November 25, 2014

"Academics who don’t retire are greedy, selfish, and bad for students."

Writes a professor who retired at 66 after accepting a bonus to retire early. Wasn't that greedy and selfish? Seems to me her argument would be stronger if she retired simply because she reached what used to be called "retirement age."

53 comments:

Revenant said...

Pretty much everybody defines "the right thing to do" as "what I want to do".

Harsh Pencil said...

She wasn't paid a bonus to retire at 66. She was paid a bonus for committing to retire at age 66 when she was 61.

Michael said...

On the contrary, the young ones coming up are particularly poorly educated and even more political and nursed on "theories" that are grounded in emotion and bad writing.

The old ones should dig in.

Big Mike said...

her argument would be stronger if she retired simply because she reached what used to be called "retirement age."

You're right, of course. But it's not hard to find professors in their sixties who are as current with the state of the art in their fields, and as interested in teaching, as they were back when they got tenure.

Still, on the whole it makes sense to force retirements if only to permit new blood to come on board the faculty, with new ideas and new scholarship.

John Lynch said...

HMMM full time blogging?

Big Mike said...

@Michael, the old professors are the reason why each year's crop of new Ph.D.s are the way they are.

themightypuck said...

If you have the concept of tenure you need the concept of forced retirement. Make it 70 though and ramp up the social security age there as well.

Greg Hlatky said...

"Academics... are greedy, selfish, and bad for students."

John Lynch said...

I'd have mandatory retirement at 65.

Thomas Kuhn can tell you why.

MrCharlie2 said...

Hofstra. Drawing and Painting.

buwaya said...

Make them all smoke.
That will help limit the problem and reduce costs all around.

ddh said...

Most professors excel at rationalization.

pm317 said...

Mandatory retirement at 65 and
mandatory death at 75. Ask Zeke.

m stone said...

Some professors enter their prime at 66. Let your evaluations be your guide.

jr565 said...

There are some great teachers who should teach till they are physically incapable. then there are teachers who should have retired at 20.

Original Mike said...

I retired at 56. I'm a paragon of virtue.

FullMoon said...

Depends on the professor.

Worked for a guy in his eighties once. He complained about his good-for nothing, money wasting, still living at home step-son. I sure was surprised when , after about a 20 minute rant, he says his immature step son is a professor at Stanford University.

Revenant said...

I don't see a reason for mandatory *retirement*, but ending tenure after a certain point seems reasonable.

When you're old enough TO retire, it is silly to grant you special protections from job loss. Especially when the ratio of PhDs to tenured positions is so bad.

iowan2 said...

Correct me if I have my facts wrong. Social Security was implemented, in large part to get old people to leave the work force, and reducing unemployment.

The point is getting the senior population to leave the work force is not a new concept

mccullough said...

Selfish, but not as selfish as the ones who won't retire

Anthony said...

University departments should bee allowed to accept new PhD students when professors leave (retire, quit in disgrace, hired away, whatever), one-for-one. The number of PhD students currently in the pipeline will provide a cushion.

Ann Althouse said...

"She wasn't paid a bonus to retire at 66. She was paid a bonus for committing to retire at age 66 when she was 61."

I know. It's the same thing! She committed irrevocably to retire at 66 and in exchange got more money for 5 years. I don't see the problem with the way I paraphrased it.

Saint Croix said...

Yeah but is she going to volunteer to die? Or are we going to have to pay her for that, too?

Danno said...

Ann, Are you telegraphing a possible new development to your blog readers?

pm317 said...

@Saint Croix.. Gruber has done the cost-benefit analysis and he has advised Obama to pay her. Zeke will be the PR person.

Ann Althouse said...

"Ann, Are you telegraphing a possible new development to your blog readers?"

Not really. But I always consider retiring and like the idea that i can retire whenever I want. I have thought of retiring at the old normal retiring age, which would mean only two more semesters. Isn't that strange? I don't feel at all old!

n.n said...

