Tenure is the ultimate achievement for an academic – the promise of a permanent job, academic freedom, and the ability to do (within reason) what you want. It is also a little-c conservative feature of the academy – scholars seeking tenure must be judged worthy by the existing tenured faculty. One fear, of course, is that this penalizes people whose thinking goes against the institution and/or challenge its norms.
The larger politics of tenure in law schools is well beyond the scope of this project. At many law schools, academics are not practicing lawyers, or have only practiced briefly. This leads to a profound disconnect between the way the law is taught and the way that law is practiced. This trend is only increasing. See Lynn M. LoPucki, Dawn of the Discipline-Based Law Faculty, 65 J. Legal Educ. 506 (2016).
It should come as no surprise to anyone that tenure is handed out in a way that reflects institutional racism, and that women and people of color – and most especially women of color – experience the tenure process as more unfair and difficult. In case this is surprising to you, see what the ABA has to say: A.B.A., After Tenure: Post-Tenure Law Professors in the United States 9 (2011).
CUNY Law faculty hiring struggles in large part have been lost to the ages. There are a few notable battles that have survived, most notably the 2001 hunger strike when Professor Maivan Lam was denied tenure, and an early lawsuit brought by faculty on behalf of 2 faculty members who were denied tenure.
Tenure is controlled by the Personnel and Budget Committee, one of two faculty committees set out in the CUNY Law Governance Plan. All tenure recommendations must be affirmed by the CUNY Board of Trustees.
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