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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Friday, October 12, 2018

Many Tenured Associate Professors Never Bother Going Up For Full Professor—Including The Latest Nobel Laureate

Chronicle of Higher Education, For Some Scholars, a Full Professorship Calls for ‘a Lot of Paperwork’ That ‘Doesn’t Mean Anything’:

For tenure-track faculty members, the first promotion, to associate professor, can make or break an academic career. Without it, they have to search for another job, since a tenure denial eventually results in termination.

But promotion from associate to full professor is something different. While full professor is typically the highest rank possible, the title isn’t required to maintain employment. Some faculty members simply decide not to pursue it — most notably, one of the winners of this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics, Donna Strickland.

Strickland, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, told the Waterloo Region Record that climbing the career ladder didn’t seem worth the effort when her job wasn’t at stake and a pay raise wasn’t a given.

"It’s all on me. I think people are thinking it’s because I’m a woman, I’m being held back," said Strickland, who has been an associate professor at Waterloo since 2002, according to the Optical Society website. "I’m just a lazy person. I do what I want to do, and that wasn’t worth doing."

Scholars weighed in on Twitter, many of them arguing that Strickland’s reasoning made sense. The application process calls for some heavy administrative work to compile documentation of achievements and secure external letters, among other things.

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