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On the Meaning of Tenure

Arch Intern Med. 1990;150(4):915. doi:10.1001/archinte.1990.00390160155041.
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To the Editor.—In a recent editorial, Racy et al1 call attention to inequities in the medical school tenure system and decry that "grantsmanship" and publications appear to take precedence over teaching and clinical practice. To remedy this imperfect situation, Racy et al suggest overhauling tenure decision-making into more of a "marriage" between faculty member and institution based on mutual compatibility. This posture conveys a fundamental misunderstanding of what tenure is all about. As a practical matter, tenure merely provides the faculty member with the right to a formal hearing when there is administrative dissatisfaction with performance. Like the civil service system in the public sector or job security gained by unions through collective bargaining with private industry, tenure ensures that an employee who has passed a probationary period cannot be arbitrarily fired.

Accordingly, the individual who needs tenure protection is not Racy and coworkers' team player who "cooperates"


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