March 10, 2004

Three Wives and Three Hundred Scholarly Articles (The Good Life)

Universalizing from his own experience -- "a wonderful life" that has allowed him to publish, teach, marry, have children, travel, and attend the theatre, but that has apparently not done much to help him develop his capacities for sympathetic imagination -- David Lester purports to be " those who find the academic life to be so hard and so stressful." Such malcontents, he suggests, might "have benefited from spending eight hours down a coal mine in their adolescence." Worth reading as a remarkable instance of self-absorption and self-promotion, and especially noteworthy for the boast that he has "never had a federal grant" for his research (take that, you academic welfare bums!). The Little Professor has more.

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at March 10, 2004 12:42 AM

This just crakced me up, in fact I'm still laughing: "These days, I eat in my office and check the sports news online. For many years, I had my name removed from the faculty e-mail list so that I had no awareness of what activities were taking place at the college."

Sports news online? Hmm ... hang on a sec, I've ... uhh ... done that.

Posted by: Chris at March 10, 2004 01:23 AM

Yes, academics, life can be easy if you don't do significant proportions of your job. Not that, I agree, life is altogether that hard in academia: if you get a good job, it has a lot to recommend it in terms of employment. But David Lester doesn't appear to be the one to make that point in a sensible way. I took it to be a parody until I googled him and found out he really exists.

Posted by: Timothy Burke at March 10, 2004 08:07 AM

Unless he has had extraordinarily bad luck/tragedy, I'm inclined to believe that having three wives makes him a failure no matter how many articles he has published. And he never mentioned if any of those spouses worked for pay or were adjuncts to his career.

Posted by: David Salmanson at March 10, 2004 08:17 AM

David, Aren't you being a bit demanding? How many wives does one have to have before one counts as a success in your book? I was hoping just one would do...
Just kidding. Like Timothy I was convinced it was parody, but I'll take your word that its not.

Posted by: harry at March 10, 2004 08:29 AM

I will have to say that the author seemed a bit self-absorbed. OTOH, being an academic hermit is probably pretty stress free. Imagine not having to interact socially with any of your co-workers. Heck most jobs would be stress free if that was the case.

As far as a 'good life', I personally consider the dissolution of two marriages to be a non-meritorious life goal. But, who knows, maybe he married young and stupid; twice. :-)

Posted by: Keith Sader at March 10, 2004 08:52 AM

Lester's essay provides as good a case study as you could find of (a) why academics want tenured positions and (b) why many administrators and boards of trustees want to abolish it. Lester can refuse to answer his phone or serve on committees because other faculty at his institution don't have that luxury, either because they are hoping for a t-t job or have one but are not yet tenured. Or maybe just because they have a sense of responsibility. (I wonder how many of Lester's colleagues over the years have had to take on jobs he was supposed to do, precisely because he had made himself unavailable?) And because he has tenure, he can give the finger to colleagues, administrators, and trustees alike.

Lester is right that academics are devoted to complaining and lamenting their stress levels. (As Stanley Fish wrote many years ago, "the complaints of academics are their treasures.") But like any job, that of being a professor is hard to do well. So when someone like Lester says how easy it is to produce a shitload of scholarship, the first question that comes to my mind is: how much of the work did he make his co-authors do?

Posted by: Ayjay at March 10, 2004 09:17 AM

Looking him up, it looks to me like he has published a lot of self-help-ish stuff on suicide; there appears to be a decent amount of repetition in the substance of his work.

Posted by: Timothy Burke at March 10, 2004 09:22 AM

"I have published dozens of books and hundreds of scholarly articles and notes. Of these, about 230 have been co-written with undergraduate students and about 70 with colleagues at the college. I have published also with colleagues from more than 30 countries."

Would that be putting his name on 230 student papers? (possibly with some guidance)

Posted by: Barry at March 10, 2004 09:38 AM

Wouldn't you think that empathy would be one of the requirements for someone whose work deals with suicide? Or maybe he feels we should counsel people to spend a day in a coal mine to make themselves feel better about the current state of their lives.

Posted by: George at March 10, 2004 09:43 AM

Yeah, this guy seems pretty full of himself. But I do agree with his point that academia isn't bad compared to other jobs. After college, I was broke and started working as a security agent for a cargo company at its ariport hub (before and after 9/11). I think that gave me a real appreciation for the benefits of the academic life: the ability to lead a "life of the mind," researching an enjoyable and important topic, the ability to have a semi-flexible daytime schedule, being able to share my interests with a lot of intelligent people. Since I'm only in my first year of grad school (and well funded) maybe I haven't had the time to become jaded yet....
But, it seems to me that those people in my cohort who have worked a "real job" before grad school are able to handle the stresses better than those who went straight from 4 years of undergrad, and seem to have a better perspective on things.
I'm sure that a non-tenure track positon is often frustrating -his comments would seem pretty stupid if they were directed to underpaid, underinsured, contingent faculty.
Regarding Ayjay (#6) - my observations lead me to believe if you publish a lot of stuff and are somewhat friendly, you will find it much easier to turn down committee work. But I could be wrong about that.

Posted by: C.R. at March 10, 2004 09:49 AM

Life must be pretty stress free when you ignore your responsibilities. Not going to faculty meeting!? If everyone followed his role, the academy would fall apart. One of my favorite professors has had to give up teaching to take an administrative position (Director of the School of Environment. He loves teaching. But "If I don't do it, then who will?" And the school is better for it. I'm glad some people can be selfish and brag about it.

Posted by: Ben at March 10, 2004 10:00 AM

Life must be pretty stress free when you ignore your responsibilities. Not going to faculty meeting!? If everyone followed his role, the academy would fall apart. One of my favorite professors has had to give up teaching to take an administrative position (Director of the School of Environment. He loves teaching. But "If I don't do it, then who will?" And the school is better for it. I'm glad some people can be selfish and brag about it.

Posted by: Ben at March 10, 2004 10:00 AM

Well, academics like to bitch about committee work, but the fact is that some of it is either directly necessary or is a necessary part of the "safety valve" of self-governance. (E.g., you may have nothing to do on some committees if your institution is well-run, but you're there just in case things are not going so well, in order to keep an eye on the store and take a role if necessary).

So yes, people like Lester are parasites in this respect: everything they refuse to do, someone else has to. Post-tenure, most faculties pretty quickly divide into the people who do a lot of that kind of work and the people who do almost none of it; if everyone responsibly did their share, then the burdens wouldn't fall so heavily on the people who are uber-responsible.

Posted by: Timothy Burke at March 10, 2004 10:07 AM

I agree that he starts out with a good point: my father was a blue-collar laborer who came home every night exhausted, with an aching back, and with oil stains ground deep into his hands. My life has far fewer stresses and strains than his did.

But the rest...Lester seems to have missed an important aspect of the academic life, that collegiality thing. He sounds like an obsessive-compulsive anchorite rather than a real contributor to the life of the university.

Posted by: PZ Myers at March 10, 2004 10:29 AM

It is interesting to look at this from my perspective. By all means I have an easy job: low stress, good pay, security, decent people, etc. But I find myself longing for academia again because I miss the battle of ideas. Sure this job is relatively easy in many ways but it can also be incredibly boring and unstimulating. Perhaps, if I was an idealist I would quite my job finally get my PhD and find a place to teach no matter what the financial cost. Right now, however, I just don't feel like taking the risk. That doesn't mean, however, that I don't feel tinge of jealousy reading about those of you who found a place, no matter how tenuous, in academics.

Finding a career requires a balance between doing what you love and doing what works for your life. Pay, environment, stress levels and security must be balanced against things like enjoyment, fulfillment, and intellectual stimulus.

Are there people who coast in tenured positions living an easy life? Obviously. I am sure we have all been around profs and students who care about nothing but their own comfort. But there are also people who struggle to do a tough job with little credit. Each person has to decide what balance works. Mr. Lester seems unaware that there are people who feel differently about their careers; people who don't feel comfortable coasting through life in a cocoon of self-absorption and mediocrity.

Posted by: Kevin Holtsberry at March 10, 2004 10:50 AM

Memo to The Chronicle: Fire your first-person editor, please.

PS What kind of scholarship is 230 papers coauthored with undergraduates at a state university famous for the drug habits of its students? Is it possible that it is that easy to publish in psychology?

Posted by: Matilde at March 10, 2004 10:55 AM

"What kind of scholarship is 230 papers coauthored with undergraduates at a state university famous for the drug habits of its students? Is it possible that it is that easy to publish in psychology? "

God, I wish!! It's likely easier in Psychology than in the humanities, but that does seem like a very large number for someone at a 4-year school...maybe he's published in a lot of third and fourth-rate journals. But I'm sure it impresses his colleagues not familiar with clinical psychology...

Posted by: C. R. at March 10, 2004 11:36 AM

"What kind of scholarship is 230 papers coauthored with undergraduates at a state university famous for the drug habits of its students? Is it possible that it is that easy to publish in psychology? "

God, I wish!! It's likely easier in Psychology than in the humanities, but that does seem like a very large number for someone at a 4-year school...maybe he's published in a lot of third and fourth-rate journals. But I'm sure it impresses his colleagues not familiar with clinical psychology...

Posted by: C. R. at March 10, 2004 11:36 AM

Sorry for the double posting and the bad grammar. :-(

Posted by: C. R. at March 10, 2004 11:41 AM

I think that the age difference between Cady Wells and Mr. Wonderful explains a lot. He started his career in the old-style academic world and got tenure. He probably expected to do both, and did both, without breaking a sweat -- the universities were still expanding in the 1960s and there were jobs to be filled.

He rode a wave of good luck and unearned privilege and now his college probably can't get rid of him with chisels, blasting caps, or an ejector seat.

Whereas Cady Wells started out, evidently, in the past 5 or 10 years in an academic world that is utterly different. She has faced a miserable job market that Mr. Wonderful never knew; she has to prove herself in ways he never had to. The utterly self-centered actions he takes for granted (not returning phone calls, not looking at email), would quickly spell the end of the careers of Cady Wells and her cohort.

What amazes me is that Mr. Wonderful seems not to have noticed anything, ANYTHING, about what younger academics are experiencing. He seems not to have a clue as to why everyone else can't do what he's done. What a moron.

Posted by: Nancy at March 10, 2004 01:26 PM

Not going to faculty meeting!? If everyone followed his role, the academy would fall apart.

Sometimes I consider going back to school. Then I visit this blog and regain my senses.

Posted by: E. Naeher at March 10, 2004 01:37 PM

Wow this was timely -- A couple of faculty at my place of employment are currently under fire for this kind of behaviour. Big brouhaha in the gossip mill (no one officially knows anything) and a lot of tenured faculty (even those in the union) who feel that this kind colleague should be fired for not fulfiling the obligations, legal and/or ethical, of a tenured facutly member. On the other side are the people who claim that collegiality and bearing the brunt of committee work aren't everything -- getting grants and publishing are also contributions. Of course, I just don't think that washes when some of the ueber-responsible are also bringing in grants and publishing ...

Still, it's people like this who make me think that a tenure review once a decade or so might not be a bad thing. There is the very real problem of possibly using the review to stifle academic freedom, but I suspect the review criteria could be written in such a way that only abusers of the system could be removed.

Posted by: Another Damned Medievalist at March 10, 2004 01:40 PM

"What amazes me is that Mr. Wonderful seems not to have noticed anything, ANYTHING, about what younger academics are experiencing. He seems not to have a clue as to why everyone else can't do what he's done."

Yep. And not only that: he has the nerve to suggest Wells should try coalmining (yes: coalmining and many other jobs are much more stressful/dangerous/crappy than academia), even as he brags about how he has managed to avoid and evade a good chunk of his responsibilities as a faculty member. If today's junior faculty member tried to get away with this, that person would possibly (and in many cases, very likely) face termination (or a negative tenure decision).

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at March 10, 2004 01:56 PM

There are different kinds of committee work and they are not of the same importance. Stuff involving direction of the department like recruitment of new faculty are important and I doubt faculty involved in these activities will be negligent. On the other hand, regarding stuff like library committees, annual dinner functions,etc. the faculty is just a figurehead. They dont really have much to contribute especially if the institutions have professional admistrators to do the heavy work.

Ignoring stuff like social functions can be constructed as rude, but does little if any harm to the students or research. After all, isnt the primary aim of universities research and teaching?

Posted by: Passing_through at March 10, 2004 01:59 PM

It isn't always about the importance of the committee. Showing up at the "waste of my time" committees frees up colleagues, often provides opportunities for interdisciplinary networking and gaining institutional knowledge, and helps to gain brownie points for your department/division. If your department is seen to take seriously the administration's "silly" committees, they will often remember it when funding questions come around. Also, these committees are good ways for new faculty to get face time with their colleagues and with people whose opinion can affect their careers.

Or at least that's how I justify it.

Posted by: Another Damned Medievalist at March 10, 2004 02:35 PM

Well, according to the evil site, he's a great teacher because he's really hot, has a great English accent, and tells lots of stories about his wives, Mum, and family.

Posted by: Another Damned Medievalist at March 10, 2004 02:39 PM

There are waste-of-time committees that exist largely as lollipops designed to make some sub-community happy, and I understand why some might shirk their duties there. But then there are waste-of-time committees that faculty had to fight to get on in order to establish the principle of consultation. They exist *in case* there is a need for faculty to formally assert a stake in some process. As far as those go, someone like Lester is a free-rider, perfectly happy to benefit from a regime of rights but not willing to do his share to defend it.

The "social function" of some work is also non-negligible in the context of a teaching institution in particular. I end up doing a lot of that sort of thing because it becomes an important part of the extended pedagogy that this college promises to our students. I don't expect that everyone do it nearly so often, but I am peeved when I find that there are people who as a matter of dedicated principle refuse to do ANY of it.

Posted by: Timothy Burke at March 10, 2004 02:49 PM

Having just gotten tenure this past year, I've been gradually ramping up my commitment to various committees, and have actually made an effort to volunteer with miscellaneous duties that come up around the department. I'm with Burke -- I think part of the privilege of academic freedom is taking on some of the obligations of governance.

Although I was tempted to forward the Lester article to my division chair and innocently inquire whether this would be a good career strategy for me...just to see the reaction.

Posted by: PZ Myers at March 10, 2004 10:03 PM


Catty, aren't we?

FWIW, I find most of the first-person articles incredibly self-absorbed and egotistical.

Posted by: bryan at March 10, 2004 10:24 PM

Wow. It's amusing to see so many educated people running around clucking when Lester's boot hits the henhouse wall.

Whatever its other flaws, Lester's piece points out some truths about many tenured profs who've gotten a handle on the gig: They're rarely accountable to anyone and their professional lives are often pretty darn swell.

Honestly, if you've made it over the hurdles, have avoided the pitfalls that most of us IA readers complain about, and are settling comfortably into tenure, for God's sake *enjoy* it. You have lifetime job security at a university in the Western world! It's a much easier life than most people have. Early morning classes? A 3-3 teaching load? All those papers to grade? That tedious intro course again? Luxuries unimaginable to most people, who pass their work days wishing they were somewhere else--and who don't have summers to dispose of as they please.

Posted by: J.V.C. at March 11, 2004 12:44 AM

Out of curiosity, can any psychologists out there tell the quality of Dr Lester's publications,ie where they are published, impact?

He says he has written 300 papers in approximately 32 years. So that works out at about 10 papers a year. In addition, 230 of those are written with undergraduates. Now I am sure there are talented undergraduates out there, but in general its probably fair to assume that they arent at the skill level of graduate students. Thus a significant amount of heavy lifting has to be done by Lester.

The part about "checked every data entry and statistical analysis done by my undergraduate students" strikes me as he does emprical work. To have the skill level to do emprical research that can be published isnt that trival, especially at an undergraduate level. My understanding is that undergraduate psychology is much like undergraduate economics. Not very much emphasis stats skills at all.

Posted by: Passing_through at March 11, 2004 01:44 AM

The web page says he is the author of 1500 papers and 60 books (apparently as of 1997 - see "About the Author" at the bottom, which provides enough information to confirm that it's the same David Lester). does seem to list a lot of books by him, although I haven't counted since I can't get it to distinguish between him and some other people. The 300 papers he mentions in the column are apparently only the ones he wrote with students and faculty from his college.

I've never seen any of his papers, but it's safe to say they can't be very good on average if he's been turning out them at a rate of one paper per week for three decades (while at the same time writing a couple of books per year).

I've occasionally run across other people like this, with gargantuan numbers of uninspiring publications (not garbage, but of minor interest and importance). It seems there's a certain personality type that becomes obsessed with showing off by having the highest publication rate around. What a waste - think of how much one could accomplish if one put that much effort into a more worthwhile task.

Posted by: Anonymous at March 11, 2004 03:19 AM

Again, it's a great job, if the conditions of employment are good. It's the one thing I say to students considering graduate school to encourage them. I just don't get why some people--now including Margaret Soltan at University Diaries--are able to feel so pleased about the fact that Lester's reminders about the greatness of the job includes a declaration that he finds it as great as he does because he systematically doesn't do a part of the job that others of us feel obligated to do. I am having fun, too--and I publish, teach, write blog entries, and so on. But I also go to most faculty meetings, take calls from colleagues, answer a wide variety of email queries, and recognize that my ability to do my job well is enhanced by being part of my community and working with other faculty. When someone doesn't work with their colleagues and do service work, they make my job harder, they heap my plate higher. That's all. It's a simple fact: the behavior Lester is describing (or that Margaret Soltan also defends) makes someone else's job at their university more difficult. This is quite independent of the "academia is an easier life than coal mining" point. Now maybe I feel that more acutely given the size of our faculty compared to a bigger institution, and maybe the emphasis on pedagogy and community is less at Lester's institution. But the basic thing holds.

Posted by: Timothy Burke at March 11, 2004 08:31 AM

Ok, I'm really not warming to this Lester fellow, but I think I'm about to defend him anyway. (First, a big thanks to Margaret Soltan for the tip about British eccentrics--next from the Diaries: some Brits speak with what Americans consider an accent.)

There seem to be two complaints against Lester. One is his lack of "sympathetic imagination." This complaint seems plain right. Hey, Max Cleland, you've still got that one arm, imagine what it's like for those without; quit whining. The logic's the same, and unconvincing.

The second complaint against Lester is that he's not pulling his weight. But I think we're being fooled by Lester's own boastfulness on this one. What does he skip? 1) Graduation ceremonies 2) Faculty meetings (but he does go to the Psychology department meetings) 3) Lunch with colleagues 4)"college service" (although only in "recent years"). Then he makes a big deal of the fact that he forces people to communicate with him via email, and that he doesn't peruse collegewide messages.

This is not an impressive list of rebellions. He tries to act the rogue by saying a few catty things about his colleagues, but, in fact, he's been working pretty hard (considerations of quality aside). Really, he's saying just two things throughout: I worked in a coal mine, and you didn't; I'm a rebellious British eccentric, who wants to be number four?

Posted by: ogged at March 11, 2004 09:56 AM

"Out of curiosity, can any psychologists out there tell the quality of Dr. Lester's publications,ie where they are published, impact?"

I did a PsycInfo search on Mr. Lester, and the great majority of his "publications" are 1 or 2 page research reports in unselective journals or comments on other manuscripts. Not the type of stuff that will land me an academic job. He has been a co-author on some longer papers that have been cited by others. I'll go ask my clinical friends if they've ever heard of him...

But at least, it seems like Lester does a better job of managing his time than I do with mine. ;-)

Posted by: C. R. at March 11, 2004 10:09 AM

I'm not sure if it matters whether Lester's articles were in top journals, as even those are rarely read and have little impact. I think the larger point is that writing and publishing contribute significantly to our happiness as professionals.

And I do agree with all the comments about how Lester is a slacker and would never receive tenure behaving as such, but take a minute and read the Cady Wells piece: cry me a freaking river. Sure, we work longer hours and have stresses that non-academics don't see or understand, but at its core our job means that we get paid to read books and talk about them.

So while Lester seems quite parasitic, he's absolutly correct in saying that we all need to step back from our complaining and realize that we have pretty amazing jobs.

Posted by: mud blood & beer at March 11, 2004 10:28 AM

"So while Lester seems quite parasitic, he's absolutly correct in saying that we all need to step back from our complaining and realize that we have pretty amazing jobs."

I'm going to take isue with the use of the word 'we' here--an easy mark, I realize, and yet relevant nonetheless. While the tenureds are complaining, with obvious justification, about his lack of good citizenship, and questioning the quality of his scholarship, what is so abrasive about his article is the fact that he holds a position which I and many others will likely never hold.

I agree with Tim who says it's a good job, a job that is in fact so good that it entails certain obligations, which Lester is clearly disregarding. And I also agree with The Little Professor who distinguishes between objectively stressful jobs (e.g. coal mining) and subjective ones (the run for tenure). But I have to confess that while I am put off by his insoucient, glib disregard for anything and everything, I also have little truck with the (by now) cliched portrait of the harried and overworked academic. Overworked? Please.

Try teaching six or seven courses in a semester (four or five of them labor intensive freshman comp. courses). The paultry three most tenureds teach is nothing. That would feel like a semester long vacation to me; even four still seems like a sabatical to me.

Keep in mind that the tenureds get Summer's off. I'd like to know what that's like. Please, someone tell me how onerous it is to have 14 weeks off during the Summer. Regale me with a tale of what it's like to wake each morning at 7 or 8, or on those naughty days, at 10, brew a pot of some exotic tea and sit down in that favorite over-stuffed chair to read the morning paper, or an article or two on their subject. Yes, this sounds ... awful. I don't know how you all do it. Amazing.

Posted by: Chris at March 11, 2004 10:56 AM

"Overworked? Please."
To be fair, tenured faculty are expected to pull their own weight in grants and funding which non-tenured dont have to. (tenure-track profs DO have to worry about grants, but the expectations are not as high. Startup packages help lessen the stress in some cases.) Adjuncts profs do research on their own time, some choosing to do more, some less. They are not expected to do any in some situations.

Tenured profs have to worry about actually paying their grad students salary, tuition ,insurance, travel expences. Lack of funding not only means that your work get delayed but that your students are going to have a hard time as well. Not to mention the additional stuff like admin assistants, postdocs, etc that are being paid out of the money you have to raise. Funds run out and someone you hired and worked together is out of a job. Even expences like the upkeep of the building eat into the money raised. How many non-tenured professors have to worry about these things?

Posted by: Passing_through at March 11, 2004 12:47 PM

I've been holding off on this, but I wrote my dissertation on uranium mining in New Mexico. Many - but not all - of the former miners I interviewed missed the work. (NB: uranium mining and coal mining are slightly different beasts, but not that different). One interview subject, who now had what most people would consider a cushy white collar desk job for a guy who only had a high school education, spoke particularly elloquantly. He said, "I really loved it.... Because in the wintertime it's not cold... in the summertime it's not hot. It just has the right temperature I guess. And if a person is not afraid to work underground a person gets to love the mine." Some were afraid to work underground. One man testified that he decided not to work at the mines, even as a toplander, despite the encouragement of his sons. They told him, "you won't be in the mine much, and I said if I'd be in there five minutes a year that would be five minutes too much."
Mine work is dangerous. At least seventy miners died in fatal accidents in the first twenty years of mining at Grants. Some fell down shafts; others were crushed by rockfall from shaky roofs. Miners were smashed by ore carts, pinned under vehicles, and blasted to death. Some died in freak accidents when rapid changes in barometric pressure altered the way air circulated in the mine, cutting off their oxygen supply. Allen Pettigrove died in only his second week on the job when, working alone for the first time, he forgot to turn on a ventilation shaft and suffocated. Experience was no guarantee of survival. When the roof fell in at the Mary Mine, killing one man and injuring three others, the four had a combined ninety-six years of mining experience. As one miner remembered, "you [could] get yourself hurt very easily."
Fear was something the miners lived with daily. Accidents, whether fatal or disabling, were a fact of life in the mines. George Dannenbaum remembered selling beer to miners missing fingers from accidents. To this day, missing digits physically mark men of a certain age as having served in the mines. Besides immediate injury, miners also worried about what mining did to a man's body over time. One social worker was "from a mining family" and his father warned all his sons against a career in mining. Another remembered the effects of forty-five years of mining on his father: arthritis, deafness, and damaged lungs. The physical toll of underground mining differed little whether it was copper or coal, but uranium carried the added risk of cancer.

Sorry for the super long post. It's an excerpt from Chapter 3 of the diss and how often does this kind of thing come up.


Do I get to count this as a publication?

Posted by: David Salmanson at March 11, 2004 01:56 PM

Yeah, but grading composition papers really sucks.

Posted by: Safer anonymous at March 11, 2004 02:50 PM

I can understand wanting to skip faculty meetings (indeed, after having been Secretary to the Faculty and making all of them (but one) for three years I malingered and missed the December meeting here) but if you want the consultative/governance role (see one of Prof. Burke's comments above), you go.

Of course, some people are fine with being employees. The old model was that professors were not. I know the reality is quite different, but at some schools (here, for instance), there's an amazing amount of real consultation of the Faculty -- and note the capital F. I don't care if they consult me as an individual but I do care that they consult the Faculty as a whole (or at larger schools a properly elected representative body). Without that we're just Grades 13-14-15-16 waiting to here what the state Dept of Education lays down.

Posted by: Michael Tinkler at March 12, 2004 08:39 AM

The thing that struck me the most about Lester's article was his almost boastful assertion that he has had three wives, a detail he included, I'm sure, to show that he was a well-rounded, social person. Others have noted that three seems a bit excessive - my first thought was "he must have worn the first two out..." Perhaps his "easy" academic life also comes from the fact that he probably always had a wife at home cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry, etc. No matter what job/career you have - it's easier if there's someone at home taking care of everything for you. Somehow, I doubt that Lester thinks of it in this way.

Posted by: RSA at March 12, 2004 09:32 AM

David S. -- I worked in a mine briefly once. I really liked it underground. There are all kinds of filmic light-and-shadow effects, loud noises, big machines, occasional semi-precious gemstones on the rubble, and there's something intrinsically satisfying about the work (just like logging, farming, and fishing). I just didn't want to live in Northern Idaho (where, I found out later, lead poisoning was endemic among children).

Posted by: Zizka at March 12, 2004 10:33 AM

Yeah, among miners it seems like the either loved it or hated it, no middle ground. Most of the miners talked about having to be "in the moment" for most of their shifts so as not to make a potentially lethal mistake. They lived on that kind of adreneline. If writing were like mine shafts in that carelessness and impulsiveness led one to bad ends, I'd be dead many, many times over. (see Discussion vs. Teaching for one example of fatal errors due to impulsiveness).

Posted by: David Salmanson at March 12, 2004 02:58 PM

You professors sure do complain a lot.


Posted by: at March 13, 2004 03:20 AM

To further C.R.'s point about David Lester's "publications": It's not just that the vast majority of them are in unselective journals. The vast majority of them are in either "Psychological Reports" or "Perception & Psychophysics", both of which are pay-per-page vanity journals. No one--I repeat, no one--takes them seriously. No one gets these journals, no one looks at them. They sit on library shelves gathering dust, and David Lester's brain droppings.

Posted by: WHL at March 17, 2004 12:20 AM

That's "Perceptual & Motor Skills", not "Perception & Psychophysics"! The latter is a respected, prestigious journal; the former is a joke.

Posted by: WHL at March 17, 2004 12:54 PM

I looked up Lester on ISI and he has masses and masses of citations...

I don't go to general faculty meetings, graduation etc. if I can help it.... These things don't get you any credit and if anything important happens you can read about it.... At one school we were forced to go to graduation - but I only went to our departmental ceremony... You will notice he said he went to his departmental meetings. I also try to avoid phone calls if at all possible...

Posted by: moom at March 20, 2004 11:26 PM

There's a very amusing survey of Lester's scholarly work in the March/April 2004 issue of Annals of Improbable Research. His work comes across as amazingly unimpressive.

Posted by: Anonymous at April 27, 2004 01:43 AM