Tenure traps and how to avoid them

by on January 14, 2017 at 7:42 am in Education, Science, Uncategorized | Permalink

A philosophically-minded MR reader writes to me:

Tenure ought to be an occasion to explore radically new intellectual paths, ones not pre-approved by one’s field and ones that could, perhaps, do something to bridge the chasm between academic and non-academic intellectual life–and yet as a matter of fact what seems to happen is that people either stop working altogether or continue barreling down the groove they wore themselves into to get tenure.  (You mentioned this issue in a post last year: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2016/06/does-tenure-encourage-risk-taking.html)  But I want to hear more.

So: why does this happen, how can we prevent it at the University/ departmental level, and, most of all, how can we prevent it at the personal level?  (Keeping in mind that most of us are not cognitively capable of processing information at the speed to go your route!)   The idea that we are incentivized to keep working by the prospect of being promoted to full Professor seems silly, given the increased administrative responsibilities.

Related problem: as one moves up the tenure hierarchy, the administrative responsibilities tend to fall disproportionately on fewer and fewer people,  b/c there are lots of deadbeats. I repeatedly see the few responsible people overwhelmed with administrative tasks which they refuse to delegate to those they know will not take them seriously.  (And I observe these responsible people are disproportionately women, even in a field–like mine–that is disproportionately male.)

I have a few suggestions, all feasible but only a few are practical:

1. All schools should copy the committee obligations policy of the school, within their quality tier, that has the fewest committee assignments for faculty.  Yes this can be done.

2. I don’t know how to operationalize this one, but on average give women half the committee assignments that men have.  That still won’t equalize the total work burden (women on average work harder per committee assignment), but it is a start.

3. Study your lecture preparation, and experiment with cutting parts of it out.  See if that matters.

4. Each year take at least one trip to a place you didn’t think you wanted to visit.

5. Go to some Liberty Fund conferences.

6. Refuse to have colleague lunches based around local politics, politics, small talk, sports (unless of the analytic variety), and campus gossip.  Just don’t do it.  Also avoid lunches with too many people attending.

7. Of the five or so smartest people you hang out with (family aside), try to ensure that no more than half of them are in your department.

8. Change the ratio of foreign-to-domestic TV shows you watch, in favor of the foreign.

9. Hang at least one piece of non-cheery art on your wall that will remind yourself of an ever-pending death.  Change its angle every now and then, or better yet change the picture, so you don’t get too used to it and stop noticing it altogether.  If need be, supplement this with Brahms’s German Requiem.

10. Write a periodic blog post, if only a secret and non-published one.  If you don’t find this process is going well, ask yourself what is wrong.

11. Worry if no one thinks you are crazy.  Supplement this with actually being crazy.

12. What else?

1 rayward January 14, 2017 at 9:03 am

“Related problem: as one moves up the tenure hierarchy, the administrative responsibilities tend to fall disproportionately on fewer and fewer people, b/c there are lots of deadbeats. I repeatedly see the few responsible people overwhelmed with administrative tasks which they refuse to delegate to those they know will not take them seriously.” The writer thinks that he/she is describing something that’s limited to academia, but he/she is not. He/she could be describing a medical practice, or a law practice, or any practice or business in which professionals dominate. I’m a lawyer and work mostly with physicians. I have been amazed at the dysfunction that pervades medical practice management, as one or two (usually one) physician takes on almost all management and administrative functions, while the other physicians complain but don’t offer any assistance. Indeed, I’ve witnessed many medical practice “divorces” that resulted from a breakdown in trust for the poor chap who took on the burden of the management and administrative functions. Human behavior, it’s increasingly dysfunctional (or complex) the higher one goes up the education ladder.

2 Pshrnk January 15, 2017 at 7:54 am


I have experienced exactly this in several medical practices in the last 3 decades.

3 Agammamon January 15, 2017 at 8:32 am

I don’t think the writer thinks that at all. I think the writer is responding specifically to a question related to the environment in academia and didn’t feel it worthwhile to bloat up the post with generalizations to other industries.

4 anon January 15, 2017 at 10:03 am

In many medical practices, a physician is compensated in proportion to the number of RVU’s she generates, so she is directly motivated to work hard . For salaried positions, of course there is incentive to slack.

5 trev January 14, 2017 at 9:07 am

… really inside baseball stuff here, only loosely tangential to the long controversial issue of academic tenure

these types of management, personnel, and workgroup issues routinely arise in all kinds of organizations. The core problem is always deficiencies in the senior management of the specific organization.

6 Doug January 14, 2017 at 9:11 am

“12. What else?”

Psychedelic trip once or twice a calendar year… Seems pretty much in the vein of #4, #8, #9 and #11.

7 Ray Lopez January 14, 2017 at 10:46 am

Both Nobelist Kary Mullis and International Master and best-selling chess book author (!) Jeremy Silman have admitted to taking LSD when younger, and they claim it helped their creativity. I’m sure lots of artists have said the same, and the Pueblo and other desert American Indians have chewed the magic mushroom for release, so there’s some truth to it. Arguably peyote should be legal under US Constitutional First Amendment (freedom of religion clause, not the free speech clause) grounds.

8 robert January 14, 2017 at 1:39 pm

Regarding religious peyote usage and the 1st Amendment, go here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Employment_Division_v._Smith.

9 Roger Sweeny January 14, 2017 at 9:12 am

Paul Samuelson famously ended his AEA Presidential address, “In the long run, the economic scholar works for the only coin worth having — our own applause.”

You spend years being socialized into that guild/tribe/discipline/whatever-you-want-to-call-it. To imagine that getting tenure will suddenly make you a rebel is ridiculous.

10 Thin-Skinned Masta-Beta January 14, 2017 at 1:33 pm

“You spend years being socialized into that guild/tribe/discipline/whatever-you-want-to-call-it. To imagine that getting tenure will suddenly make you a rebel is ridiculous.”

Exactly this.

Are there any models in academia that encourage the hungry young untenured things to be courageous to explore and experiment with unpopular directions while they’re still ambitious, energetic and intellectually flexible?

11 Troll me January 14, 2017 at 6:04 pm

If you get high enough grades, at least some of the larger available scholarships are not tied to specific research directions.

12 Euripides January 14, 2017 at 9:23 am

The OP’s list consists of many restrictions which more than likely result in being at lower indifference curves since they take away the faculty’s optimal choice.
What does the OP object to? That most tenured professors don’t change their research drastically after tenure? Has it occurred to OP that most of us are already working on the issues that we find most interesting? So it’s a non-issue IMO.

Now, on the part that some enured faculty stop doing research altogether. I agree it is an issue. In almost every school I know, there are annual evaluations of faculty. So when its found the professor has not being doing enough research for some extended period, the chair can assign a greater course load. This is also already practiced in many departments.

13 dwb January 14, 2017 at 9:44 am

It’s nice to put together a voluntary list, but nothing will change until incentives change. Universities are run on the naive assumption people are self-motivated do-gooders, and just need a to-do list. Clearly, based on the evidence, this is wrong.

If people get get tenure for performing X, they will continue to do X, whatever X is. People like to repeat success. When they get tired, bogged down with life, or burned out, and realize there are no consequences for slowing down, they will slow down. They almost surely will not take a risk and do Y. Y takes a lot more work (and they are tired, burned out, or busy), and they perceive X has been successful. They will keep doing X, just less of it.

Speaking of risk-takers, risk-takers do not enter academic fields because they can make a lot more money elsewhere.

Even economics professors, keen to see poor incentives everywhere else, fail to understand the poor incentives in their own field. Academic economics is on the outside now. Worse, every time people turn on the news these days, some university somewhere is burning the flag, or having an absurd protest. Millennials have massive loans for degrees that they perceive to be useless in the job market. Colleges and universities are not immune to outside social and market forces. For at least the next 8 years, those forces are going to be heavily arrayed against them.

