We have previously discussed the value of graduate school and the issue of seniority in unions. Academic tenure is certainly a related issue, which came up improbably in a thread on climate and capitalism, and which probably deserves a discussion of its own.
Is tenure a good thing? Does it serve universities well? Professors? Students? The general cause of academic advancement? Clearly, tenure track professors obsessed with publishing have less energy to focus on teaching students. That said, what really distinguishes universities from other educational institutions is that they are live centres for real research. This Slate article does a good job of pointing out the flaws with tenure, while debunking a few of the purported benefits.
What kind of alternative tenure systems exist out there? The Slate article suggests that renewable contracts of 7-10 years are a superior alternative, along with offering breaks in the tenure track, and allowing for part-time tenure. Would society or students benefit if any of these (or other) ideas were more widely copied?