Thursday, June 03, 2010

Marc Nouri 's warning to ambitious, pathetic, "lonely and isolated" academics going up for full professor

Over at Inside Higher Ed, Marc Nouri writes about "premature promotion". As best I can tell, being promoted to full professor means "you have demonstrated all the necessary qualifications," which would mean "not premature" to most university administrations. (See Historiann's post on this, too.)

But Nouri draws a distinction between being technically eligible and some transcendent state that embodies Full Professorhood or Professorliness or The Force or something:
That honor, in a more intrinsic and meaningful sense, is reserved for those who take a different path, a more patient, methodical and dedicated path, driven by a deep desire to be something really special as a scholar and as a member of his or her university community.

This kind of reminds me of the old academic system, borrowed from British universities, in which it was thought presumptuous to think about publishing a book until you had 20-30 years of teaching and learning about your subject under your belt. I even knew a few graduate students who believed this back in the olden days; they thought it was presumptuous and careerist to submit an abstract for a conference, let alone try to publish something, and would ridicule mercilessly anyone who did anything so crass. Those who tried to "professionalize" were, in their sights, no better than grade-grubbing students.

A few more of Nouri's points:

1. I don't know why he pegs those who go up for full when they're allowed to by their departments as "eager early birds . . . who are lonely and isolated, and for very good reason. No one likes them and their attitude," as though all they're lacking is a three-name moniker and a rifle to be the next serial killer.

2. Nouri says that you ought to be "A NAME!" or the go-to person in your field before you have the chutzpah to go up for full. What have studies consistently shown about male and female faculty and their respective willingness to (1) put themselves forward, (2) negotiate hard for raises, and (3) do what it takes to catch the positive attention of the powers that be?

3. Not to get on my pink glitter gender horse again, but while all that university service and that "patient, methodical path" may sound good for the Platonic ideal of the full professor, the way most people have to get there is through research as well as service. Gosh, do we know anyone in the university who's likely to be stuck at associate level through pursuing the "patient, methodical path" of unacknowledged service? Anyone?



Dame Eleanor Hull said...

The people I know who went up (and got) full-professor status early are not only accomplished researchers but also very pleasant, friendly, out-going people. The pseudonymous byline says he's at "a large university," so maybe he's a flagship or somewhere rather different from my large regional uni. Or maybe he's the ambitious, pathetic, lonely and isolated one, and it makes him feel better to call the kettle black.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

"at" a flagship; sorry.

heu mihi said...

Good lord--that's one of the most ridiculous Chronicle articles I've read yet (and there have been some doozies). It sounds like he's got a particular person in mind, especially with those comments about how nobody likes those eager early birds and, my favorite, "Who do you think you are...?" Deep breath, Nouri. Wow.

Horace said...

Silly, silly, silly. As if seeking more compensation in a profession that is already devalued along material lines is somehow a sell-out of the professional values of academia. (What's that Pierre Bourdieu? Something about dominated factions of the dominant class?)

There's already enough mystification of true learnedness to fuel the fraud complexes of a million grad students, untenured, and recently tenured faculty members. Was there really any need to stoke the flames for full professors too, who have quite frankly usually earned a break from that particular anxiety.

Ink said...

That article is so bizarre! SO wondering what that guy's story is...did he go up for it and not get it? Otherwise, why the vitriol?

The Bittersweet Girl said...

I don't get Nouri's discourse about the "Name" -- but there are a couple of valid points buried in his piece, IMO. I agree with him that there seems to be uncertainty about what being Full means and that, as a result, there is an unevenness to who goes up when and with what credentials. At Unnamed U., this has resulted in some faculty in some departments getting Full only 2-3 years after getting tenure (that doesn't seem right, does it? Even if they publish like mad?) whereas in English, the unspoken tradition is that profs labor for many, many years -- publishing steadily, doing huge amounts of service, and winning teaching awards -- before they would even think of coming up. This just doesn't jive. I confess to feeling a bit put out when I hear about such rapid promotion -- because it would never be allowed in my dept., even if I was that ambitious (which I'm not).

undine said...

Dame Eleanor, that's been my experience, too, so I'm not sure where his animus is coming from.

heu mihi--ha! "Deep breath, Nouri." I wish they'd run a column by someone else in his department explaining the situation there.

Horace, I don't think anyone ever gives up a fraud complex (or an "I was just lucky" complex). I also wondered if this weren't part of something I see going on a lot in these bad economic times: an attempt to say "well, cut his salary, why don't you?" among those who aren't making very much to begin with--a "fight among ourselves" complex that disregards the huge fortunes being made by those at the top of whatever food chain we're a part of.

Ink--exactly! Why the vitriol? I read in the Chronicle's forums that some people go up repeatedly, so it's not as though becoming full is like gaining tenure (once and out) at some places.

BSG, would the people in your department ever want to have a discussion about the rapid promotion issue? It sounds as though the culture is disadvantaging people in the department by not allowing them to go up when apparently the university would have no problem with it (and I've been in departments where that was the norm, too).