Arguments for and against tenure

One argument for tenure:

  1. Without the protection of tenure, professors would be afraid to explore controversial themes and reluctant to make unpopular arguments, and so education and research would suffer.

Two arguments against tenure:

  1. Before obtaining tenure, a professor must complete a decade long apprenticeship (at least several years in graduate school and five or more years as a junior professor) without the protection of tenure. Professors choose the field in which they will do their research during that time. They learn the methods they will use in their research. They establish direction and a foundation for their careers. It is during that time when they do not have the protection of tenure that the pressure to publish is greatest. Many professors produce little new research after earning tenure. If these professors are brave enough to challenge orthodoxy when young and without tenure, why do they need tenure later? If they are yielding to pressures to avoid rocking the boat during their apprenticeships, how will they overcome their self-censoring habits later? Will tenure matter in the middle and final years of academic careers if professors are then only publishing minor extensions to work whose form they set when they were young?
  2. To those who claim that tenure is needed to give professors the ability to speak freely, we might ask: where is the evidence that tenure is in fact producing professors who are brave enough to stand apart from colleagues on controversial issues? Don’t we see faculties full of timid and conforming professors who mostly think alike?