• December 19, 2014

Faculty Burnout Has Both External and Internal Sources, Scholar Says

Faculty Burnout Has Both External and Internal Sources, Scholar Says 1

Janie Crosmer

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close Faculty Burnout Has Both External and Internal Sources, Scholar Says 1

Janie Crosmer

Janie Crosmer, who recently earned a Ph.D. in health management at Texas Woman's University, wanted to know more about what causes faculty burnout. So as part of her dissertation, she studied 411 full-time professors nationwide to find out. About half were tenured, 63 percent were female, and the average age of the respondents was 50. Not surprisingly, they reported that battling bureaucracy contributes to burnout, but they said professors also struggle to meet their high expectations for themselves.

Ms. Crosmer spoke with The Chronicle after presenting her research on Wednesday at the American Association of University Professors' annual conference on higher education. In a discussion of her findings, she explained senior professors' attitude toward burnout, how forming tight-knit communities of professors can help combat what has been called one of the biggest occupational hazards of the 21st century, and why some sources of burnout may sound familiar.

Q. What do you think most faculty members are trying to convey when they say, "Oh, I'm so burned out!"

A. Really what they mean is that they're emotionally and physically exhausted. They're talking about the exhaustion factor of it. They're just tired of everything.

Q. What are the key things that contribute to faculty burnout?

A. Lack of time, poorly prepared students, cumbersome bureaucratic rules, high self expectations, unclear institutional expectations, and low salary. Research shows that the sources of stress have remained unchanged for 25 years. We know about the problem, but we're not doing anything about it.

Q. I know what absenteeism is, but I've never heard of "presenteeism." What is that, and what does that have to do with burnout?

A. It means that you're there at work, but mentally you're somewhere else. It's easy to hide burnout in education because every day you show up to work, you teach your classes, you advise your students ... you've been doing this for so long that your mind can wander, and you can still do your job. When that happens, there's a good chance that you're burned out.

Q. Do faculty members who have been around for a while experience burnout the same as a new assistant professor?

A. The research showed that the older the faculty member was, the less burnout. They seem to be saying, "You know what? It is what it is." Just like with any job, you just get used to it.

Q. Females were more emotionally exhausted than men in your study. What do you attribute that to?

A. I really think it's all about gender expectations: You have to be a wife, a mother, a caretaker, and a professor all at once.

Q. What kinds of comments related to burnout did you get from professors that you surveyed?

A. People said students are increasingly entitled and lazy. My classes are too big, my service load is too high, my teaching load is too high. Almost every person mentioned something about administration or administrative issues. People really seemed to feel burdened by a lot of things.

Q. What one thing do you think would do the most to help reduce faculty burnout?

A. If departments would adopt collectivistic values. It's sometimes hard for professors to feel like they're in a community, a community where they can share the workload. If one faculty member is really busy working on getting a grant, for instance, maybe a colleague could step up and teach their classes. If faculty members didn't feel like they had to do it all, that they had someone within their community to turn to, I think that would help.

Comments

1. paievoli - June 09, 2010 at 04:08 pm

Great article and very true. After 25 years of academia this is the absolute truth. However no offense - if you don't think that Daddies have to do it all as well - especially when it is a one-income family....cause we all now how well academia pays on the whole...

2. graylibrary - June 09, 2010 at 04:26 pm

411 professors does not seem like a very large sample. Still, it is good that someone is broaching the subject. I wonder how many academic librarians with tenure-track positions on twelve-month contracts are out there. Talk about burn-out!

3. thececinc - June 09, 2010 at 04:31 pm

We at Collegiate EmPowerment have experienced this issue of burnout with thousands of our clients as well. We actually hosted a free teleseminar last April to support our community. For those interested, feel free to watch/share this video recap of "How To Prevent End Of Semester Burnout", presented by Tony D'Angelo. The video recap can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=ry8NY_NlbLE

4. greendolphin - June 09, 2010 at 04:44 pm

I'd like to hear more about the "high expectations" factor. In my own experience, there is a discrepancy between the number of hours I theoretically get paid for (as a part-time adjunct) and the number of hours I actually spend on teaching - planning assignments, grading assignments, communicating with students. Other professors I have talked to have a similar experience. What we believe we need to do in order to really teach our students well takes a great deal more time than is contemplated in the level of remuneration we receive.

5. northwest - June 09, 2010 at 04:48 pm

I love this "collectivistic values" idea, but please, please, be real. My load is so high that even when I _want_ to help my colleagues, something else in my life has to give. My colleagues feel the same way. Let's get past this notion that somewhere in our schedules we have "extra" time to share and start talking about hiring some of the unemployed and underemployed PhDs to help reduce our loads to manageable levels.

6. simmonsa - June 09, 2010 at 05:16 pm

all of the comments related to this article may be true...burn out is areal issue...but, let's also get real....the majority of people working in the "real world" would kill to have the flexibility of academia....i came to academia relatively late and while appreciative of burnout, when i compare this to previous jobs, I marvel at how lucky I am....

7. cordelia - June 09, 2010 at 08:47 pm

6> Actually, I experienced less burnout when I worked in the "real world," albeit for a lower paycheck. I put in my 40 hours and the rest of my time was my own.

But I'm thankful for having been given a word for what I am feeling: "presenteeism." I suspect that I'll be feeling it even more in the fall when the student population will be raised by 10%; with no additional faculty hires, they will be dumped into our classes, raising the caps. That's the admin's solution to the budget crunch.

8. aaruna50 - June 10, 2010 at 02:35 am

#5 (Northwest) makes a critical point. "Let's get past this notion that somewhere in our schedules we have "extra" time to share and start talking about hiring some of the unemployed and underemployed PhDs to help reduce our loads to manageable levels."

This point may well question the value of "collegiality" in rating faculty performance. In order to perform collegiality (depending on actual definition), the implication is that faculty have "extra" time to assist colleagues outside the "usual" schedules when actually, there can never be ample time to perform all assigned responsibilities. Just imagine how much time it takes to complete a manuscript for publication alone while keeping up with other things! Just imagine what it takes to keep up with the literature in one's specialty or discipline for faculty development (Reading/reviewing about 6000 articles per day??? or as many as relevant)! And so on ..... ! And then you factor in clinical practice (24-hour patient care responsibilities)and off-campus clerkship teaching in addition to didactic teaching for clinical faculty (pharmacy, medicine, nursing, ... etc.). Personally, as a full professor/clinician, the only time I have been able to utilize for scholarly activities/faculty development has has been the time that "normal" people use for sleep!!

9. kathden - June 10, 2010 at 05:43 am

simmonsa (commenter #6): let's get realer! Those same people have not been willing to put in the 5-6 years average for the sciences or the 8-10 years for the humanities in coursework, paper-writing, research, and qualifying- and comprehensive-exam taking. They would love to have the job they imagine it to be, without having done the work to be able to do it.

10. d_and_der - June 10, 2010 at 06:57 am

#4 and #5
BOYCOTT ADJUNCT POSITIONS!

If EVERYONE refuses to take an adjunct position (the worst form of abuse) then universities will be forced to hire more full time faculty.

11. supertatie - June 10, 2010 at 07:24 am

Hear, hear. I've been tenured, and I've been an adjunct/clinical, and by far, the HIGHEST source of "burnout" has been in the adjunct/clinical positions. That said, the only problem I had in the tenure-track/tenured position was the same source of "burnout" I've had in my capacity as an adjunct, and that is bureaucratic bullsh!t and COMPLETE lack of appreciation by the administration.

I breezed through the 6 year tenure process (not including one year as a visiting assistant professor) at a private midwestern law school which shall remain nameless. My teaching evaluations were off the charts, my publications were of sufficient length, frequency, and published at the "right" schools. And 6 months after I got tenure (on a unanimous vote), I was laid off - along with one-third of my tenured colleagues, ALL of whom had been hired by the previous dean, whom the university's president despised. She used a downturn in enrollment to call for the elimination of one-third of the law faculty, which - oh, my! - happened to be the exact number necessary to get rid of every single person the formed dean had hired. (And yes, I know it's "illegal." So is murder, and people do it every day.)

