(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2017)
When universities loudly proclaim a desire to revoke tenure en masse, both the cat and the proclamation (as theatre covering motives and agendas) ought to be the subject of some consideration. That was what came to mind as I read the recent quite public efforts of Wayne State University to shed a large number of its medical school faculty. "In a move rarely seen in academia, Wayne State University is trying to fire multiple faculty members depicted as abusing their tenure by doing as little work as possible" (here). Of course the rationale is absurd but in a way that reflects the disconnect between reality and administrators: had these faculty really done as little work as possible then it would not have been an abuse of tenure--the abuse comes when they work less than the minimum expected. Of course the true of phrase might merely be bad writing. I suspect the writing is true, but the motives it exposes are not--that what it reveals is the effort to invert the standards of tenure to capture greater productivity to the university without any corresponding payment.
This post considers the recent move by Wayne State to remove a large number of its tenured medical school faculty for non or under productivity in light of the two motives that may underlie both the move and the consequential weakening of tenure: (1) money and (2) labor flexibility.