How can universities insulate tenure decisions from political influence?
Nikole Hannah-Jones's tangle with the University of North Carolina seems to many yet another reason to dismiss the tenure system as the preserve of a white, male hierarchy intolerant of divergent views and inattentive to the need for diversity.
But some academicians and experts say the whole episode actually shows why tenure remains so critical to protecting academic freedoms — and how the system for granting tenure itself needs to be safeguarded from political influence.
“If there ever is a case where the original purpose of tenure is in evidence, it's this one,” said Margaret McKenna, the former president of Lesley University, who described herself as generally skeptical of tenure.
Tenure was widely established in the US higher education system in the early 20th century to protect professors' ability to express their views and to pursue their research without fear of retribution.