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I have come back, rather the worse for wear (my elderly liver, despite regenerative medication, really can’t take the pace anymore!) from a celebration for my 200th successful graduate student. The Head of my Department (actually a past grad student of one of my past grad students, or my grand-grad student I guess!) actually pushed the budgetary boat out and we had some very agreeable Canadian Cabernet and a chocolate cake that tasted like it was covered in chocolate from the days when there were still cacao plants. It really was quite a happy celebration, apart from the fact that this newly graduated PhD was heading out into an academic world that is sadly red in tooth and claw. There’s only a month until my 71st birthday, and with luck I’ll be able to retire within the next ten years. I’d retire happy, and live out the rest of my years reading and drinking nice wine, if it wasn’t for my concerns about my old students.
Not having children myself, many of my graduate students have become part of my family – I have many whom I have nurtured through undergraduate, masters, doctorates and even the super doctoral degrees they introduced in response to the glut of unemployed PhDs. Back in the day, there used to be something called tenure, when professors essentially had job security and the academic freedom to study whatever they wanted. What we call a professor in present times was called an “adjunct’ back in the day. As a professor back then most of us only had to teach two classes a semester, not six or seven. And you could basically teach whatever you wanted, without multiple committees scrutinizing and editing your course content for subversive political statements or accounts of the past that did not match with the approved official historical timeline!