Both tenure and the involvement of academic faculty in research are under increasing attack by legislators and other leaders outside of academia. These critics from the business and other worlds often show little understanding of what makes a great university or the reasons for its procedures.

Indefinite tenure is not a lifetime guarantee for an individual but rather a distinguishing characteristic of certain positions in some institutions--including, but not exclusively, universities. U.S. Supreme Court justices, judges in federal courts, and certain senior civil servants also have tenure, and it is not difficult to see why society has bestowed tenure on these positions. The purpose is to protect people holding these positions from possible retaliation for their ideas or decisions, should these turn out to be unpopular.

Our society has recognized the importance of upholding the law, even in the face of various pressures. That some judges may be regarded as...

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