The Public Interest

The permanent professors: a modest proposal

Robert Nisbet

Fall 1965

­­­Although tenure is widely regarded as essential to the idea of the university, I would like to suggest it is far from certain that such is the ease. Tenure differs sharply from academic freedom in this respect. A university worthy of the name is simply unimaginable apart from a broad and fully protected policy of freedom for each faculty member (tenure and non-tenure alike) to teach, write, and advise without interference from within or outside the university in all matters germane to his academic competence. Whatever qualifications of this right may exist, they are established by the corporate faculty itself, not by the administration or the public. More, it is, today at least, the very essence of academic freedom that a faculty member’s views on matters outside his stated professional competence– however shocking these views may be, however suggestive prima facie of want of ordinary intelligence or moral responsibility– shall not be held against him when he is being considered for retention or promotion.

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