One of the best-known benefits of faculty tenure is that it protects academic freedom.
There was a time in this country when educators were restricted in what they could cover in class, speech and writing. (Think the 1850s when Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin was banned for pro-abolitionist views as one example of such a time.) As a result, and out of fear of retribution, faculty stayed away from controversial or questionable topics. Tenure, and the protections it provided, changed that. With tenure, professors could speak freely, write freely, and encourage debate on the controversial or questionable issues of the day.
While the concept of tenure has been around since the founding of Harvard in 1636, modern tenure began to develop in the early 20th century. Tenure especially gained ground in the period around World War I (in part because some professors who criticized that war, or the developments of modern economic systems, lost their jobs). Over the past century, academic tenure has helped to protect free speech on college campuses, foster research on difficult or controversial subjects, enhance the free exchange of ideas in university classrooms, and strengthen enduring connections between professors and the universities they serve.
Join our discussion about how and why tenure benefits Carolina. Featured speakers are UNC Chapel Hill professors Dr. Karin Pfennig, Dr. Lloyd Kramer, Dr. Patricia Parker, and Dr. Mimi Chapman.