30 October 2006

Seen at the gym: profession assassination

I seldom watch news channels, but when I'm at the gym, I can't really help it, because they have televisions in almost every place you might look. Despite the wonder that is TV B Gone, they're usually silent with subtitles, so they're not as annoying as they could be.

This Sunday I was reminded again of why I dislike news channels so much. Great vast chunks of airtime filled with pundits, people who offer opinions on anything. This time around, CNN was featuring college costs. And right before a commercial, one of the panelists talked about tenured professors who make $100,000 a year, teach two classes a week, and take the entire summer off.

Then there was some comment about how this would be fixed right up if someone with real management skills could take over.

First, most professors do not make $100,000 a year. Not even tenured full professors. Some surely do, but this is a little like saying actors make millions for a movie. Some do, but most don't.

Teaching two classes a week is probably about right for a lot of institutions. But professors do more than just teach classes. They do research, advise students, serve on committees, and much, much more.

And would you work for free? If professors take the summer off, it's probably because they have a nine month salary, and don't get paid to be around during summer. I have no information on how many "take the summer off," but many professors do work for free during summers.

Not sure how the impression of the profession can be raised, but maybe it needs it.

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