• August 31, 2015

Younger Professors Say a Successful Career Should Not Require Long Hours

In conversations with a dozen faculty members, researchers with a project on work-life issues run by Harvard University have found that "Generation X" professors value efficiency over "face time" and believe that quality is more important than quantity in academic work.

The Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education, a long-term project run by Harvard's Graduate School of Education, conducted interviews with 12 professors born between 1964 and 1980 on three campuses in the mid-Atlantic: a liberal-arts college, a private master's-degree-granting university, and a large public institution. Neither the interview subjects nor the institutions are named in the report.

The Generation X professors said they did not want to be holed up in their campus offices until 11 p.m., and talked about the "diminishing returns" of working too many hours. The professors perceive their attitudes to be different from those of older faculty members, who they see as being completely devoted to their jobs and unable to say no to more work.

"My biggest concern ... is that I want to be able to be good at my job but work 8:00 to 6:00 five days a week," one Gen X faculty member told the interviewers. "I want to succeed, but I don't want to work 18 hours a day."

The report, "New Challenges, New Priorities: The Experience of Generation X Faculty," is to be posted today on the project's Web site.


1. performance_expert - March 04, 2010 at 06:18 am

I.e., lose the harassment and excess = quality.

2. 11242283 - March 04, 2010 at 06:24 am

I'm sure it's more complicated than reported here. I am not one of those grumpy "I got tenure by walking through the snowing, while writing my first two books" older profs, but as reported here (I guess I'll have to wait for the report later today) it looks like these younger profs are saying that they don't want to be professionals. Which actually, in case they didn't notice, is being arranged by the overlords of higher ed who would be more than happy not to pay out professional level wages to a stable of adjuncts who show up sometime between 8 and 6 and just teach their classes.

Did any of these folks ever notice that K-12 schoolteachers work longer hours than they say they are willing to work? And other professionals? They routinely work 60 hour weeks, plus. Indeed, in case any of these seemingly spoiled young profs ever noticed, a good many people in this country who are not professionals and who are not earning high salaries (which, even though it doesn't seem like it to us profs, is what we earn) work 60, 80+ hours with much less "work-life" balance at two or more jobs just to keep food on the table?

I'm all for work-life balance and I don't think that working every night is appropriate. But honestly, what these young professors see as being "completely devoted to [my job]" may really mean being devoted to students and the institution which gives me my paycheck. If these young (I am very self-conscious that the next word might be "whippersnappers"! yikes) faculty members think they can prepare for teaching, write and serve their students/institutions effectively keeping the hours they suggest above, more power to them --- and please let me in on the secret. However, my experience suggests to me that these are exactly the same faculty who often can't come to work until 9:30 or 10 (because they are taking kids to school -- even though school starts at 8!) and who "must" leave at 2:30 (to pick up selfsame kids at school) and who don't even come to campus on Fridays. And try getting them to teach a night class to serve working students! All I can say is good luck to you but this does seem a bit spoiled -- although given the Chronicle's recent penchant for overblown & misleading headlines written to get us to click on their reporting, this may just be more of the same. Guess I should really wait for the report.

3. professorxyz - March 04, 2010 at 06:26 am

Great! Another Generation X is so lazy article. No wonder I work my butt off, but can't seem to move up. I'm being stereotyped by the baby-boomers who read the Chronicle.

As an aside, nobody should work 60+ hours a week, regardless of which generation they are from. It is not mentally, physically or spiritually healthy. We all need balance in our lives.

4. eelalien - March 04, 2010 at 06:50 am

I don't think we are talking "lazy" here; I think the essential point boils down to working smarter than simply working "harder" as measured in units of time. I easily dedicate 60 hrs. per week towards my work - but over seven days, and not a five-day traditional work week. The way we work has changed - many are now able to teach online and of course most research can be accomplished online as well. So what does seat time in an office in a building have to actually do with productivity? NOTHING. Ask IBM, or any forwards-looking employer what is more important - insuring that someone is in a cubicle for a head count or that the person is actually DOING something for the employer? If a student needs to be advised, sure they should be accomodated, and meetings will still occur. But to insist that being chained to a desk or office equals "work" is ridiculously archaic and irrelevant.

5. patelunas1 - March 04, 2010 at 07:06 am

<Comment removed by moderator>

6. hoppingmadjunct - March 04, 2010 at 07:12 am

Fact is, good teaching takes time.

And it takes time whether on or off the tenure track. The adjuncts who "show up sometimes just to teach their classes," as Commenter #2 says, are still putting in three hours' prep time for every classroom hour plus, depending on what they're teaching, weekends and evenings grading essays, fielding student queries by email, reading in their field to keep current. The only difference is that they're doing it in their cars and cramped apartments, on their own PCs via internet connections they pay for themselves, with books they've bought, at per-course salaries many times less than their tenure-track peers' of any generation.

7. mtannen - March 04, 2010 at 07:37 am

seems to me that the headline is extrapolating from what just 12 younger faculty at mid-Atlantic instutions are reporting. very small sample size that is not drawn from the entire country . . . wonder what those in the so-called "heartland" think?

8. fast_and_bulbous - March 04, 2010 at 07:45 am

News flash: 10 out of 10 people polled said, given the choice, they'd rather work 40 hours a week than 60 hours a week for the same salary. Absolutely mind boggling.

9. nacrandell - March 04, 2010 at 07:47 am

"In conversations with a dozen faculty members..."

A dozen can suggest a trend? We should think twice before accepting polling numbers on this scale or was Dewey our 33rd president?

10. rsmythe - March 04, 2010 at 07:55 am

The fact of the matter is that academic success is in part determined by effort. I don't discount the roles of serendipity, personality or influence, however, for most of us, it is effort that counts.

Perhaps others have conquered the physics of this, but for me, effort is correlated fairly closely with time.

I am all for working smarter - the use of technology to supplant personal meetings, creative teaching methods which do not require socratic interaction, etc., - just think of all the other work I can do with the extra time!

11. mvpajlp - March 04, 2010 at 07:56 am

As a newer faculty member, I believe that effort produces desired outcomes, from creating quality classes and being better able to serve the students, the department, and the University, through the process of implementing a plan of research and producing scholarly publications. Yes, this effort takes the investment of (our) time: it takes time to develop...as a teacher, as an employee, and as a scholar. But, isn't success in our chosen field supposed to be our goal?
So I believe that anyone who chooses this career path MUST be willing to do whatever it takes to achieve those desired outcomes, whatever they may be...and if that means putting in those long hours, then that's what must be done.

12. klgreen - March 04, 2010 at 07:59 am

Re: #4 above
"of course most research can be accomplished online". This is simply NOT true. Perhaps it applies to SOME disciplines, [accent on perhaps] but certainly not to MOST, not to the one I'm in [history] or to many others than I can think of. I teach Online courses, am online everyday, sometimes for hours at a time, but the research I want to do is NOT in materials on the internet. It all depends on subject matter and discipline.

13. uconnche - March 04, 2010 at 08:05 am

I would hope that we can do research more efficiently now than 20 years ago. I can get 55,000 academic/scholarly journals delivered to my desktop in seconds. The Public Record Office in London will scan documents and email them to me (for a fee). But, it is still a lot cheaper and faster than flying to the UK. Perhaps we don't need to be "married to our craft?" Maybe it will be possible to have a personal life and a professional life? My advisor was the bachelor/historian----even had a cot in his office for sleeping.

14. esmackie - March 04, 2010 at 08:07 am

I am glad to see that the young ones are speaking up! In my twenty-five years in the academy I have observed an unsustainable inflation of expectations for "productivity" in the Humanities. I think we have reached the upper limits of demands--especially for publications--from junior faculty. While institutions demand ever more books and articles and job offers for the granting of tenure, the academic publishing industry and academic jo market shrink. I am very pleased to see a turn towards quality over quantity!

15. 113312991 - March 04, 2010 at 08:07 am

N=12 does not generalize to Generation X. Come on, Chronicle.

