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Is tenure worth saving?

The economy is depressed, money is tight, and universities are feeling the pinch. One radical proposal for trimming budgets is to eliminate tenure-track positions, shifting faculty to part-time and full-time non-tenure-track positions. The move away from tenure has been slowly brewing for decades. While core tenure-system positions comprised approximately 55% of all faculty in 1970s, by 2003 that number had dropped to 41% and further still to 31% in 2007. Dan Clawson Image: University of Massa

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst is managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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The economy is depressed, money is tight, and universities are feeling the pinch. One radical proposal for trimming budgets is to eliminate tenure-track positions, shifting faculty to part-time and full-time non-tenure-track positions. The move away from tenure has been slowly brewing for decades. While core tenure-system positions comprised approximately 55% of all faculty in 1970s, by 2003 that number had dropped to 41% and further still to 31% in 2007.
Dan Clawson
Image: University of Massachusetts, Amherst
linkurl:Dan Clawson,;http://www.umass.edu/sociol/faculty_staff/clawsn.html tenured professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who described concerns about abolishing tenure in linkurl:an opinion article;http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/324/5931/1147 published online in Science today (May 29), has some strong views on the subject. He detailed his argument in a conversation with The Scientist. The Scientist: What was your motivation for writing this opinion piece? Dan Clawson: We did a study at our university and we found that in 2005...
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Editor's note (May 29): This article has been updated from a previous version to include related articles.

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