Tenure is a cornerstone of academia. With it, faculty researchers are protected from outside entities. We can pursue paths of inquiry without the fear of someone firing them because that someone doesn't agree with that path. We can even play the complete sonatas by Hindemith for the research portion of our job and not worry about someone not liking or understanding this composer. We can conduct embryonic stem cell research and not worry about religious entities putting an end to our work. We can conduct ground-breaking cancer research and not have to deal with questions from unqualified boards.
A favorite argument is: "If you're doing the right thing as a professor and teaching the students to the best of your ability, then why do you need tenure?"
1. Teaching is only 40% of our job
2. Who decides what the "right thing" is?
Another argument is that other public employees are not granted these securities. This proves that they have no respect for education and teachers. Also, other public employees are not trying to eradicate cancer.
This is a continuation of the right wing attack on education and their desire to create a large population of stupid people. They want to privatize education, have it run like a business, offer high-end, expensive education for those who can afford it, and have no regard for the quality of instruction for lower income people.
One thing about underperforming tenured faculty: they exist and it is a problem, which needs to be addressed and is being addressed. They are holding positions which could be held by younger, hungrier, and more active faculty members. But getting rid of tenure is not the answer
We are already seeing the budgetary effects on our public institutions. This leads to tenure faculty lines being turned into adjunct lines. This saves money, because these faculty members are barely earning a living wage. Think about it: they get about $3,000 per course they teach. That's three hours a week of contact time, which at 15 weeks is about $67 per hour. This does not include prep time and grading, which if I take my wife as an example is an extra 3 hours per week. So now we are down to $33 per hour, before taxes. In order to survive, these faculty members must teach at least three courses per semester. This in turn leaves them no time to further their own career and conduct serious research.
Another aspect of the job of tenured faculty is to provide Service. We serve our School, we serve our college, we serve our university, we serve our community, and we serve our profession. This is about 20% of our job, which is about 8 hours per week. I guarantee that we do more than that. I typically sit on about 20 student recital committees per semester. That alone is about 40 hours. Plus serving on committees, advising students, etc. All of this important service goes away when you're not on a tenure-track or tenured profession.
It is precisely because of simple-minded politicians, who have no idea what is actually going on in academia, that we need tenure. Education needs to be run by people who actually know something about education. Betsy DeVos, Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education, hasn't seen the inside of a public educational institution, nor has she ever taught. Scott Walker, Wisconsin's anti-education governor, is a college dropout with a 2.59 GPA. Brad Zaun, Iowa's senator who introduced the bill to get rid of tenure, attended Grandview College and Ellsworth Community College, unknown if he actually graduated. Rick Brattain, the Missouri politician who wants to do the same there, has a high-school degree. I am not bringing up their lack of education as a means to discredit them or ridicule them. I don't believe that a college education makes you qualified for everything. I don't think that one needs a college degree in order to be successful in life. However, I do believe that if you are going to have informed opinions on something, you'd better actually know something about the matter. I would never tell an auto mechanic which tool to use, or tell a doctor which diagnosis to make, just because I think I have an idea on the matter.
This is all incredibly troubling and it is important that we fight this with all we have. We have just experienced what can happen when we think "oh, this will never happen." We live in an environment where the ground is ripe for an all out assault on the very fabric of what we stand for. We cannot allow allow this to happen.