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November 26, 2005

 

A Brief Intermission: Denzler Update


Daniel Denzler

Daniel Denzler was the University of Chicago faculty member who was recently denied tenure; some speculated that the denial was related to the fact that he had been keeping a personal blog. At the time, I entered a brief commentary (10/2005)related to that event. As a pleasant update, Denzler has announced his recent faculty appointment at Tufts University, in The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. His comments about the appointment can be found at his blog, www.danieldrezden.com/blog. A fairly accurate review of his comments are provided below:


Saturday, Nov. 5.

"So Friday was a pretty good day....

Friday was a great day for two reasons. First, a 70-degree day in Chicago in November is a rare treat and needs to be properly savored.

[Wow, you're keeping up such a brave face after getting denied tenure--Editor] Well, that leads to the second and more important reason why Friday was a pretty good day.

I have formally accepted an offer to be an Associate Professor of International Politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, starting in the summer of 2006. Next year at this time, I will be teaching students pursuing a M.A.L.D. (Masters of Arts in Law and Diplomacy) or a Ph.D. at Tufts University in Medford, MA.

[Wait a minute. Wait just a friggin' minute. What exactly does "Associate Professor" mean?--Ed.] It means that, subject to the approval of Tufts University's Board of Trustees, I will be a tenured professor.

[Why Fletcher? Did you have any other options?--Ed.] I received a number of inquiries (at various levels of seriousness) from academic and non-academic institutions -- the latter including government, think tank, and publishing opportunities. This was both gratifying and useful. Gratifying because it's always nice to be wanted. Useful because it gave me the chance to ponder whether the academy was for me. In the end, Fletcher was the best choice for a combination of personal and professional reasons.

[So how are you feeling now? Still bitter at the University of Chicago?--Ed.] I'm feeling pretty good, actually. Fletcher is an excellent public policy school for what I study, and they actually like the fact that I write for a wider audience on occasion. Oh, and Tufts seems to be doing an excellent job of facilitating policies I like.

As for the U of C, no, I'd say the bitterness level is down to a very tiny nub. Mind you, I still think they screwed up, but they've screwed up other decisions even worse. Anyway, that's the department's problem now, not mine. I will always have very fond memories the institution, the students, and many of my colleagues. We will miss Hyde Park's rumored restaurant renaissance -- but this will be more than compensated by the plethora of supermarket choices in the Boston 'burbs.'

[So how do you feel about the blog now? Now that you're tenured, can you really cut loose?--Ed.] No, it's just the opposite, I'm afraid. Brian Weatherson hit the nail on the head in Scott Jaschik's Inside Higher Ed story on blogging and academia:

While some believe tenure allows more freedom for a blogger, Weatherson said that if your audience grows, that--not tenure status--may be the factor that leads to restraint online. "The more widely the blog gets read the more cautious I am about saying something critical of anyone without quite a lot to back up the criticisms," he said. "Basically these days I can assume that anything I say critical of anyone in philosophy will get back to them, and I write as if the target of the criticism will be reading. So I probably hold back a little more than I did pre-tenure, when sometimes I would assume that the blog would just remain among friends."

[So you'll be tenured, huh? Well, there goes the last shred of any connection you have with the "real world" in which other American workers must cope!--Ed.] You've been reading the comments too much. I don't want to go off on a rant here, but the meme about academics having no connection to the real world is a crock of s$#*. Yes, tenure equals lifetime employment. However, consider the following:

1) Compared to other professions that require equivalent education, academics earn lower wages. This is clearly a choice for many of economic security and a more flexible work schedule over increased income. But it is a choice with real economic costs.

2) It's not like getting a tenured position at a top-drawer school is the easiest thing to do in the world. You have to get accepted into a good Ph.D. program, write an excellent dissertation, demonstrate an ability to generate research of high quality and quantity, and trust your luck that these skills will be recognized by your senior colleagues inside and outside your university.

3) I can't stress this enough -- a professor's wage is almost entirely determined by the market. Yearly raises in our profession range from infinitesimal to nonexistent. The only way to earn big raises is to demonstrate our value to the outside market by getting a competing job offer. That's about as real as you can get in terms of the wage structure.

[Yeah, but you academics don't have to deal with your jobs being outsourced!--Ed.] Err...no, that doesn't wash. The premier positions in American academia have had a global labor market for decades now, so the effect is analogous to off shoring. The long-term effect of professorial podcasting will be interesting, because it suggests an inexpensive way to commodify aspects of teaching.

[Man, a lot has happened to you since you started the blog -- you're going to need to update that "About Me" page--Ed.] Yeah, I already thought of that.

Posted by Dan on 11.05.05 at 08:48 AM

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