Greedy? Selfish? Perhaps. Bad for students is a matter of individual merit. She may be bad for students, but it is unbecoming to defame people with general statements, unless there is a substantial, unifying principle.

Bob R said...

The big problem is that no mandatory retirement is incompatible with tenure. Tenure is probably going away. Not sure if that will really cure things. I can't remember the last time we canned a clerical worker, and there are several who deserved it. I've been involved with getting a few faculty members to retire, but it's hard to imagine the university bringing itself to actually fire someone.

Levi Starks said...

I might actually contribute to NPR if I thought they would start a program like this.

MadisonMan said...

The way for Universities to get old Professors to retire is easy: Give them the worst times to teach. 7:45 AM Mondays. 4:30 PM Fridays. Have the number of Committees they have to sit on be proportional to their age squared. Have them teach only survey courses to 100s of Freshmen at a time. Make them be Department Heads with a cantankerous Dean. Require Service to the Community.

Dad retired at 67, I think. Maybe 66. He was a Dept Head and quite fed up.

Henry said...

Ms. Fendrich's offers a damning indictment of the university as currently constituted, and I'm sure she is quite aware of it:

On average, graduate students earn their Ph.D.’s at the age of 34, and those landing tenure-track jobs tend to do so in their mid-to-late 30s.

What kind of healthy institution can possibly be built on the mummification of its supposedly top hires?

My department might be conspicuously old (not to mention top-heavy in terms of rank, lacking both assistant professors and instructors)

If a department doesn't have assistant professors or instructors to teach, that means they are likely relying on those graying PhD candidates and minimum-wage adjuncts to fill the gap.

ken in tx said...

Some professors have 30 years experience. Some professors have one year's experience 30 times. You have to take you choice.

James Pawlak said...

Which tenured academics are NOT greedy?

chuck said...

My dad considered early retirement when he got to 80, but never got around to it. He finally retired at 92.

Hagar said...

You did not make the system.
(Really, I am not riffing on Obama.)

Retire when you feel like it, or when you feel yourself slipping, whichever comes first.

William said...

As a corollary to the better than nothing maxim, I would ask is it better than bed. There is nothing in life so profoundly and elementally satisfying as staying in bed--not just as a weekend treat but as a way of life. I feel sorry for those who are so self deluded as to think that they are making some kind of irreplaceable contribution to civilization when they could roll over and sleep for an extra hour or so.

30yearProf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
30yearProf said...

I took the "incentive" at 70 after 40 years of private University teaching.

I'd be happy to trade the freedom of unlimited working years for a mandatory retirement age AND a defined benefit retirement plan at 75% of my five high year's salary (like millions of government employees) but the private corporate world, including Universities, wants the employees to carry the RISK of a recession so they will never return to that model. Their choice.

Brando said...

Probably won't make much of a difference--the job scarcity for professors is more due to too many PhDs being minted and less due to not enough professors retiring.

DrMaturin said...

The fact that the author took some extra money to retire doesn't negate her larger point. My wife is a professor at a state university and she has colleagues who clearly are too old to be still teaching yet refuse to retire. A couple can barely walk, and whatever they may think their teaching and scholarly work is a shadow of what it once was. On the other end of the spectrum are the adjuncts who are unable to get full-time jobs and must cobble enough courses together from two or even three different schools just to make ends meet.

tim maguire said...

If she was paid a bonus, then it was in the university's interest to pay her that bonus. There's nothing greedy about taking money to do something.

But I disagree with her sentient, at least to the extent that it is applied to someone in their mid-60's. We all know life expectancy was much lower when the current retirement age was set. And a lot of the financial issues people have form inadequate retirement savings are an outgrowth of the very long retirement period. It's not easy to save for 25 years of retirement in a 45 year employment life. No room for error for most people.

Raise the age to 70 and much of our pension crisis simply goes away.

MadisonMan said...

much of our pension crisis simply goes away.

What pension crisis?

There are states (Wisconsin!) with excellent pensions that are well-funded.

