Monday, August 16, 2010

Professors and retirement and the incoming blizzard

So over at the NYT, which seems to have given up real reporting in favor of being Mark C. (gotta remember the C.) Taylor's blog, there is this headline: Professors who won't retire.  There's the usual yawn-worthy submissions by the one who is such a good citizen he or she will voluntarily make room for the bright young minds, the one who wants us to value age and experience, Taylor's typical pandering to an American public suspicious of lay-about elites, and a few others. 

I'm sure there are real pros and cons here, and it's possible to debate this issue intelligently, but that's not what we do here. 

Solemmetellyou about our 90 year-old proffie and the search to replace him. 90 year-old proffie has known for some time that he's not going to be able to keep going. Lord knows, it ain't because he's not spry: I walked with him from the fleabag motel he stays in ("to save the program money")  to my place in the ghetto where Snooty Uni is located, and he set a pace that buried me, 50 years his junior. I'm done worrying about that guy getting mugged because he could probably outrun any gangbangers who have ever polluted their bodies with either caffeine or bad city air. 

No, Professor Oldy is packing it in because one of his senses is going, and as a result, he feels bad that he can't teach as well as he could a year or two ago--which was brilliantly, btw.

We've tried to replace Professor Oldy with three major searches.  We've even found money for a *chair* for the replacement. We have offered this position--and the chair--to numerous young pup scholars, none of whom actually deserve a chair, and all of them have said "no". 

 Granted, the endowment from the chair is small, but we are a very well-to-do private uni. Our salaries are good--damn good. We have staff for everything.  Why can't we replace Professor Oldy?  

Because Professor Oldy for 40 years has run our satellite campus in Much Less Desirable Location, and to replace Oldy you'd have to live there. Is this place somewhere truly ghastly? No. It's just a smallish region, where many people live and work and lead perfectly decent lives. It's not in some gun-toting, militia-fostering bastion of inbreeding. You can, in fact, find both public transit and Thai food there. 

 But it is not, apparently, a good enough place to live for a generation of scholars whom people tell me are so desperate for work they are waiting for people to retire or (even better, with some of my colleagues) die.  

In strict fairness, one little pumpkin said she would consider the position after we made a spousal hire available (we did) only if we would arrange housing in a nearby bobo-heaven urban playground and provide a lavish budget for jetting to and fro and a pied-a-terre in Undesirable Locale. My dean, who is a genuinely patient man, got tired of having his nuts in this idiot's vice and finally said no, I guess when she demanded that every Wednesday be "free cupcakes with sprinkles on top" day and male eunuchs with ostrich feather fans. 

My colleagues are not entirely innocent, either. Rather than just suckitup and consider a less entitled little snowflakes from less snooty PhD programs--who can probably do the job perfectly well--they go into conniptions when I even suggest it. "We can't lower our standards!" They howl. Even though Professor Oldy was from a Moo U and is retiring as one of the discipline's most revered and accomplished icons.  

So let's be more specific. Professors in desirable places need to retire, like right now, no matter what their productivity, financial condition,  or contributions to the department to make room for the incoming blizzard from Ivy-land. You proffies who live in less ritzy places? Or you who foolishly didn't go to the snootiest grad program you possibly could? Carry on. 


  1. Hi Bitchy Bear!

    What a weird problem! I teach at a Community College in a rather cruddy immediate location, although we are a 90 minute train ride from a mint location. Last year, we hired two new English Faculty members. For those two positions, we received over 500 applicants. Many of them (over half) had PhDs and publishing records. We had applicants with PhDs from places like Yale and Ann Arbor. I wonder why you guys are having such trouble.

  2. Gee, maybe if more Ivy Grads start bitching about their useless, over-priced education and the incredible dearth of decent-paying jobs, colleges and universities (and maybe even the Department of Education!) will do something about the permatemping/adjunctification problem and its (negative) impact on the country, its citizens, and the (parasitic) student loan industry.

    I can dream, right?

  3. I don't suppose that position will still be open in about 4 years when I'm done with my PhD? I LIKE small towns.

  4. Dean Suzy says:

    * "free cupcakes with sprinkles on top" day
    -> Only if I get to have the chocolate ones

    * male eunuchs with ostrich feather fans
    -> Only if I can loan them out for the faculty meetings and when the University Prezzy drops by for a visit to our satellite.

    But if you want curtains, I'll have to pass on that.

  5. 1) I actually live in a gun-toting, militia-fostering bastion of inbreeding. Without public transit, or Thai food.

    2) Nevertheless, I am working until I damn well feel like stopping. I plan to expire whilst expounding on "The Reeve's Tale," and my only hope is that I don't poop myself.

