Martin Center column focuses on conservatives, progressives, and academic tenure

Gregory Borse writes for the Martin Center about ideological adversaries working together to protect academic tenure.

In October 2015, the Martin Center published an article reminding conservatives why they should defend tenure.

Author David Clemens, relying on his own faculty experience, explained the dangers to the American Academy—and American society—of capitulating to the demands of an increasingly progressive regime on what can and cannot be taught, thought, or said in higher education today.

Not much has changed since 2015. In fact, things in Arkansas have gotten worse—for conservatives and non-conservatives alike. The Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas (UA) system recently voted to change their policy on tenure, promotion, and dismissal, and the changes are so broad that they turn tenure—the right to continued appointment—into TINO: Tenure in Name Only.

The tenure changes most immediately threaten conservative professors who may oppose the policies and positions of their department heads. But the rapid changes in culture and society that currently favor progressives could threaten them in the future. As the election of Donald Trump to the presidency shows, regime change can be unexpected and disorienting. For these reasons, conservatives and progressives in the Academy have reason to fear the kinds of changes that have been adopted in the UA system.

Support for tenure should never be on the basis of protecting the status quo. It ought to be based on the quality of independent academic research, protecting minority voices, and maintaining space for dissent against academic groupthink. In the current climate in academia, this protecting tenure means protecting conservative voices.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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