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January 20, 2011

making guest lecturing pay

I think guest lectures are helpful: they broaden the perspectives and expertise available in a given course. In general, they happen as the result of a kind of "gift economy": you agree to give a guest presentation in a colleague's course without expecting any kind of reward, even a return visit from that colleague. Gift economies can work quite well--sometimes more efficiently than market economies. But there is no norm in academia of offering to give guest lectures. Instead, you have to ask someone to be a guest in your class, and that can be awkward. It's a gift economy in which the recipient initiates the arrangement: not a recipe for success.

Thus, if guest lecturing is beneficial, we should switch from a flawed gift economy to some kind of exchange system. Professors should earn credit for giving guest lectures. I am not sure I would define the credit as a right to receive a guest lecture in one's own course, because there might be no one available to provide appropriate material. Instead, I would identify some modest good that is in short supply and offer it to professors who amass sufficient credits for guest-lecturing.

January 20, 2011 4:07 PM | category: academia | Comments



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