Today, we face this choice again. Recent attempts to shame professors for unpopular views and to curtail the due process rights of those accused of misconduct are cause for alarm. Especially when academic freedom is endangered at places such as Yale — long celebrated as a leader on freedom of expression — we know that the erosion of academic freedom has become a national problem.
Academic freedom and the tenure system that protects it can seem unnecessary, even perverse, to the many Americans who lack job security. Why should professors be harder to fire than anyone else?
The short answer is that academic tenure is essential to democracy itself. A free society “depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition,” as the American Association of University Professors noted in 1940. Tenure allows professors to pursue the truth and teach it without fear of retaliation.
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