Academic and Philosophical Freedom

I recently read an article in the New York Times that presented a discussion on tenure in academic institutions [1]. The main argument of this articles posits that the current tenure culture drives faculty to publish research and to create a small hyper specialized niche for themselves in the academic world. The concept of publish or perish is a familiar one to many who have been through the institution.

In contrast to this idea, the author describes the original intent or academic tenure as a mechanism to protect the free thought of faculty. Essentially tenure protected a faculty member at a college or university from wrongful termination based on administrators disagreeing with their ideas. The author writes “We should consider the initial intent of tenure and peer review as a mechanism to maintain academic freedom and evaluate if it is still serving that intent”. So much of the academic institution and other industries’ norms might really be stifling growth and ideas rather than nurturing them.

These are the places where new ideas should be born. I agree with the author of this article and would argue that we should strive for academic freedom and philosophical dialogue rather that pleasing the status quo. The author also stated “We should be willing to have variable models of what success looks like and reward systems that make sense”. I hope that in this world we search for the good new ideas that disrupt the status quo and reward those thinkers and do-ers who bring them to light.

[1] To Save Tenure, We need to Change it, Molly Worthen (assoc. professor, UNC Chapel Hill) . New York Times, 9/26/2021

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