The Corner

The T Word

Roger Kimball raises the $64,000 question–tenure. The tenure system has manifestly failed to perform its core function–establishing a marketplace of ideas on campus. Nowadays tenure does just the opposite. With the academy totally dominated by tenured radicals, the academic left can reproduce its ideological monopoly indefinitely. Although the new generation of students is more conservative than the last, conservatives have little prospect of ever making it into the academy. By using the tenure system to create an ideological monopoly, the radicals have made it impossible to reestablish a marketplace of ideas on campus. Kimball is right that the underlying problem here is the violation of a kind of unstated bargain. Implicitly, society promises to allow tenure, so long as professors refrain from abusing their privilege, by undermining the very principles of tolerance that are the point the system. Now we’re in a trap. It would be better not to go after tenure. Yet given the fact that tenure has been turned into a tool of ideological control, the tenure system probably does need to be questioned.

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