I then went to a large public research university in the midwest, in an administrative capacity. Not long after I arrived, I was asked to take on an undergraduate course in law - for no pay. Which, of course, I was happy to do, thinking that it would show my "commitment" to the department and the college. Since they could not pay me, I asked for a title - "Adjunct Associate Professor" - which would reflect my status as a former tenured professor of law. The department head (at the time) agreed. The (tenured) faculty threw a fit, and I was given the runaround for three years, through three different interim department heads, until I finally gave up asking. I have been an "adjunct lecturer" for 8 years.

The story is too long to fully tell here. But suffice it to say that I continued to teach that required course to EVERY student in a large department (500+), every semester, and it was an "advanced composition" course with writing assignments nearly every week. With 85 - 100 students each semester, I worked all day, and graded nights and weekends. I did it because I loved the class, loved the students, and because I was good at it, and I knew it.

Like a lot of other publicly funded universities, our budget hit the skids last year. The department where I was teaching the law course decided to make the course that's been required since 1973 an elective, and I wasn't even given the courtesy of being told when the meeting was, so that I could make my case for the class' importance to the students.

The one bright note was that it was the tenured faculty - many of whom had opposed my title 8 years earlier - who defended me and my course. But they were outvoted by brand-new tenure-track faculty who know nothing about me or the course - as an adjunct, I've barely even met them, much less worked with them.

The course became an elective, and I saw the writing on the wall. Come fall, I'll be at a different university, and with a better position. (Though untenured, but I'm rather jaded about the "job security" that comes with tenure.)

I've had some unhappy events in my professional life in academe, but this past year, I found that I was walking around with my teeth clenched. 10 years of hard work, and you're tossed aside like brown lettuce when tough times hit.

I agree with d-and-der: people take adjunct positions because they want an "in" and provide a service to the university. And then they are worked like dogs, treated with no professional respect, and cast aside as soon as it's time to circle the wagons and protect the tenured faculty.

12. csgirl - June 10, 2010 at 08:02 am

I worked in industry for years, and I have also worked in academia for a number of years (tenure-track). My take on academia compared to industry is that academia is twice the work at half the pay. The upside is that the work is often more interesting than in industry.

13. dogood1776 - June 10, 2010 at 08:40 am

Ditto to comment #12

14. jthelin - June 10, 2010 at 09:00 am

Here are a few illustrative items at the University of Kentucky that add to faculty frustration:

* If a professor teaches a summer class, 60% of the student tuition payment goes immediately to the Office of the Provost for discretionary use. The remaining 40% of tuition revenue then counts toward paying the instructor's salary -- and the instructor is expected to generate the salary (approx 10% of one's 9 month salary) for a course "to make."

* At the same time, the University President announced for the forthcoming university budget, the university's research park -- intended to bring in revenues as part of the university as an "economic engine" -- continues to lose money and now will receive a $6 million subsidy.

I think this is an academic world turned upside down.

15. kmreaves - June 10, 2010 at 09:11 am

This is an interesting article that opens the door to some healthy dialogue both on and offline. My question is has anyone done a similar study on staff? A lot of staff on both the academic and support sides haven't seen a 40-hour week in a long time, and work 50 weeks a year for a lot less pay than faculty. Many of them have masters or doctorates. Most of us are in higher education because we love it. Personally, I've come to recognize that stress and burnout are common “job hazards” in higher education no matter who you are or what position you hold.

16. tee_bee - June 10, 2010 at 09:27 am

6. simmonsa: Which flexibility would "real world" people like? The 65 hours or more I work a week? Or the right to work on weekends to prep for Monday courses? The night classes? I am glad you find a cushy job that has fewer demands than a 40 hour job. I've done both, and while I was bored senseless in the 40 hr job (which is why I entered academia), now that I have kids and other responsibilities, the idea of showing up to work at 9, moving around some paper until 5, and then going home is starting to sound awfully attractive.

