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The slow professor

The authors of a new book challenge what they call the frantic pace
of contemporary university life.
By MOIRA FARR | March 29, 2016

In their new book, The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in
the Academy fittingly, with a snail on the cover Maggie Berg and Barbara
Seeber apply the principles of the slow movement to academia. Proudly
proclaiming themselves slow professors, the authors offer insights on how
to manage teaching, research and collegiality in an era when more
professors feel beleaguered, managed, frantic, stressed and demoralized
as they juggle the increasingly complex expectations of students, the
administration, colleagues and themselves. Distractedness and
fragmentation characterize contemporary academic life, they write. Todays
professors, they argue, need to slow down, devote more time to doing
nothing, and enjoy more pleasure in their research and teaching. Its time,

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they say, to take back the intellectual life of the university. They recently
spoke with writer Moira Farr forUniversity Affairs about the book.
University Affairs: How did you come to write this book together?
Maggie Berg: Over the years, Barbara and I were regularly calling one
another, in need of support, as we coped with the demands of our jobs. I
would be feeling guilty about not answering an email fast enough, or
ashamed to admit that I find it stressful switching to a new learning
management system, or regretting how I handled a situation in the
classroom. Were always so rushed. We had each done some independent
reading on the slow movement, books such as Carl Honors In Praise of
Slow. We were talking to each other about how we could change our sense of
time, and bring more pleasure to our academic lives. We were starting to ask
not What is wrong with us? but rather What is wrong with the system? At
some point in one of our conversations, I think I said, We should write this
down, and Barbara said, We should write this down.
Barbara Seeber: I was graduate program director in the English
department at Brock from 2008 to 2010. As part of that program, I taught a
course on research and professional development. Part of my preparation for
teaching that course was reading books on higher education as well as the
corporatization of the university, and that reading was part of what brought
me to write the book with Maggie. It got me reflecting on what the
assumptions are about being an academic. Today, the role of the professor is
constantly being effaced. Were no longer at the centre of the university. We
wanted to encourage people to counter the damaging effects of that. We
both felt we couldnt do this alone. Its tough to go against the grain, or to try
to shift peoples thinking. We knew that by writing this together, we would be
able to remind each other of our goal and purpose, and support each other
along the way.
UA: Why did you change the name of the book from The Slow
Campus to The Slow Professor?
Barbara Seeber: We changed it because we thought that focusing on the
campus would make the subject seem too big, too impersonal. The title is
important to our theme were talking about individual agency.

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Maggie Berg: We dont do a detailed analysis of the corporatization of the


university. That has been done. We do cover the dramatic increase in jobrelated stresses reported by academics. We wanted to give individual
teachers ideas for changing that.
UA: Put simply, how did it happen that academics are now so
stressed and losing a sense of value in the work they do?
Maggie Berg: A number of factors. Over the last two decades, weve seen
increases in class sizes, the casualization of academic labour, administrative
bloating, the shift toward quantification of our time and our output. Pressures
to publish, new technology, the downloading of tasks and the confusion it
creates these all have led to a situation where we spend less time talking
face-to-face with each other and more time multitasking. There seems to be
less sense of community and collegiality.
Barbara Seeber: A lot has been written about how all of this has affected
the humanities, but we tried to avoid special pleading by highlighting the
fact that this is happening across disciplines. One of the main
pronouncements of the Slow Science movement is we need time to think.
Maggie Berg: Based on research and testimony weve looked at, we can
say that a lot of academics feel a sense of isolation, even loneliness, and a
loss of purpose in what they do. There is an emotional aspect to what we do
as professors, and constantly pushing back against a corporatized system
can take a toll on us. Weve heard from many academics who say they are
quite demoralized.
Barbara Seeber: Students, too, are hungry for connection with their
professors. I recently posted information about counselling support services
available on the campus, and two students came up after class just
to acknowledge that they appreciated that. I put up an announcement for a
production of the play by Ann-Marie MacDonald, Goodnight
Desdemona, (Good Morning Juliet). Its not on the course, its not graded, but
its a reminder that there are other activities on campus that are worth
exploring. I often get overly stressed and forget that when the students see
you as real, it makes a huge difference in the classroom.

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Maggie Berg: Just yesterday in a class on theory, I spontaneously talked


about how a particular author who writes in a poetic way affected me
emotionally, and was surprised to see the number of heads nodding.
Barbara Seeber: There are a number of peer-reviewed studies now that
challenge the idea that young people, or digital natives, want more online
learning and less classroom time with live professors. That is simply not true.
UA: You call the book a manifesto and call to action. Why so?
Barbara Seeber: Were trying to create some kind of counter-discourse to
remind ourselves of why we went into teaching, and what it is we love about
scholarship. Were starting a conversation. I had been reading the literature
on the corporatization of higher education, and there are some incredibly
useful, insightful analyses that place the issue in its larger context. Martha
Nussbaum (Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities, 2010) and
Benjamin Ginsberg (The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative
University and Why It Matters, 2011) have written brilliant books. But many
of us do not take the time to read them. We didnt want our book to be a big
tome you lug around, yet another burden to make you feel guilty.
Maggie Berg: One of our favourite authors is Stefan Collini (English
Pasts: Essays in History and Culture, 1999), who is very funny as well as
analytical. We thought we would love to write a book like that.
UA: You write that you are more optimistic than other commentators
about current trends in university management. Why?
Barbara Seeber: Both Maggie and I have thought that its one of the ironies
of books on the corporatization of the academy that they invoke the
discourse of crisis, and that can make people feel overwhelmed. The crisis
model isnt really that helpful. Yes, we do need to respond to the pressures
we face, but the language of crisis only sets up more pressure. We wanted to
offer something more hopeful than its over. If we thought is was over, we
wouldnt have written the book!
Maggie Berg: We agree with the analysis of Bill Readings (The University in
Ruins, 1996), but it can induce feelings of helplessness. Like the early
feminists, who talked about strategic optimism, we see that there are

