the tragedy of the fabios
For most of my years as an academic, I’ve been lucky in terms of time management. While I felt stress, it was not be because I was out of time, except for those times when I had a baby at home. Then, this semester it really, really hit – professor overload. Every month, I’d get four to five reviews for journals. Just in the last semester, I’d get about one book manuscript review a month. Then, book review requests, letters of recommendations, and oodles of other stuff. I haven’t even gotten to my regular committee work, teaching, research, or mentoring graduate students. Of course, this is a blessing. It means that people value my input on various issues. But it’s also imposing a cost.
I mentioned this to a colleague, who said it was a tragedy of the commons issue. Professors are a free resource. The university pays our salary, but we work for others for free. Journal reviews are free (in soc, at least). Book reviews (for presses and journals) are free or very low cost. We don’t charge for our time on committees. Students who ask for a paper regrade do so for free. The solution is obvious – charge by the hour! So the next time someone asks you to do committee work, be ready with your rate and the requests will be more considerate.