Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Dan Drezner lost his job

Dan Drezner, one of the smartest and most respected bloggers, has been denied tenure at the University of Chicago. His name recognition as the result of blogging is probably greater, mathematically, than anything else he has done in the world. That may or may not have figured in the short-sighted decision of the tenure committee. Nothing I write could possibly add to the impressive comments left at his post announcing the decision of the tenure committee. The long and growing comments thread is a veritable Who's Who of the blogging world, expressing encouragement and sympathy.

My own take is that the loss is not Dan Drezner's but that of the institution he leaves behind. I cannot speak to the world of academia specifically, but after a lifetime of working and talking with a lot of others about institutional culture in general, I can safely say that decisions about who "succeeds" and who doesn't are made by a fragile and inefficient mechanism. Sometimes it is formally called a "committee." Sometimes it is called nothing more than the "culture." In the end, it all cooks down to one reality: no one individual can insure your success, but there are a great many individuals who can cast a veto. Whether this system of good or bad I have no way of knowing. But I can say flatly that it has been responsible for serious and sometimes embarrassing losses for otherwise respectable institutions. I cannot count the number of good people I have seen in the business world who either left in disgust or were pushed out, just because the Powers that Be or the Corporate Culture was not able to adapt to, much less tolerate, some aspect of a glowing talent.

It is testimony to his character that today's post already puts his own misfortune into a global perspective that illustrates how much bigger he is than the small-minded majority that felt somehow threatened at the notion of keeping him. Peers like those he can do without.

The best to you, Dan Drezner.

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