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Colleges at the Crossroads

Taking Sides on Contested Issues


Edited By Joseph L. DeVitis and Pietro A. Sasso

Focusing on crucial issues in higher education, this book challenges readers to go beyond taken-for-granted assumptions about America’s colleges and universities and instead critically examine important questions facing them in today’s troubled world. Each chapter presents divergent perspectives, that is, "pro" and "con" views, in the hope of stimulating reasoned dialogue among students, faculty, administrators, and the public at large. Readers will explore how internal factors in the academic community often interact with external social, economic, and political influences to produce conflictual results. They will see that academe is hardly value-neutral and inevitably political. This book urges them to transcend strident political persuasion and instead engage in the careful analysis needed to make colleges better.

The text provides in-depth appraisal of key topics of controversy: the purposes of higher education, liberal education, academic freedom, political correctness, tenure, shared governance, faculty workload, admissions tests, student learning, Greek life, the worth of college, equity and social justice, athletics, student entitlement, technology and distance instruction, and college amenities. The book will appeal to students, faculty, staff, and all those interested in the future of higher education. It is especially useful for courses in contemporary issues in higher education, foundations of higher education, higher education and society, college student development, and the organization and administration of higher education.

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Part Four: Should Tenure Be Abolished?


← 92 | 93 →

Part Four:  Should Tenure Be Abolished?

In “The Contingency of Tenure,” David Shiner affords a balanced, yet provocative, analysis of how the tenure system has historically prevailed in higher education and why more recent arguments against it are gaining some steam. He presents a detailed review of the literature on tenure as well as personal interviews with colleagues to marshal his case. Shiner also takes readers on an interesting tour of his own campus, Shimer College, to illustrate its alternatives to tenure, as well as highlighting examples from other universities. He concludes that individual institutions should be careful to respond to their own unique features in any deliberation about tenure policies and practices.

In “Why Tenure Needs Protection in These Troubled Times,” Philo A. Hutcheson points to salient factors related to its erosion. He details the historical and social foundations for tenure in the professoriate, especially its stewardship by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). In particular, Hutcheson emphasizes the McCarthy era of the 1950s and the rising tide of anti-intellectualism in American life. In contemporary times, he cites a growing trend toward non-tenure track positions, i.e., “at-will employees” with little or no protection. Finally, Hutcheson argues that tenure and academic freedom serve to oppose current threats to research in such vital scientific areas as global warming and anti-vaccination efforts, to name a few. ← 93 | 94 →

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