Slate, Christopher Beam | The proportion of full-time college professors with tenure has fallen from 57 percent in 1975 to 31 percent in 2007. The numbers for 2009, soon to be released by the Department of Education, are expected to dip even lower.
[...] Critics say that tenure hurts students by making professors lazy. Course loads vary widely from school to school: At some public universities, professors teach nine or 10 courses. At smaller schools, they teach as few as one or two, totaling as few as 140 classroom hours a year. If you can’t be fired, what’s to stop you from refusing to teach an extra course? “I honestly don’t know what a lot of academics do a lot of the time,” says [Mark C. Taylor, chair of the Columbia University department of religion, and author of the forthcoming Crisis on Campus: A Bold Plan for Reforming Our Colleges and Universities].
But the clincher for the anti-tenure argument may come from the very people it is supposed to benefit: academics. Specifically, young academics. Consider the career path of an aspiring full-time tenured professor: Four years of college, six years getting a doctorate, four to six years as a post-doc, and then six years on the tenure track. By the time you come up for tenure, you’re 40. For men, the timeline is inconvenient. But for women who want to have children, it’s just about unworkable.
That’s one reason the number of full-time tenured professors has dropped so much in the past few decades: Women have joined the academic work force, but some have opted to take a part-time role. It’s also why Princeton President Shirley Tilghman once called the tenure system “no friend to women” and suggested abolishing it entirely… MORE