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Wagner on Training

A while ago, I posted on the topic of teaching and tenure at Williams. Professor Wagner was kind enough to send in these comments:

It is a bit hard to remember exactly what I had in mind two years ago, but reflecting on my comment, I believe that by “training” I meant the multiple ways in which the college helps younger faculty develop professionally in the crucial early years of their careers.

Much of that help, of course, is focused on teaching, and takes place both informally and through formal college and departmental mechanisms. But the college also expends considerable resources helping younger faculty (and not just younger faculty) develop their research, for example through generous leave policies (after reappointment, untenured faculty now regularly receive a full-year leave at 3/4 salary, which many extend to a year and a half through outside funding) and financial, library, and technical support. The degree of further support for research that takes place varies by department and discipline, but many departments organize research seminars where we provide feedback to each other, and the Oakley Center provides financial and logistical support for interdepartmental seminars.

Less formally, we give our work to colleagues to read for their criticisms. On a wider professional level, although this can seem a double-edged sword, younger faculty as a rule are involved in departmental and college governance from the moment they arrive, which can be time-consuming but also useful in learning how to operate professionally in the world of higher education.

All of this takes place to varying degrees at other institutions, of course, and I am not claiming Williams is unique in this regard. But my conversations with colleagues at other institutions over the years suggest that the college does compare favorably with respect to the help it provides younger faculty in establishing themselves and developing their careers.

Many thanks to Professor Wagner for taking the time to write. All of the above is perfectly reasonable and consistent with what other people have told me.

My main concern remains that Williams places too much emphasis on research productivity it its hiring and tenure decisions and that this emphasis has increased significantly in the last 20 years. I have blogged about these sorts of issues here, here, here, here and too many other places to link to. I’ll be riding this hobby horse for many years to come.