Monday, September 2, 2013

CM Flashback. 2 Years Ago Today. Advice for Silverbacks.

The TubaPlayingProf Sends in Advice for New Silverbacks.

1. Embrace that old men are paid for experience and the insights that that experience might provide, but the only consequence is that younger people resent old men’s salaries.

2. Admit that experience whispers convincingly that the issues and concerns that rob young people of time and energy actually do not warrant time and energy.

3. Remember that most people asking for advice seek validation for what they already want to do, or...

4. Understand that most young people asking for advice are doing so to assure your signature on their tenure or promotion application and as you talk are imaging how to rearrange the furniture once they get your office.

5. Realize that in the eyes of the young old men do not offer something new; don’t try to refute that, and never ever point out that your department has already tried what the young people are suggesting as young people ardently believe new ideas arrived on campus only when they did.

6. Accept that young people render kind, supportive, constructive criticism as criticism, that is, in their views, random personal attacks.

7. Compliment young people often; they expect approval and agreement, so compliments do not confuse them.

8. Embrace that the less an old man says—about anything—the less he annoys young people; however...

9. Remember that as most young people do not find old people humorous, interesting, attractive, necessary, helpful, insightful, friendly, sincere, current, intelligent, important, or valuable, if you must talk, talk only about gardening, recipes with garam masala or lemongrass, your new convertible, your summer place, the success of your children, your ability to max out your 403B and the huge tax benefits of doing so, the room in your big office and the great view from the corner, and your appreciation of having the entire summer off (even if you work just as hard as they do); doing so reinforces what they already believe about you, so annoying them in this way avoids confusing them and thus is a kind act.


  1. I don't understand where younger faculty members get this idea that silverbacks care about anything they say, think or do. Come on, tenuring you won't affect my research an iota, it would just save me the work of being on yet another search committee. So just be a good boy/girl, keep the students in your lower-div classes happy and don't make too much noise about "new ideas" (=unproductive committee work), OK?

  2. And yet, if the TubaPlayingProf could, he or she would trade places with these same silverbacks, without hesitation! Indeed, the prospect of doing so is what propels much of what's increasingly wrong with academia.


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