Academics in Their Fifties

In Humanities, academics in their mid-fifties approach the moment of the highest productivity, their great flourishing when all of the knowledge they have accumulated will produce their greatest achievements. 

Those of them who have fashioned a productive research life up to this point detest anybody who wastes their time and move with great effectiveness and speed through the obligations that distract them from scholarship. It’s an enormous pleasure to work with them.

Those who haven’t managed to create a productive life of research take vengeance on everybody by wasting everybody else’s time like it’s their sacred duty. 

I was just in a meeting where two such academics drove everyone nuts, interrupting the speaker, giggling, throwing bits of paper at each other (sic!) and laughing, snapping and exchanging selfies, and making such a nuisance of themselves that I’m literally livid. This was a really good speaker and I wanted to hear what he had to say. But these two colleagues drowned out a good quarter of the talk. 

It was not the kind of meeting that anybody is obligated to attend, by the way. If you don’t want to be there, don’t go. But to steal people’s time like this, on a Friday afternoon, is shameless. 


2 thoughts on “Academics in Their Fifties”

  1. Agreed.
    I am personally very fond of my department chair, he’s got his heart in the right place and he seems to schmooze with the higher ups quite effectively, but I cannot forgive him the three-to-fourfold increase in the amount of time we spend on meetings with him at the helm than with previous chairs. And it’s as you say, he’s given up on research and devoted himself to fluffier pursuits, among them being an administrator and an unbelievably wordy orator when he has us as the captive audience. He’s literally trying to fill up his time with this $hit and wonders why the attendance at faculty and executive committee meetings is so low — because you are wasting everyone’s time, wanting a 3-hour goddamn meeting every week, that’s why. FFS.

    OTOH, I am starting to see great returns from my “jack of all trades becomes a master of all trades but it takes a little while” approach to research. It takes longer to get recognized when you pursue multiple disparate subfields simultaneously, but it’s the only way I like to work because it prevents me from getting bored. The good news is that, once you do get recognized, it’s in several fields and you can then purse them all, and cut across them all, and people believe you know what you are doing; this cross-cutting work is some of the most delicious science you can think of! Yum!


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