Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Oldest Tenure-Track Professor in the History of Higher Education

             I believe I am.
             I don’t know how I’d confirm that. But, since I’m seventy-two, I feel it’s got to be true. I did some cursory research online. I had to laugh. In one university discussion forum, people were surprised that someone in their forties was up for tenure. Forties? A child! In fact, that person could be my child.  
            Let me repeat. I’m seventy-two. I’m up for tenure this year at the university where I teach. This makes me feel as if I’ve wandered into a bar full of young people and asked them if they would mind if I took control of the jukebox. I’m wondering if I’ll live long enough to get tenure, much less actually get it. Can tenure be awarded posthumously? I would hope so. With a formal ceremony, too. On my tombstone, it would read: “Tenured, at last.
            What was I saying?
            No, no, it’s not like that. Not at all. I’m not using a walker. I don’t have to be reminded where I am. I’m not eating soft foods. There’s no drooling. Quite the contrary. But I do feel, well, a bit out of place, a bit of an interloper.
            The University of New Orleans is where I’m up for tenure. Now, they’ve either never checked my birth certificate, or they don’t care. I keep subtly—and not so subtly—reminding them of my age.
            “Say,” I casually offer, “you know I didn’t actually attend Woodstock, but I was seriously thinking about it at the time.”
            Or, “I read In Cold Blood when it was first serialized in The New Yorker in 1965 before it was a book, and boy was I impressed!”
            Or, “You know, those senior citizen discounts are a godsend when you’re on a teacher’s salary!”
            They nod. They might say, “Yeah, really? My grandfather says the same thing.”  
            I give this university a lot of credit. I’m very grateful to them. Mind you, I feel like I’ve done my job here, done it, for the most part, well. So, I don’t think this was any kind of age-based affirmative action. They looked at my background, and they hired me.
            I know that some of you may be wondering if I’m writing this to help me get tenure. Me? Well, that would be pretty transparent, wouldn’t it? Actually, I am all for transparency.
            Now, all I have to do is go through the process, which, as it turns out, has started and goes on nearly forever.
            Which brings me to my last point.
            If I don’t get tenure, can I send you my resume?

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