Wednesday, November 24, 2004

My First Hire

This morning, while working out at the campus gym, an English professor in her 50’s confided that her nickname for me is “my son, the dean.” She is still one of the younger members of her department, and she started in the 1970’s.

A quick scan of the list of faculty in my division (over 80 full-time) revealed that exactly one fits the profile of a married white guy under 50. One wonders what a diversity officer would make of that. (The conservatives who constantly gripe about ‘liberal bias’ among college faculty somehow miss this point. I don’t know why.)

A study published by the American Association of Community Colleges looking at administrative pipelines at community colleges made an interesting point: in 1986, the average age of a Chief Academic Officer (one step below a President: usually titled either Vice President for Academic Affairs or Dean of Academic Affairs) was 49. In 2000, it was 54.

The AACC has issued a series of studies bemoaning the coming leadership crunch for community colleges, pointing to the diminished pipeline that typically leads to Presidencies. Yet there has been almost no systematic effort to connect the dots between the thin administrative pipeline and the lack of full-time faculty hiring.

Today was a banner day for me; I made my first hire. This after 15 months on the job, and as I’m about to lose numbers four and five. The new hire is, himself, over 40.

What’s especially striking about the top-heaviness of academia is that it stands in such stark contrast to, oh, I don’t know, EVERY OTHER INDUSTRY IN AMERICA. In the private sector, people can rise (and fall) quickly, based on a combination of skill, politics, economic waves, and dumb luck. While it’s a brutal world in many ways, it does, at least, produce some opportunity for new people with new approaches to break in. Academia stopped trying to do that sometime in the late 1970’s, and still hasn’t even attempted to come to grips with the implications of that.

Alas. On to turkey day.