Review: The faculty lounges (by Naomi Schaefer Riley)
15 Aug 2011

Review: The faculty lounges (by Naomi Schaefer Riley)

Bottom line (as we say), Naomi Riley should be given kudos for a Contribution by Omission: A prominent, powerful, and evolving justification for tenure lies in the protection of faculty from shape-shifted corporate colleagues. This capability is one that should be taken up as a serious –even a top-drawer– justification for the continuation of tenure.

15 Aug 2011

Book: The Faculty Lounges: And Other Reasons Why You Won’t Get The College Education You Pay For
Author: Naomi Schaefer Riley
Publisher: Ivan R Dee (2011)

The pot of gold at the end of the tenure review process is still job security, even though powerful forces are working against the continuity of tenure as a higher education fixture. The conventional justification for tenure is dramatized through the Usual Circumstances and Suspects that prey on faculty: Budgets, administrators, unhappy students, and political, religious, or otherwise inspired off-campus harpies, such as present and former writers for the Wall Street Journal.

Naomi Riley is conventionally adequate at disparaging the academic serfdom associated with assignments to introductory classes during the tenure review process. Yes, assistant professors are often sacrificed on the altar of tuition streaming to help finance smaller classes and their ranking faculty. Yes, serfdom in the service of tuition streaming is matched by subject matter serfdom, in which entry level faculty are expected to demonstrate fealty to traditional knowledge production and delivery. And yes, undergraduates are often taught by graduate students, most of whom lust after the pot of gold.

Riley ticks off a laundry list of these and other tenure-related problems, none of which are new and nearly all of which are undocumented. Charges of shallowness are conveniently moot in her case, however, because she is neither an academic nor intellectually oriented in her writing. It goes without saying that she did not undergo the rigors of tenure evaluation. Riley appears to have acquired much of her largely intuitive opinions about higher education through contact with her parents, both academics, and by going to college. Her voice is flat; her style doggedly Wall Street Journal editorial/op-ed.

As former academic guilds speciate into “businesses”, and as business models and associated cultures virally infect otherwise healthy academic hosts, we may indeed find pressing reasons to protect faculty, not only from the Usual Circumstances and Suspects, but from colleagues who have mutated from guild members into competitive, intrapreneurial corporate personnel.

Sporting her largely unexamined defense of the virtues and inevitability of an Academic Rapture based on business values and models, Riley is an ideal flack for the Elimination of Tenure. The CEOs (aka the presidents) of more and more campuses will certainly pay her and others like her increasing heed.

Bottom line (as we say), Naomi Riley should be given kudos for a Contribution by Omission: A prominent, powerful, and evolving justification for tenure lies in the protection of faculty from shape-shifted corporate colleagues. This capability is one that should be taken up as a serious –even a top-drawer– justification for the continuation of tenure.


Note: The publisher provided a copy of the book for review. Please read our review policy for more details on how we review products and services.

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