April 1, 2004
As federal and state governments exert more funding influence and control over state universities, internal debates about governance, accountability, and tenure have intensified inside universities. Particularly as state governments make deep cuts to public universities in an attempt to cope with rising deficits, many point to tenure as the major obstacle to improving the quality of higher education.
When problems of higher education are discussed, tenure is often a central target, say two professors at the University of Texas who have studied the issue. In a new book, FAULTY TOWERS: Tenure and The Structure of Higher Education, Ryan Amacher, Professor of Economics and Public Affairs, and Roger Meiners, Professor of Law and Economics, argue that tenure is misunderstood. The law of tenure does not confer a life-time sinecure on professors, say Amacher and Meiners. The problem is that little incentive exists for administrators to exercise the authority they have to discipline poor performance.
In FAULTY TOWERS, the authors point to tenure as merely a symptom of a larger structural problem affecting the quality of higher education: the growing centralized control of public universities. They examine the roles of key players in universities-trustees, administrators, and faculty-and offer several recommendations for reform to encourage free market competition:
- Develop stronger trustee oversight and involvement and greater accountability for faculty and administrators.
- Allow individual colleges within a system to set their own tuition.
- Eliminate the lengthy internal bureaucratic process that often stifles creative curriculums.
- Give each college its own board of trustees and the ability to innovate and create new programs.
- Create a voucher system for every in-state student eligible for admission.
FAULTY TOWERS examines how decentralizing university systems would produce greater accountability, stronger boards of trustees, more effective administrators, and a tenure system that protects academic freedom and creates quality education.
Ryan C. Amacher is Professor of Economics and Public Affairs and former President at the University of Texas at Arlington. He has served as Dean of the College of Commerce and Industry at Clemson University, and as Chairman of the Department of Economics at Arizona State University.
Roger C. Meiners is professor of Law and Economics at the University of Texas at Arlington, and has served as Head of the Department of Legal Studies and Director of the Center for Policy Studies at Clemson University. He is also a past Director of the Federal Trade Commission in Atlanta.
FAULTY TOWERS: Tenure and the Structure of Higher Education
By Ryan Amacher and Roger Meiners
124 Pages, Trade Paperback, $14.95
Date of Publication: April 2004