Archives for professors



From the Comments: A Market for Skipping Class

We got tons of responses to our Bleg last week on how professors should incentivize classroom attendance. Thank you everyone for your suggestions, a few concerns kept coming up in the comments:

  • Is the student a consumer?
  • Does attending class equate learning?
  • Are students a fair market to judge professors?
  • Do bonus/penalty systems work?

Most readers encouraged making the class interesting enough so that the professor is the sole incentive for students to show up. Others suggested an attendance incentive — ranging from points for showing up, to test questions handed out at the beginning of class — or a policy that puts students’ grades at risk for not showing up. Read More »



Another Salvo in the Tenure Debate

Should professors have tenure? The question, debated recently on this blog, misses the mark—as do the usual answers, whether “yes,” “no,” or “maybe.”

On the “no” side, it is argued that tenure protects incompetent spongers. A very reliable (tenured) colleague, at a university that shall remain nameless, tells me of professors whose interests are no longer intellectual and who spend their time playing the real estate market. Their research productivity, measured in grant dollars or papers, is low; thus, the university is angry. Their teaching is also substandard, yet not quite abysmal enough to get them fired. To urge them to resign, the department punishes them… by assigning extra teaching!

On the “yes” side, it is argued that tenure protects academic freedom. That point is made by my colleague on this blog Dan Hamermesh. Ten years ago I agreed with him. I would not have imagined my future self happy as an associate professor at Olin College of Engineering: Olin offers six-year renewable contracts instead of tenure. Now I see Olin’s system as a reasonable alternative to tenure, for I no longer believe that tenure supports academic freedom. Read More »