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Author Topic: NY Times Opinion Roundup on "Professors who won't retire"  (Read 74403 times)
juvenal
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Juvenal


« Reply #15 on: August 16, 2010, 3:56:05 PM »

Ran into my DH this AM, while in at my office updating/tweaking my syllabus, consulting with a (younger) faculty member about proper references to the available edition(s) of our "Tiffany Text," trying to make sure there are no overlaps of finals in lecture with finals in labs, and happened to mention to said DH that it was less than a month until I would be able to collect full SS.

The DH said, "Don't you DARE retire!  The headaches I go through trying to justify replacements for TT lines!"  Well, for a moment I felt cherished; then I realized that, to the DH, my continued presence in the classroom was just the lesser of two evils.  Sigh.

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mad_doctor
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« Reply #16 on: August 16, 2010, 4:06:36 PM »

The DH said, "Don't you DARE retire!  The headaches I go through trying to justify replacements for TT lines!"  Well, for a moment I felt cherished; then I realized that, to the DH, my continued presence in the classroom was just the lesser of two evils.  Sigh.

You've wanted all your life to stick it to the man.  So...  STICK IT TO THE MAN!
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terpsichore
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« Reply #17 on: August 16, 2010, 4:53:09 PM »

1) Taylor has a good point, namely that mandatory retirement was abolished only in 1994.  Two of my grad school profs hit 70 that year and had to go, whereas people just a year or two younger stayed for many years longer, despite, ahem, well...

2)Taylor has another good point that most people in their 70s are not exactly lighting the world on fire with respect to either their teaching or scholarly performance.  If they did not have tenure they way almost no other profession gets, they would have to go.

3) Most senior baby boom profs today seem to want it both ways-- they were helped by mandatory retirement (let alone vastly easier to obtain tenure, fewer adjuncts, etc.) when they were coming up, but now they do not want to return the favor to their juniors.

4) There IS something to be said for the notion that scholars in any given professional field have some responsibility to their fields.  Several disciplines are very moribund these days.

I agree that scholars have some responsibility to their fields. What is the best way to meet that responsibility? If retiring means the position is gone forever, then it does the field and the department no good. Universities might have better luck getting senior faculty to retire if they offered some incentives and some assurance that the discipline would continue. A university might let a senior professor go to half-time and turn the other half into a tenure-track line. Or there may be other ways to handle it. Bashing senior professors while threatening retirement plans AND cutting back on faculty lines isn't likely to make anyone want to cooperate.
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duchess_of_malfi
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« Reply #18 on: August 16, 2010, 5:06:25 PM »

I am trying to believe that faculty don't retire mainly because they are afraid their lines will be eliminated, but I just don't have that much credulity.  Having observed a lot of them who do and don't retire, in my opinion, they don't retire for the same reasons other people don't retire--they enjoy working and they like the income.  And they have that right.  I think they are one of the best parts of the culture of university life, but that's a matter of personal taste as much as seeing their value, I suppose.

If there is a problem with unproductive faculty, mandatory retirement is not going to answer it.  There are a lot of years between tenure and 65 or 70.  But faculty salaries of all kinds, earned by faculty of every type and age, are not the reason for rising university costs, and mandatory retirement would not slow down the pace of the race toward the "Let's find the lowest cost for our highest-value product" model of higher education.  This is a junk issue and I can't believe the NYT spends time on it.  They need an old-fashioned Marxist in these debates to spice things up.  The increased surplus value created by the gap between rising tuition, and stagnant faculty salaries and increased use of contingent labor, goes somewhere, and we've talked many times about where.  Follow the money.
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fiona
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« Reply #19 on: August 16, 2010, 5:11:51 PM »

We've already lost the coverage of some major fields because of retirements. We can't hire anyone on tenure track right now, so people are teaching subjects they haven't studied since their own grad school days--or the subjects just aren't taught.

The most productive (publishing and teaching) faculty in my department are people over 50.

The Fiona

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The Fiona or Them Fionæ or Fiona the Sublime

Professor of Thread Killing, Fiork University
erzuliefreda
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« Reply #20 on: August 16, 2010, 8:14:32 PM »

Some of my colleagues refuse to retire because they love the job. Others still have mortgages to pay, even in their 70s.
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neutralname
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« Reply #21 on: August 16, 2010, 9:20:58 PM »

People are waiting until the have accumulated $1 Million in their TIAA-CREFs.  If it takes them till they are 80, so be it.
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geonerd
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Do not take the bait.


