Sociologists Study American Academia

Talcott Parsons, professor of Sociology, and Gerald Platt, lecturer on Sociology, are conducting an analysis of the academic professions in America, which, according to Platt, should "dispell the misconception of what academia is."

The procedure for the $130,000 research project, financed by the National Science Foundation, is an expanded version of a pilot project begun in 1964 by the two men and now being completed.

Results of the pilot program indicate that the large research-oriented university is now the prevalent model in American education. Despite this, Parsons and Platt found that the image of the faculty member who wants to spend all his time doing research is largely a myth.

Teaching Most Important

No group of faculty members in any of the eight schools in the pilot program, the sociologists report, wishes extensive specialization. In all types of schools studied, the majority of those questioned would allocate the most time to teaching.

The eight institutions used in the pilot study, whose identities were not disclosed, were divided into three "types": three of the schools were "high quality," three were "moderate" in calibre, and two were "less prestigious," Platt said yesterday.

One result of the study was the discovery that pressure to "publish or perish" differs significantly in the three types.

In the less prestigious school, said Parsons, there seemed little pressure to publish. A sense of pressure was felt primarily in the middle type of institution, which is trying to attain the status of the leading schools.

Little Pressure at Top

In the universities at the "top" of the higher education system, however, Parsons and Platt found that there is little pressure because the type of person on the faculty of such schools, both junior and senior members, would do research in any case.

Another misconception which the initial results clarify is the notion that faculty members are anxious to take control of their institution. In all types of schools, those questioned indicated that they would like to decrease the time spent in administrative capacities. They would prefer a "quasi-democratic" institution in which they could be influential yet not actually fill administrative posts.

For the major project, questionnaires and interviews will be obtained from faculty members of 116 colleges and universities, about 10 per cent of the number of liberal arts institutions with accredited four-year programs. From these results, Parsons and Platt hope to substantiate these and other tr ends they found in their initial study.

The results of the expanded study, to be completed in 1969, will be incorporated in two publications. One will be theoretical, discussing the difference between the organization of a university and the organization of a bureaucratic or hierarchie institution. The other will be a description and analysis of the academic profession "by people who are in it rather than by people writing for the Atlantic Monthly," Platt said