As with many university administrations, ours is deeply concerned with faculty productivity. There’s a prevailing attitude among upper administrators and, apparently, our Board of Trustees, that surely there are many faculty somewhere on campus not doing their jobs, especially in terms of research. Accordingly, the administration insisted on several principles in our contracts: continuing to have at least some part of compensation based upon merit, having fine gradations in the policies, and having merit based only on one-year scores as opposed to the three-year averages. One could say, hey, if you’re being productive, then what’s the worry?
Here’s the worry: the question is not whether faculty are being productive, but what kinds of things faculty are doing. And going to this new regime, if it’s not done well, will reward a constant stream of mediocre, comparatively meaningless work and punish risk-taking and long-term projects, precisely where academics are most moved forward.