When you say pension crisis what you really mean is a political crisis: States without the Political Will to say No. Dad's pension fund is in horrible shape, but luckily it's bound with the one for former State Legislators, so you KNOW it'll be the very last thing to run out of money.

Brando said...

I don't think there should be any hard and fast rule for when to retire--some people are still excellent at their jobs in their 70s, and others are terrible in their 40s. It may be in the employer's interest to keep someone along, and to buy out others. Rather than a strict retirement age (or tenure to protect those who would have been let go otherwise) the employer and employee should be able to decide these things on a case by case basis.

Brando said...

I would LOVE to be able financially to retire before 60, but there's too many variables--how much money do you need to save? What if you live a lot longer than you expected to?

Robert Cook said...

"...the young ones coming up are particularly poorly educated and even more political and nursed on 'theories' that are grounded in emotion and bad writing."


And you know this and can make this broad generalization with the certainty you are correct...how?

There have always been bad teachers, fair to good teachers, and excellent teachers. The cohort of excellent teachers will always be small relative to the others.

One development in higher education that may mitigate against someone developing into a good or excellent teacher--or against good to excellent teachers establishing stable careers or achieving tenure--is the pressure on faculty to publish. Institutions of higher education rely on things other than excellent classroom outcomes to accrue to themselves reputation and prestige, (and, most important, the donations to the school that are the desired end result of the reputation and prestige). Prominent among these are winning collegiate sports teams, particularly football and basketball teams, and the number of books and scholarly articles published by their faculty.

One may be a good or even superb teacher, but if one does not apply oneself to writing and becoming published, one will not develop the renown that will make one an academic "star," whose brightness will attract more students (and more financial donations) to the institution.

As a result, often-published academics achieve tenure and sit in their jobs for decades, yet many may be mediocre teachers.

Robert Cook said...

I do agree that if a professor is granted tenure, there should be a contractual requirement and acknowledgement that that professor must and will retire by an age determined by the institution: perhaps 70 or 72, if the professor hasn't chosen to retire earlier than that of his or her own volition. (65 really isn't as "old" anymore as it once was.

Robert Cook said...

"Correct me if I have my facts wrong. Social Security was implemented, in large part to get old people to leave the work force, and reducing unemployment."

Not at all. Social Security originated during the depression and was implemented to mitigate the penury that was widespread among older people, no longer working, who had no income. It was not intended as a scheme to encourage older workers to leave the workforce to make room for the young.

Scott M said...

What color was the crystal on her palm?

Unknown said...

You know, cook, for some reason fdr may be a hero to you, but he and his set were nothing loath to manipulate people to organize society in ways they thought best. Engineering SSI to make room for younger workers would have been right in his wheelhouse and I see no reason for you to dismiss it out of hand except that it may be disagreeable to you.

Robert Cook said...

Unknown, show me some evidence that social security was intended as something other than a means of providing financial assistance to the impoverished elderly. Even today, many elderly rely largely or solely on their social security benefits to (barely) meet their monthly needs. Elderly destitution is hardly a thing if the past.

Rick Turley said...

Tenure with a mandatory retirement age or no manadatory retirement age but subject to at will employment. The current system is the worst of both but with academics who would expect otherwise?

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Odd that no one has so far mentioned SCOTUS -- another institution with tenure and no mandatory retirement. I see that Ruth Bader Ginsburg was hospitalized for a stent just now.

Wrt professors, for what it's worth, I think mandatory retirement would be just nuts. I can speak only from my own experience, but (both in engineering and in music) at Cal, I had professors past "retirement age" who were truly phenomenal. Swiping them away from us by fiat is what would be "greedy and selfish."

Harsh Pencil said...

"She wasn't paid a bonus to retire at 66. She was paid a bonus for committing to retire at age 66 when she was 61."

I know. It's the same thing! She committed irrevocably to retire at 66 and in exchange got more money for 5 years. I don't see the problem with the way I paraphrased it.


It's not the same thing at all. Retiring at 66 when you're 61 may be a lot easier than retiring at 66 when you're 66.