14 Troll me January 14, 2017 at 6:07 pm

Maybe it has more to do with being driven my material definitions of success, etc., than views on risk taking.

A priori, would you advise someone to go all in for a career in academics? Is it not a highly risky undertaking? Of course … you’ll have to learn something along the way, the a number of non-shit-shovelling alternatives are likely to exist …

15 YSK January 14, 2017 at 9:51 am

“I repeatedly see the few responsible people overwhelmed with administrative tasks which they refuse to delegate to those they know will not take them seriously.” I resonate with this strongly. I hate administrative work but recently took more of it so that it won’t go to those who don’t take it seriously:-(

16 Pshrnk January 15, 2017 at 7:58 am

recently took more of it

The burn-out clock has now started ticking.

17 BBurke January 14, 2017 at 10:01 am

Make the Professor of Practice position an option after tenure, and move non-research active senior faculty to 3/3 or 4/4 loads for those who aren’t willing to maintain a certain level of productivity.

18 blah January 14, 2017 at 10:02 am

“on average give women half the committee assignments that men have. That still won’t equalize the total work burden (women on average work harder per committee assignment), but it is a start.”

So screw the sincere men, I guess.

Often oppressors justify discriminatory regulations by sweeping assumptions about how groups of people behave, and portraying their discriminatory policies as attempts to fix those anomalies and enforce “real” equality.

19 prior_test2 January 14, 2017 at 10:30 am

Don’t worry – at a place like the GMU econ dept – http://economics.gmu.edu/people/full_time_faculty – it is unlikely that if all the women were given committee assignments, their number would reach 50%.

20 blah January 14, 2017 at 10:43 am

Wow. Just wow.

21 AlanG January 14, 2017 at 11:07 am

And the number doesn’t go up at all if you include the part time faculty! I wonder if TC sits on the recruiting committee for new faculty. But maybe the representation on the GMU Econ faculty represents the “fact” that 96% of PhD grantees in this field are men and the department make up is “truly” representative. Or it just could be that women econ PhDs are just not libertarians. Lots of things to ponder here.

22 Hopaulius January 14, 2017 at 11:47 am

According to Mr. Cowen’s analysis, Ms. Meyer is likely already taking on more than 50% of the entire faculty’s administrative work, as well as making coffee.

23 The Other Jim January 14, 2017 at 10:47 am

Amazing how rank bigotry can just be thrown out there on a Professor’s personal blog with any fear of repercussions, isn’t it? (And he wants it codified into University procedures!!)

It’s all about targeting the correct people.

24 NatashaRostova January 14, 2017 at 3:57 pm

Tyler’s posts on how to fix these true but noisy disparities seems so contrary to his views on good economic incentive mechanism design. A centralized bureaucratic policy outright favoring one group over another, based on mean point estimates, in an attempt to fix a noisy aggregate signal of error. Isn’t this a fatal conceit?

I think the right way to do it would be for thoughtful leaders to develop a culture that results in their using full information on their faculty (rather than this simple dumb heuristic of 50% of assignments) such that they can watch out for academics who don’t do as well. The problem obviously is this stuff is complicated, with successful department heads wanting to protect their star publishers from busy-work, and offloading it on to professors who don’t have strong publishing records.

But I also really respect Tyler, and don’t presume that his strategy is wrong just because I don’t understand it. So it’s strange.

25 blah January 14, 2017 at 8:10 pm

“seems so contrary to his views on good economic incentive mechanism design.”

As Robin Hanson says, politics isn’t about policy 🙂

26 blah January 14, 2017 at 8:17 pm

BTW this was very nicely phrased: “A centralized bureaucratic policy outright favoring one group over another, based on mean point estimates, in an attempt to fix a noisy aggregate signal of error.” – thank you.