17. fadecomic - June 10, 2010 at 09:32 am

I must disagree with #6, having worked in both industry and academia as well. There's something far less stressful about the regimented structure and clear expectations in industry. For me at least, an additional source of stress is the realization that even though in the eyes of the university I'm a newish employee, I've been doing this stuff for years. It's a new job in name only, which adds to the burnout effect, I think.

18. cordelia - June 10, 2010 at 09:56 am

#10, I certainly agree with you that adjuncts are mistreated; but your equation is not a given. See my post in #7. The university is "saving money" by NOT hiring adjuncts this year, not hiring new faculty, and shoving 750 more new students into classes over capacity instead.

I might add that the promotion process has been a big factor in my burnout. I have maintained good student evaluations, continued to publish more and more, and increased my service, yet my ranking has gone down every year. The only reason given is "it's competitive." No, it isn't; it's political and biased. It's hard to stay positive about a job where you feel that you are being taken advantage of and never fairly rewarded for all that you do.

19. ck3n1 - June 10, 2010 at 10:06 am

Adding my voice to the responses to simmonsa: Indeed, what is this "flexibility" and, you imply, better workload and terms that others outside academia would kill for? I also came to this business later than most, spent a decade doing a great PhD in the social sciences, and realized, by graduation, that I had *already* burned out. Neither I (nor my family) had the heart to put up with the new gruel of pressures in the tenure track, let alone the poor pay and lack of job security (definitely, during tenure track and, as supertatie tells, in this economy, even at times with tenure). I now *am* eating my heart out, happy and paid, in a job in academic administration -- finding work that does stimulate my mind 40hrs a week and then leaves me time to read and write as I please, at a sustainable pace. I cannot imagine how the economy could be reformed enough for me to trade back in.

"Burn out" is one way to state it, putting the emphasis on the flame within the scholar that can die out, and just plain "burn" is another, putting the emphasis on the fire of the political economy of higher ed that scorches and consumes.

20. dank48 - June 10, 2010 at 10:34 am

About the academia-versus-"real world" comparisons, remember that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, no matter which side you're on. And there's a lot of variation from one school or department to the next, just as there's a lot of variation in business, industry, or whatever. One person thrives in a given position where another would go nuts. Some nonacademic positions are more "regimented" than others, for better or worse.

Also, I don't think it's nitpicking to mention that there's a considerable difference between "collectivistic" and "communitarian" values. The reasons for burnout have been more or less the same for a quarter century at least, according to the findings. As for solutions, well, to drag in yet another cliche, who is going to bell the cat?

21. larrym - June 10, 2010 at 10:35 am

In some situations, academe can actually schedule a new faculty member for the hazard of burnout. In graduate school, I pursued two tracks simultaneously: a master's in library science and a Ph.D. in an entirely different field. When I began the Ph.D. program, the university allowed a ten-year period after passing prelims for the candidate to complete and defend the dissertation. Just before I took my prelims, the dissertation period was shortened to five years. That was the academic "setup" for what happened right on schedule, five years later.
Soon after I had received a master's in library science and had passed my Ph.D. prelims in a different field, I was hired as a library faculty member. Because I was in a tenure-track position, I had the traditional deadline for completing the work required to be tenured. As a matter of course, the deadline was five years after being hired.
After five years, I successfully defended my dissertation near the end of August and went up for tenure as a library faculty member in mid-October of that same year--about 1 1/2 months later. After the promotion & tenure decision-making process was complete, I was tenured. Not everyone understands what this means, but tenured Ph.D.s "get it." I lived.
During the academic year in which I went up for tenure, my workload increased a lot, and I felt wretched for a while. After about three semesters, I began to feel okay again. Aside from the support of my wife and my boss, one thing that helped was a faculty member's comment that it was usual to feel fatigued for about a year after finishing a dissertation.

22. bookwormz - June 10, 2010 at 10:40 am

Thank you #2 (graylibrary)! I just wrote a tirade about whiney faculty, and erased it, because there's no point. Just don't ask me how I enjoyed my summer break - oh, I spent it working, in the Library, listening to students complain about...their professors.

