Monday, August 12, 2013

Should the ABA require faculty tenure for accreditation?

The relevant committee appears to be leaning against the requirement.  I'm not sure it should be an accreditation requirement, but some of the comments attributed to committee members are pretty appalling:

No one outside of academia understands why tenure exists, council member and  accountant Edward Tucker argued, adding that tenure offers a level of job  protection unheard of nearly any other profession. 

No doubt what Mr. Tucker means is that most people in the United States (other than federal judges, teachers, many unionized workers, etc.) "understands why tenure exists," whereas in many other countries "tenure" is easily recognizable as a form of employment security that contributes to human well-being.  But regardless of American ignorance, surely an ABA committee ought to be composed of people who understand what tenure is.   Tenured employment is the opposite of at-will employment:  it means that, usually after a probationary period, an individual can only be terminated "for cause."  Universities have been excessively lax about terminating faculty "for cause," which contributes to the current atmosphere of suspicion of tenure.   Tenured employment makes for more humane working and living conditions for employees, and protects them from arbitrary treatment.  In the academic context, it also protects freedom of research, teaching, and inquiry.   Those are the reasons for tenure.   Must every institution offering legal education have tenure?  Not obviously, though all the serious ones will.  But regardless, members of the ABA council ought to educate themselves about tenure.  (In the event that Mr. Tucker has been misquoted, he should send a letter to the editor to correct the record.)

Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink