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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Perverse Incentives In Academia

I came across this Dilbert cartoon the other day, and it reminds me of academia.

I've had (tenured) colleagues who regularly "blow up" at one thing or another. It could be that they don't like their teaching schedule (or the number of courses they teach). It could be about travel funds. Regardless, what often happens is that the dean (or deparetment chair) tries to sooth the affronted party by giving them a better schedule, more travel funds, etc...

To summarize, the pattern is
  1. Teaching schedule is floated aound
  2. Colleague gripes about teaching load
  3. Dean gives colleague reduced teaching load or better schedule
Does anyone see a problem here? Maybe it's me, but it looks like someone's being trained to complain. This is a classic case of perverse incentives.

Unfortunately, I'm not yet tenured, so complaining on my part will only result in my being on the job market once again. So I guess perverse incentives of the Bitch and Get Rewarded variety are only for tenured faculty.

But you already knew that.

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