June 3, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 65°F


Editorial: Tenure system needs to be about advancing education

The original purpose of the tenure system was to promote academic freedom, encourage exploring new concepts and challenge the classroom with new ideas, yet over time, it drifted into a power game. Today, problems like a lack of diversity, the creation of academic hierarchy, loss of interdisciplinarity and freedom for unjust behavior are taking over the tenure system

Higher education is filled with white, cisgender male tenured professors, which makes them the most privileged position holders in faculty. Besides having all the benefits of tenure, like the freedom to express an opinion without risk of getting fired, these white, cisgender male faculty become the decision makers for future incoming tenured members, leaving no door for a diverse climate. This being said, the fundamental idea of tenure — protecting academic freedom — proves there is support for faculty, but, unfortunately, it does not serve everyone. 

The tenure system was a great addition to higher education because it gave the faculty a safety net from being unjustly fired, however, disadvantages follow it and those need improvement. Not only tenured, but all faculty members should have the ability to fearlessly express their views. They should be able to explore new ideas for the sake of education and not for constantly fearing that opinions challenging the social norms will take them off-track to earn tenure.

Tenure should not be ended but improved. New additions to the system should take non-tenured and tenure-track faculty hardships into consideration and advance their academic freedom as well. After all, the tenure system is supposed to encourage the expansion of education, the creation of diverse communities and academics and a safe space for new ideas. Tenure should allow faculty to educate society and not make them feel like they are in a competition.      

The Ithacan can be reached at ithacan@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @IthacanOnline