Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Sun Did Come Up This Morning. Either That, Or We're Seeing The Giant Fireball That Will Finally Bring Closure To the Great Divide.

I honestly don’t see what all the furor is about with the junior / senior faculty divide. I must lead a blessed life in a blessed department, or maybe I’ve just gotten so senior that my mind is gone. I’ve been in my current position 20 years & this spring will have the little lapel pin to prove it. (No, I’m not so square I actually wear the pins, but I do like having them in the little tray in my desk drawer.)

When I was an assistant prof, I applied for other jobs, but for a variety of reasons wound up staying put. (Yeah, yeah, Gumdrops, I hear you snickering that I wasn’t “marketable.” Nice word, that.)

Like many academic departments these days, mine is aging fast. We’re a looming Social Security crisis all by ourselves. But we have been able to hire some junior faculty over the last few years. We have tenured two of these colleagues and look to tenure two more. I’ve even managed to palm off my Faculty Senate position on one of these recently tenured souls (BWAHAHAHAHA!).

This year are lucky to have some folks just out of grad school doing what are essentially post-docs. Of course they’re looking for jobs. They bring a terrific freshness to the department. I have learned from their colloquium presentations and from my hallway conversations with them. I hope it will be possible for at least one of them to switch over to the tenure track.

I think a lot of the venom directed at the
Gumdrops has more to do with their narcissistic tone than with their job hunting. I think every junior faculty member should be on the lookout, if not obsessively. I think what’s offensive to many older faculty who have put the time into a department is the attitude that what we’ve built is merely a low-status stepping stone to some imagined academic Valhalla.


Feeling a little jealous? Perhaps the warm fuzzy feeling you get about your institution is simply making a virtue out of reality. Maybe you see in the professional mobility of your junior faculty the opportunities that you never had, and it is dawning on you that your comfortable little office is going to be yours until the day you retire. And why are you going to stay there? Perhaps it is because you love it so, or maybe it is because you are too old, too senior, and/or not famous enough in your field to get another job. Regardless of the reason, hacking on a junior faculty member for leaving has the stench of academic jealousy all over it.

I was also struck by the responses of senior faculty who had their little feelings hurt because the junior faculty did not appreciate their mentoring. Get over yourself. At all three of my academic jobs there were older faculty who felt the need to “mentor” myself and the other junior faculty. Guess what? None of us asked for it nor needed it. If I want your insight or clarification, I will ask for it. I somehow managed to live my life, get an advanced degree, have children, and get a job I like all without your help. What makes you think that you have some great professional insight that no one else does? What I do not want to become, and will never be, is a new version of you, so save both your breath and your "mentoring" for whatever poor soul actually wants it. In the pained whining of these senior faculty one can hear the echo of a whole generation of crotchety old grandparents bitching about the young whipper-snappers down the street.