Will the ABA Eliminate Tenure Requirements for Accreditation:

Inside Higher Ed says "maybe" (hat tip: Instapundit). Given that I don't think the ABA should be in the accreditation business to begin with (at least not to the extent that government relies on such accreditation to decide who gets to take the bar, and who gets student loan funding), a fortiori I'm against the ABA's enforcement of ANY particular standard.

But I specifically agree that giving full-time "regular" faculty tenure (much less clinicians, deans, and library directors) should not be a requirement for accreditation. As a commentor on the IHE site notes,

Once tenured, there are many in the academy who adopt an entitlement mentality whereunder they rarely or never do research, teach classes from the same notes year after year until they are well past stale, and fail to meet minimal standards of service and compliance, yet are largely untouchable. And why should a library director or a dean, both of whom are much more administrators or fund raisers than academics, be given such absolute protection if they screw up in their jobs and are not quality teachers/scholars?

I know that when I was on the teaching market, I was amazed when looking at law school brochures to see how many senior faculty at various schools had published nothing beyond an occasional state bar journal article for many years running, and I continue to be surprised at how many law profs seem to manage to have more or less full-time law practices on the side (the latter in violation of ABA rules!).

Also, there are many professors (and potential professors) out there who are fine teachers, but really don't have much to say scholarship-wise. Current ABA standards require that they be given low teaching loads, and also be eligible for tenure, which means that they are forced into a "scholar" persona even if it doesn't fit. Lawyers who are ready, willing, able, and eager to teach are discouraged from joining the academy because they aren't ready, willing, able, and eager to write turgid law review articles for the sake of writing them, just to meet tenure standards. The overall result is a lot of largely unread mediocre scholarship published in obscure law reviews, and a lesser teaching environment for students.

I expect that with or without ABA requirements, law schools that consider themselves to be research institutions will continue to have tenure for their research-oriented faculty. But abolition of the requirements will allow law schools that see themselves primarily as teaching institutions to pursue that goal in a far more efficient manner. Academic freedom is important, but tenure is hardly the only way to protect it (and, in fact, the greatest violations of academic freedom seem to occur when candidates are considered for positions; faculties tend to be much less tolerant of applicants with "deviant" ideological views than of their colleagues).