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pockets of resistance among people who want to work in a humane


environment, and we want to support that.
Barbara Seeber: People want to protect the idea of open-ended inquiry in
scholarship.
UA: Can you tell us what advice you give to professors who want to
improve their working lives, and what you are doing yourselves?
Maggie Berg: Part of my coping strategy has been talking to Barbara on the
phone. We try to cut through the ed speak recently I received a memo
about diversifying our revenue generation. This is new language we want
to avoid. Im also finding ways to enjoy my classes more, because of course,
when we enjoy a class, thats when it goes well. I believe in the theory put
forward by Teresa Brennan (The Transmission of Affect, 2004)that students
can think better in a positive atmosphere. Of course, its sometimes hard to
be authentic and positive at the same time. But if youre feeling anxious or
something isnt working, its probably better to say, Im sorry, Im tired
today, than to pretend youre not struggling. I dont blame myself when a
class doesnt gel. Also, Ive been fortunate to work in an office with friendly
colleagues. We regularly meet for lunch. Its good to create community, to
spend live time with colleagues, instead of just Skyping and emailing. In my
research, Im better now at knowing when its time to stop working, to say,
Okay, youve done enough.
Barbara Seeber: We all have our ways of making a difference. We really
wanted to avoid prescriptive advice. Individual professors need to decide
where to put their energies. Pushing back against a system that wants to
quantify everything we do will look different to different people. There are a
number of ways to respond. Getting offline more often, making time to do
nothing, not rushing your research, fighting against the pressure to submit
work before its ready. Talking to Maggie always reminds me to walk the talk.
Being a slow professor is about making considered choices about what we
do, not simply doing less. I have come to question the idea that more is
better. There may be fewer lines on my CV now but Im okay with that.
This interview was condensed and edited for clarity.

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The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy, by


Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber, is published by University of Toronto
Press. It was released in March. Dr. Berg is a professor of English literature at
Queens University and Dr. Seeber is a professor of English literature at
Brock University.
Resisting The Corporate University: What It Means To Be A 'Slow Professor'
The Slow Food movement, founded in 1989 with the aim of restoring a
healthy relationship between people and food, embraces a celebration of
local, environmentally responsible food cultures. The movement's snail logo
reminds us to slow our pace and take time to savor as we grow or purchase,
prepare and eat our food.
A snail also graces the cover of The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture
of Speed in the Academy, a new book by Canadian humanities professors
and literary criticsMaggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber, who shine the light of
slow food principles onto academic culture. In 90 thrilling pages of text, Berg
and Seeber describe the current corporatization of the college campus and
urge professors to resist it with all they've got.
"Thrilling" isn't a word I often apply to books about higher education, but
these pages galvanized me. Last December, I concluded 27 years of college
teaching and, for now, I still feel a part of campus culture. I'm in contact with
colleagues (locally, nationally and internationally) who feel burned by this
corporate model. They work long hours yet have little time to read or write
for work, or just to think the faculty activities that Berg and Seeber say a
university should prize most and that may benefit its students the most.

What exactly is the corporatization of the academy? Here's a powerful


descriptive passage from The Slow Professor:
"The corporate university's language of new findings, technology transfer,
knowledge economy, grant generation, frontier research, efficiency, and
accountability dominates how academic scholarship is now framed both
within the institution and outside it."
The buzzwords in this quote describe activities that mightsound good but in
fact often aren't, because emphasis on them leaches away the joy and the
humanity from the teaching-learning process. "Frontier research" is an
example: It sounds good, right? But when the plum prize is considered by
university power structures to be external funding from governments and
corporations, money that underwrites applied research, then non-dollar-

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generating, non-product-oriented approaches to learning in the humanities


and social sciences may be devalued.
(Applied science research plays a vital role in the life of the university, in fact
in all our lives. I hope this goes without saying. It's a matter of balance.)
Working at corporate universities, professors often become "beleaguered,
managed, frantic, stressed, and demoralized," Berg and Seeber say. It's as if
there can never be enough product generated (grants, jargon-laden
documents about students' learning outcomes, committee white papers) in
the hours available.
Does anyone still think that college professors have it easy? That they teach
two or three classes a week, meet students for another hour or two, attend a
faculty meeting, and then are free to go home with summers off? The
Slow Professor lacerates that notion and, along with it, well-meaning but
misguided advice that all will turn out just fine if only professors could
manage their time better.
Some of this advice as reported by Berg and Seeber is funny, sad and
appalling all at once: Save Saturdays for research and slate 12 hours each
Sunday for marking papers and preparing the week's classes to come! Wake
at 4 a.m. during the week to write!
Berg and Seeber aren't having it; the fault isn't with professors' time
management skills. "The real time issues," they write, "are the increasing
workload, the sped-up pace, and the instrumentalism that pervades the
corporate university."
Professors, Berg and Seeber say, need to take back the intellectual life of the
university.
How to do this? Professors can say no without guilt to endless university
committee assignments; refuse to buy into the ethic of overwork; talk 1:1
with colleagues in the hall instead of going online to connect; recognize that
shared positive emotion, emerging from thoughtful engaged discussion in
the classroom, boosts learning.
Most important of all, college teachers should insist, unapologetically, that
reflective inquiry is the heart and soul of the university.
And reflective inquiry can't be done in a distracted rush, without
uninterrupted time to focus.
Berg and Seeber acknowledge that "being an academic has privileges not
enjoyed by the majority of the workforce." College teachers have more
flexible hours than many other workers. Tenured professors may enjoy an

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unusual degree of job security, too. (The stresses felt by part-time faculty are
massive but that's another topic.)
Teaching at the corporate university is no paradise, even for faculty with
tenure. I admire Berg and Seeber for asserting this fact clearly, explaining
why it's true and insisting that change through resistance is possible even
as they also convey just how joyful college teaching and scholarship can be.
I hope that college teachers will take time to savor The Slow Professor and
talk about it with each other at faculty reading groups. With slow food served
as refreshments, of course.

The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy is an


encouraging read. Coming in at only 90 pages, I imagine it will be one of
those books I return to over and over again. Its not that Berg and Seeber are
telling us anything new. Academics understand that universities, especially
public institutions, are becoming increasingly corporatized: the language
used to discuss just about everything (e.g. students as
customers/consumers), the value of business faculty over all others (e.g. I
make about $40,000 less than accounting faculty at the same level; at UGA
the difference is upwards of $70,000), and a culture that rewards quantity,
yet cares little for quality. What makes this book so helpful is the reminder
that, though we may feel locked into this corporate climate, there are things
we can do (and some we cant) that will break down the corporatization of
our work.[1]
The book is divided into four chapters dealing with time, pedagogy, research,
and collegiality. The chapter on time focuses on the divide between fast and
slow and urges us to focus on creating a sense of timelessness. Citing Mihaly
Csikszentmihalyi, they say that ideally, rather than time management, we
would enter a state of flowan optimal state of inner experiencein which
there is order in consciousness (26). In other words, our work would be so
engrossing and pleasurable that the passage of time no longer becomes a
concern. Instead, we forget about time and simply exist in an ideal mental
environment. This may be a 10-minute conversation with a colleague or an
hour and fifteen minute lecture/discussion. The point is that, in a state of
flow, how long we spend at an activity does not concern our thoughts. This
becomes the framework for the rest of the book and as I read I continued to
think of moments of flow that Ive had in the past and the pleasure that
accompanies such moments.
For example, in the book, Berg and Seeber talk about finding the pleasure in
our pedagogy and I think most professors will be able to tell you of times of
pure pleasure in the classroom. One instance stands out in particular for me.

