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The Questions of Tenure

The Questions of Tenure

Edited by Richard P. Chait

ISBN 9780674016040

Publication date: 02/01/2005

Tenure is the abortion issue of the academy, igniting arguments and inflaming near-religious passions. To some, tenure is essential to academic freedom and a magnet to recruit and retain top-flight faculty. To others, it is an impediment to professorial accountability and a constraint on institutional flexibility and finances. But beyond anecdote and opinion, what do we really know about how tenure works?

In this unique book, Richard Chait and his colleagues offer the results of their research on key empirical questions. Are there circumstances under which faculty might voluntarily relinquish tenure? When might new faculty actually prefer non-tenure track positions? Does the absence of tenure mean the absence of shared governance? Why have some colleges abandoned tenure while others have adopted it? Answers to these and other questions come from careful studies of institutions that mirror the American academy: research universities and liberal arts colleges, including both highly selective and less prestigious schools.

Lucid and straightforward, The Questions of Tenure offers vivid pictures of academic subcultures. Chait and his colleagues conclude that context counts so much that no single tenure system exists. Still, since no academic reward carries the cachet of tenure, few institutions will initiate significant changes without either powerful external pressures or persistent demands from new or disgruntled faculty.


  • Most books about academic tenure are based on anecdotal or subjective information, but this one attempts to analyze this contentious topic using empirical research. Chait...and several colleagues collected faculty employment policy statements from over 200 colleges and universities and then surveyed and interviewed many professors and administrators on a variety of topics related to tenure. This provided the data for the 11 chapters, which range from an overview of current policies to a study of trends in academic employment in foreign countries.

    —Will Hepfer, Library Journal


  • Richard P. Chait is Professor of Higher Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Book Details

  • 352 pages
  • 1 x 5-11/16 x 8-15/16 inches
  • Harvard University Press