16. blue_state_academic - March 04, 2010 at 08:24 am

Re: comment #15 -- it's not the Chronicle that should be chided. It's the COACH project at Harvard that should be questioned. Has any actual "research" been published yet, or is this just preliminary work for the book? Not having seen this research, I'm willing to reserve judgment. But like many others, let's not project the perspectives of 12 faculty members onto an entire generation. The COACH project has also done many large-scale surveys of faculty. Maybe they can tell us if the survey data confirm what these 12 faculty reported to them in the qualitative component.

17. anon1972 - March 04, 2010 at 08:34 am

This article reflects the exact opposite of my experience as a Gen X academic (currently on the cusp of the tenure process). My impression is that, as esmackie says, expectations -- especially for tenure, but actually on all full-time faculty -- have steadily increased in every aspect of the job. In teaching, we're expected to do everything our elders did/do, plus use the latest technology to bring multimedia into the classroom and engage our students outside the classroom. In advising, we're expected to be available (electronically) to our students 24/7, instead of just for a scheduled 2 hours a week. In service, the piling up of federal rules and regulations on higher education has generated unbelievable quantities of paperwork and "assessment activities," multiplying our committee obligations. In research, one book is no longer enough for tenure -- now we need two, plus a fleet of articles in "the right" journals. Plus we are supposed to demonstrate our bona fides by organizing conferences and travelling around to give talks. And the knowledge base -- the amount of stuff one needs to know/have read/be conversant in, by way of general background, before even embarking on a research project or setting foot in a classroom -- increases exponenentially with every decade.

I for one am working 18 hours a day, SEVEN days a week, this semester, and still having trouble keeping my head above water -- and I work pretty "smart" (or at least find ways to cut corners when I have to). My class prep time is as an all-time low (thankfully I've taught all three of this semester's courses this semester) but I'm still partly reponsible for the intellectual development of ~50 young people (including three thesis advisees), all of whom feel rightfully entitled to some portion of my time and attention (not that they are all knocking on my door all the time -- but a few do, every week, and it adds up). Plus three committees, with various reports to be written and background materials to be read. Plus all the grading. Plus maintaining the course websites. Plus trying to prepare my tenure dossier. I don't know what I'd do if I had children -- sell them, probably, because I certainly wouldn't have time to actually spend with them.

18. honore - March 04, 2010 at 08:34 am

and let's not forget to leave time for:

hours and hours of social networking,
shopping for spandex on the internet,
researching the newest butt tattoo patterns,
lowest impact (no-perspiration) pilates classes,
last minute mini-vacations to Colorado,
discount Viagra

and do I really have to attend faculty meetings too?

19. 22000394 - March 04, 2010 at 08:36 am

I remember the op-ed several years ago in the Washington Post wondering whether the US would accept its decline with as much grace as had Britain. As someone from the sciences, I know there are plenty of talented, hungry, eager, faculty prospects to be hired; there just aren't that many who are US and have those characteristics. And when the undergraduates complain about accents, I point out that the complaints should be directed to their older brothers and sisters and cousins who were too fat, sassy, and lazy to go on to graduate school. We can choose as a nation not to work so hard, but we have to accept that our competitors may make a different decision.

20. physicsprof - March 04, 2010 at 08:43 am

I do not know what field(s) were polled, but if you work in a competitive one you don't work against the clock, you work against your competition as the number of postdoctoral, faculty openings, grants, journal space is limited. It is like saying "I want to go to Olympics, but I am not willing to spent long hours doing it".

21. walshd14 - March 04, 2010 at 08:44 am

I'm sorry, but isn't the standard work week SUPPOSED to be 40 hours? In response to 11242283, since when did the EXPECTATION become 60 hour work weeks for professionals? Talk about labor exploitation!

22. stephen1970 - March 04, 2010 at 08:44 am

Context is everything. Hours alone -- or willingness and ability to work long hours -- or willingness to tell the survey-takers where they can stick their expectations -- do not tell the whole story of the change to the profession.

Consider assistant professors in the 1965-1980 period to the assistant professors of today:

a. assistant professors made much more money -- use any inflation calculator
b. assistant professors were much more numerous -- meaning junior-level service work was spread over more people, and departments had a more youthful camaderie;
c. assistant professors were much less likely to have a spouse with a full-time job -- see (a) above
d. assistant professors were much younger on average; they could delay having children for six years until tenure, if possible, without giving birth at 45;
e. assistant professors wrote dissertations that would not be accepted today, and thus as assistant professors had a lot more work to do to get up to speed than assistant professors today, who wrote more comprehensive dissertations and often have 6-10 years' teaching experience;
f. assistant professors received tenure for a paltry amount of publication, by today's standards

The points comparing 40-year-old professors to public school teachers are good. But the notion that the previous generation of professors made greater sacrifices is a bold-faced and self-serving lie.

23. erikagwen - March 04, 2010 at 09:03 am

boo-hoo Gen X. Grow up.

24. sahmphd - March 04, 2010 at 09:05 am

Post #2 says "However, my experience suggests to me that these are exactly the same faculty who often can't come to work until 9:30 or 10 (because they are taking kids to school -- even though school starts at 8!) and who "must" leave at 2:30 (to pick up selfsame kids at school) and who don't even come to campus on Fridays"

And more than likely it is a female faculty member who needs to attend to her child(ren). This is not 1940 (when the Tenure system was created) when the lifestyle of a (usually) male professor more often than not included a stay-at-home-wife. Women who are mothers should NOT be framed as less-than-professional or as less-than-capable of being top-notch faculy. I KNOW that many of those profs who are moms put their kids to bed and are up into the wee hours of the night grading or writing. Perhaps that same female faculty member got up, got her kids ready for school, dropped them off at 8 and went home to actually eat and perhaps take a shower and look professional.

I do know that there are Dads out there who can relate to the above. However, women (by and large) still are largely responsible for taking care of kids before the age of 5. Unfortunately, if a female has a child in her probationary period she is much less likely to get tenure. Males who become parents at this same time are MORE likely to get tenure.

We cannot talk about the issues presented in this article without talking about gender.

25. fullprof99 - March 04, 2010 at 09:08 am

Fields polled were not identified. In fact if you read the brief Harvard study you'll find that 11 of the 12 repondents were Gen-Xers (so much for Boomers maligning Xers).

Their two greatest concerns seemed to me to be dealing with family (read children) plus career and finding a sense of community. The not working 18 hour days desire was in there, but the interviewees seemed not to have achieved that ideal and to feel that they were continually rushing.

All the above items seem to me more largely related to career stage than to generation. Their desire for community (feeling older faculty once had that) was the only possibly generational difference that I saw, and this may be more nostalgia at second hand than fact. Those in smaller settings found more sense of community, no surprise. One Xer seemed to think Boomers were less involved with students, but I doubt this.

The feeling that Boomers valued quantity of publications rather than quality was expressed. I haven't seen that, but the one real flaw of this piece is that it does not identify the fields of the respondents. Since pub. expectations vary greatly among field, that renders the comments somewhat suspect.

The only negative trait of Xers identified here that might have some basis in my experience is the not stepping up to some challenges because of competing family concerns. I've seen this with several faculty members who haven't been willing to do things such as pick job candidates at the airport, pleading other responsibilities--on a repeated basis. The Xers hate long, non-productive meetings, but I don't think that they're alone in this.

This study is designed to supplement earlier more statistical work. It would have been nice to see more reference to the numbers which the interview responses were intended to supplement.

Over all, there are no real new insights or smoking guns here. The Chronicle's digest really picks out the hours question and ignores the rest, but the origianl piece is a very fast and easy read, so just go look at it yourself following the link at the bottom of the Chronicle article. Over all, the piece paints a picture of Xers as reasonably conscientious and caring faculty members, again no surprise.

26. sahmphd - March 04, 2010 at 09:12 am

I agree with Post #17 re: expectations of junior faculty. The closing statement, "I don't know what I'd do if I had children -- sell them, probably, because I certainly wouldn't have time to actually spend with them" reinforces the points I made in my post above (#24).

27. tridaddy - March 04, 2010 at 09:15 am

Hey, don't forget it's Harvard so it has to be factual. Give me a break. As for the ball and chain mentality, I have been in academia for 30 years (not counting grad. school) and I refuse to allow my job to be all consuming. Just like the majority of you, I taught, provided service, and did my scholarship but I did that the majority of the time on 50 hrs per week. I suspect these 12 interviewees are being a bit unrealistic in their expectations, but perhaps they have witnessed how the generation before them went all out for the golden ring, i.e., materialism, prestige, etc. at the expense of other aspects of life that truly enrich and make a difference, i.e., relationship, and the like.

28. recurver - March 04, 2010 at 09:17 am

Seems to me that the Chronicle has it coming #16--they elected to report results form what must in essence be a pilot study.

Before going on to gradschool I spent some time working in restaurants and I once interviewed for a job managing a restaurant. The job seemed pretty nice: the money was good, the company had a decent reputation, the base schedule was 55 hours. Now, a week a restaurant manager always works more hours than their scheduled hours, often a lot more. I asked about making up hours from one week to the next--say I work my day off one week and want to take an extra day off a few weeks later. The interviewer told me that managers had been fired for not working this minimum schedule even for one week. I didn't take the job. However, it would have paid more than the starting salary for most tenure track positions in my field.
#2 says that only working 50 hours a week is not professional. I say that just because you have been sold a bill of goods don't my friend, don't expect me to buy them from you. K-12 teachers are horribly overworked, as are restaurant managers, as are junior faculty (and adjuncts). The argument is that we live and breath what we do, and that is great if you do: when work doesn't feel like work, how many hours are too many? But, the person who took the job that I turned down would also have said that they love their job, that working in a restaurant is fun and management is rewarding. This is what the interviewer said to me in response to my skepticism, "but when you are committed to your job what's 55 hours a week? We want committed people." People who are too busy to have anything else going on in their life but the restaurant, I added to myself. For such people the cult of their job is all that there is.
There is a better way.

29. burtt - March 04, 2010 at 09:18 am

You Americans do seem awfully in thrall to overwork.

The European view is that long hours = ineffective training or limited competency. Having worked for both US and European Universities, I appreciate affirmation of overwork is the same for US academics as the British remarking about the weather (i.e. it is a conversation opener) but is this Stakhanovite lifestyle really a requirement of your self-affirmation? It does seem to close down many opportunities for a pleasurable existence without offering much more.

30. gertrudescholar - March 04, 2010 at 09:28 am

@erikagwen: really? grow up?! impressive. as an gen x junior faculty member, i do as much as anyone in my department. just faster. that is what quality vs quanity means, no?

and, as for being "professional" @11242283: what does overworking have to do with professionalism? you must break that down for me.

gen x'ers across academia and non-academic fields have dared to insist on a better quality of life. quality of life=heightened productivity. we are doing better, not simply doing more.

31. superdude - March 04, 2010 at 09:35 am

GenX department head here.

All I care about is results. If it takes you only 40 hours a week to do your job well, then fine. I don't expect you to hang around the department chit-chatting. "Face time" is not important to me. If it takes you 60 hours a week to do your job well, then fine. But I don't want you complaining that you're "overworked" compared to the 40 hour guy. The 40-hr guy is better than you are. We all have the same expectations/goals, and some people are able to attain them more easily. Simple as that.

32. jaysanderson - March 04, 2010 at 09:39 am

12 professors and the debate is over. Now the Chronicle is adopting the reality show strategy to provoke people. There IS real news out there--it's not that hard to find. In fact, it would take a considerable effort to avoid the flood of real issues facing higher ed.

33. jaysanderson - March 04, 2010 at 09:45 am

And one more thing--must you print everything that Harvard flushes down the commode? The mere mention of Harvard shouldn't lend respectability to a ridiculously unscientific poll such as this one. The flow of this junk seems to have increased recently, and the Chronicle should have higher standards.

34. dwunsch - March 04, 2010 at 09:45 am

I can't speak for other professions, but IMHO, it's nearly impossible to get tenure in an engineering department at a top-50 university with a 40 hour week. Assistant Professors, take note! I've seen highly intelligent people realize this only too late. I agree with the comment that only results count, not hours. So, look at your results. If they aren't on a pace towards your goals (preferably exceeding the pace for a margin of safety), then work harder.

35. jaysanderson - March 04, 2010 at 09:50 am

Look, I'm sorry Chronicle--I shouldn't have lost my temper with you like that. I haven't had any coffee yet, my college is struggling to stay afloat, and this Blackboard online system is just infuriating. It's not your fault, Chronicle--can we still be friends? How about a coffee--on me!

36. penywize55 - March 04, 2010 at 09:59 am

It is interesting to see different people's reaction to this short blurb about Gen Xers. I think #31 has made the BEST point by far. If one is concerned about results, then who really cares???

Case in point...Inigo Montoya spent his whole life studying fencing and sword-play. Yet, he was defeated (quite easily) by the "man in black" (no not Johnny Cash) who had only 3 years experience as the Dread Pirate Roberts. It's the results that matter, not necessarily how much time you put into it.

Post #24, to reinforce (and add) to your argument, more men are taking such active roles in regards to family care than was typical back in the 40s as well...basically for the same reasons you mention.

37. jschantz - March 04, 2010 at 10:12 am

At what point (and whom should be the spokesperson?), is someone going to explain to this generation that while they are pursuing their balanced life-work, their counterparts in India, China, Russia, and a handful of other countries will be eating their lunch and lowering the standard of living for themselves and their children?

Grow up and get back in your labs!

38. observer001 - March 04, 2010 at 10:12 am

Speaking as one on the cusp between 'X' and 'millenial,' this 'study' is complete twaddle- as are similar 'generational studies' that attempt to sell platitudes and stereotypes as important predictive research to manage 'human resources' in academia.

Anecdotal evidence then, I suppose, is no less predictive than this sad attempt at a survey. And that indicates that there are just as many clashes occuring now between: (a) junior faculty who come from much more prestigious, well-trained and high powered backgrounds, who because of the static job market find themselves at lesser institutions, and (b) the senior faculty at those institutions who are frightened, confused, and resentful because their newly hired junior colleagues proceed to accomplish and publish more in four or five years, seemingly with less effort, than they have in their entire career, thus demonstrating that all their commitment to 'hard work' and 'long hours' amounted to just an effort to appear busy to cover over a lack of ideas and creativity. Both wish they did not have such an embarrassing colleague, with the millenial/genxer desperate to move away from obstructionist colleagues or finally have serious like-minded ones and the seniors desperate to keep the status quo and lesser demands of the (mostly 'teaching') instutions undisturbed since, with lost retirement savings/pensions, they are now counting on such positions as their retirement strategy to carry them until they are finally too infirm to drag themselves to campus.

It sounds harsh, but at my institution at least, we are unfortunately now starting to see senior professors literally wheeled out of their offices on gurneys with equal regularity to those who choose to leave gracefully through retirement. The careers of many of the post-Boomer-generation-researchers have been held hostage by this less qualified demographic glut (referring not to the entire generation, just to the many that were hired without qualifications during the heyday). When they finally die or retire (and if those positions aren't replaced by adjuncts) scholarship in many fields will experience a marked advance since we post-boomers will finally have the resources and venues to make our generations' intellectual contributions, even if our careers will be shorter in years because of the late start.

39. dschrader - March 04, 2010 at 10:13 am

I doubt that there are many other areas of professional employment where people can achieve substantial success working 8:00 to 6:00 for just five days a week. I agree that success in the academic world should not be particularly more time-consuming than success in other professions, but there is also no reason to expect it to be less time-consuming.

40. softshellcrab - March 04, 2010 at 10:22 am

Where's Tatu? Am I on Fanatasy Island? Don't make me laugh. At my school, a large, typical, public university, that pays a good dollar, I wish our tenure track professors would work even 30 hours per week. Hey, 25 would look good. Most of the tenured ones in my department only show up twice a week. The untenured ones are a little better,like maybe 3 days a week. And don't give me that stuff about they are working at home: if they are doing much at home, I have no idea what it is, since they all pretty much just barely meet the publication requirements. And they sure can't attend meetings, or serve students needs very well, from home. What is this fantasy discussion I am reading?

