14.3.06

THE LIFE OF THE MIND. University Diaries reacts to perceived sabbatical leave abuse in Michigan.

What makes it even more difficult to justify sabbaticals, it seems to me, is the obsolescence of the professor-as-intellectual, the professor as essentially a monkish pensive type. Traditionally, the professor was not a publications-generating, conference-organizing, grants-getting, newspaper-quote-issuing dervish. She was intended to do the world’s slow and careful thinking for it, and her primary function was to share the fruits of that thinking with students and colleagues within the walls of the university.

No one questions the need for contemplatives to sit atop mountains and reflect to no particular end. But everyone questions the need of non-reflective careerists to reflect. To the extent that university professors look more like non-reflective careerists than old-fashioned contemplatives, they can expect people to wonder why they get to drift off to subsidized wanderjahren.

Fine, Michigan (or Illinois, where some of the same dynamics are in play.) Redefine the job description and see what happens.

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