Of course the question of tenure has crossed my mind repeatedly. Having nuked my academic career by becoming a home-schooling parent instead of a professor, I relinquished claims to respectability long ago – ten years ago. But even that long ago, the question of tenure seemed an obvious problem to me, even if it wasn’t, at the time, getting much attention (I could never figure out why it wasn’t getting attention: it seemed like such a canary in the whiskey bar – a fat bird singing: anyone could hear it!).
I had friends who, like me, were highly qualified, but were scrambling to cobble together teaching gigs at various underpaying colleges in the region – one extremely qualified woman was driving hundreds of miles weekly to teach at a couple of cheap (pay-wise) and far-flung colleges in Boston and another in faraway Fitchburg. I could count on two fingers of one hand the number of friends who got tenure-track jobs. The year I received my PhD (1991), the Mellon Foundation published some flapdoodle trend paper about how we were going to be the golden generation who would step into the positions opened up by the cohort of upcoming retirees. Well, the upcomers didn’t retire, and the universities didn’t re-hire. At least not on the tenure track. The universities hired adjunct teachers instead – the excuse at the time was that the recession of the late 80s had finally caught up with academe.
I’m not sure what the excuse was in the intervening years, when the economy bubbled into hyper-drive. God knows many colleges were positively giddy about their bulging endowments. Yet the trend to adjunct teaching continued, and tenure kept shrinking.
Is this a question also of “brand” schools gutting themselves from the inside out?
If that’s the case, then parents – shelling out huge sums of money – are paying for a chimera.
See Tenure, RIP (Chronicle of Higher Education):