What If Galileo Had Tenure?

Portrait by Justus Sustermans of Galileo


“Tenure is at the heart of every college and university,” says Dr. William Lugo, Chair of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work at ECSU. “Tenure must be protected to allow faculty to push the boundaries of their fields. Even Galileo, a university professor, was arrested and imprisoned for saying the Earth went around the sun. He died under house arrest for making such statements.”

We all know that ideas are controversial. In our highly politicized society, it is especially difficult to discuss some subjects. The university classroom is one of the places where the exchange of ideas needs to be protected, even if we don’t necessarily agree with some of those ideas. Students must learn, with the guidance of professors, that discourse can be conducted in a respectful manner, but that one has to reasonably and logically defend a particular argument.

Academic freedom is the ability of students and professors to research, teach, and debate any and all subjects related to the human experience. Tenure is the anchor that protects academic freedom. Without tenure, any professor can be fired for research, teaching, or expressing ideas that political, scientific, religious, or other groups deem “inappropriate.” Any university administrator who doesn’t like what a particular professor is studying or teaching can effectively end a professor’s employment.

Tenure is the heart of safeguarding academic freedom. “As professors, we must have the freedom to research and teach to the best of our ability,” says Dr. Lugo. “By removing tenure protections, classrooms become political minefields, where eventually no issue becomes safe to discuss. Learning cannot thrive in such an environment.”


Leave a Reply

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS