Friday night, we drove down to the annual fall barbecue for the Departments of Finance and Marketing in Hobble Creek Canyon. This event gave me an opportunity to visit with former colleagues, including several emeritus faculty I worked with for many years. Emeritus, in case you don't know the meaning of the word, means "turned out to pasture." Emeritus means, "Make room for younger, brighter, better trained faculty." Of course, today's faculty will be emeritus before they know it, and they, also, will be turned out to pasture in favor of newly minted Ph.D.s and gilt-edge lists of journal publications. There is something, however, to be said for the oldsters. They may not all be up to the journal publication levels of expertise of young faculty, but they do have decades of classroom savvy. They also at least lived through the Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Truman, Nixon, Ford, Kennedy, Johnson, Reagan, Carter, Clinton, Bush father and son, and the start of the Obama Administration. Who did I leave out? We weren't likely to be around when the Federal Reserve was created in 1913, but we lived through sixty years or more of economic policy formation and many of us participated in making minor parts of it. Whereas, new and shining and smarter Ph.D.s have to read about all this stuff in a book. It took me a few years to learn why I would get such dense responses from classes when would mention ancient people like Reagan, or items like the Kennedy-Johnson tax cut. So we could add some perspective, perhaps, that the younger faculty cannot.
We also had learned the ropes in managing students, exams, and all of the mechanical and exasperating tasks of teaching school. No one teaches you anything about how to teach when you are getting a Ph.D. unless you have had the good fortune to be a teaching assistant under a skilled teacher. Dentists have to fill a bunch of teeth before they can "practice" dentistry. Doctors have to learn a few basics and survive a marathon residency before their first patient enters their office. Lawyers, unfortunately, spend three years reading case books and being humiliated, in some cases, by professors, but have no idea when graduating where the court house is or what they are supposed to file or where to file it, and have to learn on the job. Same with teaching. I was turned loose at the age of 21 (soon to be 22) with two large classes of introductory agricultural economics at then Colorado A & M. Mostly teachers try to teach by some system they have observed from their own teachers. Some have the knack for it, some teach for 40 years and still haven't mastered the art.
I did share with some of my over-the-hill-gang colleagues our common complaint: The Faculty Meeting. Over about 45 years I never attended a faculty meeting I thought was worthwhile. These meetings are supposed to instill camraderie, acquaint a faculty with each other, air complaints, iron out problems, and whatever else comes up. I always found these meetings were dominated by what I called a few "hydraulic hand raisers," their hands always in the air, always knowing all the answers and wasting everyone else's time. Faculty meetings are usually held at the most inopportune times, like the week before school starts, when all-university convocations kick off the exciting week, followed by departmental "retreats" ("retreats?" What is a faculty retreat? The only faculty retreat I know is to hide after the grades are posted so you don't have to spend endless hours bickering with students who know more than you know and are hostile about it. Besides, the ROTC department, for some reason assigned to the business school, announced that, as a matter of military tactics, they do not retreat). All this takes place just when faculty need to be getting ready for school, preparing lectures, checking out the facilities, and getting brave enough to enter the classroom on the first day. If I had my way, I would reduce all important faculty announcements to 140 characters on Twitter and let it go at that. But I know that is academic heresy. So on and on the tradition goes. Finance department report. Accounting department report. Organizational Behavior report. Dean's Office. We are supposed to get motivated out of this, but mostly we enter a state of stupor of mind until the meetings are over. At least I cannot be denied tenure or promotion if anyone of authority reads this. Maybe they could take away my emeritus title. But I still loved college, and would gladly endure the endless meetings if I could go back again. And the steaks and baked beans at the barbecue were excellent. And I couldn't have been more optimistic about the outstanding caliber of faculty and the incredible accomplishments they are making in continually elevating the rankings of the Marriott School of Management and its MBA program, in particular.