Thursday, March 31, 2011

Shockingly Naive? No, Just Deliberately Ignorant

Same title, different topic: hey, if we get rid of tenure, our costs will go down, right?  The state of Florida is moving towards eliminating tenure.  The good news is that this is just a decision by one small committee, and we all know how one small committee can be completely divorced from reality and merit, right?

The assertion by the folks behind this is that if everyone is on year to year contracts, then colleges and universities would be more flexible and can allocate resources where they are needed.  Sure, because we want our institutions of higher education to act like pandering politicians to the latest craze rather than having some sense of stability so that the students can actually get in year four what they plan in year one.  The other assumption is that having annual contracts will reduce costs by allowing universities to dump dead weight.  Sure, that might happen. Or universities would have to invest in scouting, evaluations, contracting, and the like so that they can remain fully staffed from year to year.  Plus for every dinosaur that is let go (and then sues for age discrimination) there is a young hotshot that either has to be placated with a bigger contract or lost to a school that would offer higher wages and/or job security.

Aye, there's the rub.  As it turns out, studies of tenure show that it depresses wages.  Yep, lifetime job security essentially has a monetary value--people are willing to work for less in order not to have to worry about next year.  So, if you want to get rid of tenure, you might just find it will cost more, rather than less.  But that would require someone to do the work, the science, and the reading.

I am not blind to the problems of tenure, but the idea that we should get rid of it and all multi-year contracts in education is just incredibly short-sighted based on the budget-cutting fever of the day and not on what might actually function in the real world in the medium term.  One of the reasons why I believe tenure will endure is that the states/institutions that get rid of it first will lose and those who keep it will gain, as profs move to where they are secure.  And, yes, security does matter these days with profs in at least two states now facing intrusions into their email by grand-standing, labor-crushing politicians (that would be Wisconsin and Michigan at the least).

I find it almost funny that we have an attack upon tenure exactly when profs are being investigated for presenting views on hot issues of the day.  Isn't that what tenure was for?  To protect the free inquiry of ideas?  Folks always scoff, saying that those protections are unnecessary.  Hard to scoff now, isn't it?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Speaking of tenures, universities and academia, would you have any comment on these percentages?
What advice for US/Canada college admission preparation would you give?