Mandatory retirement for professors at age 70 was eliminated in US university systems because it discriminated against people based on their age. The consequences of this have been much debated, and I am not going to provide a comprehensive review of the topic.
I am, however, going to defend the statement I made in a post yesterday. I wrote that I think mandatory retirement might be a good thing.
I stated that opinion after also noting that I thought post-tenure review should be implemented in a way that has real consequences. These two topics go together. In fact, a real post-tenure review system would negate the need for mandatory retirement. In a post-tenure review system, active faculty, of whatever age, wouldn't have to retire if they didn't want to, but those who weren't functioning at the level expected for research and/or teaching must retire, after sufficient review and time for change in activity level. Perhaps some sort of phased retirement schedule could be arranged to give the retiring faculty time to plan their future.
It is essential that such a system be implemented in a fair and constructive way, but that it have real consequences for those who are (ab)using tenure as a way to have job security without actually doing their job. Such a system would likely have the most dramatic effects at research universities, though even in these places it should be possible for someone to negotiate a research : teaching balance that is considered acceptable.
Such a system would also have to take into account that life and research are complicated and that an unproductive year or three is not grounds for being fired. For example, some of my colleagues have changed their major field of research in the course of their career, and, as a result of such a change, needed time to get back on track in terms of funding and publications. A fair system would be flexible enough to accommodate this and other career-altering events and would therefore not simply count publications or grants.
As a first step, the very lightest of reviews with modest standards for faculty productivity could be initiated. This would detach some faculty barnacles from their rocks, and that would be a good thing.
6 months ago