Building on a favorite metaphor of mine, and picking up where my last call for making tenure more flexible left off, here's my big idea: give institutions, departments, and individuals the opportunity to opt out of the tenure system. Of course there's a catch: institutions that opt out must accept unionization of their faculty; departments that opt out must make only full-time hires; and individuals who opt out must agree to the terms of a scholarly performance-ranking system created and maintained by their professional association.
Here's the bare bones of an explanation and justification. On the institutional level, the only way to avoid universalization of the contingency nightmare we've been slouching our way towards for a generation is to recognize that there's no way anyone without tenure can be in any sense of the word "managerial"--which is to say that even by the flawed logic of the Yeshiva decision, the employees of such a college or university would have every right to organize. Only institutions whose administrations make legally-binding pledges to not oppose any organizing drives should be allowed to take this step. [Update: And employees at such institutions should all be represented by the same union, even if they are in right-to-work states.] On the departmental level, everyone needs the same teaching and service load so they're competing on a level playing field. In fact,
I guess what I'm thinking here is that tenure is a joke at many R1 places: full-time, tenure-track faculty may as well be contingent labor for all the odds they have of actually getting tenure at such institutions. While I was in grad school, the unspoken rule was that "junior faculty should be seen and not heard" and they were explicitly referred to as "temporary faculty," by the tenured and administrative alike. The main function tenure plays at such places is as an incentive for the outside hires they've made at the senior level to actually stay at the institution for a time and as an incentive for their junior faculty to attempt the impossible. In my system, the institution would need to come up with other incentives to keep their top faculty and everyone, not just the junior faculty, would be under pressure to maintain or improve their individual rankings [Update: , while the union they all joined would protect their basic rights and negotiate terms and conditions].
There's more to be said, but not by me. What say ye, Blogoramaville?
[Update 4/1/08: Check out Professor Zero's and Lumpenprofessoriat's proposals.]