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I was teaching a class on Communication and Culture at LSU and middiscussion, a student raised his hand and said, I think class ended 5 minutes
ago I said that we could continue talking anyway, but that students were
free to leave if they had somewhere else to be. Two students left to go to
work, but the rest stayed for another 15 minutes to continue the discussion.
The pleasure of the discussion trumped our normal attachment to the
structure of time. In the next chapter Berg and Seeber note how the search
for knowledge in research makes it difficult to achieve flow since were
looking for something that does not yet exist. Rather, they argue, much great
scholarship stems from a search for understanding its our unique way of
understanding an idea that often makes our research matter. The issue, of
course, is that in a publish or perish culture understanding is never as
straightforward as the knowledge afforded by new data sets, so both getting
to the point of understanding and then translating that understanding to an
audience is often a much slower process. In light of the tenure clock always
ticking, its difficult to make an argument that we should leave our search for
knowledge in the hopes of gaining understanding, and Berg and Seeber are
not able to provide us with a way out of this bind, though they do offer
advice for how to seek understanding. Finally, they discuss the need for
collegiality and community, presenting some compelling arguments for both
the necessity and accessibility of these things.
The Slow Professor is a welcome reminder that there are others holding onto
the values of a pre-neoliberal Academy. This is especially comforting for
those of us who come across sites like The Professor is In, which may help
new graduate students prepare for the current academic landscape but does
nothing to challenge the normalization of the corporate model of education
(Kelsky practically chants Publish! Publish! Publish on every page,
reiterating the contention that output is valued higher than input).
While I thoroughly enjoyed The Slow Professor, it also made clear that Berg
and Seeber are writing towards academics with fairly uncomplicated lives,
i.e. those for whom a work/life balance might be or become an everyday
reality. Those of us living in commuter marriages, as single-parents, or caring
for a medically fragile family member are still in dire need of tactics that
make this a life worth living. The ideal, of course, is that by enacting the
ethos of the slow professor, those who can will slowly change the Academy
into something that is less corporate and more welcoming and healthy for all
involved.
[1] If youre reading this and wondering why does it matter if higher ed
takes on a more corporate culture? then I would argue you havent fully

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considered the importance of the humanities OR youre a staunch supporter


of neoliberalism. If the former, then you can just run a google search with
something like why the humanities matter that will yield a number of
informative articles. If the latter, then I would simply ask you to reevaluate
your ideology and consider that some aspects of how we live might be better
if we leave them by the public and for the public.

The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy, by


Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber
Book of the week: Academics need to hit the brakes and work to change the
system theyre in, says Emma Rees
May 26, 2016

George Harrison wrote the Beatles Here Comes The Sun holed up at Eric
Claptons house, skiving a meeting with the executives at Apple Records.
Despite its optimism, the song always sounds deeply melancholic to me
because I cant hear it without whooshing back through time to a Sunday
evening years ago: Im in my childhood home, in my flannelette nightie,
freshly bathed, homework done and school shoes ready, watching the
closing credits at that time set to Harrisons song of
the Holiday programme on the BBC. Despite all its wistful jingling and
catchiness, that one song signalled the inescapable, stifling fact that the
weekend was Over. To become an academic is to submit oneself to that
Sunday evening feeling, seemingly in perpetuity.
The mental health of academics and administrators is at risk as never before.
We might, on any given term-time Sunday evening (or, indeed, on any
weekday night), prefer to be a skiver, like Harrison, but we find that the
pressures of what my students term adulting are simply too great to hide
from. The authors of The Slow Professor surely know that Sunday sensation
too, and their plea is that, in the interests of self-care, we should all slow
down and shift our thinking from what is wrong with us? to what is wrong
with the academic system?.
The Slow Food movement was initiated more than two decades ago by the
activist Carlo Petrini. Local producers were celebrated over supermarket

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conglomerates, the detrimental effects of fast food on local communities


were exposed, and a healthy kind of individuality thumbed its mindful nose
at cultural homogeneity. Petrinis work gained traction sedately, of course
and in 2011 the Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman published his bestseller, Thinking, Fast and Slow, urging us to live deliberate, effortful, and
orderly lives. Once its understood, the logic of the Slow Movement is
irresistible. What Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber are doing in The Slow
Professor is protesting against the corporatization of the contemporary
university, and reminding us of a kind of good selfishness; theirs is a selfhelp book that recognises the fact that an institution can only ever be as
healthy as the sum of its parts.
In their endeavour to foster greater openness about the ways in which the
corporate university affects our professional practice and well-being, Berg
and Seeber openly echo the tone and agenda of Stefan Collinis What are
Universities For?. And well-being ought to be a top priority for what the
authors portray as a culture that dismisses turning inwards and disavows
emotion in pursuit of hyper-rational and economic goals. Just last
month, Times Higher Education ran a remarkable first-hand account of one
academics experiences with mental illness. In my own case, wrote that
anonymous contributor, I know how vulnerable I am to feeling alone and
unable to cope as I drown beneath a seemingly endless avalanche of work.
This book is an intervention into precisely that avalanche; a mountainrescue effort for the knackered academic. Its Slow Professor manifesto has
three aims: to alleviate work stress, preserve humanistic education, and
resist the corporate university. But its definitely not a joyless philosophy
that the authors share: We see our book as uncovering the secret life of the
academic, they write, revealing not only her pains but also her pleasures.
They offer solutions, too, in addition to identifying whats broken (they are
writing from the perspective of members of the Canadian academy, which,
as they present it, seems virtually indistinguishable from the British one). In
critiquing those guides to time management that favour speeding through a
punitive checklist over sitting in meaningful contemplation, they get it
absolutely right: It is not so much a matter of managing our time as it is of
sustaining our focus in a culture that threatens it.
The Slow Professor is a welcome corrective to texts such as Gregory Coln
Semenzas frankly obnoxious Graduate Study for the Twenty-First

