| AAUP Journal of Academic Freedom
Fundamental Freedom or Fringe Benefit?: Rice University and the Evolution of Academic Tenure, 1935-1963
In 1935, fewer than half of a sample of seventy-eight prominent universities employed formal tenure policies, but by 1973 almost 100 percent had instituted tenure. The intervening years generated many of the policies that still govern practices at American universities. Faculty members influenced the process, but administrators were also key players. This essay draws on a unique archival source base to explore the perspectives and practices of university presidents and administrators during debates over tenure during the mid-twentieth century. Asked about tenure, university presidents rarely mentioned academic freedom, conceptualizing tenure as one of many human resources considerations. To them, tenure was a job perk, a fringe benefit, and a recruiting tool.