23. porcupine - June 10, 2010 at 11:22 am

I'm surprised that the article didn't address competition amongst faculty, especially pre-tenure, as a factor contributing to burnout.

Given the fear and anxiety surrounding the tenure process, you can't throw a group of well-educated and ruthlessly ambitious people together in a department, tell them that they will earn tenure by producing quality research, teaching and service and that they will be asked to leave if they are not granted tenure, and expect them to work well together. For example, if I were to ask an untenured colleague to teach my classes so that I can work on a grant, the colleague would rub their hands together in glee, because I would have given them great ammunition in the ongoing competition, not to mention endless opportunities for snarky remarks - clearly I am not up to the job if I need to ask for help. I simply wouldn't mention it to a tenured colleague, because they might see my asking for help as a reason to vote against my tenure case.

However, non-faculty colleagues work collaboratively with me all the time - and we get along perfectly well. What makes the difference? They are not competing with me for tenure.



24. trendisnotdestiny - June 10, 2010 at 11:32 am

These comments remind me that we live in a period called 'The fractured future' that creates:

1) a more malleable new academic encouraged to work at an increasingly frenzied pace in the arms race of tenure/adjunct where the differentials between have and have not are moderated by individualism, competition in a religious fervor to produce, saddled by motivational exceptionalism and debt

2) tenured folk who serve to acculurate and normalize academe's processes of promotion while many of their struggles are less relateable to new faculty since the contextual bar for tenure has moved and competition has been escalated; creating unique series of burdens and stressors on scholars already commited (financially, emotionally and relationally) to attaining tenure.

3) students who are apart of neither dialogue internally, but are expected to worship at the alter of: "this is how it is, get over it" or "maybe academe is not for you"... students in many cases who struggle with writing, reading and critical thinking have to negotiate the dichotomy of watching young tenure stream scholars sleeping in their offices, too busy to really be present (Presenteeism), and with little patience for those who cannot help them achieve their objectives while the longwinded tenured blowhard regails students with an obdurate explanation of how education has changed, waxing the myth...

4) the administrator role is to manage these relationships either as means to engender competition through divide and conquer political processes creating the necessary hierarchy envisioned by their bosses (many times bowing to the feet of funding sources and political advancement from within departments, colleges and fields)

5. the public who is experiencing cuts in most social supports during this period of 'de-levering' of social commitments associated with the neoliberal agenda. Outreach or public service becomes the victim of budget struggles and overzealous lip service used in the branding processes of universities...

I appreciate the author's position and work here. I suspect exhaustion here is systemic, especially when the intentions of work are not recognized in the outcomes of real peoples' lives.

When you privatize education and healthcare, the autonomy of the academic is controlled by capital... leading to an exhausted history of producing those ideas most profitable...

Some things should not be based on a profit model in a society, but this would involve taxing those making $250K or more another 10-15% and we cannot have that...

25. lrichey - June 10, 2010 at 01:30 pm

Much truth #24

26. scubagrrl88 - June 10, 2010 at 04:13 pm

Good article and I think it does address something that I know I have felt for a very long time. I do enjoy my job, having just gotten promoted to Full Professor. But, I have had to work VERY hard to set boundaries so I can enjoy my life. If you think about it, I highly doubt that people will say, at the end of their lives, "gee, I wish I had worked more." It is usually the other way around. I understand we live in tough times, blah blah blah, but much of the responsibility for our own sanity and creating balance in our lives comes from us--ourselves. The admin. isn't going to do it, that's for sure! So, for me, I do my best to keep up with knowledge in my field, to attend conferences, serve on committees, serve students, and of that jazz. But, I also take time out to enjoy my life as well and pursue other things separate from academia. As my late grandmother used to say, "Don't stress out. It isn't worth it." And you know, she's right! Stress leads to so many health probs, too numerous to count.

