In conversations with a dozen faculty members, researchers with a project on work-life issues run by Harvard University have found that "Generation X" professors value efficiency over "face time" and believe that quality is more important than quantity in academic work.Where to start?
Note the implicit oppositions being set up here:
Gen X faculty like efficiency whereas senior faculty don't know how to be efficient, not being digital natives, and prefer schmoozing (face time).
Gen X faculty prefer "quality" in publications whereas senior faculty wouldn't know quality if it bit them in the face and are forced to count "quantity" instead.
Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a little. But it seems to me that this kind of study (or article) based on a sample size of 12 (twelve!), does a disservice to both Gen X faculty and senior faculty.
First of all, it uses the language of science to reinforce false generational cliches: Gen X is lazy and entitled, and senior professors are too old and stodgy to learn to work smarter. At least it recognizes that senior professors do work and are not simply (as they are over at some sites) deadwood lumps stuck in the middle of the road of academic progress.
Second, it presents as a radical new idea the concept that faculty members in Gen X would like to work fewer hours and not be in the office as much. Well, who wouldn't like to work fewer hours and be paid the same amount, especially in an era of furloughs in which we're being paid less and asked to work more hours? It's right up there on my personal to-do list along with achieving world peace and seeing a unicorn before I die. The point is that the real world has a way of correcting one's expectations. That doesn't mean that you're a bad person for having an ideal; it just means that you work as hard as you need to, and you learn pretty quickly how many hours that takes.
Third, the survey and the article buy into a syndrome of pitting generations of scholars against each other through cliches like this, giving a focus, and an incorrect focus at that, to the free-floating anxiety and resentment that's rampant in the academy today. In Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye, Marlowe is about to be beaten up by a couple of detectives who are at odds with each other. He says to one, "Let's you and him fight. I'll catch him when he drops." By using generational labels, universities are saying "let's you and him fight"--except that they're not going to catch either generation when it drops.