More on the tenure debate at American law schools including Temple

Regarding my posting yesterday about the tenure debate now on-going at American law schools, Scott K. asks, “And so… what do you think? Which side are you taking, if you’re taking one at all?”

Thanks, Scott, for putting me on the spot, and not letting me get away with just noting how interesting the issue is.

A resolution opposing the changes on tenure proposed by the ABA Standards Review Committee is on the agenda for the regular meeting of my law faculty this Wednesday, April 6, at the Temple University Beasley School of Law. Other law faculties have already adopted similar resolutions. The Temple resolution has been hotly debated on the law faculty’s listserv.

I expect that the resolution will be adopted, but not without dissent. As my earlier comment indicates, I understand and sympathize with both sides of the argument. I look forward to hearing further substantive discussion by my colleagues at our Wednesday meeting, and anticipate the procedural and parliamentary maneuvering that one can expect from a meeting of lawyers with strongly held but differing views.

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My inclination as I write this is to vote for the resolution, mainly because I think tenure does empower faculty to participate fearlessly in law school governance and the maintenance of academic standards through individual hiring and promotion decisions, which move forward only with a faculty vote. There’s a reason why we prefer to send our children to traditional colleges and universities with standards maintained by faculties with tenure, rather than signing them up to receive their education, even though less expensively, from new for-profit educational start-ups on the internet.

And as for that element of self-interest in my vote, I can only note that it may be relatively small for someone like me who was tenured more than 30 years ago, and who is now down to the single-digits of a law school teaching career.

But my mind is still open to the arguments of my colleagues. I’ll report the outcome of the Wednesday vote here.

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