I have yet to ask anyone in the administration what they think of my cohosting of the NARN
. I figure if I don't ask, they won't come up with a policy against it. Besides, it's not like they put it on a survey
or something. The local paper has a file photo of me to use when they need "a quote from an economist" or when I have to discuss the Quarterly Business Report
. But I wouldn't say they actually push me into the spotlight.
As schools vie to attract top students, top faculty, and top-dollar gifts, they count on their bookish professors to leave the library and enter the studio, where their insights on the day's news might help put their institutions on the map.
For schools aspiring to enhance their reputations, the task of positioning faculty for a "media hit" has become big business. To get their professors into reporters' Palm Pilots, 624 colleges and universities pay between $500 and $900 each per year to be listed with ProfNet, a private database. Some go further by paying thousands to private firms whose sole mission is to get professors quoted in the press.
Spokespeople in higher education tend to agree that the time, effort, and money they invest to get professors quoted in news stories are priceless.
But it appears they want to be sure you say the right thing.
What's more, professors who comment on controversial local issues involving their universities can find themselves at odds with the very administrations that encouraged them to do interviews. To mitigate this problem, some institutions have instructed scholars to limit their comments to their areas of expertise, but those policies are producing protest.
"As a faculty member, you're an officer of the institution. You're not just an assembly-line worker," says Jonathan Knight, director of the American Association of University Professors' program in academic freedom and tenure. "An effort to stop faculty members from commenting on issues of concern to their communities would be a direct assault on academic freedom."
Not that our gang would ever think of censoring, would they