Why Tenure Matters: VCU, Funding, and Freedom of Speech

The New York Times has a disturbing article today about secret funds given to researchers by Big Tobacco with lots of strings attached. The whole article is worth a read, but this little paragraph makes it absolutely clear why tenure and academic freedom are not trivial things:

A tenured scientist at Virginia Commonwealth, who would not be interviewed for attribution because he said he feared retribution against his junior colleagues, called the contract’s restrictions, especially the limitations on publication, “completely unacceptable in the research world.”

I guarantee junior, untenured faculty, even if they’re disgusted, are keeping their mouths shut. This is why tenure is so important. Without it, there’s no way to call out those who can fire you.

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3 Responses to Why Tenure Matters: VCU, Funding, and Freedom of Speech

  1. RBH says:

    There are two components to that story. One is the fear on the part of the young untenured faculty. The other is the responsibility of senior tenured faculty to protect and/or speak for them, as apparently one is doing, though it’s sad that he/she wants to be unidentified for fear of reprisals against untenured colleagues.

  2. DrugMonkey says:

    Are we entirely certain that the junior faculty under discussion are not those who felt it necessary to take the BigTobaccy money? And that it is the sort of critique levied against Edyth London from which they need to be protected?

  3. DM,
    From the context of the article, the faculty member is concerned that the administration will seek reprisals against junior faculty associated with criticism of this funding.

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