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Oh, FFS, Chronicle!

31 October, 2008

Oh, FFS, Chronicle

When will you stop publishing complete and utter shite like this??? Making room for younger people to have jobs is the stupidest damned reason to end tenure I’ve ever heard. There are lots of things that are wrong with tenure, and some of them have to do with an aging faculty. But until universities start paying faculty enough that they can afford to retire at 55 or even 65 (and as a single woman academic, this is a real issue — female academics tend more to be single than their male counterparts, and they tend to start at lower wages, which means our pay rises are correspondingly lower and compound more slowly, and frankly, we might need to work longer), it is a bit much to claim some sort of nebulous moral obligation to retire for the sake of our juniors — says the junior faculty member.

In regards to the idea that departments can get ‘tenured in’ — well, that’s a cultural thing as much as anything else. Colleagues in the UK seem to move around with each promotion. That’s a bit problematic here, where university administrations regularly try to save money by refusing to replace senior people with senior people, and where much of the time faculty avoid retirement in part because they are hoping that their line won’t be eliminated altogether. And we all know that happens — and that administrations will lie. I know of one senior medievalist whose department was promised his endowed chair would stay intact when he retired, along with a second middle-ranking post in the medievalist’s specialty. Yeah, right. One position in a department that seems to have no problem finding lines for incredibly narrow modern specialties, each of which wants its own PhD. If there are no jobs for senior faculty to move to, why on earth would they want to move?

And then there’s the deadwood question. And yes, there is a problem. Not everywhere, but you know, there’s been at least one person in every department where I’ve studied or taught that probably should have retired long before I met them. But that’s a problem with the interpretation of the tenure system. Tenure is supposed to protect academic freedom and give a certain amount of job security. But there’s no good reason not to have post-tenure review, perhaps to overlap with sabbatical applications. As long as it’s based on clear requirements for research, teaching, and service (not necessarily in that order), I’m not sure why it would be a problem. The best faculty I’ve ever worked with stay active, even if they might slow down a bit. Obviously, as senior people may take on different duties, more administrative work, etc., the standards might be different than for people at the associate level, but as I said, that’s not an insurmountable problem.

What does seem insurmountable is the amount of idiocy in people who seem to think that there are a glut of medievalists in academic departments, or that — again — people in the arts and sciences, and especially the humanities and social sciences, should first take lower salaries because we understand that money needs to go to retain faculty in fields where industry jobs pay much more, or because we understand that we need to pay more for the athletic departments because they being in more paying customers students; and then we should retire early, while we’re still productive, because we owe the next generation? Like hell. I worked damned hard to get where I am, and I’m not planning on retiring until I feel I can’t or don’t want to do the job. And that would be true even if I were paid as much as an ex-college president like Trachtenberg.

Thanks to Caught in the Snide for the heads-up.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. 31 October, 2008 1:05 pm

    As I posted at Caught in the Snide, that doofus is the former president of my own university (where for a long time there was NO medievalist in history!!) Thank goodness he retired: he was never known as an especially deep thinker. He was pretty good at real estate deals, though, and is as corporate as they come.

  2. 31 October, 2008 3:49 pm

    I’m still not finding the section in my graduate school catalog that says I was guaranteed a job upon entry into the discipline. And, why do we want to push out those with the most knowledge and that are also the most active? Do fields outside academe have this debate? I’ve never heard of it if they do. It also goes along with the concept that not everyone who earns a PhD plans to enter the academy. There is a whole other world out there . . .

  3. 1 November, 2008 10:55 pm

    It also failed to account for the rise in the retirement age when you can collect social security.I get the idea, but really? no. And it makes it even harder for people to move. Oh, you’re fifty? we offer you a 30 year contract?Nooooo

  4. 3 November, 2008 5:16 pm

    Right, Susan–I hadn’t thought of that–the effect on older people who are applying for Assistant Prof positions, who might suddenly look a whole lot less desirable.And please tell me, how may 30-member English departments have 3 medievalists? Certainly not the Extremely Good U where I did my Ph.D.

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