A Tepid Democracy

Academics are notoriously hateful about university committees; that bad attitude might be one of the best explanations for the ongoing destruction of full time employment and tenure. In essence, the powerful (and increasingly rarefied) tenured full professors are can pursue their individual interests and let the least experienced try to run the university. It’s a great way to make sure that the administration is always better prepared to deal with problems.

I enjoyed Sufka’s call for attention to service, although I think that his rhetoric is interestingly tepid, as if he were afraid to stir up the ant pile (“Serving the University: Better Mentors for Young Professors Would Help“). He ignores a more profound problem, too. I keep wondering at what point will these governing structures will begin to loose legitimacy.Will legislative bodies and standing committees have to adapt by allowing part-time and non-tenure track faculty?

In one university where I worked, the vast majority of the faculty in the composition program had almost no say at all in university governance at either the departmental or the university level. Department by-laws didn’t even permit them to vote at departmental meetings; they could not run for the senate; they had no incentive to be on any standing committees. The democracy Sufka describes isn’t quite the university that actually exists.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com. I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol] writinginthewild.com

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