Have I experienced burn-out? Yes. Am I burned out now. No. I am very busy, yes, but I work hard to keep the balance and try to say 'no' when I can. I am also doing my best to plan an early retirement, if possible. I know I won't be living high on the hog, but that isn't the point. I want to live and have peace in my life. That is way more important to me than another publication on my vita or service chip or whatever. Anyway, peace out to everyone. I do hope all of those who are feeling burnt out can take a moment to pause, take a deep breath, and relax and someday find peace in their lives. If it means taking a leap out of academia into something new and different, I encourage you to do it. Stress and burning out are not good for the heart nor the soul.

Thanks for reading! Gotta run...

27. oneroa - June 10, 2010 at 04:37 pm

Thanks, Audrey.
Sounds like you did your research in New Zealand!

28. periwinkleblue - June 10, 2010 at 05:23 pm

To make another connection, what role does "bullying" play in the burnout scenario? The tenure, reappointment and promotion process is its own monster, but bullying - by other faculty, students, and/or the administration - just adds to the toxicity.

29. generally_academic - June 10, 2010 at 06:07 pm

I'm thoroughly sick of the extreme right-wing ChristoFascists, who come into class thinking they know everything and refuse to learn. In the last few years, they have become aggresive and confrontational, making threats against our faculty, particularly our minority faculty. They compound the felony by copying or buying their papers off the internet. These children are all white, of course. The administration pampers them and caters to them, often against the faculty, because they are greedy for the money they bring in (matching funds, tuition, fees, etc.). Who needs this kind of work environment?

30. painter33 - June 11, 2010 at 10:18 am

# 10 - No, they (universities) won't (have to hire more full-time faculty). As written by another poster, class sizes would increase and the pressure on existing full-time faculty will rise proportionally. If you believe that universities "have" to do something because you (adjuncts) "want" them to do something, I'm sorry to say that you haven't a clue how these institutions function and/or are administered. Bottom line = bottom line, and what adjuncts, especially, want is not generally seen as a factor in prudent budget management. A full-time faculty member requires a much greater long-term financial commitment (salary, benefits, etc.) on the part of the institution than does an adjunct. It's assets v. debits and little else.

31. happy_admin - June 11, 2010 at 11:39 am

I moved from a faculty to an administrative position, not because of the workload or the students or any other "burnout" factor, but because of the other faculty--the back-biting, the lack of respect for colleagues, and yes, the endless whining. A tenured faculty position at my institution, by any comparison to other actually-existing alternatives, is a very good gig--not perfect, not idyllic, but very good. I would return to it in an instant if I could find a department whose faculty culture I could stand. Instead, I look forward to working every day with a group of smart, dedicated, hard-working people who feel lucky to have the jobs that they do. (Yes, they work far fewer hours, but for far less pay. If you don't like this trade-off, get a different job.)

I know that my own situation isn't generalizable to all institutions, but it isn't unique, either.

32. cstars - June 11, 2010 at 01:52 pm

I find one cause of burnout to be the feeling that non-faculty - inside and outside of academe - continue to dismiss faculty burnout.

Of ocurse, there is a kind of 'flexibility' to what we do. However, this seems to mean that everyone thinks we never really have to do anything at any particular point in time. My spouse and kids do not understand that, apart from classes or a meeting, I really do have to get some work done NOW. My administrative colleagues do not understand that, apart from classes and a scheduled meeting, I really am not on call right NOW. Ditto students. So, to avoid being seen as a "whiney" academic, I respond to all the demands and get my work done nights and weekends. (Which irritates the family.)

I am also becoming increasingly worn out by the snide comments about 'the faculty,' comments made openly in our hearing range. Faculty think they are special; faculty are whiney; faculty do not work as hard as someone elese does. I cannot imagine making similar comments about my colleagues in administration, on staff, or in the library.

33. witten0214 - June 11, 2010 at 01:57 pm

pretty damn deprwssing but true. maybe the researchers could have compared college professor burn ou to high school teacher burn out, since the two jobs are becoming more similar

34. vaeconprof - June 11, 2010 at 02:16 pm

I expected this article to be about boredom. Teaching the same basic material repeatedly for 15 or 20 years is boring, even when you vary it, update it, provide new examples, etc. Also, a full professor hits a plateau--he or she has made it through the tenure and promotion ladder, and now what is there to aim for?

