permanence.
Yes you do.

Once you have a department that is mostly long term researcher, then the next question is why those people aren't on the major committees and in administration. Once you put those people in positions of power, then the question comes up as to why the tenured professors have tenure.

Now you can reach a deal in which *current* tenured faculty are grandfathered, and tenure is dead for *new* hiring. But make no mistake, that this is the end of tenure. In some industries, notably the auto industry, this was the "grand bargain" that was reached in the 1980's, and even there you had to do a lot of financial stuff to keep paying pension and retiree medical benefits.

I just mean that tenure sounds like hitting a jackpot, and a few superstars can have that. I think we'd just have a total of more productive researchers if they had a reasonable way of pursuing their research other than hitting that jackpot.
One thing about tenure is that if you go back to the 1950's, it *wasn't* that unusual. Most unionized industrial workers in the 1950's were under contract with tenure like provisions. These mostly disappeared in the 1970's and 1980's.

OTOH, maybe it's not such a bad thing. The reason those provisions disappeared was the belief that inflexible labor regulations prevented economic flexibility by making it difficult for people to go into the industry where they would do the most economic and social good. One reason this argument needs to be taken seriously is that it might be true. I'm not doing exactly what I want, but it's hard to make an argument that I'd be generating more economic or social value working in university versus what I'm doing now.

There is clearly something between permanent and strictly temporary, which probably would be a desirable enough alternative for someone who spent 7 years doing a physics PhD out of liking it, instead of doing a different job which pays much more for roughly that energy.
I don't think there is politically. One other problem here is that one has to look from the point of view of society. My personal job satisfaction really isn't that important to most people in the grand scheme of things.

One other problem is that if there were a politician who could credibly argue for fewer tenure protections in exchange for better treatment of non-tenure faculty and graduate students, I'd at least listen to them, but the politicians that are anti-tenure are also strongly anti-academia, so I'm going to side with the tenured faculty when there is a dispute (and it's been a major issue in Texas.)