Six years ago today, I went to Pepperdine for a job interview. It was my first time on campus and I remember it distinctly. I met some of my current colleagues during the first two interviews, both of which were held in a room that I’ve walked by all the time since then yet, oddly enough, have never entered again. I had lunch with two faculty, and we sat outside of the cafeteria and looked at the beautiful ocean in the distance.
“How many classes,” asked a faculty at the end of a committee meeting three years ago, “is a tenured professor at Stanford required to teach each year?” None of us gave the correct answer, which is one. The same is probably true at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, and other top Research I universities in America. I have no idea how teaching is evaluated among these folks—or if it is a category for evaluation. I’d guess, however, that teaching evaluations matter little or not at all at these institutions.
By a coincidence of scheduling, Rod Dreher and J.D. Vance gave talks at Pepperdine within four days of each other. I was able to attend both presentations and took a few notes.
Having entered academia in my thirties, I sometimes wondered what it would have been like had I begun graduate school not long after college. It was, after all, the pattern for the majority of my academic friends, peers, and colleagues. I couldn’t help wondering where I’d be on the academic ladder as people of my age now. Yet each time that I thought about it, I always concluded that, most likely, it’d have been a disaster.