« Reply #22 on: August 16, 2010, 10:03:53 PM »

I feel the same way about Fortune 500 CEOs, US senators, congressman, supreme court justices, 60 Minutes commentators, orchestra conductors, brain surgeons, and airline pilots. Just frickin' retire already and give some newbies a chance.

\snark off

Why should anyone be subjected to an arbitrary retirement age if they can still do their job well and want to continue working?  Like any profession, ability, performance and commitment vary tremendously for each individual, with age as one very minor factor.
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fiona
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« Reply #23 on: August 17, 2010, 12:33:24 PM »

If we had to retire when we lost our youthful beauty, as most movie stars do, academic personages would be in big trouble.

The Fiona
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The Fiona or Them Fionæ or Fiona the Sublime

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spork
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« Reply #24 on: August 17, 2010, 1:21:58 PM »

Rojas points out the real problem.

This is Taylor's second anti-tenure appearance on this NYT blog.  Good for promoting his book, but I wonder if he'll retire at age 70 or if as a chair he's trying to get rid of senior tenured faculty in his own department.

May's blurb is the worst written one of them all, unfortunately.

I think the NYT needs to stop trying to reinvent itself as a tonier establishment version of The Huffington Post.
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johnr
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« Reply #25 on: August 17, 2010, 2:16:21 PM »

If we had to retire when we lost our youthful beauty, as most movie stars do, academic personages would be in big trouble.

The Fiona

I never would have been hired in the first place.
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conjugate
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« Reply #26 on: August 17, 2010, 3:04:28 PM »

Jealous?  If you can believe it, my dept. chair gave me the best evaluation in the department this year, and he specifically commented on my superior level of productivity, johnr.  Maybe you need to get out more often?  Or, take a salary cut and make a lifestyle change?

No, not jealous, just very relieved that you're not in my department. If I want your advice regarding my lifestyle, I'll PM you, but don't hold your breath.  You do no research, publish nothing, you don't advise any students, and you're the most productive member or your department?  Odd. 

So, I think JohnR's point is that you appeared to be saying that you did no research when you wrote this:
quote author=mad_doctor link=topic=71177.msg1664339#msg1664339 date=1281800409]
I've had moments like that, fedscholar, except without the hair.  You have to find the right university and department, since not all are alike.  My current job at QBSU is very much like your picture, except we do have some episodes of "responsibility".  In general, I teach, hold my office hours, the occasional committee (sometimes held by email), and that's about it.  You may have to sacrifice some salary to find a place like that - my current salary is about what it was ten years ago when I was just beginning my career.

Who said anything about no research?  That's a given around here, johnr.  Both of my papers last year were on my department's A-list (admittedly a little more inclusive than the average for my field), and were the first A-list papers in my department for at least six or seven years, and I have another one about to be accepted for this year.  I advise students during my office hours - isn't that what office hours are for?  I was even an external dissertation advisor for a former colleague who just finished hu's own Ph.D. last year.  The only odd thing here is why you begrudge me a really great job, and why you would be so eager to throw someone like that in your department under the bus?  Do you have one of those dysfunctional departments we're always talking about around here?
[/quote]

Presumably, he felt your "that's about it" meant "no research," and presumably you didn't mean that at all.  Am I right in this?

Of course, far be it from me to interfere with what may turn into a nice entertaining knock-down drag-out brawl, but I was just curious.  My own job requires more teaching, more committee work, and more advisement; research and publishing is more or less for my own enjoyment, rather than as a job requirement.  In any case, I'll retire when they pry my dry-erase marker from my cold dead fingers, or something like that.  There is a nice Chronicle article on the subject of what kind of professor is "deadwood," and whether such people are really as useless as they may appear.
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tolerantly
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« Reply #27 on: August 17, 2010, 3:08:02 PM »

I feel like I'm in the twilight zone.  In an earlier post you bragged about your job thusly:

I've had moments like that, fedscholar, except without the hair.  You have to find the right university and department, since not all are alike.  My current job at QBSU is very much like your picture, except we do have some episodes of "responsibility".  In general, I teach, hold my office hours, the occasional committee (sometimes held by email), and that's about it.  You may have to sacrifice some salary to find a place like that - my current salary is about what it was ten years ago when I was just beginning my career.


