Abandoning Tenure’s Golden Handcuffs

“We would begin to feel comfortable with our work and satisfied with the state of the program. And then a massively overpaid president or provost or vice president would determine that something needed to be cut, and he would look around and see a program staffed by non-tenured faculty and think, “Aha, that looks easy.” And it would all be gone again.”



I gave up tenure last summer after an excruciating year of fighting against budget cuts for the writing program I directed. I was told that, to save money, students would have only one semester of writing instead of two and that the program’s full-time professors would, over time, be replaced by adjuncts.  It’s a familiar tale:  most members of the university’s faculty were “untouchable” because of tenure, and the untenured writing faculty stood out to the provost like a beacon.

Of course, programs have been cut many times, and their tenured directors seldom, if ever, give up tenure in protest. But I felt deceived and depleted by the upper administration’s baseless about-face: a year earlier, our program had been lauded as a cost-effective triumph. However, when visible cuts needed to be made, the program’s tiny group of faculty, among the lowest paid in the institution, who served…

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