23 July 2008

Generation Gap in the professoriate

OK, so this might be a little to inside for the non-academics, but I found Anna Dronzek's recent feature in Academe online to describe an interesting phenomenon that I think is more serious than it might first seem. In describing the Academic Generation Gap, she points some interesting ways in which the junior faculty being hired today differ from the senior faculty who are retiring in the next 5 to 10 years. She focuses on three particular ways in which they differ: Community, Loyalty, and Identity.

A simple difference she noted was the changing family roles. She contrasted senior faculty, whose spouse may have been well positioned to help with much of the childcare, to young dual-income academic couples for whom evening lectures and conference trips require negotiations and planning. What made it interesting was the way she didn't take a side, but stressed how important it was for both groups to understand why the other had different experiences and expectations. But it also illustrated how quickly the demographic change would also require a rethinking of the structure of the university.

In the same issue was another piece looking at the larger changes in academia including the specialization of skills like research, teaching, and service instead of developing faculty who are well-rounded and contribute on multiple fronts.

No comments: