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John Adams Blog

The blog of The Antient and Honourable John Adams Society, Minnesota's Conservative Debating Society www.johnadamssociety.org

Friday, February 25, 2005

Volokh, Churchill, and Tenure

Eugene Volokh discusses the relation between the Churchill case, free speech and tenure.

He’s right. Tenure is not about free speech, and it is not (mostly) about protecting academic freedom. To me, it has two other principle functions. First, it’s about the equivalent of making partner at a law firm. Departmental decisions in academia are made by the tenured, or senior, professors. In effect, they own the firm. The junior guys are like law associates. This up or out system has the same virtues as it does in a law firm. Young hungry people work very hard to get promoted (or not fired). Second, tenure is a fringe benefit. Knowing you can’t get fired is worth something. At Boston University, the president (Silber) decided tenure was a bad thing and tried to hire tenured economics professors at other universities with big money five year contracts. No one would take the money. Now I’m sure for enough money, they would have given up tenure, but this was more than Silber deemed reasonable. This tells me then that tenure is an efficient way to pay. (It's worth more to the tenure holder than the tenure granter is willing to pay to get rid of it.)

Every now and those on the right mistakenly attack tenure. But nothing requires any given university to have it. If Penn thought it could eventually outshine Harvard by giving up tenure (for new people), it would do it in a heartbeat. So my question to conservative anti-tenure types: What do you have against the free market?

(Disclosure: Since I’m not full time at a university, but a quasi-public institution, I don’t have tenure. )

Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

Anyone can agree with the basic argument for tenure. However, the Ward Churchill controversy typifies the double standard in American Academia. For example, if Ward Churchill came out and wrote an essay about how only blacks in the World Trade Center attack deserved to die, there would not be a debate about whether Ward should be fired. But good ol' Ward is attacking white America, and in academia, its okay to attack white middle class America because White America needs to be brought down and crushed. Thus, the double standard is allowed.

Ward Churchill is another example as to why being involved in politics is important...tyranny is always right below the surface.

10:02 PM, February 25, 2005  
Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

Publius, I think it is an incorrect assertion that if Ward Churchill had said that only the blacks in the WTC deserved to die, he would be canned. Arthur Butz is a tenured associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Northwestern University. He is a Holocaust denier - can't get much less politically correct than that. There is always a movement to fire him, but that haven't yet.

8:48 AM, February 26, 2005  
Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

Perhaps, but denying the holocaust or at least minimizing the holocaust has been a recent hobby among the Left. After all, Jews already rule the world, why sympathize with them over the holocaust..... Thus, I would argue that Jew hating is an accepted practice for the majority of tenured Leftist professors (some of them Jewish themselves), while hating gays or blacks is not.

11:24 AM, February 26, 2005  
Blogger festivus said...

Chris, I agree with Publius. In its simplest form, it comes down to what group you choose to attack. Attacks on those who are perceived to be in power (whites, Jews, Christians, Republicans) are fine. Attacks on those who are perceived as repressed or worse, perceived by the Left to be incapable of acheiving success with the help of the Left (various minority groups, Muslims, Oscar recipients) are simply not acceptable.

12:17 PM, February 27, 2005  
Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

Publius, and Festivus.

Uncle! I agree. Jew hatred is probably a lesser crime now.

7:05 PM, February 27, 2005  

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