Thursday, October 25, 2007

How Much is Tenure Worth?

How much would YOU accept to give up tenure?

An interesting debate.

Has there been any research on this? What is the value of the contract provision "tenure" for a professor? What lump-sum cash payment would they accept to give it up?

For me, I think I would give it up for $10,000. It is worth SOMETHING, but I am protected by market forces.

Tenure protects those who are (1) lazy, (2) controversial, or (3) faced with cutbacks. I am clearly (2), and some days feel like (1) might be pretty fun.

(Nod to El Zorno)


Skip Sauer said...

Sir Mungowitz:

Would not ambitious junior faculty pay (with a lower asking price) to work with senior faculty who gave up tenure?

Why then, does this market not form?

Angus said...

Mungowitz: $10k per year? or a one time payment? I'd give it up for 10k per year and renewable 3-5 yr contracts that specify what has to happen to get non-renewed.

Anonymous said...

Has there been any research on this? What is the value of the contract provision "tenure" for a professor? What lump-sum cash payment would they accept to give it up?

Seems like we ought to be able to do this, empirically. There are fields (I'm thinking of public health, but surely others too) where tenured and non-tenured (e.g., "clinical") positions are otherwise valued, compensated, etc. similarly. Now getting the data might be another thing...

And I'm pretty sure Our Fearless Leader means a one time $10K. Sounds about right to me.

Mungowitz said...

Yeah, one time lump sum $10k.

Duke is rational. It's hard to replace senior people. No way they'd fire me, at least not for quite a while.

Maybe I'm wrong, though. I'm guessing that I know some people who value it much more than that. I know that if my Dean actually offered me $10,000 to give up tenure, I wouldn't jump at the offer. I'd have to think about it. Maybe I'm just blowing smoke, as usual.

Angus is probably right, though, that one should also think in terms of renewable 5 year contracts, and some terms. But I think that Angus, and I, would get offered that. That's part of what I mean...the market protects me, and Angus also. It's hard to find productive people. Really, REALLY hard.

Now, I have not been as productive as Angus, admittedly. (Since 2001, he has published quite a bit more, and better, than I have). But the whole "experienced chairman who is not insane or deeply greedy" is even HARDER to find.

The key to not really needing tenure is WORKING.

Anonymous said...

Behind the curve...

Chris Lawrence said...

I suspect that some of the benefits of tenure for actively not-bad faculty overlap with the ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act) anyway, given the average age at tenure in higher education.

That said, I also suspect that the pricing effects of tenure are larger at the bottom of the market; faculty are more interchangeable at Directional State than Duke, particularly where the primary measure of output is "credit hours in seats, adjusted by mean eval score" rather than "b1*SSCI + b2*Nolan score." You'd have to pay a lot of long-tenured associates (or even assistants) much more than $10k to buy them out at DSU. (And DSU would probably have to massively boost salaries for new assistants without the pot of virtually-guaranteed tenure at the end of the rainbow.)

Mungowitz said...

Hey, Anon! Freakonomics is the curve?

You're an idiot!

My question is, "how much is tenure worth?" It has positive value to those who own it. Just getting rid of it would be an uncompensated taking.

My advice: a freshman econ class, maybe at a community college.

Chris: Good points. I agree that it is worth more. I'm just not sure that that wouldn't be a good thing. Higher pay would be nice; tenure at DSU is not that great.

As James Taylor put it, "Diploma mill work ain't that easy, diploma mill work ain't that hard. Diploma mill work ain't nothing but an awful, boring job."

Angus said...

I don't think I's settle for less than $100k to give up tenure.

oh yeah and "SNAP"!!

Chris Lawrence said...

As someone who's not in a position to be bought out, I certainly would have no problem with taking a five-year, renewable contract at a small premium over a tenure-track assistant position. Heck, I might even consider leaving a TT job for a renewable one under the right circumstances.

Then again, I've already proven my utility function is atypical of most junior-level PhDs. So generalizability may be an issue.

Anonymous said...

I took a job because one of the nice things was easy tenure. I also learned that easy tenure was one of the worst things that came with the job once I got there because nobody was doing anything.
If you're somewhat hard working in a non-humanities field, tenure is just a substitute for universities having to pay larger salaries to bigwigs.

Tommy the Englishman

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm just blowing smoke, as usual.


You'd never give up tenure for 10k. Who are you kidding? Not us. Not even you it seems.

Miki said...

Tenure? As a jaded and cynical refugee from public education, please: who needs it?!

Good teachers need security only if their administrations are unscrupulous b*st*rds who prefer filling seats over graduating capable and intelligent students. Otherwise, good teachers are kept and rewarded accordingly...(Nice fantasy, huh?)

Tenure is a positive reward for those who own it? I agree, partially. I see too many who earn it and then stop functioning at all but the barest level necessary to retain said tenure. Some reward.

In all seriousness, don't reward me for surviving company politics. Reward me for doing my job.

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