Let me react appropriately and further to Mark Bauerlein.

First, please open your hymnals to the book of McEnroe, page 1. Sing along. Repeat as needed.

Next, let us allow that Bauerlein exempts some academics—those with heavy teaching loads, those trying to get tenure—from his discussion. But let us note further that this is not a small portion; this is the vast majority. Maybe seventy percent of teaching faculty do not have tenure-track positions; some large chunk of the remaining thirty percent are not at research universities and do a lot of teaching; some large chunk of those who are in tenure-track positions don’t have tenure and must scramble to get it.

But then let us confine ourselves to the class upon which Bauerlein focuses, those fortunate few academics who hold tenured positions at research universities with light teaching loads.

Let us mark, with our colleague Kelman, that in fact many such institutions have post-tenure review and can do bad stuff to you if you don’t meet expectations.

Let us note with Bérubé that there are lots of things such academics must do before they can get around to research.

So Bauerlein’s advice applies to something under a quarter of university faculty, and at that, to some fraction of their time remaining after they’ve done the things they really must. And here, Bauerlein counsels, stop. Play golf, whatever. “Stop pushing yourself…. The conference papers that have to be written, the scholarly articles they want to complete, the book projects that hang over them…. these are not required…. Is it really worth sweating all those months getting that manuscript in order—which upon publication will sell only a few hundred copies—just to boost your annual raise a few hundred dollars?”

Now, let us make one further note—the assumption in that last sentence is that there is such a thing as an “annual raise”; in fact there is no guarantee of any such thing in many institutions. So really, we’re talking about doing these things so that one can get a raise, period.

But with that, let us be crass. The answer to his last question is “yes.” Suppose I get a raise of “a few hundred dollars” this year. By my reckoning, “a few hundred dollars” is a minimum of $300. If I retire at 65 and assume an annual rate of interest of 3% (both of them conservative estimates) then a $300 raise this year is worth something over $150,000 to me over the remainder of my career. Yes, that’s worth it.

It’s especially worth it when we note that the Consumer Price Index for the years since I started working here, for the West, looks like this:

CPI 2001-2008

It’s not even enough when we note that the price of houses here, in California, and around the country goes like this:


You had better be angling for a few hundred more bucks a year.

And let us skip over all that squishy stuff like professional norms to note as hard-headedly as we can, these jobs are research university jobs. Inasmuch as you have any time not accounted for by teaching and administration, you are to be doing research. That is your job. If you take the money for a job which you then do not do, you are committing fraud. You are a fraud. Bauerlein is telling research professors to be frauds. In the Chronicle of Higher Education. Well done, everyone.