problem of defining Emory's most elusive year
conversation with Bob Agnew, professor of sociology and past
director of the program in violence studies
Content on the Conference Table
The Socialization of
the Professions and the Humane University
In the spring of 2000,
Dr. Banja moderated a faculty seminar titled "The Morality
of Professional Development and Socialization: Implications for
Teaching, Mentoring, and Institutional Oversight." The seminar
report, "The Socialization of the Professions and the Humane
University: Reconsidering the Social Contract for a Scholarly
Community," including lists of readings and participants
is available online.
Exchange What was the purpose of
Professor John Banja About half of the seminar's participants train
future health care providers and are concerned with developing
good character and compassion among their students, especially
when that training--such as in medicine--is emotionally wearisome.
Also, health professionals must function in a decidedly cost-conscious
environment that presents all kinds of ethical problems.
The discussion of our students' professional futures, however,
led to a conversation about our own professional development--that
is, as faculty not just from the medical side of campus but also
from the humanities and social sciences.
Why does the report recommend a task force on faculty labor and
an office for alternative career placement for new Ph.D.s and
faculty denied tenure?
JB The difficulties of the academic job market
for Ph.D.s, especially in the humanities, have been recognized
for two decades, but what is striking about today's academic
professionals is the frequently agonizing way they perceive their
workloads. It is astonishingly simple for junior faculty in particular
to allow their lives to be totally overwhelmed by the desire
to be good teachers, be highly productive scholars, and give
outstanding service to the university. By its nature, academia
tends to attract people who have been highly rewarded, often
from a very young age, for academic achievement. Not infrequently,
these very persons have a deeply ingrained sense that their self-worth
is conditional. An academic environment can exacerbate atendency
among these people to understand their worth as proportional
to their productivity. This responds to your question about faculty
labor because if I am what I produce, then the more I produce,
the better a person I am. So, there's always one more committee
you can sit on, one more article you can write, etc. For some
people, academe can be a very unhealthy place.
AE What are the forms of "disease" within
the university the report
We looked at "ideological dysfunction" within disciplines,
or what seminar participants call "diseases within the professions."
Examples would include the analytic philosophers who refuse to
talk to metaphysicians or behavioral psychologists who loathe
the work of "talk" therapists, and vice versa. We also
discussed the contemporary value of academic writing--especially
how academic publishing seems to be more and more removed from
the public sphere by way of its esotericism and apparent emptiness.
Some believe the primary function of the university press today
is to get faculty tenured, not to contribute to the contemporary
discourse of our civilization.
What about pressures on the professions from outside the academy?
JB One recurring question was how to train students
to face the external economic pressures that threaten the ability
of health providers to give appropriate care. For example, medical
students are trained in academic environments that are relatively
generous in allocating care to patients. The whole idea is they've
got to learn. But once these students graduate from their programs
and sign contracts with hmos, the reality they enter becomes
Another external pressure on the academy, which doesn't only
affect scientists, is the pressure to secure extramural funding.
The private sector is playing an increasing role as an economic
resource. The worry is that academicians will feel pressured
to gear their research towards the whims of grantors, some of
whom will have decidedly commercial designs on that research.
How can the university help to reconcile conflicts within academic
The challenge to the university is to create an environment where
faculty feel respected, are encouraged to care authentically
for themselves and one another, and are helped to form reasonable
expectations of how their productivity will be evaluated. Another
important step is the need for adequate and uniform faculty mentoring
across departments. While some departments regard it as their
own failure when individuals fail in the tenuring process, others
take an almost arrogant pride in boasting "only twenty percent
of the people coming up in this department receive tenure."
It's an institutional responsibility to ensure even mentoring
across the university or to explain in a morally convincing way
why it is not. Women in particular may have trouble finding appropriate
mentors because of the low numbers of female faculty among the
senior ranks. A final recommendation was that junior faculty
be relieved of a lot of their committee work in their early years