For those with interest in this issue, the Standards Review Committee of the American Bar Association’s Section on Legal Education has proposed loosening the requirements for tenure and security of position for the accreditation of American law schools. This has triggered a flurry of resolutions from various law faculties opposing the initiative and defending the status quo. A similar resolution came up for a vote at the regular meeting of Temple University’s law faculty on Wednesday, April 6, 2011.
The on-line discussion prior to the meeting and vote had centered on the merits or flaws of academic tenure. But the actual discussion at the faculty meeting focused on the appropriate role of the American Bar Association in setting requirements for accrediting American law schools.
The supporters of the ABA initiative (who therefore opposed the Temple resolution opposing that initiative) argued that the detailed ABA requirements for accrediting American law schools were excessive, and that the faculties of each law school should have more discretion in deciding how legal education should be structured. They noted that the ABA is the only accrediting body for American colleges and professional schools to require tenure as a prerequisite for accreditation. They argued that the appropriate concern should be for academic freedom and not necessarily for tenure, and noted that the ABA proposal to loosen tenure requirements would still recognize tenure as one means to defend academic freedom.
The opponents of the ABA initiative (who therefore supported the Temple resolution opposing it) felt that loosening tenure and security of position requirements would set off a “race to the bottom” of law schools trying to lower costs by hiring short-term law teachers without security of position who could be dismissed at will by law school administrators, to the detriment of both legal education and academic freedom.
The law faculty vote, by secret ballot, on the Temple resolution opposing the ABA initiative on tenure, was 32 in favor, 11 opposed, with 2 abstentions.