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The Review of Higher Education 23.3 (2000) 365-372
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The Fate of Faculty
D. Michael Pavel
Martin J. Finkelstein, Robert K. Seal, and Jack H. Schuster. The New Academic Generation: A Profession in Transformation. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press, 1998. 236 pp.
John B. Bennett. College Professionalism: The Academy, Individualism and the Common Good. Phoenix, AZ: American Council on Education/Oryx Press, 1998. 193 pp.
James Axtell. The Pleasures of Academe: A Celebration and Defense of Higher Education. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. 292 pp.
In reviewing these three books about American faculty and the academic life, I write not only as an Associate Professor of Higher Education at a research university but also as an American Indian. More specifically, I reviewed the books in a standard format for a mainstream journal but added insights informed by the perspective of my ancestral Tuwaduq epistemology. Tuwaduq is the traditional name of a Pacific Northwest tribal society now known as Skokomish. I am a tribal member trained in the traditional ritual and ceremonial way of life among the Skokomish. Not unlike the training in a doctoral program, the ritual and ceremonial training among [End Page 365] the traditional Skokomish encompasses periods of reflection, inquiry, and dissemination of ideas. The only difference might lie in the fact that most of the traditional training is metaphorical and symbolic oratory in contrast to reading, expository writings, and oratory. I have attempted to intertwine the two views in this essay.
Representing important aspects of Skokomish epistemology, I have selected two principal metaphorical and symbolic tenets responding to each of the books reviewed. First, all knowledge is sacred. Therefore, great care is given to sharing knowledge in a manner that promotes understanding and avoids negative visions. Second, all things are interrelated, and humans need to maintain a meaningful sense of spiritual connection to self and other entities (human and nonhuman) that transcends time and space. This principle means that knowledge enlightens the knower to see interrelationships and patterns of events that have implications far into the future, underscoring our responsibility to see the "big picture" over time.
I chose the three books in this essay because each title and brief description spoke to issues of concern to me as an American Indian faculty member who recently received tenure in a profession largely unaware of American Indian issues. Finkelstein, Seal, and Schuster's The New Academic Generation: A Profession in Transformation focuses on the promise and transformation of academe in the face of increasing diversity and other developments. Bennett's College Professionalism: The Academy, Individualism, and the Common Good examines the ill effects of current conditions in the academy but maintains that there is a better way. Finally, Axtell's The Pleasures of Academe: A Celebration and Defense of Higher Education attempts to send a positive message that professors are highly dedicated; and despite the increasing demands placed on them, many are truly enjoying the profession they love. The books, when read together, allow the reader to weave together different methods of scholarship, perspectives, and aims of the academy to achieve a better understanding of faculty in American higher education. Although the books are quite different in content, style, and substance, the authors have in common the need to share information about faculty and the institution of higher education as powerful forces in our society.
Finkelstein, Seal, and Schuster's The New Academic Generation: A Profession in Transformation is the result of analyzing data collected during the 1993 National Study of Postsecondary Faculty (NSOPF-93) conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). In the first chapter, the authors offer an array of factors that threaten or promise to disrupt traditional features of academic life (e.g., the assessment movement, a buyer-oriented academic labor market, renewed [End Page 366] attacks on tenure, and the scarcity of resources coupled with competing interests brought forth by the public and policy makers). They note two developments--Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate (Boyer, 1990) and the American Association for...