Monday, February 22, 2010

More On Tenure

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a follow-up piece on the Amy Bishop story called "Reactions: Is Tenure a Matter of Life and Death?", in which they ask several academics (at varying levels of seniority) to repond to the questions: What are the psychological effects of academic culture, particularly on rising scholars? Can or should something be done to change that culture?

I was particularly interested in John C. Cavanaugh's (Chancellor of the Penn State System of Higher Education) answer. Cavanaugh writes: "If rising scholars need to give up any semblance of a normal life to obtain a doctorate or tenure, then that program's values are out of alignment. I, for one, do not want institutions full of people who sold their souls for a degree or for tenure. I want balanced, well-rounded scholars. Funny thing about that—isn't that exactly what we say in our marketing materials: that we want to produce in our undergraduate programs well-rounded, educated graduates?"

Now, compare that to the remarks by Robert J. Sternberg (Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Tufts University), who writes: "Academe is a calling: If you do not feel called to it, find something else to do. The pay isn't great; the hours are typically long; and you never quite have a vacation. If you enter the game, you should do so accepting the rules and knowing that you may not get the outcome you desire."

I sort of half-agree with both Cavanaugh and Sternberg. Academe is a calling, I think, but it ought not be a soulless one.

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