August 17, 2010

"Well, you know, the Feds passed the Age Discrimination In Employment Act, and abolished mandatory retirement ages."

"What did people think was going to happen? It’s just more pressing now, with all the higher education bubble talk."

Old professors who won't retire.

Pick one.
Professors should have tenure and no mandatory retirement.
No mandatory retirement, but get rid of tenure.
Keep tenure, but impose mandatory retirement.
Impose mandatory retire and get rid of tenure too.
  
pollcode.com free polls

54 comments:

Pastafarian said...

What a horrible suggestion, a mandatory retirement age, particularly for this profession.

Many of my best professors were emeriti, and quite old -- in their 70s. And this was in mathematics, which is often considered a young man's game on that high level.

In fact, as I think about it, if I were to rank my professors overall, including knowledge of subject matter and teaching ability, probably 4 of the top 5 would have been older than 65.

Maybe my case is unusual, though.

former law student said...

Who can afford to retire? Stock market hasn't budged in ten years, interest-bearing securities pay a pittance, the cost of everything -- especially food -- keeps going up, property taxes don't make allowances for one's income -- continuing to work till you can't stand up is the only logical position.

shoutingthomas said...

Unfortunately, age discrimination is just about impossible to prove in the hiring process, and the people doing the discriminating don't even know they're doing it.

In my field (multimedia development, programming, animation, etc.), the recession really didn't happen. Throughout the recession, I've continued to receive an average of 3 calls a day from recruiters.

I've kept busy contracting, but I invariably have to go through 8 to 10 interviews to land an offer. There is a very decided preference in my field for people in their 30s. If you read the ads, the age discrimination is hidden within phrases like "cutting edge," "hip," etc.

Employers shoot themselves in the foot with the age discrimination. The 30 year old kids don't work out in much higher numbers than the older guys. Certain jobs keep coming back on the market every four to six months. The reason... the young kid had bad work habits or just didn't perform.

Employers don't seem to learn the lesson either. Some of these jobs have been reappearing on the market every four to six months for years.

rhhardin said...

Faculty death panels.

HDHouse said...

Some professionals in the arts, particularly in music performance are at their peak at 65 and above. I can see not giving them tenure or having tenure expire at 65 which is a better option and then it becomes case by case.

But of course the poll really didn't give that option. It had a point to make and frankly it is a disservice to give this type of thing the airing it gets on your blog.

PatCA said...

I think older people are afraid to retire, yes, fls. When they contemplate 30 more years of life, they wonder if their money will last.

But tenure protects the less than useful ones. We have one old science prof who makes the students give him their work backed up on the old floppy disks!

Paddy O said...

Germany has mandatory retirement age for professors, which I believe can get a five year extension if shown worthwhile.

One of the key theologians I'm studying these days was mandatory retired by Tubingen about 10 or so years ago. He is in his 80s now, is still writing and speaking a great deal. Retirement does not mean an end to a career, especially for those who are masters of their field. It does mean giving space to others, so they have the opportunities older professors received in honing their teaching and communication skills in the classroom.

Retire 'em. Though at 70, with a five year extension possible after that.

Richard Dolan said...

The starting position is always that mandatory anything is a bad idea unless shown to be essential for some specific reason. So, no to mandatory retirement, and no to tenure (effectively mandatory retention).

Chip Ahoy said...

Wow. Antitenureites.

HDHouse said...

@pastafarian..

The best one I ever had was in his 70s and it was an honor to attend his classes and we all stood when he walked in the room and stood when he left.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

What's really telling is that the discussion is not about the effect this lack of retirement has on the customers ( aka the students ) but about the effect it has on the people who want the professor's jobs.

End tenure so that you can replace professors who are not good at their jobs. Do not do it just to open up jobs for the young.

TheGiantPeach said...

My first semester in college, I took a course in linear algebra. The professor was short, spoke with an accent (German), and was elderly. I remember thinking to myself, "Why is this guy still teaching? Shouldn't he have retired a long time ago?"

I suppose it is a slight disadvantage to have students distracted by the age of their professors. It takes their focus off the material, and perhaps they tend to distrust the material that is presented (though in math I don't think that comes into play). I didn't get much out of that linear algebra class, but there were a lot of classes in college that I didn't get much out of.

Earlier this year, I encountered a reference to a paper written by this elderly professor in the 1940s. I decided to look him up on Wikipedia, and learned to my surprise that he was 63 when I was a freshman.

College students (most of them anyway) don't perceive much difference between 60 and 80. Anybody older than their parents is just old. Unless the age discrimination is going to kick in at 55, I don't think it will have any impact on the students' experience.

Jim said...

