Anthropology, Author Essays, Interviews, and Excerpts, Biography, Sociology

Professor or Baseball?

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Would you rather chair your university department or manage an amateur softball team? Edwin Amenta, NYU professor of sociology and author of Professor Baseball: Searching for Redemption and the Perfect Lineup on the Softball Diamonds of Central Park, was pretty sure he’d enjoy the softball team a lot more. In an interesting piece of commentary for the careers section of the Chronicle of Higher Education Amenta relates how he was passed over for departmental chair but then was given the opportunity to spend the summer as manager of the Performing Arts Softball League. But as it turns out Amenta got a little more than he bargained for. Amenta writes:

Near the end of the season, I realized that not only was managing not that much fun, it was not greatly different from being a department chair.
Both jobs provide an undercurrent of excitement, with little crises to attend to all the time. Sometimes there are important general managerial decisions to make—like deciding which players or faculty members to recruit.
But the rest of the work is extensive and thankless. It takes great effort to get teammates and colleagues to do things they should volunteer for, like practicing or serving on committees. Teammates want always to play their favorite positions the way colleagues like to teach their favorite classes.
To improve the team or curriculum requires making a few people angry, while the majority who benefit will barely notice. Winning or success in hiring new faculty members—all that is to be expected and brings little praise. Losing or failing in hiring brings blame.

Navigate to the Chronicle’s website to read the rest of Amenta’s article or read an excerpt from the book.