Friday, October 12, 2007

Abolishing Tenure -- Again

Some ideas just seem to pop up in the law blogs every so often and the abolition of tenure is probably at the top of that list. Paul Caron suggested it to Erwin Chemerinsky in his advice series over at TaxProfs, and Brian Leiter has really savaged him for it. (Leiter's also not too fond, apparently, of most of the advice that the 40+ of us gave to Erwin over there.) Now Brian Tamanaha weighs in on the question over at Balkinization today, making the very compelling argument that tenure makes a lot more sense at some schools than at others. Tamanaha writes that while it may be true that the pluses of tenure outweigh the minuses at a school like UT where Leiter teaches, at Tamanaha's school it serves mainly to protect those who are not doing the job.

Brian Leiter, before you ask, I think tenure's a good idea and I'm not giving mine up. I think the problem that Caron and others identify with the status quo is really attributable to the lack of meaningful post-tenure review. A dean can get rid of people who can't or won't write or who are a liability in the classroom, but she has to document the deficiencies, make a record, and invest political capital in the task. I don't kid myself that it's easy, but I'm not aware of too many deans who have taken it on.

However, I don't think it's foolish or silly to re-examine the institution of tenure every now and then, either.


Blogger Jeff Harrison said...

I attempted to comment on the Lieter blog you linked to but evidently that is not allowed. In any case, I am stunned by his reference to Luban's reasoning. First, Luban notes that law professors are not particularly in need of tenure. This comes right after the part Leiter quotes. I guess there was not room to include Luban's qualifying comment. Second, the Luban reasoning he cites is that tenure must be working because there are so few challenges. Yes, and the moon must be working because no stars have fallen on the earth. I'd put it differently, there are few challenges to the tenure of law professors because they rarely say anything that anyone cares about and deans are too weak kneed to challenge the tenure of the loafers.

(Sorry my meandering post came out on top of yours. Yours is more interesting,)

10/12/2007 4:54 PM  
Blogger Brian Leiter said...

Sorry to be a bit late to this show. David Luban does not say that "law professors are not particularly in need of tenure." He thinks those in the sciences, who do work that might conflict with corporate interests, have a greater need for tenure.

11/10/2007 11:24 AM  

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