June 1, 2008

No golf for faculty, either

Last month, Dean Dad wrote an entry discussing the generational culture differences among higher-ed administrators. There's an important point here that's hidden in the piece, something about work habits as well as culture and leisure change by generation. Anyone who goes into grad school expecting a leisurely life of the mind should know that Margaret Soltan's assumption of plentiful sabbaticals is more myth than reality for faculty across the country. While I know of no study about the prevalence or use of sabbaticals, I would guess that a graduate student in liberal arts would be more likely to end up as a freeway flyer adjuncting at several campuses than to be at a liberal arts college or major research university with guaranteed sabbaticals every seven years.

More generally, I find relatively few new faculty who have much time to be lazy during the year. There are faculty who have better control over their time than others, and there are also many faculty who find 50-60 hour weeks less hectic than their previous lives, or more enjoyable. (I don't have a point of comparison, having gone straight from college to grad school to various roles in academe.) But I don't know many unoccupied faculty who have come to USF recently and stayed in the job for long. Whether they're great managers of their time or spinning their wheels, they're working hard. (I'm somewhere between those two extremes.) This is also true of faculty who are caring for young children or older relatives. There are plenty of faculty members who have written books in the odd minutes and hours around children's naps, parental care, and so forth.

Probably the largest question of faculty time for new scholars is who takes the summer off. Note that I did not say that the difference is between who is paid and who is unpaid during the summer. At my institution, there are both 9-month and 12-month faculty, and many 9-month faculty also depend on summer appointments to pay the bills. (A curtailed schedule this summer has effectively cut the pay of many faculty.) But there are plenty of faculty who are not paid and yet still work during the summer to meet tenure requirements, to complete research requirements, to catch up with reading that was left undone in the summer, and so forth.

There is probably a reason why I'm writing this entry today: I came into the office today to work on something I'm not paid for this summer (editing Education Policy Analysis Archives). I am teaching a course starting this month, and I'm tied to a bunch of union commitments, but that's not all. Like many of my colleagues, I am socialized too well to just sit around during the summer. (Yes, a colleague came to his office today, a few doors down from mine.) In today's case, that's partly because my May is always hectic, and I never get enough done in May. (Case in point: I started this entry a few evenings ago... but didn't finish it until now.) So June 1, I must start catching up. But my experience is also a reflection of the reality of faculty lives. I'm sure there are a few clever layabouts who can start a tenure-track job today and get through with a minimum of effort. I just haven't met any.

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Posted in Higher education on June 1, 2008 4:18 PM |