In the new academia, professors push their own paper.

16 09 2010

Gina Barreca at Brainstorm tipped me off to an interesting column by “Female Science Professor” about what professors do all day. Here’s the part that speaks to me most as a tenured humanist:

After tenure, our service commitments ramp up, and we serve on committees at our own university and beyond. Some of us edit journals and hold other positions in professional organizations. And we spend a lot of time advising students and other researchers, helping them reach their career goals. Most of us are busier after tenure than we were before. Universities get what they pay for: hard-working faculty members.

Yup. If you’ve been around enough to know a thing about the institution where you work, you want to try to make it a better place. Tenure is not a magical ticket that gives you permission to be an asshole for the next thirty years.

Barreca, however, carries this point an interesting direction that I didn’t see in female Science Professor’s original column:

When I started as an assistant professor 23 years ago, there was more help available for faculty. For example, an administrative assistant would photocopy the exams or make copies of articles for graduate students, and another might be assigned the responsibility of typing letters of recommendation written by faculty for both undergraduate and graduate students, not to mention making sure they were sent to the correct addresses.

In those days (can you hear the old-lady voice?) we were not expected to handle our own enrollments/permission numbers either, and I admit that I have not yet mastered the process even after years of attempting to wrestle Peoplesoft (our electronic system) to the ground.

Word processing has turned what used to be called “secretaries” into a dying profession everywhere, including academia. In academia, however, the professors haven’t exactly seen any of the benefits. This fact in no way justifies being mean to your administrative assistant for any reason. [See earlier sentence about how not to behave when you have tenure.] What it does mean though is that we should always notice where the benefits of technology flow, along with the extra work.




One response

3 03 2011
They started coming for the professors years ago now. « More or Less Bunk

[…] academic freedom is not a justification for saying anything you want and tenure is not a magic ticket that lets you be an asshole for the next thirty years. How many professors think it is? The authors of this piece seem to think it’s a lot: Forty […]

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