I also agree with your second paragraph; one could have a partial solution by saying something like “To the extent possible, give more work to people who are less per assignment, towards equalizing total committee work burden; one could heuristically expect women to get lesser work per this policy” (in universities with good sample sizes :P). But that is not how he phrased it; he said “Give less work to women on average”. So, to repeat, as Hanson says, politics isn’t about policy.

27 Pshrnk January 15, 2017 at 8:02 am

That suggestion must be from Tyrone. Only a gender bigot would believe such. http://nonbinary.org/

28 ladderff January 14, 2017 at 10:06 am

This caste really just needs to be deported.

29 Troll me January 14, 2017 at 6:08 pm

Are you Russian?

30 prior_test2 January 14, 2017 at 10:27 am

’12. What else?’

Give up tenure to pursue a career in the private sector? I’d name an example from GMU, wikipedia link and all, but for some reason over the years, only a select few are likely to read the name of that former tenured GMU econ prof, who made it big in the private sector.

31 TMC January 14, 2017 at 10:34 am

As an addition to #7 – Start spending more time with your family. Your friends are probably a pretty uniform group, but you can’t pick family. You will be adding diversity of viewpoint this way.

32 Joël January 14, 2017 at 10:39 am

“12. What else?” Read and re-read Nietzsche, especially the second half of his works, from “The Gay Science” on.
Since you’re an academic, he will wipe the floor with you. You will probably be unable to continue the research you were doing. Then do something else, slightly better. Repeat the process regularly.

33 OORL January 14, 2017 at 10:54 am

“women on average work harder per committee assignment”

Surely if someone told you the opposite was true, you’d take it as Truth. Nice trolling, Tyler.

34 GoneWithTheWind January 14, 2017 at 10:55 am

Re: “Change the ratio of foreign-to-domestic TV shows you watch, in favor of the foreign.”

1. Do you have any recommendations? Which foreign TV shows?
2. I find TV to still be the vast wasteland. Where do I find these preferred TV shows? Is there some option other then cable/satellite that is viable?

Serious questions, anybody have a good answer???

35 Shane M January 14, 2017 at 3:48 pm

This suggestion also surprised me. I watch less TV every year and feel I am the better for it. Now TV (we’ve cut the cord, so it’s only streaming) only serves as distraction while riding my exercise bike.

36 Perovskite January 14, 2017 at 10:57 am

Give faculty 10 years of rolling appointments renewable upon review every 10 years. Eliminate seniority titles (Assistant, Associate, Full) Have the department appointment renewal vote ony be 1/3 of the overall vote, with 1/3 coming from related departments and 1/3 from outside of the unversity.

37 Thin-Skinned Masta-Beta January 14, 2017 at 6:58 pm

Looks good to me.

Not in academia, but would like to hear some insiders respond to these ideas.

38 Joël January 14, 2017 at 9:16 pm

From a tenured guy in academia: I approve the idea. That would only solve a secondary problem, though: the professors who don’t work and don’t even pretend. From my experience, the proportion of those is remarkably constant across universities and departments: from 10 to 20%.

I’m afraid that to deal with the professors who work, but only in failed research program or in discipline that are pure non-sense, a more radical approach is needed.

39 Decimal January 16, 2017 at 9:11 am

But we want failed research and pure non-sense… don’t we?

40 Mark Thorson January 14, 2017 at 11:10 am

30 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise three times a week.

41 carlospln January 14, 2017 at 3:24 pm

Thirty minutes of: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-intensity_interval_training @ least 3X/week. Supplement with weight training & swimming.

Last, get outdoors in nature: walk, run, hike. Bring the family.

42 berferd January 15, 2017 at 3:15 pm

’12. What else?’
Here’s one, if bit out of the blue. Go roller skating every weekend. It’s not only great exercise; you get out of your bubble and get to meet and talk to and have lots of fun with regular people –most without PhDs. Plus there’s nothing like watching kids having fun. On top of that, if the figure skaters are practicing, you’ll get to appreciate some serious artistry– and their dogged determination, as the price of their practice is repeated falling on hard wood.
Based on my quantitative analyses, roller skating is probably about one million times more fun than anything you’d otherwise do.

