In a piece headlined ‘Death to Tenure’ Hanson explains how it works:
“Tenure in our universities is simply unlike any other institution in American society,” he writes. “Take the case of Ward Churchill at the University of Colorado. Because of his inflammatory slander of the Sept. 11, 2001, victims, the public turned its attention to his status. We discovered that he did not have a PhD, created a Native-American identity and allegedly appropriated the intellectual property of others–but was promoted to a tenured full professorship, protected by a lifetime contract.”
The rationale for granting tenure, Hanson notes, was that it was supposed to allow “unfettered inquiry. Only by enjoying shelter from the storm of politics can professors be bold enough to take up the tough task of challenging young minds to question orthodoxy.” Ironically, what we have ended up with (thanks in part to tenure) is “uniformity of belief” among tenured faculty.
“Sometime in the 1960s,” writes Hanson, “many faculties felt the proper role of the university was to gravitate away from the Socratic method of disinterested inquiry, and instead to press for a preordained and ‘correct’ worldview. Since America was supposedly guilty of being oppressive to those not white, conservative, male, capitalist, Christian and heterosexual, the university offered a rare counterpoint.
“Tenure became part of protecting this strange culture in which the ends justified the means: Bias in the classroom was passed off as ’balance’ to an inherently prejudiced society. Academia came to resemble the medieval church that likewise believed its archaic protocols were free from review, given its vaunted mission of saving souls.”
What tenure ultimate gives, according to Hanson, is a mandarin class that says it’s egalitarian but leaves much of the actual teaching to untenured teachers who work harder and for less money.