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Where have all the Gen X professors gone?

Paper Chase TVI thought I’d read everything there was to read about the career trajectory of Generation X, but this post took me by surprise. It’s about aging professors and a thin pipeline of Gen Xers readied to replace them in colleges across the nation. Essentially, as the writer of the blog, Confessions of a College Dean, puts it, when it comes to college faculty and higher education, the middle is missing. Here is an excerpt from his latest post, Creak:

“My college, like so many, hired a bunch of people all at once, then relatively few for a very long time. In terms of age cohorts, it looks like a pig in a python, and the pig is getting near the end. The dam hasn’t broken, but it’s creaking…

“If mine were the only college in this situation, it wouldn’t be so bad…But it’s not…A generation or two of adjuncting-out the faculty has left the pipeline thin. There just aren’t very many faculty here of my generation. Gen X’ers — and even the younger Boomers — are rare birds. Most of the faculty is either in the very early stages, or within a short shot of retirement. The middle is missing.”

I want to ask how on earth this could happen, but after reading about Generation X every day for the last three years, I already know how. What makes this situation different is that in the business and government sectors across America you have Gen Xers waiting patiently to promote into the corner office, but in academia, the Gen Xer isn’t waiting because more often than not he doesn’t even exist.

This bums me out. What about you? Do you think it matters if the middle is missing? If the associate professor is 31 and the department chair is 32?


Here is one for the anals of Generation X nostalgia: my favorite depiction of the college professor persona, a Hallmark commercial from (I’m guessing) the mid 1990s. It features a retiring college professor and his adult student who returns to thank him for the seed he planted in her.

Does anyone remember The Paper Chase? I was just a kid when this aired on TV, but I loved this show, especially the old professor.

Gen X Blog Jennifer Chronicles

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