Also from Kent Bach, this NY Times Op-Ed on hiring practices by top universities is well worth a read. The main example used is the NYU philosophy department. The author, David Kirp, doesn’t really seem to approve of the hiring they’ve been doing.
What’s good for a university’s reputation, however, isn’t necessarily good for its students’ education. Since the standing of top-rung professors, their bankable asset, depends on what they write, not how they teach, their main loyalty isn’t to their students or their institution.
While Mr. Sexton says he is determined to turn this trend around at New York University, some recent initiatives there have reinforced this professorial narcissism. Take the university’s philosophy department. In 1995, the department didn’t even have a Ph.D. program. Just five years later it was rated as the top department in the web-based publication “The Philosophical Gourmet,” the philosophers’ version of the U.S. News & World Report college ranking and the bible for prospective graduate students.
A bevy of star hires has elevated the department’s academic standing, and with it the university’s. But the new recruits have only modest teaching responsibilities; especially in big undergraduate courses, the burden of teaching falls on graduate student instructors and adjunct faculty, higher education’s replaceable parts. What’s more, the newcomers are narrow-gauge specialists whose intellectual insularity — a disengagement from both the classroom and the common public sphere — presents a formidable obstacle to the neighborliness that Mr. Sexton now asks of his “blue team.” (My emphasis.)
That’s rather unfair as a comment on some of the NYU hires, especially Kit Fine and Hartry Field, who have made significant contributions to many areas of philosophy. What might be fair to say is that they don’t do work that has an immediate public impact, but then again I suspect one could say the same thing about many top-notch physicists.