You probably associate fads with fashion and junior high school, but fads are very much a part of modern academic culture. Whole disciplines and sub-disciplines rise and fall in popularity, as do certain ideas and personalities, the influence of which will often cross disciplinary boundaries. The pernicious effects of this faddishness are most often felt by those who study something that is out-of-fashion at the time they enter the job market. The most savvy (if un-idealistic) graduate students will choose their programs of study and dissertation topics with an eye to what is fashionable. Just hope that your choice is still fashionable a decade hence.
Great article by Gaye Tuchman in the Chronicle of Higher Ed, “The Future of Wannabe U,” in which she continues her analysis of the accountability regime that drives the academic life:
Annually, other job and tenure candidates list how many articles and books they have published, how many talks they have delivered (including how many to which they were invited, and by whom), how many students they have advised and taught. Now and again, senior professors, writing letters to evaluate a candidate’s suitability to get or keep a job, provide their own lists. Sometimes they, too, are so intent on constructing them that they forget to discuss a candidate’s intellectual contributions. Last year, when presenting a distinguished-research award, a top Wannabe administrator noted that the recipient had published well more than 100 articles. He never said why those articles mattered. Continue reading →
Good discussion at The Philosopher Smoker about conducting interviews in hotel bedrooms/suites and sexism:
Over at Leiter, there’s been some interesting discussion about interviewing in bedrooms. Robert Allen says,
I should have thought that we philosophers were a little more relaxed in our dealings with each other than to fuss over interview settings (or even “stares and worse,” i.e., boys being boys). Whatever happened to being of good cheer and leaving the professionalism to the attorneys and politicians?
It has been my experience that “boys will be boys” is shorthand for “men are assholes, and you should put up with it, because they’re men and they like having fun at your expense.” This is one of the things I hate about being a man.
And I hate this “good cheer” argument more than anything. Why does everyone else have to have good cheer in the face of what an asshole you are? What happened to “good cheer yourself, and don’t be an asshole”? You can start by conducting your interviews sitting up, with shoes on like a civilized person, and not in a room dedicated to sleeping and/or fucking.
There’s much to agree with here. By the way, why is it every time I turn around somebody is complaining about Brian Leiter? Just saying. Read the rest if the post and ensuing discussion over here
TNR review of Mark C Taylor’s latest book about higher education :
The syndrome has become all too common. A provocative op-ed piece appears in a major newspaper (for preference, The New York Times). Its logic is fragile and its evidence is thin, but the writing is crisp and the examples are pungent, and the assault on sacred cows arouses a storm of discussion (much of it sharply critical, but no matter). It goes viral. And almost immediately, publishers comes calling. “This should be a book,” they coo, and the author, entranced by a bit of sudden fame (not to mention, perhaps, a decent advance), eagerly agrees. He or she sets to work, and soon enough the original 800 words expand to 50,000. But far from reinforcing the original logic and evidence, the new accretions of text only strain them further, while smothering the original provocations under thick layers of padded anecdote, pop sociology and oracular pronouncement. Call the syndrome Friedmanitis, after a prominent early victim, the New York Times columnist Tom Friedman. Continue reading →
It’s difficult to think about it while we still have three to four precious weeks of summer left. But on behalf of all the people who will begin full time teaching in the fall, I ask you to conjure — for a second — a week in mid-semester. Feel the pain as you stay up half the night to grade your papers! Experience the fear as you go into class half prepared! Recall being fatally short of sleep as you sit, dazed, through yet another search committee meeting, having driven yourself unsparingly through 100 applicant files the day before! Conjure the self-righteousness and hypocrisy, as you lecture yet another student that s/he could get hir work in on time if only s/he would get organized!
Yeah, baby. The problem is, there is almost no one I know in academia who has a job description that would give them a reasonable sense of where a professor’s job begins and ends. Couple this with the reality of being tenure-track (or worse, a full-time visitor), which often seems like an endless exercise in pleasing everybody, all the time, in every way we can. Top it off with the fact that we learn early on not to complain about being overworked because some jackass will look at us piously and say, “You just have to learn to say no to things!” (subtext: say no — except to me) as if you are overworked because, somewhere along the line, you forgot to say your safeword.
A recent article from the Chronicle of Higher Ed, Tenure RIP? makes for interesting reading. I’ve pasted it below.
Some time this fall, the U.S. Education Department will publish a report that documents the death of tenure. Innocuously titled “Employees in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2009,” the report won’t say it’s about the demise of tenure. But that’s what it will show.Over just three decades, the proportion of college instructors who are tenured or on the tenure track plummeted: from 57 percent in 1975 to 31 percent in 2007. The new report is expected to show that that proportion fell even further in 2009, dropping below one-third. If you add graduate teaching assistants to the mix, those with some kind of tenure status represent a mere quarter of all instructors. Continue reading →