Here's another point of view about tenure:
Yes, ideally, tenure does create a lifetime contract between the university and its faculty member, within an increasingly competitive environment, both for the awarding of tenure and in relation to the job possibilities for the very best junior faculty and of the super star senior faculty. That is, if the Nevada System of Higher Education eliminated tenure, not only would many of the most well qualified potential “hires” refuse to accept faculty positions, UNLV’s very best faculty would go elsewhere. In the past three years, there have been four cases where UNLV tenured faculty secured offers from very prestigious institutions. If tenure were to be eliminated, many more of UNLV’s star faculty would leave. Yes, there are a few examples of “dead wood” in any institution, but with the revised Code’s enabling of “de-tenuring” a faculty member after two “unsatisfactory overall” annual evaluations, alternatives do exist, including the revoking of that “lifetime contract.” If a faculty member’s first overall “unsatisfactory” evaluation results from a poor research performance, and if that faculty member presents, say, at least a “commendable” teaching record, a chair or dean has the option of putting that faculty member on a teaching track, where research will not be evaluated; in consequence, the faculty member so retained goes on a four-four teaching load, perhaps of lower division courses, a significant savings so far as cost per class. Amazingly to some, though, despite the disappearance of “merit pay” for the last five years, most of UNLV’s faculty continue to be productive, sometimes extraordinarily so, in their research.