November 21st, 2014
This week, academia is in a frenzy—well, an erudite tizzy—over an op-ed in the Chronicle of Higher Education by recently retired art professor Laurie Fendrich. In the piece, Fendrich, who’s 66, lauds her own decision to leave her position at Hofstra—and characterizes her aging colleagues as doddering dinosaurs who are clogging up the academic pipeline.
As in other professions, baby boomers “hanging on” past retirement age is a hot-button issue in higher education—and it’s easy to see why. In the university, the over-65s are the final generation for whom teaching college has provided a stable, (somewhat) respected, remunerative middle-class existence. They’ve had benefits and job security for longer than most of their younger colleagues have been alive. And they didn’t have to work nearly as hard to get all that—back in the ’60s and ’70s, when most of them began their careers, requirements for hiring and tenure were a fraction of what they are now. (It was also legal to stipulate that your department wanted a “male between 25 & 45,” so the good old days are a matter of perspective.)