We talk about the pending wave of Baby Boom faculty retirements with considerable regularity these
days, but we rarely stop to focus on Generation Next: the thirtysomething academics who will have the task of filling the void. This issue opens the Black Box on the generational shift that is slowly taking root
on our campuses. Academic Matters turns to accomplished economist David K. Foot, author of Boom, Bust, and Echo, for a demographic analysis of the shift from Baby Boomers dominating faculty to the Baby Boomers’ offspring, the
Echo Boom. Foot tracks the pressures the Baby Boom generation has put on the system—compelling its expansion in the ’60s and ’70s. He examines the Echo Boom pressures on Canadian universities through record-level student enrolment and the need for a plan to avoid large-scale faculty shortages within this decade. Minelle Mahtani is a University of Toronto academic experiencing the working life of Generation Next. She talks to other Gen Nex’ers about the stresses they face on the tenure track, including the pressure to publish or perish, attract lucrative research grants, ‘go crazy on the conference circuit’, teach classrooms of 800, and engage a generation of media-savvy students who expect high tech lectures and instant e-mail responses. Faculty of all ages face similar pressures after years of cutbacks and growing classroom sizes, but Generation Next faces a unique combination of pressures in the infancy of its academic career.
In this issue we harden the lens on the culture clash between the Baby Boomers and Generation Next with our Point/Counterpoint feature: a two-sided discussion of the values and realities that set the two generations apart, and the commonalities they inevitably share. Carleton University’s Pat Finn draws on deprivation theory to show how hardship shaped two generations of faculty—hardship the new generation of faculty, Generation Next, hopefully will never know.
“We pry open the Black Box on the generational shift taking place on campus”
Gen Nex’er Jennifer Stewart considers the notion of hardship set out in Finn’s article and makes the case for how her generation faces its own challenges and hardships—different from yet no less important than those
faced by preceding generations. We draw on star power from many corners in this edition of Academic Matters.
From Generation Next, we feature Gillernominated author Camilla Gibb, who considers the invasion of new technology and its impact (or non-impact, as the case may be) on the quality of writing in the academy. In a new feature we call Three
Questions, Academic Matters turns to a very public intellectual—Michael Ignatieff— who gave up his post at Harvard to return to
Canada and run in this past federal election. He won his seat in Parliament but took a
moment to consider the challenges public intellectuals face in the modern era. Academic Matters pulls from the very best
of academic knowledge to bring you serious think pieces, but in every issue we also bring you a lighter moment. This month we turn to a novice professor to give you a “sessional confessional” that reminds us all of those first-year jitters that must be faced when an academic career is launched. We continue our interplay between Generation Next and Generation Now with
an article by David MacGregor, who examines how a wave of faculty retirements will create a knowledge void of lunar magnitude on Canadian campuses. This article makes the case for a reconsideration of how we perceive, value and treat senior faculty. Focusing on youth, guidance counselor and teacher Janice Fricker draws from her 27-year career to enlighten us on the reasons why high school students sign up for university. Some of those blank faces professors see
in the back of the classroom might make sense after reading Fricker’s take on the meaning of student choice. The final word goes to Academic Matters Editor-in-Chief Mark Rosenfeld who makes the case that Generation Next has it much tougher than the Baby Boomers, who became faculty in a golden era of expanded government funding. As Rosenfeld reminds
us, the future is far more uncertain for the current wave of new professors—pause for thought as both generations navigate changing times and growing pressures.