23 January 2017

Opinion on an Op-Ed: Academic Underperformers Must be Called Out by Gerald Walton

A very interesting article came out in University Affairs for their February (2017) issue - An opinion piece which will surely provoke opinions. In it, Walton advocates for withholding annual raises, professional development allotments, and sabbatical from those faculty members who 'chronically under-perform'. In reading this opinion piece, one can see the fine line that Walton walks as he writes about the plausible negative responses to his comments throughout. Yet, it's not only this balanced approach which makes his argument convincing, in the opinion of this (JL) author, but also his attempt to describe what that measured response might look like (the so-called 'calling out', that is, rebuking, reprimanding, reaction by the faculty on under-performers). In his short piece he worries about the (mis)use of such evaluations and actions by so-called 'fiscal conservatives' on campus and has misgivings about incorporating neoliberal policies and practices into university business; however, to do nothing, writes Walton, is even worse.

This description of 'X issue' which will 'get worse' 'through 'inaction' seems to be a rather ubiquitous refrain spoken around the world in response to political leaders, rising global temperatures, and disasters around the world. Walton's article is one of the few I've read on this topic and its place in the most recent issue of University Affairs perhaps signals the first, baby step, toward action.