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10 Tenure & Labor

Special Focus Archive

FOR A GENERATION, the job crunch in the humanities was a lot like the weather: Everyone talked about it, but no one ever did anything about it. Many placed their hope in demographic trends -- with the relatively small "Generation X" being followed by the current large generation of college-bound teenagers, it looked as though by the late 1990s young academics would find themselves in a seller's market.

As we all now know, that proved not to be the case. For a variety of reasons -- the increased reliance of cash-strapped universities on inexpensive adjuncts being the most crucial --the job prospects for today's young Ph.D.s remain bleak. And even those who find tenure-track jobs may find the rules shifting under their feet. In this environment, it is no surprise that scholars at all levels of the profession have begin to try to make the job system work better: whether it's through supporting graduate student unionization on the grounds that the apprenticeship model can no longer function, reducing the size of graduate programs, trying to persuade unproductive scholars to retire early, or attempting to abolish tenure entirely.

Dealing with Deadwood by Jon Wiener
An Arizona dean says pruning deadwood faculty is only fair. Or is it only politics?

Untenable Positions by Andrew Bowers
Up for Tenure at Harvard

Walking the Line by Emily Eakin
In New Haven, grad students aren't sure if they're esteemed apprentices or exploited workers. And neither is anyone else.

Bennington Lost by Roger Kimball
Connoisseurs of Orwellian language and Machiavellian ploys might turn their attention to Bennington College.

As Bad As It Gets by Charlotte Allen
What happens to academic departments that can't manage to stay alive? Receivership. Three tales of departments on the brink.