In higher education, tenure is a professor’s contractual right not to have his or her position terminated without just cause. Tenure was formally introduced in the U.S. in 1915 by the A.A.U.P. in their Declaration of Principle on Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure. Tenure provides professors an incredible layer of job security, and it protects the academic freedom of experienced professors. Firing a tenured professor is almost unheard of.
Tenure exists because people have been killed for their teachings. The Athenian philosopher Socrates, for example, was convicted of heresy for denying the gods and corrupting the young through his teachings. He chose to be put to death by drinking hemlock (poison), although his students were willing to help him escape. A professor of Math and Science at the University of Pisa, Galileo Galilei did not have his contract renewed due to experiments critical of Aristotle. He was later convicted of heresy for claiming the Earth revolved around the sun.
Tenured professors are expensive—their average annual salary is $ 95,224. The average annual salary of of non-tenured full-time professors, in comparison, is $ 85,973. It’s quite possible for tenured professors to become lazy and inflexible over time, as they possess so much job security. Also, “students learn relatively more from non-tenure line professors in their introductory courses,” according to the National Bureau of Economic Research at Northwestern University.
To learn more about how tenure empowers bad teachers to thrive, check out the infographic below.