Tenure is bad at the college level for the exact same reason that it is bad at lower levels:

1) It encourages laziness in the tenured
2) It discourages activities which don't have a direct impact on tenure decisions
3) Tenure is usually a popularity vote which ensures homogenity and conformity in tenure hopefuls
5) NO ONE should have a guaranteed job. Continued employment should ALWAYS be based on your current performance, not something you might have done twenty years ago.
6) Excellence is ALWAYS a guarantee of future employment. Even if your current employer doesn't value it, there will always be another employer who will.

Big Mike said...

It's a problem all over the place. My older son works for the gov't and one day as he pulled up to work they were rolling out a gurney with a zipped-up body bag. Somebody in his 70's working the overnight shift had died at his keyboard.

Anglelyne said...

You left out the 5th option: carousel!

TRO said...

"It's a problem all over the place. My older son works for the gov't and one day as he pulled up to work they were rolling out a gurney with a zipped-up body bag. Somebody in his 70's working the overnight shift had died at his keyboard."

Damn public employees - either they work too damn long or get to retire too damn early.

John Lynch said...

I don't mind tenure in higher education.

It has no place in public schools.

rhhardin said...

Somebody in his 70's working the overnight shift had died at his keyboard.

Dilbert handles the matter. Check Monday thru Thursday for the series.

Alex said...

FLS:

Who can afford to retire?

Ever hear of Social Security? That is when Sharon Angle isn't planning to abolish it.

Harsh Pencil said...

Anne, do you know if Wisconsin could eliminate tenure if it wanted to? I don't mean for currently tenured professors. That would be breaking a promise. And probably not for tenure-track, non-tenured professors. They were promised a tenure review. But could the university simply make it clear to all new hires that they are being hired into a new system - 5 year contracts or at will employment or whatever.

I don't see any LEGAL impediment to this, but there may be something like a loss of accreditation or some other non-market impediment.

The reason I emphasize "non-market" impediment is that if there are no significant non-market impediments to eliminating tenure for new hires, then tenure is a market outcome. Universities are offering tenure because they find it in their interest to do so. If Wisconsin thought it could achieve Yale's ranking by eliminating tenure, I would think they would do so in a heartbeat.

traditionalguy said...

This is about Federal Judges, right?

traditionalguy said...

The traditional folks over 65 are all we have that remember how the institution we call a legal "University" works, tenure included. That is because Universities were started as church schools not under the King's control but under protection of exclusive Ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Therefore I predict that King ObamaI will seek their effective destruction.

edutcher said...

Tenure is the counterpart of what featherbedding used to be in the railroads.

Not to mention lack of term limits for Congress and the Federal judiciary.

Alex said...
FLS:

Who can afford to retire?

Ever hear of Social Security? That is when Sharon Angle isn't planning to abolish it.


I can't wait to see Alex live off his Social Security and nothing else.

TosaGuy said...

If the professor in his/her youth in the 1960s foamed at the mouth against "the man" then they should forfeit their tenure and gov't pension. As an aside, Bill Ayers just retired from UIC and will collect a nice government pension. Doesn't seem fair does it?

Harsh Pencil said...

edutcher said...
"Tenure is the counterpart of what featherbedding used to be in the railroads. "


I don't see this. Railroads were forced by the federal government to negotiate with a single supplier of labor - the railroad union. The railroads didn't like featherbedding, the unions did.

Where is there a professors union? If Wisconsin wanted to eliminate tenure for new hires, are you saying that that they don't because they fear a crippling strike by professors? Violence?

My guess is that they offer tenure or tenure-track to new hires so they can get good people. Same reason as to why they don't offer $10 an hour. You have to pay the market wage and market benefits (and tenure is a market determined benefit) or you don't get good hires.

Larry J said...

Anne, do you know if Wisconsin could eliminate tenure if it wanted to? I don't mean for currently tenured professors. That would be breaking a promise. And probably not for tenure-track, non-tenured professors. They were promised a tenure review. But could the university simply make it clear to all new hires that they are being hired into a new system - 5 year contracts or at will employment or whatever.

While breaking a promise is unfortunate, it's hardly without precedent especially if the status quo becomes unsustainable. Just ask people who've served in the military about broken promises. You'll likely get an earful.

My guess is that they offer tenure or tenure-track to new hires so they can get good people. Same reason as to why they don't offer $10 an hour. You have to pay the market wage and market benefits (and tenure is a market determined benefit) or you don't get good hires.

From what I've read, there is a glut of Ph.Ds out there looking for academic jobs. If true, eliminating tenure at one university would discourage some people from applying but you'd likely still have a lot of candidates for the jobs.

TheGiantPeach said...

