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07/06/2008

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Dr. Steven J. Balassi

As a new full-time faculty member, I was amazed at how long it took to find a tenure-track position (5 years in my case). Professors at many colleges don't retire until they are in their 70's. It makes it a very hard career track for people who have already invested a lot of time and money in their educations. Because it's so hard to find a position, many high quality candidates move to the private sector or choose not to pursuit this career.

In the end, it's the students who suffer from Professors who should not be teaching past age 65 (or any bad teacher for that matter). Education needs to be a high quality and leading industry because it's our future. It's one of America's biggest comparative advantages and we are letting it slip away.

Jack

Drs Steven and Becker: Perhaps a bit more thought should be given to this "problem".

First, once the aging prof reaches the age of retirement eligibility (say at half pay or more counting health benefits?) it surely occurs to them that they are going to work every day for half pay. That seems a fair incentive to retire or if need be or desired, take another job, but should they not, then the institution is getting them for half pay. Not a bad deal in most cases.

Second, is there really a "problem" of any duration? In K-12 education, where staying on much past retirement eligibility is less common, those teachers of the 70's are retiring much faster than replacements can be found at current pay scales. Soon that will be the case for management level people of all walks of life and Dr Steven's generation should see opportunities for advancement open up more quickly than was the case when there were legions of "boomers" available for about any job.

As for the "Marxist" crack, I doubt there are many "Marxists" in our colleges, however if there are those who lean toward more regulation than the current fashion of "trusting "the market"" solve all of our problems and order our priorities rationally, the debate and exposure should be good for kids who were born in the Reagan era and grew up with the Fairness Doctrine gone and right leaning propagandists having cornered the talk radio airwaves.

Indeed! Perhaps a few of the older profs recall salvaging capitalism from its last melt-down via work rules, min wage laws and the adoption of collective bargaining.

Robert

Why not deal with this problem with the equivalent of "senior status" in the federal judiciary (no, this is not a swipe at Judge Posner!)? For example, allowing a professor who reaches a certain age--say, 65 years--to retire at full pay or continue teaching with a lighter load at half pay. At the same time, the university is then allowed to hire a newly-minted professor as a substitute for the older one.

Thomason

The worth, indeed the greatness, of an institution is the sum of the devoted years of service by its constituent faculty. Draw distinctions between a law that required, annually, that all university faculty be replaced - with a law that keeps tenured faculty in place for as long as they contribute to the institution. It is near impossible to believe that the 'new-blood' approach would provide more value to the institution that the 'aged-in-place' alternative. New blood would give the greatest encouragement to innovation, but the constant change of faculty would be detrimental to capitalizing on those innovations. It's about output and contribution, not age.

John Dean

It's a bit disturbing for me that the slightly more "leftist" direction of old professors is an important discussion point in a discussion about aging professors.

How to deal with old professors?

It is my point of view that the productivity of aging professores varies very much - and should be considered. Maybe it would be a good idea to give aging professors a "part time" job.

(if possible)

How to deal with aging people? I suppose that our society is in need for a transformation.

mingsheng

thanks for your analysis, but I really doubt if your proposal would be adopted by authority.

Wes

In view of the shortage of faculty positions for new PhDs, I've been looking into the community college scene. It's amazing how difficult it is for a new PhD to get a full-time community college faculty position.It's generally not possible to get a full time job at a community college without at least a year of adjunct teaching experience. Adjunct teaching positions generally only pay a few thousand dollars a semester which makes for a pretty rough year.Not only that but you can get hired as an adjunct, spend the summer preparing to teach the class and then, a few weeks into the semester, if the enrollment in the class isn't quite the right level (e.g. 14-24 students), the class gets canceled and you're back out on the street.

Richard

I find your comment regarding passing along higher faculty costs to students in higher tuition to be interesting.

Has anyone done any work on whether the ability to pass costs along to the consumer of a service is different in cases such as higher education, where the consumer does not tend to pay the full cost of the service, as opposed to services where the consumer does pay the full cost?

And, in a related point, those of us involved in college fundraising would not want to see tuition incerases offhandedly proposed, without considering the effect on the financial aid budget.

Don

Judge Posner, you cite in your comments, " Aging Professors...", that the left-leaningness of Jewish people is " ...never adequately explained". Would you please give it a try ?

This question fascinates me. I live in a community with a sizeable Jewish population and most of my Jewish friends are quite politically liberal. It just doesn't make sense. For example, I've read that, other than African-Americans voting for Democrats, there is no other demographic group in the US that is nearly as lock-step of a voting group than Jews for Democrats. Why ?

I look forward greatly to reading your comments.

Jake

"The extreme to which the youth of the 1960s was drawn was leftist, and the left in the 1960s was farther to the left than today's left."

Respectfully, Judge Posner, you should get out of chambers more often. The counterweight to your assertion is the inexorable growth of government in relation to private ordering over the last 40 years. Sociopolitics in America, consistently shifting leftward, afford easy camouflage to today's leftists, allowing them to claim they are an improvement over their 1960s forebears -- a claim that any sentient being should recognize as absolutely false.

Nick Smith

It's generally not possible to get a full time job at a community college without at least a year of adjunct teaching experience. Adjunct teaching positions generally only pay a few thousand dollars a semester which makes for a pretty rough year.

Jeff Carter

One thing that is not mentioned is the credibility that the school gets from having an aged respected professor on staff.
Many students want to take a class from a learned professor.
There is a cost-benefit to having the old dogs around.

There is not a question in my mind that campus faculties generally lean left. Most of the right wing people are out in the private sector where returns to work are higher.

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