43 Uribe January 14, 2017 at 11:22 am

Don’t go into academics. Work in a field that pays more. Live cheaply and retire young. Study and write whatever you want for the rest of your life.

44 Troll me January 14, 2017 at 6:17 pm

Work like a dog from 18-65 so you can retire at 60 instead, if you’re not dead yet and can still climb the mountain.

45 Thanatos Savehn January 14, 2017 at 12:20 pm

Paul Meehl:

“This is a disease of the professional intellectual, resting upon a vast group delusional system concerning scholarly products, and I know my recommendations in this respect have a negligible chance of being taken or even listened to seriously. Since the null hypothesis refutation racket is “steady work” and has the merits of an automated research grinding device, scholars who are pardonably devoted to making more money and keeping their jobs so that they can pay off the mortgage and buy hamburgers for the wife and kids are unlikely to contemplate with equanimity a criticism that says that their whole procedure is scientifically feckless and that they should quit doing it and do something else. In the soft areas of psychology that might, in some cases, mean that they should quit the academy and make an honest living selling shoes, which people of bookish temperament naturally do not want to do.”

Most academics are Al Bundys who BS’d their way into easier but no more meaningful jobs.

P.S. Women on average seem to enjoy admin jobs more than men.

46 charlies January 14, 2017 at 12:20 pm

How about this: spend a year reading, no writing allowed, in areas you are not directly familiar with from prior research (while keeping total hours “worked” constant).

47 RustySynapses January 14, 2017 at 12:51 pm

12. Get rid of tenure. (Did I miss this in the list or any of the comments?) (In my experience, there are a few good people who are incredibly productive no matter what. For everyone else, while there are soft factors (recognition, satisfaction, etc.) if you take away fear for their job and monetary incentives, they will sooner or later become a lot less productive (and doubly so for unrewarded administrative tasks). And being honest, I put myself with “everyone else”.)

48 rayward January 14, 2017 at 1:00 pm

Cowen’s list of suggestions reflects his wide-ranging interests. At least that’s what I just assumed based on being a regular reader of this blog; as I’ve commented many times, Cowen’s reading list alone makes this blog my favorite. But I was curious: do Cowen’s academic papers also reflect his wide-ranging interests or do they reflect a common theme. So I looked at his CV (linked on his web page). The man must have ADHD! He is definitely the fox not the hedgehog. Or do I have him pegged all wrong? I have often wondered why Cowen stays at GMU. Not that there’s anything wrong with GMU, but he could have his pick of elite colleges. I’ve decided that he stays at GMU because he’s allowed to explore his wide-ranging interests and is not required to be a hedgehog. Not that there’s anything wrong with hedgehogs.

49 AlanG January 14, 2017 at 1:53 pm

I think it come down to the food issue!!! There are also lots of great ethnic restaurants in the area as well. Tyler would do well at Columbia with all the good spots in NYC. Palo Alto is pretty much of a culinary wasteland and one would have to go to San Fransisco on a regular basis but the prices are too high.

50 egl January 14, 2017 at 1:21 pm

TC is dancing around Mankiw’s Principle #4: people respond to incentives. Achieving tenure is a huge carrot; output is likely to fall afterwards. There are rare exceptions like Andrew Wiles, who spent seven solitary years working on his proof of FLT.

51 improbable January 14, 2017 at 2:09 pm

Yes to the carrot. Perhaps you should think of tenure as a golden pension handed out to reward exceptional work by young people. Sort of like having google stock, except paid out as an annuity.

And in both cases a gamble by the young — most will work hard and get nothing. Hence for each tenure you hand out, you get the best decade’s work out of 10 hopeful postdocs.