Tenure is about academic freedom, not job security. The ethos of the community requires free exchange of ideas, and hence professors have to be free to express controversial ideas without fear of jeopardizing their employment.

Eliminating tenure would strike at the foundations of the concept of a university.

Youngblood said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Youngblood said...

Giant Peach,

The goal of most career academics is tenure, though. Does the expression of ideas that would be controversial in academia make it more or less likely that a professor will receive tenure?

If the answer is "less likely", then tenure has greatly contributed to the problem it was set up to solve.

exhelodrvr1 said...

Is the real goal of university/college staffs to provide the best education to the students, or to provide the best environment for themselves? Too often it seems to be the latter.

Jim Howard said...

One of the main reasons people retire at all is so that they'll have time to travel, spend with family, and persue their non-work interests.

Teaching is already a part time job when compared with a 2000 hour a year job like most private sector people have.

Our tenured professor gets minimum of four months a year off, including long breaks around Christmas and Easter.

Having taught college myself, I am aware that teaching a particular subject gets easier every year that you do it, and of course these older tenured professors are not burdened with a big load anyway.

Why take a pay cut by retiring when you get all the benefits of retirement without having to actually, you know, retire?

edutcher said...

Harsh Pencil said...

edutcher said...
"Tenure is the counterpart of what featherbedding used to be in the railroads. "


I don't see this. Railroads were forced by the federal government to negotiate with a single supplier of labor - the railroad union. The railroads didn't like featherbedding, the unions did.


In the sense of creating a sinecure.

shoutingthomas said...

Tenure is about academic freedom, not job security. The ethos of the community requires free exchange of ideas, and hence professors have to be free to express controversial ideas without fear of jeopardizing their employment.

This theory doesn't seem to be working.

At my undergraduate department at my alma mater, every hire for the last 50 years has been somewhere between a PC leftist and a radical feminist socialist.

Hetero, white, Christian, males with traditional families are nowhere to be found.

Strict adherence to leftist orthodoxy is obviously the first hiring criteria.

So, no, the freedom to express controversial ideas has nothing to do with it.

For proof, witness the fiasco at Duke University. Something like 88 professors signed onto the lynching of the lacrosse team. Most of them have since been promoted.

Class factotum said...

Tenure is about academic freedom, not job security.

Exactly. Unions are for job security. I know a guy who was a prof at a fourth-rate college in Pennsylvania. No research, just teaching. He was tenured and unionized and made a lot more money there than he could have at a more prestigious school. They had to modify the payroll systems so he and his ilk could get their automatic state employee raises plus their union raises. The taxpayers of Pennsylvania thank him.

traditionalguy said...

How about an old fashioned Maoist cultural revolution. The government could make all of the older tenured Professors work in harvests and canneries for two years at minimum wage. Oh never mind, that would just be my jealousy showing, like most of the comments today. Maybe the tenured Profs should just have to turn in their regalia.

Joe said...

Tenure is about academic freedom, not job security. The ethos of the community requires free exchange of ideas, and hence professors have to be free to express controversial ideas without fear of jeopardizing their employment.

When's the last time a professor expressed a controversial idea? And list the fields of academic study where this even applies.

Top professors never needed tenure. Everyone below that just lies about the reasons to sound more noble.

David said...

"Who can afford to retire?"

Man, what a stupid question.

Public employees can. Former members of Congress can. Tenured public university professors can.

knox said...

Get rid of tenure, for sure. Let people work as long as they want, as long as they're still able to do the job.

To quote the unmentionable, "DUH!"

Expat(ish) said...

They had to change the building code on campus to get my grandfather out of his office. When they re-opened the building and he saw his new smaller corner office without a secretary he walked out and never came back. He died a year later.

So, yeah, retirement, I understand why that might be a bad thing.

-XC

Trooper York said...

Term limits for teacher!

Trooper York said...

Make them go out and get a real fuckin' job!

Kirk Parker said...

Here's a better 5th option: Kill them all, and let God sort them out.






(J/K, professor, j/k!!!!! Plus I see rhardin anticipated me anyway.)

bagoh20 said...

Forget mandatory retirement. Just leave the door open, and don't go looking for them when they wander out. This works for many pets past their cute stage.

Kirby Olson said...

I think most state university professors will have to die in the classroom. On the wages we're paid, there's no retirement money left over.

The professors at the small religious colleges are in even worse shape.

A few profs in choice disciplines at the largest and most prestigious universities may make a good salary (medicine, for instance, or law).

Humanities profs?

We're all going to die in mid-sentence in the classroom, pushing ninety, and having long since lost our marbles.

I'm talking about the ones WITH tenure.

I have no idea how adjuncts make it from term to term. Most of them have spouses with a paying job.

