Phi Beta Cons

Life Off the Tenure Track

In this week’s Pope Center Clarion Call, Penn State professor Dirk Mateer writes about his and his wife’s experiences as non-tenure-track academics at the school. Life isn’t too bad, but not a bowl of cherries either.

What I find especially interesting is Mateer’s point that research universities like Penn State are slowly moving away from the idea that everyone on faculty has to juggle teaching and research, and are embracing specialization. He likes teaching economics, he does it well, and Penn State is putting his comparative advantage to good use in the classroom.
One has to wonder, though, if the tenured professors who do little teaching are worth what it costs to keep them on the payroll. Some probably pull in enough grant money to be profitable, but many others (particularly in the “soft” fields) probably don’t. Why not put research activity to the test of the market?

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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