The real threat to academic freedom today, then, generally comes from outside academe, not from within it. How can we secure academic freedom when its guarantor — tenure — is on the wane, and the public is indifferent or even hostile to it?Good question, right?
Wait a minute. Before we get to the answer to this question ... I know I have a piece of paper that says I have indefinite tenure. But, to my knowledge, my freedom is absolutely restricted. Well, maybe it is just me!
Anyway, that quote is from an opinion piece in the Chronicle, and is authored by the former general secretary of the AAUP. BTW, I don't know how the AAUP came to create an office in its structure called the "general secretary". I mean, the UN has its Secretary General. And the only place with such a title? Well, that was the official title of the most powerful leader of ****--I won't tell you; email me if you want the info :-)
Ok, back to how that question is answered. Ready? Here it is:
I have given up hope that the trend to replace full-time, tenure-track positions with non-tenure-track, part-time ones can be arrested, let alone reversed. Tenure, it seems to me, is bound to be eventually scuttled.
Yet asserting a possibility is not the same as passively accepting its inevitability. The 1940 statement began by saying that its purpose was "to promote public understanding and support of academic freedom and tenure." Almost 70 years later, it is evident that this purpose has not been fulfilled. Decoupling academic freedom
from tenure just may be, as my British colleague asserted, the best way to protect academic freedom.
Elevating that ideal and aspiration into a legal right, possibly into an enumerated constitutional right in certain states, with a force equal to the First Amendment, may be a Faustian bargain, but also, alas, it may be the very best deal that America's faculty members can cut. Tenure, after all, has always been a means to an end — securing academic freedom. Perhaps the time has come to rethink the best way to preserve academe's highest value.