As every summer, going over past issues of the CHE. I wonder how I missed Jeffrey Williams’s The Rise of the Promotional Intellectual. I was probably too busy promoting myself.
The main tasks of a professor are to teach and do research. The two sometimes vie for priority, but together they encapsulate what we expect professors to do, and they take the bulk of weight in yearly evaluations, tenure judgments, and other professional measures.
Now, it seems, a new task has been added to the job: promotion. We are urged to promote our classes, our departments, our colleges, our professional organizations. More than anything, we are directed to promote ourselves. The imperative is to call attention to one’s writing, courses, talks, ideas, or persona in media new and old. It could be about your new book on Shakespeare or the history of haberdashery, or something you did, or simply yourself, but the key is to get your brand out there — if not in The New York Times, then on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or just the department newsletter. And if not quite to the general public, at least to administrators, boards, funders, students, and other professors. The conventional standards — teaching your classes well, publishing in reputable journals or with academic presses — no longer are enough. You do not exist unless you fire up your personal publicity machine.
(…) The new promotional imperative pressures scholars to produce more directly marketable products, skills, and ideas. It also produces a new mind-set.