Thursday, June 14, 2012

What New Faculty Need . . .

First, each new faculty member is unique, so each will have different needs, but I think they all need a support system of other good local faculty across disciplines and they all need ways to make the best use of the time they have.   They'll need some straight talk on how the tenure and promotion system works and how they can best prepare.  And an introduction to this campus and to Anchorage and Alaska.  Beyond that, some will want help with teaching issues and others with research issues. 

I met with some folks at UAA yesterday to talk about setting up an informal group of new faculty for the fall semester.  As someone who has taught for many years here, it seemed like something I could do.  I used to go to the new faculty reception and look for the most interesting new scholars and get a small group together at lunch.  It gave them a chance to meet people in other fields and me a chance to connect with interesting new scholars.   I went to the library after the meeting and pulled out some books just to see what others are saying on this topic.

The black book on the bottom was a nasty piece of work.  Anonymous - he said he had to be anonymous so he wouldn't lose his job - trashes everything about universities.  The faculty don't do any work, the students don't either, and the administrators are former faculty who couldn't teach or do research.  If it really was a faculty member, he would have been the kind he was complaining about.  But if it really was a faculty member, then the reason he had to be anonymous was because the book was so bad, no documentation, and totally unbalanced.  The tone starts off with a dedication to Hubert Humphrey:
That's probably the most objective part of the book.   It was published in 1972.  The publisher, according to Wikipedia, 
Arlington House, Inc., (dba as Arlington House Publishers), now-defunct, was an American book publisher of jazz discographies, as well as conservative and anti-communist titles.
This book seems to be part of the early anti-public university movement.

I could tell you lots of things wrong with universities - but for the most part, faculty work incredibly hard.  Yes there are those who abuse the system, but the others more than make up for them.  So, I've got to write up a little more on this project.  If we can make it work, maybe next year we can bring in some other retired faculty to work with more faculty.  The other books have more useful content. 

When I first came here, all the faculty were pretty much in one building and people in different disciplines had offices near by and we all went to the faculty senate meetings.  But nowadays, it's harder for new faculty to find the people they ought to know in other fields.


  1. You wrote, "I used to go to the new faculty reception and look for the most interesting new scholars and get a small group together at lunch."

    Lucky new professors. Just how did you know they were interesting? And did your first impressions bear out their chosen-ness?

  2. Yes, good question, one that I've been working on as I try to identify the criteria for selecting this year's group. In the past, I was looking for - at the time it was unarticulated instinct - people who clearly were driven by the unanswered questions in their fields. Authentic folks who weren't wearing a facade they thought appropriate to academia.

  3. Authentic. Yes. They are probably also the people with appropriate ego sizes -- so much can be accomplished when your "I" gets out of the way. It's why I love fans -- so matter how arcane the subject. You walk into a room of model train enthusiasts or orchid fanciers and the very air seems different.

  4. I'd add one more good to the reading list: The fall of the Faculty by Benjamin Ginsberg

  5. Matt, thanks for the tip. I've read the link and the issue of bloated university administration has been around for a while and it surely will come up in our discussions.


Comments will be reviewed, not for content (except ads), but for style. Comments with personal insults, rambling tirades, and significant repetition will be deleted. Ads disguised as comments, unless closely related to the post and of value to readers (my call) will be deleted. Click here to learn to put links in your comment.