The Great Faculty Disengagement: Faculty members aren't leaving in droves, but they are increasingly pulling away.

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Date: Feb. 4, 2022
From: The Chronicle of Higher Education(Vol. 68, Issue 11)
Publisher: Chronicle of Higher Education, Inc.
Document Type: Article
Length: 1,578 words
Lexile Measure: 1210L

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AS MANY OBSERVERS have pointed out, the "Great Resignation" doesn't perfectly capture what's happening in the U.S. labor market. Data suggest many people, especially those with jobs in fields like hospitality, aren't quitting the work force but rather jumping to better opportunities.

In much the same way, the Great Resignation doesn't perfectly capture what's happening on college campuses. Faculty members, as unhappy as many of them are, are largely staying put. What has changed is how they approach their jobs.

Certainly some academics will leave, including those retiring earlier than planned (either by choice or with the strong encouragement of their institutions) and contingent faculty members--for whom a difficult job has become even less tenable. Graduate students, too, might take an early exit and choose not to pursue academic jobs because of what they have experienced and what they have seen their faculty mentors endure.

And of course, some faculty members, in pursuing new opportunities, will move to new institutions or even translate their expertise into jobs in the private sector or consulting. As several people told us in response to a discussion we had on Twitter about how the Great Resignation is playing out on college campuses, resignations are happening, and we shouldn't ignore that.

Nevertheless, most faculty members aren't making big job moves. For them, the Great Resignation looks different. We would describe it as disengagement. They are withdrawing from certain aspects of the job or, on a more emotional level, from the institution itself. Faculty members are not walking away in droves, but they are waving goodbye to norms and systems that prevailed in the past. They are still teaching their courses, supporting students, and trying to keep up with basic tasks. But connections to the institution have been frayed. The work is getting done, but there isn't much spark to it.

In response to our Twitter thread, people said they were doing what they must, but nothing extra. They said they used to be a "rah-rah team player," but not anymore. They used to feel strong ties to their institution, but they have since felt so undervalued that they're cutting back. One response that especially stood out to us: "Faculty might not be quitting, but they've left the building--sometimes departure is a state of mind." It's important to note that disengagement doesn't suggest laziness or that faculty members are necessarily...

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