[253] Cos and Locals

[253] Cos and Locals

Many years ago I read an article about college faculty, dividing them into two groups: Cosmopolitans and Locals.  Cosmopolitans were faculty establishing a name for themselves in their discipline through publishing and conference presentations.  The Locals confined their activities to the local college.

This split is sharply evident in Christian colleges.  There is a minority of faculty, Cosmopolitans, that do publishable research—books, articles, and conference presentations.  By doing so, they put themselves and their institutions on the larger academic map.  The majority, however, are Locals.  Often because these colleges are “teaching institutions,” they opt to limit their activities to teaching, committee service, and publishing in non-academic, denominational periodicals, often claiming these endeavors consume all of their time.

This is unfortunate.  Please understand, teaching a worthy priority.  Committee service can make a contribution.  Writing articles in denominational magazines have their place.  But none of these are terribly difficult to do, and they certainly do not establish oneself as a scholar in one’s field.  In fact, they hardly constitute a full-time job.  I know that firsthand.

What is even more unfortunate is that many Christian colleges not only do not encourage cosmopolitan activity, but have faculty that–perhaps out of jealousy—subtly denigrate colleagues who go more widely. I experienced that as well.

In short, in many of these schools you can become a full Professor without having done a shred of research beyond your doctoral dissertation, provided of course that you taught your classes, served on designated committees, and carried out the other pedestrian tasks of your employment.  Conversely, publications and research are generally not highly regarded.  In fact, you may be penalized should your research take you away from campus with any frequency.

Christian colleges need to address this.  Ideally, faculty that do research should have accommodations made in their workload, affording them more time to do scholarship.  At the very least, these institutions need to recognize, encourage, and applaud their Cosmopolitans who are making a mark for Christ in secular academe.  It is the Cosmopolitans who are models of what scholarship really is.  It is they who are preparing their students, by example, to serve Christ in the world. DC

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