A few universities still have some kind of pension deal where you get a percentage of your salary for every year worked.

You'd think there would be a published guide somewhere, but I wouldn't know. At any rate, all the legislatures are going to slice back everything as the Republicans get back in power and get even madder at the Democratic power base in universities and colleges.

At Duke, it's 500 Democrats for every two Republicans (if you can find two). That's more or less the norm.

Underneath the whole notion of diversity, is a terrifying uniformity, and it in turn demands uniformity from students. Students who grow up and become senators will remember this, and slash the university budgets to ribbons eventually.

bagoh20 said...

You people have no idea how unfair the whole thing is. Most people, even executives, in private industry usually have nothing like tenure, or retirement past what they can create through their own ingenuity and investment. No guarantees of anything. You public employees are treated like royalty compared to your fellow citizens who pay you. I would be embarrassed. And if you are also a liberal demanding tax increases and pay increases, you are simply evil, but, you'll deal with it.

bagoh20 said...

"The ethos of the community requires free exchange of ideas,"

You're joking, right?

knox said...

You public employees are treated like royalty compared to your fellow citizens who pay you. I would be embarrassed. And if you are also a liberal demanding tax increases and pay increases, you are simply evil, but, you'll deal with it.

We're at a precipice where there're more public employees and union members than the rest of us. When that happens, we're screwed. Oh, yeah, and there's all the people on the dole...

The only hope is that people *do* start to learn what is going on. Basically all the hard-working people with NO guarantees are paying out the nose so that others--many of them slackers--can have a cushy retirement.

A relative of mine (public school teacher) bragged that she retired (early 60s) with over 200 sick days. She's going to get paid for them!! What the hell... Proud when you don't call in sick? Pathetic.

Anyway, I wanted to say, "you're welcome!"

Flexo said...

"The ethos of the community requires free exchange of ideas,"

One of the greatest bastions of tyranny today is the university. Freedom was expelled a long time ago.

MadisonMan said...

My Dad, now 88, retired at age 67. He was a Dept Head and wanted out. He said he could have gone back to "just" teaching, but that would have pushed someone with less seniority out and engendered bad feelings, and he's not one to do that. But he tells the story of one of his friends who taught 'til he was 80. Finally, in desperation, the dept head scheduled this clinger-on to teach summer session. That's when he requested a meeting with her. But it turned out that he wanted to thank her for the extra assignment because it added to his pension!

It turned out that when he divorced, his wife took him to the cleaners. He worked 'til she died, then retired.

My own opinion, which I may change in the future, is that if you are working full time, you should not be able to draw any government pension or social security. A rule like that would fix many a problem, I think.

AST said...

These polls drive me nuts. There's no rule than can apply across the board. We have Ward Churchill at one end of the scale and Bernard Lewis at the other. Tenure is dangerous but so are faculty politics and political correctness.

The obvious solution is to refer all cases to me for resolution. Of course, I get life tenure.

bagoh20 said...

"The obvious solution is to refer all cases to me for resolution. Of course, I get life tenure. "

I'll assume you would decide things completely randomly, and as such make vast improvements. I approve your plan.

Wilhelm Tell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wilhelm Tell said...

My grandfather was in the education racket - taught English and Forensics in business colleges, hence no tenure. He retired at eighty, didn't much care for it, and went back to work until he was eighty-five.

I am past the age where I can retire with full Social Security, and plan to retire from my IT gig at the end of the year with some ambivalence. The work is fun and challenging, I find ways to improve processes daily, but the pretty faces who run the show have no interest in listening to a codger.

For that matter they do not appear to share my values, which place knowledge in the service of wisdom, and daily life in the service of spiritual growth.

Is there a place in our culture for me to take up the equivalent of saffron robes and a begging bowl? Nope.

JorgXMcKie said...

@Kirby Olson, I don't know what state you're in, but I am very familiar with IL and MI, and in both tenure and tenure track profs are quite well paid. They also get essentially free a health care package worth about 12K per year, in MI an additional 10% of salary put into a 403b [the older ones still get juicy defined benefit pensions] and other perks.

If the pay sucks so bad, why isn't turnover greater?

And the last 5-6 searches in my dept, one speciality field got 25 apps, 7-8 fully qualified, maybe. The more common, general fields got 125+ apps, with 50+ fully qualified. Some apps from *very* good schools [not that I expect any of those to take a job with us if they have options]. There is, indeed, a surplus.

And anyone who is not a financial idiot should be able to retire in a decent manner after no more than 20 years in my system.

The adjunct problem is for another day, but remember, it is largely driven [at least where I am] by perceived needs caused by the tenure system and prof compensation.