    3) Old professors never retire to make room for new professors. Who gives up their career to help some wet-behind-the-ears little fruit that they've never even met? No one. They just say that because they want people to think they're being magnanimous, when really they're just old and sick of dealing with their stupid job.

    4) Retiring to make room for "new blood" is no guarantee that the Dean won't decide at the last minute that new blood is too expensive and, unfortunately, Old Professor is going to be replaced with a one-year or four adjuncts.

    5) If your enrollment is growing, William A. Schwab, don't complain that the old folks won't die or go away. Don't say you're "limited in what you can do." If your enrollment is growing, hire some fucking assistant professors. You fucker.

    6) I do not understand the problems of effete snowflake profs in the Candyland version of academia that they live in. These are not the people I know. And if I did know them I would tell them to go fuck themselves.

  6. I'll take it.

    You think I'm joking.

  7. Who's joking? I'll fight you for it.

    Cage match. Death. Tonight.

  8. Can someone explain the degree snobbery thing to me? I understand that the standards at US schools are highly variable, but I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that, for all intents and purposes, universities in the US are hiring PhDs on the basis of their undergraduate performance. And those degrees took them anywhere between 5 and 10 years to complete. Doesn’t rather a lot change in that time? I have no doubt that the Ivy-league crowd is generally a clever lot, but there are an awful lot of outliers on both sides: my chair at my last job mentioned his super-Ivy degree to me at least three times in the first 5 minutes of my interview there. The man can hardly walk and chew gum. And he’s never published anything. Not even a review. Is there something I don’t understand? I’ve been lucky and have no complaints about my situation, but I’m watching talented friends crash and burn despite stellar cvs, and I can’t help but think they’re being edged out by an increasingly conservative job-market that sees Ivy-league talent as a sure thing. Is it the training? Or is it really just that monied mommies and daddies only want to pay to see their precious snowflakes taught by Yale grads? Do your colleagues honestly think that hiring someone who has published well will “lower the standards”?

  9. Maybe this reflects my paranoid, bitter mindset of the time but. . . I was on the market for a while, burdened with the dread 'upper tier PUBLIC school' chunk o' paper. And it seemed to my sad self that the committees for the 50 positions I applied to in any given year were all putting together short lists consisting of the same 3-5 dreamy-on-paper elite ivy (or top of the pile publics) grads/ABDs of that year in specialty X, regardless what sort of school it was, so the other 495 applicants with degrees from non-very-tip-top-of-first-tier schools were out of luck and 45 smaller state schools, regional state schools and middlin' lib arts 4-year schools wound up in April with failed searches moaning about how they couldn't get ANYONE AT ALL to take the job. Must be our location! We need a Tibetan restaurant in town, stat!
    It's not the fault of the masses of ACTUALLY AVAILABLE AND WILLING young pups, it's your apparently inappropriately snooty colleagues insisting on hiring Handsome Harvard Harry or Johns Hopkins Jesus. Give that poor talented and capable Maria from UMaryland or UCLA Larry a feckin' chance.

  10. It isn't just one's educational pedigree that is of importance. Whoever one's supervisor was carries a great deal of weight as well, so that person's stamp of approval is almost essential for getting hired. Much of that, sadly, is determined by whether an applicant got along with that supervisor and less on actual quality of work.

    While I was still looking for work several years ago, I often had interviews where I sensed that I was merely there as a token candidate. The institution in question had, quite likely, already decided on who was going to get the position, so those sessions were a complete waste of my time.

  11. Dear BB--

    (a) I love cupcakes and sprinkles.
    (b) I am currently out of graduate school from "Kick Ass Uni People Mispronounce" since May, jobs don't exist, nor (apparently) do adjunct positions.
    (c) I am desperate for work. I love Thai. While I have standards and am (perhaps) a bit difficult to please certain days o' the week, I am desperate. From what position is Prof Oldy retiring?
    (d) I met my 15 year old cousin's new 'boyfriend' this past weekend and upon hearing I have my master's degree and studied abroad, he proclaimed he was really quite scared of me (I am not the kind of person one is scared of). Yes that boosted my ego, but on the whole, I did my master's in history, and suffered, not so much as one would at an Ivy, (ha. haha. hooray for state schools and loans. my life is now owned by the government), but still suffered. Ramen noodles are my friend.
    (...lost count of the letters).. the short story--what is the position youre hiring and where are you located?
    ---Ana Remni---

  12. "Professors in desirable places need to retire, like right now, no matter what their productivity, financial condition, or contributions to the department to make room for the incoming blizzard from Ivy-land."

    Unless this is padded in some serious snark, I'm not seeing any real need for otherwise qualified faculty to cede anything some sort of Ivy-centric affirmative action plan.


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