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May 1989

Tenure for a New Age: Ideas for the Turn of the Century

Author Affiliations

Department of Psychiatry; Department of Medicine; Department of Pediatrics University of Arizona Tucson, AZ 85724

Arch Intern Med. 1989;149(5):1001. doi:10.1001/archinte.1989.00390050007001

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In modern American institutions of learning, tenure is theoretically granted as a guarantee of academic freedom for the questing scholar, so that the pursuit of truth need not be constrained by the fear of authority. In reality, it is not so simple or straightforward.

THE PROBLEM: ACADEMIC ROULETTE  The process of achieving tenure has evolved into a highly competitive rite of passage, fraught with constant danger of failure, debilitating stress, needless loss of talent, and the possibility of enduring injury to self-esteem. In recent years, scholarship justifying tenure has been defined in increasingly restrictive terms. For faculty in medical schools, it has come to mean not only first authorship of articles in peer-reviewed journals, but also independent National Institutes of Health or National Science Foundation grant funding, or both. Teaching, allegedly the prime aim of an educational institution, takes a backseat to money and publications. Service is implicit, often required,

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