I am so glad that all, well, nearly all of my students showed up today for my last lecture as a college professor. I can hardly believe that it has been 30 years since I started teaching at the university level. It seems like just yesterday that I walked into my first lecture and a student named Patrick Boykin asked if my name was ?Doogie Howser, MD.? I was just 28 then, and too young to consider it a compliment. Although I still talk to Patrick from time to time, he doesn?t call me that anymore.
As you know, things were rough for me for a few years before the revolution really took hold on our nation?s campuses. After I turned away from atheism and liberalism, I began fighting the war on ideological bigotry and intolerance with a small number of supporters. It was a war that no one thought we could win. It was a war that I might not have joined, if I had to go it alone.
Now that we have accomplished nearly all that we set out to accomplish, I find myself looking back in search of a turning point in the revolution. While several points were pivotal, the most crucial turning point came in the fall of 2007. That is when the first state decided, through legislative action, to abolish tenure. When it first happened, I could hardly believe it. Even more shocking was the snowballing effect that would follow. Who would have ever thought that in just six short years, tenure would become a thing of the past in America? As you will recall, California was the last state to abolish tenure in 2013.
The most profound effects of the abolition of tenure occurred indirectly. There were not many professors fired in the wake of that historical national movement. Scores of professors predictably quit, or retired early, in protest. Others simply became more productive overnight. But, more than anything, the number of people seeking jobs in public higher education declined. And that ended up becoming the principal benefit of the abolition of tenure.
When the size of the professoriate shrank, it was not an even reduction across disciplines. In our nation?s Schools of Business and Engineering, for example, there was a small reduction in the size of most departments. But those departments universally reported increases in productivity, despite their smaller size. Within the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, there was a similar effect in some departments, like chemistry and physics.