Jon Wiener Replies

Jon Wiener Replies

Dennis Wrong presents a laundry list of arguments that have been brought up by critics of tenure. He seems to favor replacing tenure with a more market-driven system that would get rid of all those incompetents in our midst. At a time when the logic of the market is spreading with unprecedented speed, when job insecurity is a fact of life for everyone from service workers to corporate executives, it’s hard to argue that anybody should have more protection for his or her job, rather than less. Don’t we all recognize the logic of the bottom line: why should anybody be exempt? Dennis Wrong can’t think of a reason.

The university is valuable in part because it is one of the few institutions today that is not completely market driven, because it supports and nurtures independent thought that might seem unproductive or useless to the mainstream—the kind of work Dennis Wrong had done for the last thirty years.

Wrong’s one positive recommendation to protect academic freedom in a world without tenure is to establish “legal protection of faculty against being fired for expressing opinions offensive to some organized group.” But that’s hardly the only thing academic freedom protects: what about faculty fired for criticizing the dean? or for not giving a good grade to the star quarterback? or for teaching courses with low enrollments? What about faculty members fired because the dean wants to give their jobs to his relatives?