35. fungalgal - June 11, 2010 at 06:46 pm

After 15 years of teaching at a Midwestern University in the biological sciences, achieving tenure and my full-professorship and holding down countless leadership positions on campus and 2 research grants, I felt compelled to speak to the Academic Vice President regarding faculty burn-out in our department. We had faculty teaching overloads for 3+ semesters and it was really begining to take its toll on the department and faculty morale. In my optimisitic mind, I felt the VP should understand just how hard this was on our faculty so this could be corrected before we lost valuable faculty. His answer with the shrug of his shoulder was, "Oh well, they've done it before, they'll do it again." Well that was my wake-up call, and I realized it was never going to get better, and possibly it was going to get worse. I had a choice, but I suppose I lost my faith in how this academic situation was ever going to work, with poor staffing, low pay, long hours and expectations to do more with less. And so, as my father used to say, I voted with my feet. I left academics 2 years ago and now have an upper management position in a multinational biotechnology company. I have never looked back and I will say that the clear defineable exectations, good resources, generous pay and bonuses and respect by my peers and higher managers in industry helps immensely.
I realize it was unheard of to cast the academic dream job aside, and that I probably added an additional burden to the remaining faculty when I left, but I knew I could not stay working for an institution who cared so little for the faculty. For me, it was a step to becoming happier, healthier and a move to working in an environment that clearly values me and my well-being. I have always felt that good people always have choices, and perhaps my story shows this to be true. I certainly am happier for making the decision to vote with my feet and to take a chance on something that is better suited for me.

36. rear_view_mirror - June 14, 2010 at 11:37 am

Re: "Q. Do faculty members who have been around for a while experience burnout the same as a new assistant professor?
A. The research showed that the older the faculty member was, the less burnout. They seem to be saying, 'You know what? It is what it is.' Just like with any job, you just get used to it."
Or they have tenure now?
Re: "We know about the problem, but we're not doing anything about it."
Who's going to do anything? Not the people I work for. They kind of like it when everyone's working hard.


37. harry_2_claudia - June 14, 2010 at 03:49 pm

Perhaps we need to consider that many factors contribue to Faculty 'burnout' in higher education including but not limited to the fact that there are many more students entering higher education in this century than ever before. They bring with them many different levels of ability and skill, and diverse attitudes towards higher education. That is, some students have good study skills while others lack this, some students have a positive attitude towards higher education, but others do not, indeed some students view higher education only as a means to gain them access to higher paying jobs, but they do not want to do the academic work (which is preparation in order for them to be able to apply for prospective jobs) required of them to attain a good education and a good degree. Indeed, Faculty are in need of access to continuous re-training in order to be able to deal with these extreme factors,they need to have time made available to them in order to be able to upgrade their knowledge and understanding about their area of expertise on a continuous basis, and they also need to be able to revive and rejuvinate themselves. We need to create harmony and balance in institutions of higher education, in order for Faculty and students to enjoy their experiences in educational environments.

38. mrmars - June 16, 2010 at 01:24 pm

I find the contention that older faculty seem to experience less burnout to be more than a bit misleading. First, as noted by others here, the requirements for success in academia seem to be "tightening up" over time with newer faculty having to satisfy much more onerous requirements to achieve tenure; not the least of which involves keeping larger groups of less well-prepared "customers" (students?) happy. In addition, "older faculty" are a self-selected group that include only those who were able to thrive in an academic environment, those who found a way to cope, and/or those who were locked into their academic positions by intractable personal or family circumstances. Those of my "cohort" (hired over twenty years ago) - as well as more recent hires - who found the environment too stressful are long gone. They didn't stick around to be counted.

39. cranefly - June 16, 2010 at 07:27 pm

"I find one cause of burnout to be the feeling that non-faculty - inside and outside of academe - continue to dismiss faculty burnout."

Exactly, as the comment about "summer break" made by the librarian attest. We don't get a summer break! We have teaching time, and research time, and summer is the research time. It's not a break!

40. shilton - June 21, 2010 at 10:54 am

Teach high school for a year or two . . . then let me know what you think about "burnout".

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