What Andy Pettitte Has in Common With the Untenured Professor

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The New York Times reported back in 2005 that up to 20% of college students were abusing prescription drugs like Ritalin and Adderall to get through papers and exams.   My unscientific guess is that the percentage among law students is probably higher than that.   But professors abusing prescription narcolepsy drugs?   That’s news to me, courtesy of the  Chronicle of Higher Education’s report on a study by two researchers at Cambridge: “While caffeine reigns as the supreme drug of the professoriate, some university faculty members have started popping ‘smart’ pills to enhance their mental energy and ability to work long hours.”   The full Chronicle article (available here; subscription site – sorry) goes on to make the analogy between professional athletes and junior academics:

Revelations about the use of performance-enhancing drugs in professional baseball have stirred public interest recently, and [one of the Cambridge researchers] sees parallels between athletes and assistant professors.  

“You’re expected to publish and teach, and the stakes are high. So young professors have to work their tails off to get that golden nugget of tenure.”  

Students and faculty who are jazzed on Red Bull, caffeine, ADD meds or narcolepsy drugs are trying to stay awake.   The drugs may or may not enhance anything more than concentration.    But if HGH  made  more likely that  students could get high grades or for junior profs could get those elusive Top 20 law review article placements, I can imagine lines forming now.  

-Bridget Crawford

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0 Responses to What Andy Pettitte Has in Common With the Untenured Professor

  1. ssladler says:

    Very interesting comparison. The situation does seem a little different, since there is (presumably… it’s probably arguable) some benefit to society of an increase in the absolute performance of academics. While sport is almost entirely about relative performance, and so any performance enhancement is a pure negative externality. If there was some super-smart drug that increased scientific productivity by 10% and cut lifespan by a year, I’d be OK with allowing cancer researchers to take it. But a similar drug which increased fastball speed I would probably make illegal.