Then there’s no mystery why so few change course — the ones who spent a decade on a dead end are the ones who didn’t get hired.

52 Lanigram January 14, 2017 at 2:18 pm

Foreign tv shows? Professors already love that foo-foo stuff. Here are some ideas to temporarily connect with the world outside the ivory tower:

1. Advocate for high-density, very low income housing in your neighborhood, even if it means taking down a few McMansions via emminent domain.

2. Build a public outdoor basketballcourt, with lighting, in your aparthied neighborhood.

3. Regularly attend a Christian church, even if you are Jewish or Muslim. Volunteer for a few church sponsored charitable activities and learn the names of your fellow volunteers and the recipients of the charity. You don’t have to be a believer – even better if you are an atheist.

4. Join a bowling league. You don’t even have to be sober.

5. Drive to “work” alone in your own car. Pretend you don’t have university parking and try to find free parking as close as possible to “work”.

6. Dress down and go to a soup kitchen for lunch. Sit down with a group of people and participate in, but do not drve, the conversation. Pretend you are not an anthropologist.

7. By and drive to work a cheap, old (pre-2000) used car. Fix it yourself when it breaks down. Explain to your “boss” that you’ll be late to work because your car broke down. Leave the vehicle parked wherever it breaks down and show up for work with washed but grease-stained hands.

8. Eat lunch alone at noon in a fast food joint. Sit close to a group and try to eavesdrop. Take notes.

These exerecises are difficult but they are better than theatre. The experience will be very strange but will stimulate your creativity.

53 vla January 14, 2017 at 5:37 pm


54 Alvin January 15, 2017 at 1:33 am

this counter list was very funny. I burst out laughing on some of them.

55 Pshrnk January 15, 2017 at 8:10 am


56 Chip January 14, 2017 at 2:30 pm

This link seems apt. Judith Curry just gave up her tenured position at Georgia Tech because of:

“my growing disenchantment with universities, the academic field of climate science and scientists.”


“Apart from my own personal career trajectory and the ‘shocks’ that started in 2005 with our hurricanes and global warming paper, and the massive spike in 2009/2010 from Climategate, I’ve found that universities have changed substantially over the past 5-10 years.

“At first, I thought the changes I saw at Georgia Tech were due to a change in the higher administration (President, Provost, etc). The academic nirvana under the prior Georgia Tech administration of Wayne Clough, Jean-Lou Chameau and Gary Schuster was a hard act to follow. But then I started to realize that academia and universities nationwide were undergoing substantial changes. I came across a recent article that expresses part of what is wrong: Universities are becoming like mechanical nightingales.

“The reward system that is in place for university faculty members is becoming increasingly counterproductive to actually educating students to be able to think and cope in the real world, and in expanding the frontiers of knowledge in a meaningful way (at least in certain fields that are publicly relevant such as climate change).”

57 S January 15, 2017 at 9:00 pm

I have a graduate degree and I must say I have absolutely no respect for academia and the vast majority of people involved in it. Academia is largely an exercise in duping young people into wasting their time and money on pointless majors and instead of teaching them how to think, they teach what to think. Combine this with boring, uncreative research(the majority) that can’t even be replicated and a constant churning of PhDs in order to exploit post doc labor and you have the 21st century academic environment.

Peer review? What a joke this system is too. The entire journal system is a corruption racket where there’s a perverse incentive to publish certain types of articles, regardless of their scientific merit, and its unclear the system filters out bogus research to begin with. It’s also comical when public funds are used for research that will hide behind paywalls.

The entire system needs reform and at least half of the people in it, students and professors, have no business being in an institution of higher learning. I think I’ll get a PhD later, but I think academia is a waste of time, both for me and for society, with the exception of a couple of departments.

I’m an economist too and I’ll consider this field to be a joke until some rigor will be demanded from what we write. Articles with conclusions entirely determined by the assumptions of the writer with some math thrown into the mix to obscure the fact the article has no value seems to be a standard practice in our theoretical economics. It becomes preposterous when the intellectual midgets producing such work pretend that their ‘work’ is relevant to life and policy.

