Millennials Offer More to Academic Workplace Than Digital Expertise

To the Editor:

I read your article, ”How Generations X, Y and Z May Change the Academic Workplace” (The Chronicle, September 17), and found that it misrepresented the effects millennials and generation Z have on the academic workplace. Is it a common trope to focus primarily on social media and the smart phone when talking about the younger generations, but these alone are no more likely to change the academic workplace than overhead projectors, early computers, and the telephone were. As citations for the article, the author primarily uses Jean Twenge’s book, iGen, which has been largely discredited as unscientific and a means by which to market her consulting services, a conflict of interest not reported by the author.

As a millennial postdoctoral fellow pursuing an academic career, the view of my generation as primarily contributing expertise as digital natives is troubling. Our generation is the most educated in history, and our generation of academics will primarily be defined by the extraordinary financial costs we have paid to get to this position. That the article fails to touch on debt, flat-lined state funding, research funding, and salaries, increasing class sizes, and increasing availability of higher paying jobs in the commercial sector is shocking. Millennials who choose to stay in academe will not be doing so in pursuit of financial success or fame, but rather from a sense of activism. That millennials have spearheaded movements such as the unionization of postdocs and the open-science movement is evidence of this; and again, these important shifts in the academic workplace were not touched upon by the article.

Jason R. Climer
Postdoctoral Fellow
Neurobiology Department
Dombeck Laboratory
Northwestern University
Evanston, Ill.

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