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Is the tenure process at law school fair? Most tenured law professors think so, according to a study underwritten by the American Bar Foundation and the Law School Admission Council. The study, titled “Is It Fair? Law Professors’ Perceptions of Tenure,” found that 76% of tenured law professors surveyed said the process is fair. However, a lower percentage of women, minorities — and especially minority women — agreed. Of women, 63% reported that the tenure process is fair. Of minorities, 65% said is it fair as did 54% of minority women. The figure for whites was 77%. “Despite large divisions in how the tenure process is experienced overall, a majority of tenured professors agree that U.S. law schools are meeting the fundamental requirement of fairness in the process,” reads the report, which was written by University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law associate professor Katherine Barnes and University of Wisconsin Law School professor Elizabeth Mertz. “This positive news, however, is somewhat counterbalanced by the finding that female scholars and scholars of color have significantly more negative experiences with the tenure process than do their white male counterparts.” The authors surveyed more than 1,000 tenured law professors across the country about their perceptions of the tenure process and interviewed 95 professors about their experiences. The national survey asked professors if they think the tenure process is fair, if it is easy and if it is rewarding. Among women, 27% said the tenure process is not fair, compared to 12% of men. Men were almost twice as likely as women to strongly agree that the tenure process is fair. Minority women were more likely to strongly disagree that tenure is fair — at a rate of 35% — than their minority male colleagues — at 15%. Women were also less likely than men to describe their tenure process as easy. Of the men, 54% said the process was easy, compared to 30% of women. Only 29% of minorities said the process was easy. The numbers fell of significantly when the professors were asked whether they found the tenure process rewarding, with the study’s authors noting that the tenure process is generally viewed as challenging and stressful. Of the men, 27% said the process was rewarding, compared to 21% of women. “Most professors viewed the tenure process as fair, some viewed the process as easy, and fewer viewed the process as rewarding,” reads the study. “This corresponds with an intuitive ranking of the three questions.” The interview portion of the study delved further into professors’ perceptions of the tenure process, and looked at the influence of internal faculty hierarchies, factionalism and race and gender bias on tenure decisions. Many respondents noted that scholarship has become an even more important factor in tenure procedures. Karen Sloan can be contacted at [email protected].

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