I think we should get rid of not just the sloppy, disorganized thinkers but also the ones who seek prestige, power and influence without interest in truth or real progress. They are far worse than the less productive ones because they are more likely to replicate themselves, expanding their influence. Those people make the university, funding agencies, etc. look good. They are the real reason for tenure (luring the "superstars"). How does one convince those who benefit from supporting those who care only about prestige and power to focus their support instead on those who care also about truth?

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Mar 16·edited Mar 16

Speaking of legislation to weaken tenure and dictate curriculum, check this out (Florida HB 999): https://www.snopes.com/news/2023/03/15/hb-999-florida-ban-black-greeks-programs/

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Do we empirically see people become more ambitious and fundamental in their research scope once they acheive the security of tenure? My impression is the opposite: they continue doing whatever had been working for them.

My impression is that scientific progress happens because:

(a) People aren't fully optimizing for prestige despite the material incentives to do so.

(b) The top people in any given field (in rigourous discipines like mathematics) are often so much better than the marginal participant that they have a lot of slack to work on whatever they personally find interesting.

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How do you feel about Amy Wax?

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"But in our current environment, a world without tenure becomes a world in which all academics are forced to achieve bad measures for their entire careers. "

Don't you want academics be under the same system as everyone else in every single job that has ever exsisted? :) When I was a busboy I have no idea how they measured my productivity but I am sure it was poorly thought out. When I was a waiter, same. Later I became a retail worker. I assure you that my bosses had no neither the time, competence or inclination to evaluate me well. That was not how they were evaluated. After that I became a soldier. Ask any ex-soldier how they were evaluated. Physical assessment? Sure, if we ever had a track meet against the Iraqi army my pushups/situps/run time might have mattered. Then I became a teacher, but in a foreign country. I was god's gift to P.E. teachers and my Principle loved me. I was given a packet at one point in the year, all in Japanese, with a whole ton of writing and a weird star thing that looked like the final score on a video game. The Principle said I had the highest evaluation of all the teachers in the junior high. In my mind I thought that I easily swore the most at the boys compared to any of the other staff, and I scared the hell out of them. Additionally I taught P.E. so it's not like they could fail unless they died. Regardless the methods were opaque to me.

My long and ridiculous career should remind you that everyone is already poorly evaluated. Welcome to the party, you have been here for 2 hours.

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Academic tenure is probably not highly compatible with the abolition of mandatory retirement ages: https://slate.com/human-interest/2011/04/mandatory-retirement-how-the-abolition-of-mandatory-retirement-continues-to-change-america-in-unexpected-ways.html

It's obviously true that a small number of professors continue being productive into their old age, but most seem not to.

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