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Century (2005), a text that the authors cite. Semenza reassures us that if on
a Thursday I realize that Ill need to read two books and grade ten papers by
Monday, Ill tackle the papers on Friday afternoon since I can more easily
sneak in reading at various times and places over the weekend. How did we
reach this point of feeling the need to sneak in work when we could be
spending time with our families, with our pets or with Tyrion Lannister?
(Asking for a friend.) We shouldnt punish ourselves for working for a living,
but we should ask more questions of a university culture that seems to
require us to live wholly for our work. The authors solutions arent
groundbreaking (We need to do less), but there is something oddly
comforting about seeing them articulated in such an engagingly open way.
Berg and Seeber came in for some pretty unkind pre-publication criticism.
Some bloggers and reviewers responded angrily to what they perceived as
the authors privilege: its far easier to reflect on life in a university, and,
indeed, to slow down, when your contract of employment is secure, and you
know for certain that you can make the rent. But the authors do
acknowledge their privilege: Those of us in tenured positions, given the
protection that we enjoy, have an obligation to try to improve in our own
ways the working climate for all of us. I liked this tone of advocacy; its
really hard to have to tell an enthusiastic grad student that she may never
get the academic job she dreams of but its not half as hard as it is to be
the one on the receiving end of that unpalatable truth.
And its important to remember that Berg and Seeber are agitating (if one
can agitate in a slow and unstressed way) for a complete cultural shift.
This, I fear, is impossible in the UK, where colleagues still speak of elite
universities, and organisations such as the Bullingdon Club persist. Indeed,
the Green Paper and the looming spectre of the teaching excellence
framework will further consolidate the divisions that already exist between
higher education institutions, and hopes for anything like a universal
implementation of a philosophy of slowness will certainly get trampled in the
unseemly clown-car scramble in which well soon see UK universities
participating. But I admire the authors optimism in expressing even the
possibility of something better than the status quo. The Slow Professor, as
Berg and Seeber themselves put it, is both idealistic in nature, and a call
to action.

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Finally, this is a very short book. And thats no bad thing: Im really busy and
Im really tired and reading for pleasure sometimes drops off my radar. But
writing book reviews is, I believe, a valuable act that can provide extra
ballast for the already flimsy barricades that so many of us are trying to
erect against the juggernaut of the neoliberal agenda. David Beer, reader in
sociology at the University of York, recently argued this case quite
brilliantly in these pages. And if youre still sceptical about what big things a
little book like this might do, I leave you with this perfect gem from the
manifesto: Talking about professors stress is not self-indulgent; nottalking
about it plays into the corporate model. If I had the time, Id stitch those
words into a sampler and hang it over my desk.
Maggie Berg, professor of English at Queens University, Kingston, was born
in Portsmouth, Hampshire, and raised on Hayling Island. My dad had a heart
attack at the age of 43 and left my mum with five young children (I was the
oldest). Although she had left school at 16 to become a hairdresser, Mum got
herself a job with thePortsmouth Evening News and we kids helped to bring
up each other. We were what is now called underprivileged. I was the first
person in my family to go to university, and if it hadnt been for the grants
system at the time I would not have done so. Because of this background, I
have never fitted comfortably in academia; it has left me with an awkward
combination of gratitude and scepticism. However, I believe it has also made
me a better teacher.
She now lives in Kingston Ontario, with Scott Wallis who is a brilliant visual
artist and a preparator in Queens University gallery for 30 years. We are
very different: I get up at 6am and go for a run; he stays at home smoking
cigarettes and drinking coffee. It works. Neither of us drives and we will
never own a car. Our daughter Rebecca used to be annoyed by this, but now
she is 26 she herself drives. Rebecca, who is the loveliest human being I
could ever have imagined, is pursuing an MA in Counselling Psychology at
the University of British Columbia. I asked her one day whether she would
practice couples counselling on me and her dad; she was horrified and flatly
refused.
What is the wisest book she has read of late? I have passed on, and
sometimes made my students read, Tom Chatfields How to Thrive in the
Digital Age, Sherry Turkles Reclaiming Conversation, and Dave Eggerss
novel The Circle. I realise just now that they have something in common:

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they urge us to consider that the very technologies that enhance our lives
also, in the words of Chatfield, have the potential to denude us of what it
means to thrive as human beings.
Asked whether she believes that academics are complicit in their own
oppression, she replies: Barbara and I would certainly not argue that
academics are oppressed: we are privileged to have worthwhile jobs that
we love, and that have flexible work hours; some of us are protected by
tenure. The corporate universitys exploitation of casual labour impoverishes
the climate for all of us, making it full of fear and resentment. We do argue
that academics are prone to overwork for a variety of reasons: we have
excessively high self-expectations; we are engaged in work which by its very
nature is never done; and, above all, we are subject to guilt as a result of
what Stephan Collini (in What Are Universities For?) calls the mythical
taxpayer.
In an effort not to seem either hopelessly outdated or privileged, academics
struggle to meet the raised expectations imposed by the corporate
university: to teach larger classes and to find innovative ways to do so, to
adapt to new learning technologies, and to cope with the downloading of
administrative tasks. In addition, we dont have time to read works on the
profession, which would give us a much-needed critical perspective.
What gives her hope? My students and my colleagues. My students
because they crave real human connection and intellectual discussion; they
want to be far more than clients. My colleagues because they are trying to
resist, in their own ways, the dehumanising and anti-intellectual effects of
the number-crunching corporate university.
Her co-author, Barbara Seeber, professor of English at Brock University, St
Catharines, Ontario, was born in Innsbruck in Austria, and lived there until
she was 13, when her family moved to the West Coast of Canada.
The slow food movement started in Italy but its principles are also cherished
in Austria, so I grew up in a culture that insists on everyday pleasures and
the conviviality of sharing a meal and conversation. I think that the
immigrant experience has shaped me in some fundamental ways. It
undoubtedly has enriched my perspective, but it also has led to feeling that I
dont quite fit in (both in Canada and in Europe).

