Saturday, May 3, 2014

Meritocracy vs. Bureaucracy

Above is a blog posting saying academia is not a meritocracy. Not news, since the usual question is, How did he get tenure?

A friend told me that people who receive honorary chairs are the least obnoxious qualified person.

I would say that things have changed a  bit, so it is likely that since 1970, some very strong women get appointed and some very strong people of color get tenured, and since 1950 some Jews (Muslims, ethnic Catholics) are on many faculties. But it is wise to realize that if you are appointed and tenured, that does not mean you are the best, and if you are rejected that does not mean you are weak. It may be that you are among the best, or that you are among the least productive, but we can find that out from your work, not from your appointments or even your awards and recognitions. You may get into the National Academy of Science years after your collaborator, who is less productive but more pleasant than you are. And it is the purpose of the members of these organizations to get their colleagues in. If someone receives the Nobel Prize and is not a member, they must be admitted pronto.

In any case, chairs, deans, provosts are bureaucratic functionaries, since they must concern themselves with the opinions of the people above them, and they are likely to defend the institution rather than the person who is concerned about being poorly treated. They may also be leaders and re-shapers of their units and institutions.

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