About two years ago a few Eastern colleges were bemoaning the flight of faculty members to government jobs in Washington. But, as a lengthy article in Monday's Wall Street Journal pointed out, the real threat to college faculties is posed by industry.
Every year more educators discover lucrative part-time work outside the academic world. "Industrial demand for consultants is so great that if it were to get any bigger we would have to close the school," George Baker, dean of the Business School, told the Journal.
Although no schools are likely to close because of industrial competition, it does pose a serious problem. The problem confronting schools, professors, and businesses alike is one of balance.
For while the schools are concerned about the drain on faculty time, they also recognize the value of practical experience.
"It's very important for teachers to maintain contact with business and industry to derive realism from the outside world," Myles Mace, assistant dean of the Business School, said.
No Restriction at Harvard
Many colleges have solved the problem of balance by limiting the amount of time faculty members may devote to outside work. Harvard has not chosen to adopt such a program.
MIT has also avoided limiting the amount of work professors do off-campus. Nathan H. Frank, professor of physics at MIT and chairman of the committee which has been reviewing MIT's policy on industrial moonlighting, suggested that the advisory work is unavoidable. "The need for top talent exceeds the supply," he said, "and we must recognize that as long as this condition exists the nation must use talented people in multiple capacities."
Nevertheless, "it is almost inevitable that a professor doing consulting will get overcommitted on an outside project from time to time," P. W. Cherington, professor of Business Administration, told the Journal.
One solution, Cherington said, "is working 80 hours a week to get out of the overcommitment."
But Cherington and several of his associates have found another remedy. They have formed United Research, Inc., a consulting company with its own staff.
Work May Cause Friction
The Journal story noted one curious result of the demand for consultants. The varying opportunities for outside work may occasionally cause faculty friction.
Professors in scientific, technical and business administration fields are much in demand, whereas instructors in the social sciences and humanities are not particularly sought after.