Letters to the Editor
Lengthy discussion needed on mandatory retirement
Although I agree with many of the points Dr. Adamec raises in his “insight”
piece on mandatory retirement (Gazette, April 27, 2006), I think that
the issue is much more complex than what is presented in such a brief overview
of the topic.
I can only offer anecdotal evidence as I was a graduate student in the United States in 1993, when the Supreme Court passed the law against age discrimination. When I finished my undergraduate degree in 1992, there were many saying that this was the “right time” to enter the field as Cold War professors would soon be retiring.
However, with the Supreme Court’s ruling, there was a major shift in the retirement and hiring cycle within Russian departments and it became increasingly difficult to find academic work for the next 10 years.
There were a few years in the late ’90s when only two or three tenure-track jobs were offered in all of the United States and Canada for a certain year and many graduate students ahead of me abandoned the field because it was clear that they would not find work in academia.
At the same time, the average age of the faculty grew older and students (also due to many other factors) saw Russian as a less vibrant and interesting field to pursue.
An overall decline in student numbers meant that when some of these Russian professors retired, their positions were redistributed to Medicine, Business, Engineering, etc.
Overall, there was a general loss in Russian positions and it is only within the last four years that double-digit tenure track positions are being offered again on the MLA job list.
This said, I do not think that we can make broad statements about productivity and age. My PhD advisor was 66 when I defended my dissertation and since then, he has published a book, several articles and is considered the most active researcher in his department.
However, the fact that tenure protects academic freedom and also allows for the abuse of such job security suggests that we cannot automatically repeal mandatory retirement without also instituting some sort of tenure review.
I agree with Dr. Adamec that mandatory retirement should be discussed and possibly overturned, but only after a very lengthy discussion with all members of the university community.
Frederick H. White
Department of German and Russian
Young faculty frozen out
Neither Professor Adamec nor any of the other propagandists I have read on
this subject (Challenging mandatory retirement, Gazette, April 27,
2006) have addressed the rank social injustice of ending mandatory retirement.
Younger faculty are increasingly frozen out of the benefits of the full-time tenured employment taken for granted by our older colleagues. While so many of us remain consigned to the limbo of temporary labour it is galling to think that aging baby boomers, the most privileged group of individuals in the history of this country, feel no obligation to share their very considerable slice of the pie.
Should any society devote scarce resources to making an already comfortable 67 year old man feel useful in his golden years while a single mother in her mid-30s has to scrounge for part-time teaching?
Does Professor Adamec not think that chronic underemployment might negatively impact her “mental health and longevity”? There are surely other ways for aging baby boomers to remain productive (ever heard of writing a book?) besides hogging salaried positions in perpetuity.
Department of Philosophy