Friday, October 11, 2013
Members of the AALS Section on Minority Groups have written a letter opposing proposed
changes by the ABA Council on Legal Education (“the Council”) to ABA Standard 405. The proposal would abolish the requirement that ABA-accredited schools maintain a system of tenure.
The signatories emphasize the proposal’s potential adverse effect on diversity in expression as well as diversity in the make-up of academia. Here are two paragraphs from that lengthy letter:
Tenure and the tenure-track system are fundamental for those teachers who engage in both traditional and nontraditional forms of scholarship. Without the protections of tenure and its underlying value of academic freedom, the ability to write about potentially controversial subjects, such as racial and intersectional discrimination, civil rights, criminal justice, affirmative action, structural inequities in the tax system, and the role of corporations in public life, without fear of reprisal will be threatened. In addition to writing and teaching, professors often publicly express views or engage in advocacy on behalf of unpopular causes. Without a system of tenure, these teachers and scholars could become subject to dismissal based solely on their views. This is the very antithesis of academic freedom.
Quite apart from the diversity of voices that tenure has promoted, it protects minority professors in another fundamental way: it makes the perpetuation of discrimination more difficult. Discriminatory discharge is the most frequently litigated claim under federal workplace ntidiscrimination laws.6 Tenure’s substantive and procedural safeguards are bulwarks against discriminatory dismissals. The ABA, as a body dedicated to “eliminat[ing] bias in the legal profession and the justice system,”7 should not make it easier for law schools to perpetrate bias
against their own faculty members by eliminating tenure.
You can read the full letter here.