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In terms of my work as a professor of English literature, being an immigrant


also has had both positive and negative consequences: many academics
suffer from the imposter syndrome, and working in your second language
certainly intensifies that. But it also has given me the freedom that can come
with approaching topics from the outside. For example, my primary area of
research is Jane Austen and because I didnt grow up hearing about Aunt
Jane, I didnt have preconceived ideas about her work.
Seeber lives in St. Catharines, a small city in the Niagara Peninsula (famed
for its wine and its falls) near Toronto, Ontario. I am fortunate to share my
house with two lovely companions: Georgie, a Shih Tzu, and Frida, a Chantilly
cat, who are best friends. Before them, I lived with a very special cat named
Darcy, named after the hero in Pride and Prejudice.
If she could change one thing about the Canadian university sector, what
would it be? I wish that higher education would be tuition free. Higher
education, like healthcare, is a public good.
Asked whether she feels that academics too easy to take advantage of and
too slow to stand up for themselves, Seeber replies: Absolutely not. We do
not blame individual academics for letting the corporatisation of higher
education happen. There are many academics who are actively resisting it.
However, we do think that the academic system militates against resistance
in a number of ways. Academics are taught to blame themselves (most of us
think that if we are not keeping up, then we are the problem). Academic
culture is highly competitive and discourages frankness about struggle. And
the reality is that increasing workloads, accountability measures,
casualisation of labour and scarcer resources make it difficult to take the
time for reflection and counter action. Most of us are just trying to keep up
with whatever seems most urgent. Time poverty is one of the consequences
of corporatisation and it also facilitates corporate values taking hold.
What gives her hope? Stefan Collinis What are Universities For? gives me a
lot of hope because his argument is so compelling and because he makes me
laugh. Laughter is always a good thing because it lets you find a place of
strength in the middle of stress and anxiety and powerlessness. I am very
heartened by the positive responses Maggie and I have been getting to our
work from colleagues and students. That means people want change.

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In terms of my personal life, I find hope in books that suggest that


transformation is possible, such as texts on neuroplasticity like Rick
Hansons Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment,
Calm, and Confidence (and I am not afraid to admit that I have a healthy
collection of self-help books of all stripes). And, finally, observing and reading
about interspecies friendship makes me feel joyful and gives me hope for a
better future.
'The Slow Professor'
New book argues that professors should actively resist the "culture of speed"
in academe.
April 19, 2016
By
Colleen Flaherty
In 2013, the jobs website CareerCast named university professor the No. 1
least stressful job, unleashing a torrent of criticism that only grew
after Forbes picked up the ranking. Professors -- those with tenure and
without -- said the study ignored the changing dynamics of the university,
namely the increasingly administrative nature of academic work, the
emerging student-as-customer model, unrealistic research expectations and
24-7 contact with colleagues and students via email. Non-tenure-track
professors also pointed out that they in many cases lack all job security.
CareerCast evidently learned something from the controversy -- its 2016
least stressful jobs list specifies tenured professor, at No. 3 -- but old notions
about what it is to be a professor die hard. And the CareerCast study is just
one example. From the running errands to social and family events, someone
always seems to be wondering what its like to have summers off and just
think for a living.
But while professors may be accustomed to nonacademics clinging to an
outdated image of faculty life, the newest resistance to letting it go -- at least
in part -- comes from within the academy. In a new book, two tenured
professors propose applying the slow movement -- which has thus far been
applied to everything from food to parenting to science to sex -- to academic

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work. And while its already raised some eyebrows as an example of


tenured privilege, its at once an important addition and possible antidote
to the growing literature on the corporatization of the university.
While slowness has been celebrated in architecture, urban life and personal
relations, it has not yet found its way into education, reads Slow Professor:
Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy (University of Toronto
Press). Yet, if there is one sector of society which should be cultivating deep
thought, it is academic teachers. Corporatization has compromised academic
life and sped up the clock. The administrative university is concerned above
all with efficiency, resulting in a time crunch and making those of us
subjected to it feel powerless.
In a corporate university, argues Slow Professor, power is transferred from
faculty to managers, economic justifications dominate, and the familiar
bottom line eclipses pedagogical and intellectual concerns. But slow
professors nevertheless advocate deliberation over acceleration because
they need time to think, and so do our students. Time for reflection and
open-ended inquiry is not a luxury but is crucial to what we do.
Slow Professor was written by friends Maggie Berg, a professor of English at
Queens University in Canada, and Barbara K. Seeber, a professor of English
at Brock University, also in Canada. While both authors are Canadian, the
situation they describe would make perfect sense to academics in the U.S.
The authors' book grew out of regular confessional-style telephone
conversations in which one would express guilt for not seeing a departmental
email sent at 10:45 p.m. until the next morning, wanting to say no to judging
essays for a competition with 10 days notice, or otherwise trying to achieve
some sense of work-life -- or even work-work -- balance. And because
academe prizes scholarly individualism and the life of the mind over physical
or emotional concerns, they say, it wasnt immediately apparent to them
that others -- including their immediate colleagues -- might also be
struggling with modern academes frantic pace.
Findings of the Canadian Association of University Professors firstever national survey on occupational stress, in 2007, suggested they werent

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alone. More than one-fifth of respondents said they suffered physical and
psychological problems related to stress, and a similar proportion reported
using anxiety medication, for example.
Reading the survey was like opening a window, Berg and Seeber wrote.
We shifted our thinking from what is wrong with us? to what is wrong with
the academic system?
Slow Professors quick answer to that last question is similar to many
articulated in recent critiques of the so-called corporate university (think
Benjamin Ginsburgs The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the AllAdministrative University and Why It Matters or Larry C. Gerbers The Rise
and Decline of Faculty Governance: Professionalization and the Modern
American University): the shift away from tenure-track positions, a shift
toward seeing the student as customer, and proliferating ranks of
administrators. What makes Berg and Seebers argument unique, however, is
that they reject the crisis language that dominates the many books that
have come before. Thats because such language communicates a
hopelessness they say they want to avoid and because, well, its too fast.
Instead, Slow Professor proposes with some optimism that professors -especially those with tenure -- have the power to change the direction of the
university by becoming the eye of the storm, working deliberately and
thoughtfully in ways that somehow now seem taboo.
Distractedness and fragmentation characterize contemporary academic life;
we believe that slow ideals restore a sense of community and conviviality
which sustain political resistance, Berg and Seeber say. Slow professors act
with purpose, cultivating emotional and intellectual resilience to the effects
of the corporatization of higher education.
Slow Professor is, by design, short on practical advice about just how to
become the eye of that storm. But drawing on the language and literature of
the slow movement, including Carl Honores In Praise of Slowness:
Challenging the Cult of Speedand Carlo Petrinis Slow Food Nation: Why Our
Food Should Be Good, Clean and Fair, the book discusses how the movement
might extend to academe. A discussion of time management, for example,