And that's not out of context, see here:
http://chronicle.com/forums/index.php/topic,71177.msg1664339.html#msg1664339

Two different stories, one mad doctor.

Hoisted on your own petard. It's impossible to believe anything you write.  

Well, if you're in the Twilight Zone now, you're really going to take a trip when I tell you that I'm sitting on a job offer for a 2/1 job at a really great overseas research university, where I'll be making more money and working only half as hard as I am now.  What can I say? 


Oh, you can say and write anything that you want, regardless of the truth.  I've shown that quite clearly here.


What is your problem?
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terpsichore
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« Reply #28 on: August 17, 2010, 3:16:07 PM »

If we had to retire when we lost our youthful beauty, as most movie stars do, academic personages would be in big trouble.

The Fiona

The debate, such as it is, seems to be about a presumed loss of the 'youthful beauty' of the mind. Pieces like those in the NY Times make the assumption that all faculty beyond a certain age are deadwood, that they are not doing research, not teaching well, and generally not contributing to the life of the university or college. My observation is the opposite. I see very little real deadwood among the faculty I know. What I do see is that the role of tenured faculty often evolves over the course of a career. An individual's view of what is an important contribution sometimes expands. I know faculty who scale back their research in favor of more teaching and writing textbooks, others who become passionate about the activities that NSF calls "broader impacts" and dedicate the time they formerly committed to research to mentoring students, or working with high school teachers, or bringing research to the general public, and others who have taken on time-consuming and emotionally draining administrative tasks. These colleagues are only able to do this because they have tenure; if they were evaluated every year or two on a narrow definition of ‘research productivity’ based on grants and publications, they would be shown the door.

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conjugate
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Tends to have warped sense of humor


« Reply #29 on: August 17, 2010, 3:18:58 PM »

Well, cr@p.  I screwed up the quotes.

Jealous?  If you can believe it, my dept. chair gave me the best evaluation in the department this year, and he specifically commented on my superior level of productivity, johnr.  Maybe you need to get out more often?  Or, take a salary cut and make a lifestyle change?

No, not jealous, just very relieved that you're not in my department. If I want your advice regarding my lifestyle, I'll PM you, but don't hold your breath.  You do no research, publish nothing, you don't advise any students, and you're the most productive member or your department?  Odd. 

Who said anything about no research?  That's a given around here, johnr.  Both of my papers last year were on my department's A-list (admittedly a little more inclusive than the average for my field), and were the first A-list papers in my department for at least six or seven years, and I have another one about to be accepted for this year.  I advise students during my office hours - isn't that what office hours are for?  I was even an external dissertation advisor for a former colleague who just finished hu's own Ph.D. last year.  The only odd thing here is why you begrudge me a really great job, and why you would be so eager to throw someone like that in your department under the bus?  Do you have one of those dysfunctional departments we're always talking about around here?

So, I think JohnR's point is that you appeared to be saying that you did no research when you wrote this:
I've had moments like that, fedscholar, except without the hair.  You have to find the right university and department, since not all are alike.  My current job at QBSU is very much like your picture, except we do have some episodes of "responsibility".  In general, I teach, hold my office hours, the occasional committee (sometimes held by email), and that's about it.  You may have to sacrifice some salary to find a place like that - my current salary is about what it was ten years ago when I was just beginning my career.


Presumably, he felt your "that's about it" meant "no research," and presumably you didn't mean that at all.  Am I right in this?

Of course, far be it from me to interfere with what may turn into a nice entertaining knock-down drag-out brawl, but I was just curious.  My own job requires more teaching, more committee work, and more advisement; research and publishing is more or less for my own enjoyment, rather than as a job requirement.  In any case, I'll retire when they pry my dry-erase marker from my cold dead fingers, or something like that.  There is a nice Chronicle article on the subject of what kind of professor is "deadwood," and whether such people are really as useless as they may appear.

There.  That's what I meant.  Sorry about that.
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Unfortunately, I think conjugate gives good advice.
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