Even in the hard sciences, those who work for research institutes laugh at how bad most professors are at science. I wonder if the people in sociology or gender studies departments can explain what p values are and why/when they’re important.

58 Anoni January 14, 2017 at 2:53 pm

This is a lot harder to do than I thought. I decided to take a gamble on both cross-disciplinary work and also trying to do something different within economics. I earned tenure by doing careful identification papers. But now I have written a bunch of papers and things that could be chapters and the reality is that the big risks don’t look like they will pay off. What people want to publish are very careful papers with bullet proof identification strategies. My bigger picture papers on urban economics and the environment don’t have a home anywhere, as far as I can tell. Its been great fun to write, but I would have been better off skiing more and it does not appear they will be accepted anywhere people will read them. This is despite getting good receptions at conferences and presentations across the world.

Really, I should have skiied more, wrote a few papers in my old rut, and glided to a full professorship. Referees and journals are too specialized to make the gamble worth it. If Tyler Cowen wants this to happen he should lead a movement to have referees and editors be more open-minded about the work they are reading.

Focusing on big picture and cross-disciplinary work just isn’t a gamble worth taking and my advice to just tenured people will now be consistent with that.

59 Pshrnk January 15, 2017 at 8:31 am

Conscientious referreeing is difficult. Publishing cutting edge work increases the chance it will not be reproducible, and then your journal will lose prestige after being criticized for its sloppiness and contributing to the “Crisis” of non-replicability. OTOH staying with mainstream papers is dull and contributes to maintaining the Great Stagnation.

60 S January 15, 2017 at 9:06 pm

You made a gamble when you decided on an academic career despite the ratio of PhDs to professorships. So you should have done something else instead of a PhD, gotten an industry job and skied a lot more. I’m in the same boat, I’d like doing research and I even have the blueprint and literature reviews written for a couple of papers, and I gathered the data, but I’ll stick with my analyst job.

61 Anon3837649374 January 14, 2017 at 3:33 pm

Suggestions for art that reminds you of death?

62 Todd K January 14, 2017 at 4:13 pm

Maybe Dr. Kevorkian’s paintings?

Always a crowd pleaser:

warning: NSFD (Not Safe for Dreams)

63 Shane M January 14, 2017 at 7:30 pm



Or perhaps more positively, I recall a story of someone who put a single marble in a large vase/bowl for every day of his life. Every 10 years or so he’d change the color of the marble.

Or maybe a screensaver that shows the actuarial # of days until your anticipated death.

64 Rob Szarka January 14, 2017 at 11:21 pm
65 Dude Man January 14, 2017 at 9:50 pm

8. Does anime count?

66 Barkley Rosser January 16, 2017 at 5:37 pm

Recommending that people attend more Liberty Fund conferences is all well and good until one realizes that attendance at such is by invitation only, at least that is my understanding. I got invited to one once, but I think I behaved so badly I have never been invited to one since. However, I suppose if one is tenured at a place where lots of them happen, maybe like GMU, one can hear through the grapevine that one is happening where you are and sneak in even if not invited.

67 Ari January 16, 2017 at 6:44 pm

I like this list. Has to be one of the best 2017.

68 mkt42 January 17, 2017 at 4:59 am

#4 is very good. Conferences can be a good way of achieving this; they tend to be located in popular travel destinations but some are located in seemingly uninteresting locations. A related concept, although it probably works better for academic administrators than for faculty, is to attend conferences outside of your field.

69 Craig January 17, 2017 at 6:48 am

I sense a business opportunity for 9. High-quality prints that you replace each month. They come with a shipping box, and framed and with hanging supplies. First business day of the month you ship it back to Morbid-Art-Netflix. The fact that the space will hang empty for a week while things turn around will only sensitize you to the project.

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