Does tenure increase or decrease racial diversity in the faculty ranks? The question is imbued with fresh urgency on the heels of recent controversies involving Nikole Hannah-Jones and Cornel West.

A number of scholars said in conversations with The Chronicle that while tenure offers valuable protections of academic freedom, however porous those protections may be, the way tenure is practiced is in tension with efforts to diversify the faculty.

“It’s not tenure per se but a host of other factors that are contributing to an excruciatingly slow rate of progress in terms of Bipoc faculty earning tenure,” says Fhagen, referring to Black, Indigenous, and other people of color. Candidates regularly “seem to have all their ducks in a row,” but then aren’t awarded tenure, she says. “That speaks to the process, not tenure itself.”

“If we got rid of every system that was broken and imperfect, we’d have no systems,” says Tabbye Chavous, director of the National Center for Institutional Diversity at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. “Just like any process, the execution and implementation matter.”

Professors of color “often do research that’s controversial, that pushes buttons, that’s uncomfortable,” says Fhagen, and the academic-freedom protections ostensibly offered by tenure are particularly important for those scholars.

Read the full article at The Chronicle of Higher Education.