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rejects most common advice -- such as detailed record keeping and


scheduling -- as too celebratory of speed and creating a false sense of
control over ones time.
Keep Calm and Write On
We believe that the problems of time stress will not be solved with better
work habits, Slow Professor says, reminding its readers (namely professors
and future professors) that theyve managed to either complete or get into
graduate school. Time management does not take into full account the
changes to the university system: rather, it focuses on the individual, often in
a punitive manner (my habits need to be pushed into shape). The real time
issues are the increasing workloads, the sped-up pace and the
instrumentalism that pervades the corporate university.
Instead, the discussion focuses on the links between time, commitments and
personal stress, and emphasizes trying to achieve a sense of flow or
timelessness, which presents as creativity (and productivity). How to get
into the flow? Avoid or eliminate to the extent possible environmental factors
that interfere with creativity, the book says. Protect a time and a place for
timeless time and continually remind yourself that this is not self-indulgent
but rather crucial to intellectual work.
Slow Professor proposes getting off-line as much as possible and doing less
by thinking of scheduling as eliminating commitments from ones day, not
taking them on. Perhaps most importantly, it proposes leaving room in ones
schedule for regular timeless time, starting with some kind of relaxing,
transitional ritual. Incorporate playfulness and shun those negative selfthoughts.
And dont forget leaving time to do nothing at all, the book says.
In a separate discussion on pedagogy and pleasure, Slow
Professor advocates for the in-person classroom model over online. It argues
that teaching is an undeniably emotional activity for which one should be
physically present, and that students also benefit from working face-to-face
with their peers.

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It is neither frivolous nor incidental that to ensure that we enjoy ourselves in


the classroom: it may be crucial to creating an environment in which
students learn, the book reads.
Slow Professor also addresses research pressures, saying that slow
scholarship must stand against perverse incentives for publication or a rush
to findings at the expense of scholarly value. Noting how one of the
authors colleagues was once admiringly referred to as a machine, the
book questions the very way in which academics talk about one anothers
productivity, saying, Slowing down is a matter of ethical import. To drive
oneself as if one were a machine should be recognized as a form of selfharm. Furthermore, being machine-like will hardly generate compassion
for others.
Overwork can make colleagues jealous, impatient and rushed,Slow
Professor reads, while slowing down is about allowing room for others and
otherness. And in that sense, slowing down is an ethical choice.
The book argues that waiting can be a good thing -- one of the authors once
hurriedly submitted a manuscript before she was ready, only to have it
rejected, for example (it was eventually accepted, after a break) -- and that
more is not necessarily better when it comes to research. It notes that every
professor has a shadow CV of detours, delays and abandoned projects, and
argues that academics should be more open and less shameful about this
side of their work.Slow Professor advocates walking to the library, saying
that digitization has led to a decrease in the range of scholarly references,
not a broadening, and that reading books and articles that arent
immediately germane to the task at hand is actually a good thing.
And as many say, keep calm and write on, the book reads.
A final portion of the book is dedicated to slowing down to enjoy ones
colleagues. Corporatization of the university has led to an instrumental view
of not only time and space, but also each other, Berg and Seeber say. Yet
collaboration and even professional venting mark healthy workspaces, where
the absence of it can lead to whining.

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Still, the authors reject any formal accounting of collegiality, such as its
consideration in tenure and promotion decisions. Instead, they propose
creating mutually supportive holding environments among colleagues.
Such spaces are based on the acknowledgment that our work has a
significant emotional dimension, whether it be disagreeing with a colleague
in a meeting, or finding a student guilty of a departure from academic
integrity, they say. And while risking candor to establish such environments
is challenging, Berg and Seeber admit, the reward is worth it.
Tenured Privilege?
Slow Professor was just released, but some advance publicity rubbed at least
one academic the wrong way. Responding toan article about the book in the
Canadian publicationUniversity Affairs, Andrew Robinson, a non-tenure-track
professor of physics at Carleton University in Canada, wrote on his blog, I
have never seen such a grotesque example of tenured faculty privilege.
Imagine, Canadian academics, some of the best-paid academics in the entire
[Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] are deciding that
they want to slow things down and take it a bit easier. Because they are
overworked. Poor darlings. Lets hope we dont see the Slow Nurse or Slow
Doctor movements picking up amongst the professions. Why should
academia bathe in this self-indulgence?
As a non-tenure-track faculty member, Robinson wrote, I dont have this
luxury. My pay is so bad that I have to take as much work as possible, to
maintain even a modest standard of living. Im not part of the Canadian
middle class, by any measure of income. Tenured faculty earn at least three
times what I do. So my sympathy for them, as you might imagine, is
extremely limited.
Seeber declined an interview or to answer questions via email, saying,
Because the book has just come out, we want to give people time to read it
in order to avoid misunderstandings or oversimplifications. We also worked
hard to avoid prescriptive advice, and to be as clear and concise as possible
in the book itself.

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Slow Professor does address potential criticism, saying that even some of the
authors colleagues have questioned their desire to write a book challenging
the culture of academe.
While we acknowledge the systemic inequities in the university, a slow
approach is potentially relevant across the spectrum of academic positions,
Berg and Seeber wrote. Those of us in tenured positions, given the
protection that we enjoy, have an obligation to try to improve in our own
ways the working climate for all of us.
Ideally, Berg and Seeber say, This book will serve as an intervention. The
language of crisis dominates the literature on the corporate university,
urging us to act before it is too late. We are more optimistic, believing that
the resistance is alive and well. By taking time of reflection and dialogue,
the slow professor takes back the intellectual life of the university.
John Ziker, chair of anthropology at Boise State University, runs a faculty
time allocation study on his campus that found participants work 61 hours
per week and spend 17 percent of their workweek in meetings. Though he
hasn't read Slow Professor, he said the "frantic pace" it describes "is a reality
indeed." Still, Ziker said he thought the success of any slow professor
movement "would be very contextual," meaning the "individual goals,
disciplinary traditions and the particular university culture -- even political
climate of the state -- might have an impact.
The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the
Academy
by Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber

Symbols of the neoliberal university in Canada are so common these days


it's hard not to feel inured to them sometimes. Stories of $1 million signs
going up next to mouldering arts buildings, ballooning administrator pay
contrasted with poverty wages for sessional faculty, and two-tier toilet
paper systemscirculate often in the mainstream press and around certain
dinner tables.