41. ygooding - March 04, 2010 at 10:26 am

When work hours for faculty start resembling the hours worked by career climbers in Corporate America, then will you see the flight from the ivy tower to the corporate tower.

42. gimmeabreak - March 04, 2010 at 10:30 am

The boomers put in long hours for tenure (lifetime employment). If you don't want to do it, take a job as a lecturer - no committee work, no advising, no publishing, no long hours (and no tenure).

43. mcphslibrary - March 04, 2010 at 10:36 am

The young adjuncts who show up, teach, and leave are probably running off to their next teaching gig, where they will do the same. I've been teaching in a stable position for many years, but I used to adjunct. The pay is so low that teaching multiple sections at various institutions, plus perhaps editing or waiting tables on the side, pays the rent. Long hours of grading and course prep means adjuncts are badly underpaid per hour. The carrot of a tenure-track position dangles just out of reach, and most will never get a full-time post. This situation needs to be reformed ASAP. Higher ed is running on the backs on adjuncts.

44. stalnaker - March 04, 2010 at 10:40 am

I'm an assistant professor. I work 40 hours a week. I hated how my advisors in school were absolutely consumed by their work. I have many interests, and I refuse to be chained to the one I get paid for simply because another generation did. I work when I'm here, and I do good things. I have ideas, I work them, I delegate them, and I publish them as I can. I research, I edit, I serve, and I teach. I have glowing teaching evaluations. My research is well-received. Honestly, I never understood why people need 18 hours a day to do their jobs. What did they do with the 8 they had?

45. sav_137 - March 04, 2010 at 10:40 am

Younger tenured professor at major university here...

A lot of the debate here is over stereotype. Are there overworked junior professors? Of course. Are there condescending, status-quo-preserving, older professors that are coasting into retirement? Everywhere. We can find plenty of exceptions to both.

I can you for my part I worked almost constantly for the last ten years, taking no vacation and squeezing in time for my wife and I to have three kids. I never keep track of hours, I just keep going until all the work is done. If my wife had a job I guess we would have hired someone else to raise our kids, because I sure didn't get to.

The real issue here is attracting and keeping good people in academia, at least in my field. I can tell you that today's system is not working for me and I am a high performer in our department. I have been offered an industry job with about 75% more money to work more normal hours at a place where people actually take real vacations. If someone is not doing his or her job, they are fired instead of paid handsomely to leave "early." I'm probably going to take it.

I also know, for my part, I'm so busy chasing funds and writing reports that my students are lucky to get 30 minutes with me every two weeks. This isn't the best way to educate our young people.

46. pgantt - March 04, 2010 at 10:40 am

Areyakiddinme? It's too easy to polarize X and previous generations of scholars as making choices between "face-time" and "efficiency" or "working harder" vs. "working smarter." Success in this or any other profession takes it all. Poor effort equals poor product. And I won't even broach the topic of how other professions--e.g., the taxpayers who provide our salaries--feel about our work ethic. Bury this alleged "research" where it belongs!

47. embeddedmba - March 04, 2010 at 10:43 am

I'm with #12, N=12... come one. Putting down the pilot study now.

Wow, are we (GenX) still the "young" ones? Perhaps all the lounging around with my lazy generationally challenged colleagues is making me feel old. Or jayanderson and I both are in need of coffee... oh, I'm sorry, maybe #18 should add going to Starbucks to the list.

48. stalnaker - March 04, 2010 at 10:44 am

Also, I'm curious where these 60+ hour a week profs work. In my 13 years of school plus my current employment at multiple schools all around the country, I have yet to see a campus that wasn't abandoned by 6pm or empty before 8am, cars and all. Are they all working at home?

49. chgok9dad - March 04, 2010 at 10:59 am

First off, aren't we comparing apples to oranges? Just a generation or two ago, it wasn't as easy to bring all of your writing, data, and files home with you. You can get home around 6-7pm, spend time with the family, and still put in a few hours at home writing, thinking, working. I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night, read email, send off responses and memos, and head back to sleep. Far easier than staying in the lab or office until midnight every night. So I agree, efficiency vs. sheer clock hours is more readily available than a generation ago. Second, teaching vs. research. Doing a good job at teaching by preparing lecture notes (powerpoint slides) takes time. You can do a poorer job if you take less time. For research, with writing, grant preparation, and lab/group management, that takes time, and I can't imagine putting things off because it's 6pm. I also enjoy my research and teaching, and preparing manuscripts and lectures, so I don't turn off at 6pm on Friday and pick it back up on Monday morning at 8am. You do what you need to do, and you try to strike a balance with family, health, and friends.

50. redplum - March 04, 2010 at 11:02 am

Lousy journalism, Chronicle. Cheap way to attract attention.

51. mardel39 - March 04, 2010 at 11:03 am

Youthful professors working too hard? What crap! As many of us are in state supported institutions, think about the number of people working hard and being paid much less paying their taxes in good faith so youthful professors can be paid. I think you owe them and their children alot because you are in a very special position.
As for the tenured people, I am in favor of post-tenure review administered by a faculty committee. I am 70 years old, teach 3 courses, on committees, and I will match my current publication progress with any of our assistant professors puppies. And I have a generous pension from another university. I love my work!!! Both groups need to grow up and get work.

52. penywize55 - March 04, 2010 at 11:03 am

Just for the sake of argument...those complaining about the youngins who are not working 60 hours a week...why aren't you working right now?

53. asymptotic - March 04, 2010 at 11:05 am

Gen X needs better PR people. While I concede that some of our ranks are plain lazy, I posit that much of this misunderstanding about our commitment and work ethic stems from our observations of our parents. Perhaps this isn't generalizable to most or all Gen X'ers, but here are my two cents.

I watched my father work his heart out building a law practice. I always respected his commitment, but work ALWAYS came first. I rarely saw him. Often times he was miserable (and still is, as he refuses to retire), along with being burned out. While most people would applaud this work ethic (and rightfully so, I was always proud of him), I always believed deep down that his priorities were flat out wrong.

Fast forward to now, where our generation is beginning to have families of their own. While I have not yet been blessed with children, I know when I am a dad, I would never put anyone nor anything else above them. I take great pride in my career and put much effort into it. But I know that the thin line between my job and unemployment is a mere budget cut away. You can buy human commitment, but not at the prices they're paying. My sincerest apologies if I did not eloquently state my case here, but I propose laziness is not the issue for must Gen X'ers. I will commit most to those who commit to me as well; the people I love.

54. 11242283 - March 04, 2010 at 11:08 am

#2 here. First, apologies to PT faculty. I didn't mean to malign your hard work. The point I made (badly) is that the difference between being a professional and being a clock-punching worker (like my father) is that the expectation is that you will work until the job is done. Do I like 60 hour weeks? Not at all and I don't think it ought necessarily be the standard all the time -- it's just that sometimes you do have to work that much to keep commitments to students and your field.

I wouldn't know how easy folks had it in the 1965-70 era since I was hired in the mid 90s for under $33K in a high cost city on the east coast.

I am a woman (and just missed being a boomer) and my comments about so few of my Gen X colleagues being on campus much at all was not dig at women only. The last two chairs of my dept have been men who never showed up until 10 and always left by 2 because of "family" obligations. The only point I was trying to make is that whether or not the work week is 40 hours or 60 hours, the work needs doing and I'm sorry to say, a full-time job for which you receive full-time pay ought to treated as such. I was reacting to the notion that people only wanted work between 8 & 6 -- which would be eroded even further if people then took liberal breaks to ferry kids to and fro.

And finally, given the (non) support many institutions (perhaps mostly outside the R1 category) offer to faculty for research -- well, yes I do think quantity expectations are too high in many fields, but whenever I sit on tenure committees my suggestions that we concentrate on the quality of the work is overruled (by colleagues both older and younger than I am). We are often our own worst enemies.

55. oioioi - March 04, 2010 at 11:30 am

Anyone care to speculate on the millenial professoriate?!? Now there's a thought that sets my head a-spin.

