What if universities get rid of tenure?

Here’s a thought experiment: take a 53-year-old professor, at a moderate quality university, who goes from publishing three articles a year to one article a year, and in somewhat lesser journals than before. His teaching evaluations slip steadily, though he never becomes a disaster in the classroom. In the no-tenure world, does that person get fired? (And what’s his chance of finding another job?)

If firing is in order, how much higher do initial wage offers have to be? (Recall that you’re asking the new hire to take a $$ wage lower than his human capital would otherwise indicate; btw Megan covers that query here.) Is this deal worth it for universities? If that guy doesn’t get laid off, who does? Only the convicted felons?

If you believe in abolishing tenure, and yet tenure won’t go away, do you also think schools should cut entry-level wages for new professors, as a second-best means of lowering their total compensation? How do you feel about the achievement paths of the schools that are already trying this strategy? Will abolishing tenure involve any compensation scheme other than that already used by current for-profits in higher education?

What if universities get rid of tenure?, Marginal Revolution, July 23, 2010

Tenure: An Idea Whose Time Has Gone, Megan McArdle, The Atlantic, July 21, 2010

What if College Tenure Dies?, The New York Times, July 19, 2010

Debating Tenure, The Volokh Conspiracy, July 23, 2010

The Disappearing Tenure-Track Job, by Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, May 12, 2009

Let’s just get rid of tenure (including mine), by Steven Levitt, Freakonomics, The New York Times, March 3, 2007

Academic Freedom and Tenure, by Philo Hutcheson, The Gale Group

Tenure in the United States 20th Century Relic or Essential Structure for the 21st Century? by William G. Tierney, International Higher Education, Winter 1998

The Academy and Therapy: Academic Freedom in the Modern University, by James R Cadello, Central Washington University, presented at the Second Annual Conference on Intellectual Freedom, Montana State University-Northern, April 1996

Academic Freedom and Tenure: between fiction and reality, by William G. Tierney, Journal of Higher Education, March-April, 2004

Monasticism, from Wikipedia

Academia, from Wikipedia

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