Tenure: Lifetime Employment in a Fast-Changing World

  • Daniel M. Johnson


The history of the “tenure debate” is retraced and brought up-to-date. The author’s own experience in reviewing, recommending, and approving faculty for tenure is also described. The role of the AAUP is assessed from the perspective of the stated rationale for tenure, i.e., “academic freedom.” The critical importance of academic freedom is stressed including tools for ensuring this freedom other than guaranteed lifetime employment. The dysfunctions of tenure are presented including the limits it places on the flexibility of universities to move assets to meet changing needs and control costs. The “economics” of tenure are also described together with proposals for limiting tenure to specified time frames. The “cost-benefits” of tenure are assessed with the hope of re-opening a national tenure debate in the interest of students.



Much of the information and material presented in this chapter has greatly benefitted from the scholarship and leadership of Richard P. Chait. His work in this area has been of enormous benefit to scholars, colleges and universities as well as higher education, generally. Of particular value has been Chait’s edited volume, The Questions of Tenure, Harvard University Press, 2002.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel M. Johnson
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ToledoToledoUSA

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