To Whom It May Concern:

I read with interest the article in Student Life (9/27/06) entitled "Climbing the Academic Ladder," well written by the student reporter, Josh Goebel, but clearly reflecting the University's point of view. This was most probably intended as a response to "Students Protest Removal of Lecturer's Job," in the same issue (please see also "Lecture Positions Valuable to Students," 9/29/06). As one of the affected Lecturers, I must respond.

The title, referring to an "academic ladder," suggests a hierarchical, competitive model of academia, setting the tone for this "just-so story" propagated, ironically, by the two anthropologists quoted in the article. The Lecturer's Policy, and the position of Senior Lecturer, is not mentioned, nor is the possibility of earning tenure for college teaching, until recently practiced by several top-rated schools (e.g. The University of Chicago, Washington University in St Louis).

The article insists on the importance of the PhD degree, and notes that this may take from 4-6 years, depending on the discipline. My discipline, Indology, requires much more time. A degree earned 4-6 years after college graduation would usually not be taken seriously, because it takes much longer to achieve basic competence in the necessary languages. Even so, universities put pressure on graduate students in these disciplines to finish their dissertations too soon, leading inevitably to spurious, ideologically driven work, for the sake of quick academic success.

The PhD, even an honest one, is not strictly necessary. Some of the most distinguished professors at my alma mater, The University of Chicago, did not have a doctorate (e.g. Edward Shils, Helen Harris Perlman, and Mortimer Adler). A doctoral program, although often little more than indoctrination or sycophancy lessons, may be valuable as a training program in professorcraft, and a test of one's political skills. But any Lecturer who has successfully performed the duties of classroom teaching and mentorship for seven years does not need a PhD, and may be better off without one (although administrators of a PhD factory such as Washington University are unlikely to admit this).

The article defends the value of "short term" non-tenure track appointments, in today's competitive job market, but neglects to mention that here at Washington University, much of the real work is done by year-to-year contract Lecturers who are strung along for years with no job security and no real career path, and then terminated on a whim or a pretext, especially if they try to stand up for themselves. This is immoral and should be illegal. The academic competition extolled by the article favors people with certain personality traits, especially those incapable of relating to others in a non-hierarchical way. Many of the most successful Research Faculty and administrators are politicians of the worst sort: the ones who could never get elected. At least we can vote out of power politicians who don't tell the truth or keep their campaign promises. In our universities, no such checks exist. Nevertheless, those whose true vocation is teaching persist, in but not of this cutthroat environment.

Our students need heroes, mentors who set a worthy example. Here are two of mine. First, the late David Hadas of Washington University, who never published anything but became a full professor here for his dedication to college teaching. Professor Hadas refused chemotherapy lest it interfere with his teaching, and died halfway through a course on value formation. Second, Herman Sinaiko of The University of Chicago, who resigned from a powerful adminstrative position and took a steep pay cut to return to his job as college teacher in general humanities. His book, Reclaiming the Canon, consists of essays obviously based on many years of class notes.

I ask all Washington University administratos to consider doing likewise. Are your jobs really necessary? Do we really need so many Deans, to administer a needlessly complex system? How did you find yourself working as a bean counter, or union buster? Please, fire yourselves, open the curriculum, and join us in teaching. You would be happier, and the students would benefit from greater choice. Let's abolish Departments in the College, to eliminate petty turf wars. Let's give the College greater autonomy, and grant tenure for good teaching and mentorship. Let's keep unfit teachers out of our classrooms; let them stay in the library or laboratory. Let's establish Washington University as a leader in cooperative education. And please, nobody ever pull rank on anybody else.

Proudly insubordinate,

Jerome Bauer
www.jeromebauer.com

Proud to be a member of the Washington University community, but not proud of its heartless, soulless, mindless bureaucracy

Proud to have been an active member of the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate Student Associations Council and South Asia Graduate Association