Saturday, January 31, 2004


Trickle Down Economics in the Academy?

I was reading through an interesting blog on Academic Superstars over at Butterflies and Wheels, which includes a comment by Scott McLemee, referencing an article he wrote on the subject for the Chronicle of Higher Education a few years back. I was particularly struck by the remarks of Stanley Fish on the subject of "Academostars":

This sounds suspiciously like Reaganomics to me, an economic theory I would assume 99% of professors in the humanities vehemently disagree with. Apparently, bringing someone like Fish into your department and paying him at least 2-3 times the amount his colleagues are making for doing far less work is going to help the whole department. And because this money will only be used by adminstrators to pay the ridiculous salaries of superstars, we had might as well accept that fact and pay Fish whatever ungodly sum he is "earning". We should not, apparently, issue a call for reform so that people receive equal pay for equal work. How capitalist of Mr. Fish.

To be fair, Fish may have a point: his presence in an English department may draw starry-eyed grad students into the department and increase funding for more useless graduate seminars on esoteric topics that will prove of little or no use to anyone teaching at most universities. In this respect, the "material conditions" of the other professors in the department may be improved somewhat (though the graduate students and adjuncts will still be teaching the same thankless classes for the same poverty-level wages).

But Fish will still be making 2-3 times what his colleagues do for far less work (most academic superstars teach one course a year, generally a graduate or senior seminar with a small enrollment). Very little of that privileged status will be trickling down to his colleagues.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?