56. freedos - March 04, 2010 at 11:37 am

I'm a second year tenure track professor and I only work about 35-40 hours a week. My kids are still young, and I am home by 3:00 two days a week. I don't work much in evenings (just returning emails). I'm getting lots of research done and continually improving my courses. I'm on track to get tenure.

I don't chat with people about my kids. I don't take lunches most days. I only serve on comittees that are efficient. I have student-centered teaching methods, so students do lots of presentations and debates. I also assign a lot of papers, but I grade them right away and I grade them quickly. I collect data during the school year for two empirical studies and then write them up druing the summer.

So I think you can have reasonable hours and still get your work done.

57. rtalbert - March 04, 2010 at 11:38 am

Tenured Gen-X faculty member at a small liberal arts college here. A few comments on this:

(1) I would really love to see a major, nationwide study done on this subject, cutting across faculty and institutional types. I hope COACHE has that on tap for the future and that this n=12 "study" is a foretaste.

(2) This is not the first time the COACHE project has produced data or interviews on this subject. Something similar (it might even be the same study) was done about four years ago, and I blogged about it here:
(Unfortunately comments are closed on that post due to spamming issues, but if there are replies to my comment now, I can re-post it with open comments.) At the time, InsideHigherEd.com picked up the story, and the commentary there was pretty much the same as the commentary here.

(3) My reaction to this study now is essentially the same as it was then: I find the reactions to studies like this hard to comprehend. For me, it is a no-brainer: In situations where two competing commitments come into conflict, and one of them is family, then family wins -- or at least the other commitment has to somehow work with family commitments. My career is great, but making sure I raise my three kids to be decent, intelligent, compassionate people in an environment where they have committed love from their parents is several orders of magnitude more important than having a great career. The moment my job asks me to start working Wall Street hours at the expense of my family time, I will quit, and yes you may write that down and quote me on it. I'd much rather be a barista at Starbuck's with a PhD and a healthy family than to be a so-called productive faculty member whose kids miss him all the time.

(4) The article mentions "efficiency" and that is the key. Before kids, I had virtually no constraints on my time, and so if I wanted to hang around and chit-chat at work, I could always grade and prep in the evenings or on the weekends. When kids came, that safety valve was gone -- I really had to get a week's worth of work done between 8-6 M-F just like everybody else. The secret has been to adopt highly efficient means of managing my time and my tasks; for me it's been David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD) system. I do roughly the same amount of work, perhaps more, than my senior colleagues in the department, but I get it done in 1/2 - 2/3 of the time because I compress out all the dead space and use time efficiently. I wonder how many senior colleagues of mine, who constantly complain of overwork, staying up till midnight to grade, etc. are simply themselves being lazy with their time on the micro scale.

58. sullivab - March 04, 2010 at 11:40 am

I must say that this is quite refreshing: more than 50 posts, and no one has made a comparison to Hitler or brought race into the "discussion". Oh, there is the usual Harvard bashing, but that is a requirement anytime 3 or more academics get together.

It is nice to have some intergenerational warfare for a change. Keep up the good work, you codgers and young pups!

#36, love the Princess Bride reference. You must either have watched it with your young kids, and are thus my age (50), or watched it as a kid, and are one of the young whelps. Either way, enjoy your MLT! (Mutton, lettuce & tomato)

59. greenroof - March 04, 2010 at 11:41 am

As sav 137 writes just a few posts upstream, let's not "stereotype" Gen X (I thought I was the last generation of Baby Boomers, but oh well).

I am an adjunct / staff member with a good chance at a TT job in the very near future. I put in a lot of hours, often early morning to late into the night (actually, yesterday was a 12 hr workday, now that I think about it, and today's shaping up the same)and my wife, who is currently TT, routinely puts in the dogdays. Neither of us mind as long as there is hope, no matter how tenuous, of an eventual payoff - and this is what we are both working as hard as we can for in the good old tradition of 'paying one's dues' during trying economic times.

I am always dubuious about these sorts of "reports," Harvard sanctioned or not, and the sort of soundbites these kinds of news briefs entail, especially when they come to some sort of definition about an entire generation.

60. bmcbull - March 04, 2010 at 11:51 am

perhaps younger professors should visit the university career center and explore alternative employment. after 35 years of professing, hours and productivity expectations have only increased for me and i'm confident they will in the years ahead.

anyone notice we're in a recession?

61. dpn33 - March 04, 2010 at 11:54 am

to chgok9dad: A generation or more ago we were indeed able to work at home. We used this thing called a typewriter, or sometimes a yellow pad to write and scribble our notes and thoughts. We used index cards (which we carried around in card files in the trunk or an overloaded bag). Lots of number crunching was done BY HAND! Not much has changed beyond inconsequential details; just the same old arguments about which generation is "better", harder-working, more dedicated to the "right" values, and more beneficial to society as a whole. Amazing how little changes, really.

62. roxanneb - March 04, 2010 at 11:58 am

Wait, did you all write these thoughtful and inspiring comments on University time? We adjuncts are doing it on personal time.

63. drfunz - March 04, 2010 at 12:07 pm

If what you want to do is be a teacher, then work 40 hours/week. If you want to be a research technician, then work 40 hrs/week. You can master what you need to know to be a teacher in that amount of time and you can gather data in research during an ordinary work week.

Becoming and being a scholar is different. The intellectual life is not confined by the clock. Being at the top of one's field means often working harder than 40 hours a week. Becoming world-known in an academic discipline usually means spending more than "wage-earning time" on one's work.

Balance is very important - but young professors will find that it is struggle. And if your field is science, forget it... you might work 80-100/hr weeks and still there is NO guarantee you will be wildly successful.

Being more efficient will certainly help. But my experience now tells me that some technology can help us to more things that we otherwise would not be able to do (like calculate numbers or draft architectual plans), but does not necessarily make us more efficient. Example: Leaving a voice mail explaining soemthing complex is much faster than writing it all out in an email!

64. rtalbert - March 04, 2010 at 12:14 pm

drfunz @63:

First of all, the dichotomy between teaching and scholarship is false.

Second of all, I'm not sure if you and I share the same view of teaching if you think that teaching issues can be confined to 40 hrs/wk and that teaching is something different than "intellectual" work.

Third, I think the point that's being made here is that younger faculty just don't care about being world-known in an academic discipline. Being a good mother or father is more important to them. Which IMHO is as it should be and a much saner way to live.

65. rtalbert - March 04, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Correction: Younger faculty care less about being "world-known" in academia than they do about their families.

66. nayarit - March 04, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Is this situation similar in other countries in the world? European countries too? Or is the U.S. more of a workaholic nation.

67. physicsprof - March 04, 2010 at 12:35 pm

#65, speak for yourself. People are different and there is no such solid category as "younger faculty".

Gen X tenured professor

68. john_finn - March 04, 2010 at 12:37 pm

#50 is completely right: Why is CHE doing this? It's not representative, the headline is sensationalist, the whole article is one-dimensional and warped - this is simply unprofessional.

There is nothing wrong with stirring up a discussion, but this is not the right way to do it. The situation is bad enough as it is, a lot of us are extremely frustrated, depressed and overworked. This is about relationships, families, paying mortgages, sending your kids to school, having health insurance, etc. These kind of articles are insulting to "babyboomers", "Gen-X" and their families.

Dear CHE: you're not helping.

69. ralphmelnick - March 04, 2010 at 01:03 pm

Since when have the old timers all been working a full time job of 40 hours on-site, or even when you add in those off-site hours given typical level of scholarly output? From observation and conversation with many at different institutions, particularly as the years pass the tenuring point, it seems more the exception than the rule.

70. agnesi319 - March 04, 2010 at 01:51 pm

Working 100hr/week, sleeping 8hr/night and you average less than 2hr/day for family, meals, & recreation. What is the quality and use of knowledge that comes to us from people who have so little time for a real life. What is the worth of an educational institutions, or for that matter a society, that expects this kind of blind slavery to work?

Even Einstein had time for a wife and a chamber quartet.

71. fast_and_bulbous - March 04, 2010 at 02:35 pm

Does the time it takes to post to the Chronicle count as "work?" If so, some of you are overachievers.

