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The reality is this: in the academic ecosystem, Ph.D. students are the plankton. They are the stuff on which the rest of the system relies for sustenance. Ph.D. students carry out the research that the senior permanent staff oversee but no longer have time to do.
Can the First Amendment protect academic freedom sans tenure? If it can, the academic freedom argument for tenure evaporates, which opens the door to reduce the cost of college at public universities.