The Chronicle of Higher Education
March 20th, 2015
Earlier this month, the University of Tennessee system coined
the term “de-tenure,” apparently by accident. The system’s president
immediately got an earful (on Twitter of all places) that the ability to
detenure someone would defeat the very purpose of tenure. Whether or not
university officials actually believed that argument, they at least backed
off their initial effort to make detenuring a possibility.
Unfortunately, it may be hard to put the detenuring
genie back in the bottle. The fact that any university system is willing to
even consider detenuring as an option demonstrates just how much damage has
already been done to this vitally important academic principle. Tenure may not
be dead, but it has been on life support for some time now. The patient remains
well worth treating despite the high costs of intensive care, but to act as if
the University of Tennessee’s shortsighted cost-cutting measures were the only
threat that tenure faces would be disastrous.