72. stalnaker - March 04, 2010 at 02:50 pm

I find the several comments of the nature, "if you're not willing to put in 11 billion hours a week, you're in the wrong career" amusing, because I was thinking the same thing -- if it takes you 11 billion to do what I do in a "normal" week, maybe I'm not the one who needs to see the career counselor.

73. sahmphd - March 04, 2010 at 03:12 pm

Being present on campus IS important. Face-to-face time with students IS important. While the professor who has the office down the hall from mine is at home working, I find myself answering questions of the students who want to see her, talking to potential majors who are getting tours, etc. I could close my door and ignore them but I'm one of those faculty members who tries to be student-centered. This type of work is 'invisible.' Yet it consumes time and it IS valuable. All the while my colleague whose office is down the hall continues typing away at her computer at home. Yes, faculty can work well at home. It would be nice if they appreicated what their colleagues are doing in their (and because of) their absence.

74. maugham - March 04, 2010 at 03:47 pm

There is another dimension that hasn't been mentioned in earlier posts - yes, I often work 60+ hours a week during the academic year, but the trade off is tremendous flexibility; and I don't just mean being able to work those 60+ hours anytime I want during the week. Education is the only field I can think of in which we aren't required to work in summer. Yes, I know, that is when many of us do research, teach summer courses, write, etc - but to some extent, those are choices. Since we have the option of taking up to 3 months "off" during the summer, the trade off is long hours during the academic year. The math usually works out so that most of us work roughly the same hours as those with year round 9-5 jobs.

Oh, and for the record, much as I abhor the label, I am Gen X, earned tenure and gave it up to start over at a new institution. I share the unease at the steady creep in tenure requirements, but on the hours front all I can say is that a) this is the job we chose; and b) our long hours during the academic year are at least in part due to our collective desire to keep our breaks free.

75. 11142568 - March 04, 2010 at 04:41 pm

I am from an older generation and have been at my college for 48 years. I always worked hard. I always thought of what I did as a calling. I suspect those who lead in any profession or industry have a similar approach though they might describe it differently. Perhaps things might be different in large universities, but in small colleges such as where I work, the success of the enterprise depends on a critical mass of people working very hard, pitching in and making things go. I certainly always noted that there were those who did less. But that hardly seemed to be a model way to go about one's professional life.

Peter H. Baker

76. fergbutt - March 04, 2010 at 04:43 pm

When I used to work as an associate dean in a large college of arts & sciences, I remember gagging when faculty would regularly self-report working 60 hours a week. I knew them, saw them arrive late and leave early, met them in the mall, watched them on the tennis courts, and knew that their workload was largely imaginary. If my institution had only allowed more than 60 hours per week, many would have claimed it. 6-10 contact hours plus 5 office hours and at least one so-called "research day" that never led to many publications, does not equal 60. Maybe the new generation is just more honest.

77. sugaree - March 04, 2010 at 04:59 pm

I'm shocked - just shocked, I tell you - at such generational differences. Self-righteous boomer blowhards shaking their fists at those damn kids to get off the lawn (or at least spend 60+ hours/week mowing it). Slacker-whining from GenXers? I never thought I'd see that day.


78. amnirov - March 04, 2010 at 05:01 pm

Yet another stupid article attempting to depict Gen X as slack. The truth of the matter is entirely the reverse. Gen X works way harder than the Baby Boomers ever did.

79. actlibrary - March 04, 2010 at 05:14 pm

#2: 11242283,

Oh, how contrite you are about what it means to be a professionl(as in the noun) in higher education. There are many professionals -- and yes, those with master's degrees -- working in higher education who well earn $50,000 + a year who mostly work only during standard business hours. Yes, they are not faculty and that;s a good thing! For all the complaining that the number of tenured positions are declining and that there are not enough adjunct jobs to go around for the leftovers should have thought about that before earning a doctorate degree in order to work in higher education.

80. raincross - March 04, 2010 at 05:22 pm

79 comments in a day (so far). This topic obviously provokes strong emotional responses.

Life is not fair. Some people are lucky, the rest of us have to work hard to get what we want. Everyone needs to align their effort with their goals. If they don't, they need to be happy with the rewards that are commensurate with the effort they're willing to expend. This is not about generations; there have always been people who are unwilling to work hard but feel entitled to all that life has to offer. I've had my fill of victims. If you don't like what you're doing or how you're being rewarded, go do something else.

81. timewaster123 - March 04, 2010 at 06:26 pm

Lots of interesting comments on either side. I do think that expectations about answering emails (and attendant induced ADD) happen to create a large feeling of overwork. Plus internet = temptation to look at blogs and whatnot, whereas slacking off in the past may have involved deeper reading of some beloved journal articles or whatnot.

82. what_else_can_i_do - March 04, 2010 at 06:38 pm

Then they need to go find a different line of work.

83. bitnetted - March 04, 2010 at 06:44 pm

This is a ridiculous generalization. My GenX colleagues work constantly. The line between home and work life is almost invisible. Perhaps that's why they pine for a "day job" where they can go home at 6 and be done with it...instead of being back at work again at 8 (pm!) when they do leave by 6.

84. rhetoricat - March 04, 2010 at 06:56 pm

In keeping with the expectations that I set for my students (when contributing to online discussions read all comments and try to add something new to the discussion), I've now spent probably too much time reading this. While I'm not sure that I can say anything that is entirely new, I do feel compelled to post my opinion.

I am a Gen-Xer preparing to start my first job as a TT professor. As someone who has worked doggedly throughout my educational career (BA, two Master's degrees and now a PhD) while often working additional jobs to supplement my income, I am deeply offended by the assumption that GenXers are "slackers." In addition, I'm appalled by some of the comments here. As individuals in higher education (I'm assuming that at least the majority of commenters here are), we have been trained to think critically and hopefully, to question blanket assumptions such as the GenX slacker stereotype. It seems that people have heard this claim so often (mostly in mainstream media) that they have stopped questioning its accuracy. It most certainly is not an accurate representation of me.

I agree with those who have brought up the problems of a culture that values deprivation in the service of success. My obsession with work has frequently been to the detriment of my health and relationships. I do not say this as a point of pride (though I have in the past) but to express the complexity of our culture and levels of dedication to the professional and personal, one often coming at the expense of the other. I posted a blog entry about this as part of a discussion of the Huntsville shootings. Although it makes me a little nervous to provide more information about my identity, the entry can be found here: http://www.catshuler.com/blog/2010/02/19/comments-on-the-huntsville-tragedy/.

One last point: I am saddened by this continued encouragement of intergenerational conflict. I firmly believe that encouraging this kind of competitiveness is never a good idea, never productive, and is, in fact, damaging to our ability to learn from one another. Perhaps we should consider productivity in terms of knowledge-sharing, compassion, and willingness to communicate? Rather than relying on assumptions and what appears on the surface, we should actually dig deeper, get to know the supposed "slacker" and "deadwood," and make our assessment based on that person rather than what is purported to be the quality of the arbitrary group that they have been assigned.

85. reggiejayne - March 04, 2010 at 07:03 pm

WOW, seriously? A WHOLE dozen faculty members feel this way?

My Freshmen use more sources then that...

86. professorxyz - March 04, 2010 at 09:12 pm

60. bmcbull - March 04, 2010 at 11:51 am
"perhaps younger professors should visit the university career center and explore alternative employment."

Perhaps you baby-boomers should take a retirement seminar so you can finally retire.

87. mstreen - March 04, 2010 at 09:18 pm

In fifteen minutes I will go to bed..during my school day ... I did not have a chance to read the Chronicle online ...I was working - teaching three classes, interacting with students, grading papers, planning lessons, attending a dept. meeting. I fail to understand how you have time to read this article and comment when you should be working (especially if you are supported by my tax dollars at a state school or my private donations at a private school)...
Reading the Chronicle is not part of any teaching job description that I know of ... unless you have time to kill. Look at the times posted for your comments.

