A couple articles came across my news feed in the
past week a few months ago related to tenure. While they are not directly related to each other, I thought I’d mention them in the same post.
First, how many faculty in the United States are actually tenured? I was surprised to find that, according to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), over 50% of faculty hold adjunct (non tenure-track) positions. AAUP calls these positions “contingent faculty” because, regardless of their full-time or part-time status, their school makes little to no long-term commitment in terms of job security. The increasing reliance of institutions on adjunct faculty has an impact not only on the faculty but also on the students and the research at the institution. An article from The Atlantic summarizes many of these points:
Now, tenure itself may be a controversial topic – some say that the system encourages faculty to slack off after getting tenure, or to keep teaching outdated material long after they should have retired. The tenure process is incredibly stressful, sometimes unclear, and notoriously unfair – and this is just scratching the surface. But once tenure is obtained, faculty may end up doing more out-of-the-box, high-risk research and teaching that they wouldn’t have attempted otherwise.