A standard account of group cooperation would predict that group stability would bring about greater cooperation because repeat-play games would allow for sanctions and rewards. In an academic unit such as a department or a law faculty, one might thus expect that faculty stability would bring about greater cooperation. However, academic units are not like most other groups. Tenured professors face only limited sanctions for failing to cooperate, for engaging in unproductive conflict, or for shirking. This article argues counter-intuitively that within limits, some level of faculty turnover may enhance cooperation. Certainly, excessive and persistent loss of faculty is demoralizing, and reduces the number of individuals among which administrative work can be spread. But for less dire losses, faculty turnover may play the disciplining role that academic units are deprived of by the tenure system.

This article sets forth a game-theoretic model showing how the possibility of faculty turnover may induce greater cooperation in a faculty. The intuition is that while some antisocial behavior in a faculty — fighting or shirking — may garner some short-term gains at the expense of others, the possibility of exit may reduce this behavior, because loss of a colleague could be worse than the gains from fighting or shirking. Losing a colleague means probably losing a productive colleague, taking the time to replace her, and possibly replacing her with a less productive substitute. These downsides may play a role in curbing unproductive behavior in a faculty. This article presents some empirical evidence in support of the hypothesis that faculty turnover short of some excessive amount does, in fact, produce higher levels of collegiality and collaboration.