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This has also given rise, in the past few years, to a burgeoning subfield of
literature that attempts to explain the precise state of crisis that we find
ourselves in.
As a doctoral student in the humanities, I am all too familiar with the
corporatized university's problems, as well as with proposed solutions that
sometimes feel as attainable as home ownership for millenials in Vancouver.
This is why I approached Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber's new book, The
Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy,
somewhat warily.
The Slow Professor is Berg and Seeber's addition to anti-Corporate U lit, but
these authors, who are both tenured professors at Ontario universities, have
taken a slightly different track.
Berg and Seeber believe that most responses to the neoliberal university are
couched in the language of urgency and crisis, with arguments that
something must be done now (or yesterday) to save our country's
institutions of higher learning from imminent peril.
However, these responses only feed in to the culture of speed that the
modern university thrives on. Therefore, Berg and Seeber decided to apply
the principles of the Slow Food movement to the academy to suggest ways
of "taking time for reflection and dialogue."
In this way, they write, "the Slow Professor takes back the intellectual life of
the university."
While the principles of the Slow Food movement have been applied to
several different areas, from architecture to sex, Berg and Seeber write that
it "has not yet found its way into education."
Although this is not entirely true -- the feminist academic blog Hook and Eye
has beendiscussing the idea of the slow academy for several years -- this is
the first book to think about these ideas in a systematic way, and offer
concrete advice for how faculty and graduate students can apply these
principles to their professional lives.

Berg and Seeber are unabashedly optimistic about the change they think
individuals in the academy can create. While this focus on individualism does
somewhat undercut the real gains that unions and other forms of collective

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action can make for workers in the academy, the individual acts Berg and
Seeber suggest do have the potential to make changes at the level of
academic culture -- shifts that are perhaps less tangible for annual reports,
but no less impactful.
These include turning the way from the culture of "publish or perish,"
fostering "holding environments" for your colleagues, and thinking about
how relationships are central to learning.
The fact that Berg and Seeber write from a position of job security that is
becoming ever more rare in the academy has already earned their book a
sneering dismissal from blogger and sessional instructor Andrew Robinson,
who called it a "grotesque example of tenured faculty privilege."

I don't agree with this assessment.

The fact that precarious labour is becoming the norm in the academy
impacts everyone, including those with tenure. The fact that sessional
professors work extremely hard for meagre compensation doesn't discount
the stress that securely-employed faculty experience in their jobs.
Also, there are some parts of the book that can apply to anyone in the
academy. The chapter on "Pedagogy and Pleasure" includes mindfulness
techniques to help one approach teaching from a grounded, empathetic
place. "Time Management and Timelessness" dismisses unrealistic advice
proffered by time-management gurus and stresses the importance of setting
aside time for deep thinking and intellectual play.

Where I think The Slow Professor does falls short is in addressing how people
working within the corporatized university experience its effects differently
depending on the nature of their work.
Yes, tenured faculty are stressed out, but they are also enormously privileged
in comparison to sessional lecturers and graduate students. Berg and Seeber
acknowledge that that "contingent labour is ever on the rise," but they don't
really engage with this phenomenon in a substantive way.

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As such, they miss a real opportunity in this book to think about how
individuals can undercut the corporate university by bringing more people
into the circle. Tenured faculty have a responsibility to use their institutional
privilege to help make the university a more equitable place. This, to my
mind, is not at odds with the kinds of individual actions that Berg and Seeber
envision the Slow Professor performing.

For example, in "Collegiality and Community" -- why not make an effort to


get to know sessional lecturers in your department and make sure they're in
the loop about department events? Why not break the culture of silence
around mental health by having frank conversations with your graduate
students about your own struggles?

These are only two ways Berg and Seeber could have engaged more
substantively with the problems of the corporate university without reverting
to the language of crisis and speed.
While The Slow Professor is a thought-provoking take on how to combat
neoliberal policies as they play out in our institutions, it misses the mark in
thinking about the ways individual acts of slowness can spiral outwards to
make for a more just system for all.

This one major drawback means that the book -- and some of its very good
advice -- risks turning into a mouthpiece for a few of the university's most
privileged members to continue talking only to each other.

Dream Factories: Why Universities Wont Solve the Youth Jobs Crisis
By Ken S. Coates and Bill Morrison
TAP Books/Dundurn, 232 pages, $21.99
Is there anything universities can do right? From allegations that they dont
prepare graduates for jobs, to charges that they exploit short-term
instructors to do much of the teaching, to questions about excessive

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compensation for senior administrators, higher education has come under


steady fire.
For years now, the carcass of what was once an elite institution has been
providing a feast for the critics. The latest voices have radically different
diagnoses and treatment plans.
Written by and primarily for academics, The Slow Professor takes on what the
two authors see as a crisis of stress among professors that is leading to
middling research, underserved students and personal breakdowns. In a
pamphlet-like 90 pages (works cited and an index bump up the page count
slightly), the two authors aim to do for teaching what the slow-food
movement did for nutrition: Turn scholarship back into a contemplative task
more preoccupied with letting ideas marinate than with counting articles.
Dream Factories sees that kind of mentality as misplaced nostalgia.
Universities, it argues, are surviving only because few have realized their
glory days are far in the past. Unlike prior generations of students who were
rewarded for earning a BA with lifelong job security and a healthy income,
todays graduates enter a low-growth economy in which they will be lucky to
maintain their parents standard of living.
But of the two disaster movies screening here, The Slow Professor delivers
the better return on investment, even if authors Maggie Berg and Barbara K.
Seeber would reject that kind of hard assessment.
The points they make are the fairly straightforward and simple ones favoured
equally by self-help books and therapists. You cant change what other
people do, you can only change your reactions. Or as the authors put it,
keep calm and write on. That means taking the time to produce one
thoughtful book or article instead of several forgettable ones; ditching
schedules that assign writing time to the hours of 4 a.m. and 6 a.m.
(rendering the writer unfit for parenting or other familial tasks after 7 p.m.);
and putting students first, even if academia rewards research over teaching.
Non-academics may mutter that these are solutions for professor-peoples
problems. Turns out that many academics think so, too. Since it came out
earlier this spring, The Slow Professor has already been drowning in shouts of
privilege for speaking to and about an ever-declining tenured few who
have the luxury of choosing when and how to work. Instructors paid by the
course must teach and research and win awards, all on a fraction of a
tenured salary, the critics say. If they go slow, they perish.