88. cfox53 - March 04, 2010 at 09:29 pm

I haven't read all the comments but the early ones sound like fraternity hazing - i.e., why shouldn't they wok 80 hours - PLEASE - yes we are all doing it but really, it takes a toll on our health, our families, our work - many of us entered the academy to live a life of the mind, a life of considered reflection, and we got the equivalent of a teaching/research factory job. DO you really want to suggest that we, as faculty, SHOULD be working 60-70-80/hs per week for 50 weeks - Are we really doing our jobs the best we can under these circumstances - and for the pittance we are paid as faculty MY GOD people, an RN with an associate degree is paid more per hour than a decently paid TT asst prof (no offense to RNs but the training and education levels are widely disparate and one would expect that to show up in some real way).

Forget what we all went through - let have a serious discussion about what a TT position really should accomplish and what the position should look like. BTW - I entered the academy in 1977 and am current an assoc dean who still teaches and does scholarship.

89. sciencewhiz - March 04, 2010 at 09:44 pm

As part of Generation X, let me wax poetic here. We all pine for the things we didn't have. Our fathers and mothers were fully dedicated to companies and worked many long, hard years there only to be laid off when they became (cough), "less productive" (please read, "too old"). They struggled to give us great lives (which we have had!!!) and wanted better for us than what they had. Yet, in turn, we became the first generation of latchkey kids because they didn't have the opportunity to pick us up from school and didn't always have the time to go to our activities (yes, I can hear some of you saying, "wa, wa, wa"). Now, all grown up, we want for our children what we didn't have (funny how that works). We want them to feel that they are our priority and, to many of us, that means picking them up from school and going to their activities. Additionally, commitment to a profession/university can be difficult when you have witnessed the betrayal that your parents felt when they were let go.

Despite all of this, I know I work about 60-80 hours a week but it's not in the classical sense (and, no, I am not online shopping). I don't clock into an office and sit there for 8 hours (truly, though, I don't remember any of my professors being around that much when I was a student). With the electronic age, my discussions with students are not limited by time or space. We routinely talk in the evening, on weekends or sometimes very early mornings. The large grant that I run can be done online with occasional face-to-face meetings (but even that can be done online, if I wanted). Just like our students, we live very different lives but they are lives that work for us.

In the end, I think it is to each his/her own. No matter your age, developing your professional career should include many choices that work with your personal life and your career. Making one choice over the other doesn't mean you are working harder or more dedicated; you just work differently and that is all.

Now, if you decide to comment, can you please be polite? I've seen better netiquette practiced by my undergraduate students than on these forums.

90. newyorkyankees - March 04, 2010 at 10:35 pm

I've been on both sides; I've had the 60-80 hour workweeks in the corporate world where I've practically had a gun to my head every second of every day. I can't speak for anyone but myself here: I cannot work under that kind of pressure, and refuse to ever again. When I graduated from law school and landed in academia, the difference was like night and day in the sense that I don't feel nearly as much pressure compared to the corporate world. Not only that, I work just as hard, if not harder, in academia than I did in the corporate world. The difference is that I enjoy my teaching job a lot more than I ever did in the corporate rat race. The bottom line is that if one enjoys what he does for a living, it really isn't work, per se, no matter how many hours one spends on the job.

91. lexisaro - March 05, 2010 at 01:37 am

I am at the tail end of this group but it applies to me. Unlike my predecessors, I do work more limited hours from the get go and have had a great publishing career and made it to full five years after tenure. I'm not lazy, I just work differently. I actually want to spend time with my kids so I had to be home by 5. I cut out lunches beyond my desk. I cut out schmoozing. I put some of my salary into a research account to hire help with mundane tasks. I publish perhaps fewer, but high quality papers, while also working hard on my classes and administrative responsibilities.

The older folks I see who spend way more time in their office, seem to live there. I'm not always sure exactly what they are doing but they aren't publishgin more. You can work AND have a life, you just have to be more selective about how you spend your time.

92. performance_expert - March 05, 2010 at 06:14 am

I'm going to tell you what busy is. Busy is having a rotting dripping fruit salad in a bag in the back seat of the car because you forgot to eat it to stay healthy and then, do not have the care to remove it since the cold weather has prevented it from permeating. This sucks, this infinite demand propaganda based work. Get some spine. The best comment on here is "I refuse to..." Summon Bartleby.

93. mainiac - March 05, 2010 at 06:48 am

There are always fools in the circus of American culture who question the obsessive (Protestant) work "ethic." I sure as hell did in the late seventies NYC when I dumped a corporate job, sold everything and moved to Key West. After fishing for my sanity and getting it back, I later moved back to the mainland and took graduate degrees.

Horrifically, corporatized academic culture is now similar to the hell I abandoned decades ago.

94. rickinchina09 - March 05, 2010 at 07:50 am

I'm delighted to see an article about this basic concern of quality of life printed here. Kudos to Generation X from this Baby Boomer. I have long felt pity for those colleagues who work tirelessly--or should I say until they are more than tired--at their academic duties. I feel nothing but sympathy for their spouses and children. As for those who impose long hours on them, I have nothing but loathing.

By the way, the most work-obsessed academic culture I have encountered is in East Asia: South Korea and Hong Kong, to be specific. The latter in particular has taken to "office culture" to a perverted extreme at the expense of all other life considerations.

95. ex_ag - March 05, 2010 at 08:21 am

How many times, in my short academic career of only 8 years, have I seen old, retired professors shuffling through the halls of their former institutions whiling away their remaining hours like dogs having returned to their vomit? Far too often. And every single one of them wandered back because they had no spouses, they had no family, they had no outside interests, they had nothing outside of the jobs to which they devoted themselves.

For every one of them, the groundwork for their end-of-life tragedy was sown with long hours at the office and near-total neglect of every other part of their lives.

I'm more than happy to teach, I'm more than happy to research, I'm more than happy to do my job. But I'm not going to end up one of those ghosts roaming the hall as an object of pity and discomfort to all around me. There really ARE more important things.

96. jpjones1963 - March 05, 2010 at 10:13 am

What does the life of a "scholar" look like? At what point does one turn it off? Am I working too much if I have great ideas in the shower and run to the computer wet so I can get those ideas on the screen? Am I working too hard by having theoretical and philosophical debates with my wife over dinner about what I've been thinking about in my writing? Is writing on the weekend work or something else? What does being a SCHOLAR mean? Am I not a scholar if I open a lovely microbrew every day at 5 p.m.? Seems this all seems a little black and white to me (though I do loves myself some good boomer-bashing ;-).

97. pbowne - March 05, 2010 at 12:06 pm

I don't see this as a generational difference in my world - the 4-year liberal arts college world. My parents taught in liberal arts colleges and their rule was '8 hours for work, 8 hours for sleep, and 8 hours for family.'

It might be another story for faculty at R1 institutions, though I'm not sure. I attended one where faculty were on campus at all hours and on all holidays, and another where I could go all weekend without seeing a single faculty member. Oddly enough, the first was the less competitive of the two.

98. hobbit - March 05, 2010 at 12:59 pm

#96 is absolutely right. The statement is so important that I am repeating it here:

"How many times, in my short academic career of only 8 years, have I seen old, retired professors shuffling through the halls of their former institutions whiling away their remaining hours like dogs having returned to their vomit? Far too often. And every single one of them wandered back because they had no spouses, they had no family, they had no outside interests, they had nothing outside of the jobs to which they devoted themselves.

For every one of them, the groundwork for their end-of-life tragedy was sown with long hours at the office and near-total neglect of every other part of their lives."

It's not just academia, as #90 newyorkyankees writes. Everywhere, the ideal of working incessantly is touted as the model for dedication and productivity. Meanwhile, our health and the welfare of our families goes to hell in a handbasket because no one can manage the increasingly intolerable level demands on one's time. Instead of a debate of boomers vs. Gen X, Y, or Millenials, we need to have a discussion on creating a sustainable lifestyle, because if the current trends continue, we are headed right down the rabbit hole.

99. willismg - March 05, 2010 at 02:30 pm

If stereotypes weren't true, they wouldn't persist... That's LOGIC (ala Alice in Wonderland...)

100. robertkase51 - March 05, 2010 at 02:48 pm

I find it interesting that with everyone here so overworked, we all had time to repond to this swill.