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To their credit, the authors address this we have an obligation to try and
improve the working climate for all, they write. Every prof who steps off
their own personal treadmill puts another dent in the entire competitive race
of academia.
What they dont do, however, is question the assumption that competition is
bad for personal health and likely suboptimal for the academy. Many
academics thrive on competition and the rewards it brings, not just to them
but to their institutions, too.
For Ken S. Coates and Bill Morrison, competition is the defining feature of
higher education and the global economy. Unfortunately, they also argue,
few students know or act on that fact.
Lulled by parents into a false sense of their own importance, todays
university students follow their hearts right into unemployment. Far too
many, the authors believe, major in humanities and social sciences rather
than sticking to engineering or going to technical college.
Meanwhile, students in China, Brazil, Africa and other have-maybe regions
are ready and able to take technology and engineering jobs, and do them
better for less pay than our coddled twentysomething generation.
Coates and Morrison have built a national cottage industry around their call
for the transformation of higher education. Here, they expand on an idea
they have been developing in a series of essays over the past couple of
years. Their solution is to close the doors of the university for all but the
select few who are dedicated to deep learning and questioning. Everyone
else should do something more practical, with learning a trade or taking a
job (any job) among the best options.
To support their plan, they reference Germany and its system of co-ordinated
training between employers and educators. That rarely happens in North
America although Coates and Morrison show us one such example.
When the European companies Blum and Daetwyler set up factories in the
Southeastern United States, they could not find the workers they needed. So
they partnered with Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, N.C.,
found people who were willing to work and study at the same time, and paid
their salaries and tuition fees.

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The companies can spend more than $175,000 per graduate a substantial
corporate cost that is made up through easier transitions into the work
force, Coates and Morrison explain.
Perhaps its not universities that need to reform, but employers and their
willingness to invest in their workers. Thats not quite as catchy a book
subject though.
Incidentally, Dream Factories is targeted at the North American reader, but
makes no effort to distinguish between our largely publicly funded university
system and the tiered U.S. system. Many negative stats are followed by
variations on this throwaway nod: The Canadian results are better, in part
because of a strong high school system and a lower participation rate. But
the general direction is much the same.
In any case, the numbers on unemployed and underemployed university
graduates are almost cheerful when compared with the books vision of the
future. Robots will do everything though engineers and a few doctors may
survive. What will happen to the rest of us is presumably too frightening to
detail.
Coates and Morrison skip the part where we travel through the present to get
to the future, but its worthwhile asking: Who should be guiding the journey?
The engineer with a headlamp on his mining helmet who knows how to blast
ever deeper into a dark tunnel? The poet telling the story of how civilization
and community came undone? Or the social scientist trying to adapt to a
society without work?
Keep calm and think on. Thats the one thing universities have enabled so
many to do, and do (reasonably) well. The bleaker the future, the more that
might just come in handy.
On becoming a slow professor

Frankly, too much time has elapsed since the last entry in this blog. Pulled
into all directions by competing demands on my time and a resultant
poverty of time, I could not help but think about the effects of the modern
university on scholarship and teaching.
So, over the weekend I read the short book by Maggie Berg and Barbara
Seeber The Slow Professor (insightfully reviewed by Emma Rees in

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the THES), advocating for changes to the working practices of scholars in


Canadian universities. The university system in the UK is similar enough to
that in Canada to transfer the analysis to Britain. Taking Stefan Collinis What
are Universities For? as a starting point, The Slow Professor offers a good few
home truths about the current academy in this book, and it made for both
challenging and affirming reading. Many times I found myself exclaiming in
recognition of the analysis of the transformation of the scholarly profession in
the past few decades.
The premise of the Slow Professor is simple: as universities have changed
from institutions of learning, essential to the well-being of society, to
corporations which sell products (degrees) to customers (students), they
have come to abide by the market forces of late capitalism. Universities,
politically frequently branded as luxuries, now need to prove their worth to
society (the elusive taxpayer) by producing quality outputs, measured in
publications and graduates (and their grades); knowledge is a commodity
which can be marketed, sold and bought, and scholars are in service to the
economic goals of the institution. The book examines effects of this
corporatisation of the university on lecturers and students, and advocates
for a subtle gear-change in the behaviour of (tenured, Berg and Seeber are
well aware of the privilege afforded to those of us who enjoy tenure)
academic staff along the principles developed by the slow (food)
movement.
Applying the principles of the slow movement, Berg and Seeber draw on the
ability of faculty to subvert aspects of the university system with values
which transcend the short-term productivity focus of the university as a
corporation in which everything can be measured in monetary terms. The
main purpose is to regain a sense of agency (both of faculty and students) in
the face of the corporation, and to rediscover the pleasure of the processes
of academic work. In small steps the book advocates for the possibility of
overcoming, or at least continually challenging, the reality of the time-poor,
overburdened lecturer scrambling madly to keep on top of an ever-expanding
to-do list (and failing) by setting small, achievable, and valuable ways of
engaging positively within the academy. Revolution would be too strong a
word, but resistance captures well the attempt to challenge the current
academic climate of economic competition which endangers education by
curtailing creativity, insight, collegiality, and pedagogy.
Refocusing our pedagogic practice on classroom interaction between real
people who read, think, and grow in engagement with complicated texts (in
the widest sense) and contexts, encourages taking the whole life of class
participants into the learning context and promotes a refocusing on the
process of thinking and learning together, rather than merely concentrating

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on the output, that is the achievement of learning outcomes as reflected in


grades.
Similarly, by us insisting on taking the time research needs to mature, by us
purposefully seeking out and making time for engagement with our
colleagues, by prioritising our intellectual and creative work, we can set a
signal in our workplaces which re-humanises and re-directs our energies
towards the creation of an environment conducive to exploration,
scholarship, and intellectual creativity.
This may read like small beer, but cumulatively, in daily practice and with
keeping an eye out for the vision of a university as a place of learning and
discovery essential to the well-being of society (and far from a luxury which
can be sacrificed to the god of the corporate economy), the slow professor
movement may be able to do for the academy what the slow food
movement has done for local communities.
Along the way and with purpose, we may also be able to set a sign that the
goals promoted by the equality & diversity agenda will hardly be achieved
in the corporate university. They require an environment which takes
seriously the whole person in their creative work, rather than value them
only by outputs generated in a specific amount of time. Implicitly, if not
explicitly, the market-driven model of education and research works against
the goals of e&d, promoting a traditionally male approach to productivity
which devalues the contributions of those do not (for many good reasons)
devote 24/7 all year round to the service of the never-ceasing appetite of the
corporation. No workload allocation model which seeks to capture all our
activities, allocate a specific time for each, and cost it all up, is going to
satisfy the appetite of the corporation. Indeed, it would be impossible to do
so as our work as scholars, by its very definition, will never be done. Rather,
we need to turn to ask what constitutes scholarship and create the
conditions in which the fascinating, all-consuming, and time-consuming (in
the most positive sense) activity can thrive and leave us
stimulated, satisfied, and creative, communicating with colleagues and
students, and thus contributing to our mutual growth as people and as
scholars.
With that in mind, I turn back to my research files and the pleasure of
discovery these afford, relishing the time this takes, and losing myself in
their content. And I look forward to picking up my children from their place of
play and learning to hear about their day.

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