101. brainbet - March 05, 2010 at 03:44 pm

It's sad that so many scholars experience their profession as burdensome work to be limited. If you are fascinated by learning and writing in a field, you look forward to it. It's not work.

102. tallenc - March 05, 2010 at 11:15 pm

@robertkase51: Procrastination is a beautiful thing, isn't it?...and yet, perhaps support for the gen-x position...

103. zefelius - March 06, 2010 at 04:10 am

I'm merely a lecturer, and I don't know how some of you guys do your work in less than 70 hours per week. I think my addition looks something like this:

10 hours grading
15 hours prep
3 hours office hours
12 hours in the classroom
+30 hours research and writing

= 70 hours at least per week

I suppose if I taught that which I researched I could
save time, but I would guess that tt faculty have other
commitments, such as meetings and advising, which would
add to the time saved. So I'm not sure how you guys do
it! The 30 hours for research seems reasonable to me
as that's just 4 hours of reading or writing each night,
which isn't that much time for getting through difficult
texts along the lines of Derrida or Kant (I'm in philosophy).

50 hours would be impossible for me!!

104. zefelius - March 06, 2010 at 04:16 am


The 10 hours of grading is based on approximately 80 papers every few weeks. If it takes at least 20 minutes to read and comment on a paper, that adds up to almost 27 hours. Divide that by 3 and I get 9 hours per week, plus other participation assigments.

105. zefelius - March 06, 2010 at 04:20 am

Out of curiosity I just divided my salary by hours worked per year and it's $10.57 per hour. Not bad! ;)

106. lukasforbes - March 06, 2010 at 09:52 am

Tenured prof here, regional public U. Have been here and an R1.

People who say they work 60-80 hours are full of you know what. a 60 hour work week means that person is WORKING at 7am (not in their car or commuting), and stays til 6pm (not commuting home), with a lunch break. Thats 50 hours. Then, that same personw works 7 to 6pm on saturday. that gets you to 60 hours.

You find me a professor who works those hours and it will be the first. Go to any University in the country at 7am or 6pm and tell me what you hear besides crickets.

People like to throw around "80 hour work weeks" and include time commuting, on break, etc.... and even then they end up 20 hours short.

Finally, this is 2010. People don't need to be "in their office" to get work done. In fact, I would easily argue that you get more done in your house than you do in your distracted office.

107. murphyward - March 06, 2010 at 12:45 pm

I hate it when productivity is equated with sitting in your office. This belief seems to me more prevalent with older faculty. I'm an X-er, and I do two-thirds of my work--grading, prepping for class, writing e-mails--from home. I have a generous number of office hours, and they're productive in terms of visits from students, who know I'm not sitting in my office all the time and therefore plan accordingly (or they make an appointment for a non-office hour meeting).

I would suggest that one can usually get more work done away from the office, and particularly in the afternoon hours, when some of the less motivated faculty members kill time by dropping by to gossip about campus goings-on? Quite frankly, the "office sitters" are often the worst in terms of writing and publishing research. And why is it that many of these folks don't seem to get as many student visitors as those faculty members who are in their officers on a more limited basis?

108. knmys - March 06, 2010 at 04:27 pm

As a member of Gen X, and a faculty member, I can state with certainty that 100% of the 1 Gen X faculty I polled believe this article (and the associated research) is complete bunk. I'd either send the researchers back to research design classes, or tell them to shut the hell up until they have real results.

109. zefelius - March 06, 2010 at 08:47 pm


I disagree with the statement that "People who say they work 60-80 hours are full of you know what."

As I detailed above, I don't know how it could be done otherwise. I'm a lecturer right now who teaches 3 classes, and those classes in themselves take up 12 hours per week. Since I teach new material every year (otherwise I feel that I would only be familiar with a few works of philosophy if I didn't branch out), this means my prep time is about 15 hours a week. To me that makes sense, since I prep for about 60 pages of material for those 3 classes (2 preps) and that 60 pages can be difficult (as in, how does Kant truly distinguish between understanding and reason, and what exactly does Kierkegaard mean by the teleological suspension of the ethical?). So with office hours, already that's 30 hours. And grading 80 papers every few weeks actually does take at least 10 hours per week as I spend at least 20 minutes on each paper. Add another 30 hours for research and writing, and you easily have 70 hours---even during the summer since that's when I hope most of us add more to the research load.

I'm truly amazed that others do it in less, but my hunch is that people take shortcuts. To me it seems odd that professors may very well be working less hours than us lecturers.

110. chron7 - March 06, 2010 at 11:31 pm

18 hour days for 7 days a week? What are we, martyrs? Will someone erect a statue in our name when we die?

Will I ever be paid the salary of a corporate CEO? No. Will I commit myself to my work? Yes. Will I sacrifice everything for my job? It'll be a fun ride to tenure review but, no, I'd never sacrifice my life for my job. And there are always other options.

111. academentia - March 07, 2010 at 12:47 pm

I can't believe how many comments there are on this article in which only 12 individuals were interviewed. Well, here's what I have seen: some younger scholars are opting for families and not publishing enough and are not getting tenure--mostly women, of course;and the younger ones are not running around the department trying to get everything done, but they are oh so much more efficient with technology, and it is obviously helping them to get their prep done and organized so it can be reused. Are boomers jealous? (I am taking into consideration here that some of us, me included, see powerpoint as being of limited use in a classroom.) Here's what I have heard (from a dean): the younger ones come in demanding more and expecting more for nothing, and they are arrogant. That comment made me a bit nervous: I would hate to have a bunch of younger scholars taking for free all of the chintzy merit benefits that the college offers, but, likewise, I would hate to see the dean's attitude be converted into action against young colleagues. Younger colleagues need to follow a strategy of using their energy to complement, not compete with, their boomer colleagues, and boomer colleagues should try to avoid engaging in the destruction of younger colleagues. And yes, we in the humanities are being dumped on with more and more work. Now its advising. We are supposed to "mentor" 34 students a year in staying focused so that they can graduate.

112. violetx - March 07, 2010 at 09:06 pm

This "gen-x'ers are lazy" attack has been going on for twenty years, ridiculous and it needs to stop. I am 41 yr old Gen X, tenured for 7 yrs, teaching for 15. I try not to be on campus unless I am in meetings, office hours, or teaching. As all of my teaching resources and support staff have cut, there are far too many distractions to get any curriclum work, course prep, or grading done on campus. Some days I may arrive at campus at 10 am and leave at 3, but I tend to be on my computer continuously all day starting at 7:30am and when things are really rough till 2 am . Weekends, I work between birthday parties and soccer games . On campus time is flexible but this gen-x tenured faculty/mom is never "really" off. We work differently it is important to recognize that as the boomers are quickly retiring.

113. donkulasiri - March 08, 2010 at 09:31 am

If you are happy and healthy by working 80 hours a week, do it!
It is our time and our lives. If working as a professor makes you unhappy, unhealthy and uncaring sob, get out of it because life offers so much beauty and happiness. If you love what you do, do we have this debate?

114. sahmphd - March 08, 2010 at 09:43 am

Post #107 states, "Quite frankly, the "office sitters" are often the worst in terms of writing and publishing research. And why is it that many of these folks don't seem to get as many student visitors as those faculty members who are in their officers on a more limited basis?"

My experience is that faculty in their offices DO get plenty of student visitors!! Furthermore, students see these folks as committed faculty members. A very good student told me (in all sincerity) that she thought someone in the department (A Full Prof ) was an adjunct. Why? Because that prof is rarely on campus. This prof publishes more than anyone in the department. Fine. But if we all did this, who would be around for the students??

115. lexalexander - March 08, 2010 at 10:49 am

In the past 25 years, the typical American work week has increased from slightly over 40 hours per week to slightly over 50. That's an additional work week per month, every month. And Americans already worked more hours, with fewer vacations, than pretty much anyone else in Western industrialized democracies.

Also, are you getting enough sleep? Probably not, and that's a real problem: "... an accumulated sleep debt is potentially as detrimental to health as poor nutrition or a sedentary lifestyle. It may be as bad as smoking.”

There's a bigger issue, and a much bigger problem, here.

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