What does the term "professor" mean to you? If you check Google it means an old white guy with glasses and a 60% chance of bearedness. As we found out from Forbes report Susan Adams two weeks ago, it someone with a leisurely lifestyle and takes summers off. I think there's been enough response to that article (including an excellent response at Forbes by David Kroll), but what I've been mulling about in my head while tending to a sick family is the singularity of the title.
I'm betting that for many of us, the perception of what a professor is has been heavily influenced by our own college or university experiences. Oddly, however, the title itself spans such an enormous spectrum of jobs that the name seems to be the only link between them. If you asked an adjunct professor or even a tenure track prof at a Primarily Undergraduate Institution for a job description, how much to you think it would have in common with a soft money NIH-supported professor at a medical center? Anything? Probably not. Maybe someone who had some teaching responsibility at a med school might find some common ground with the PUI prof, however tenuous.
Even WITHIN a single institution there is an enormous difference is what professors do. My engineering and art history colleagues have very different jobs than I do. It is often amusing to compare notes over beers to get a better understanding of how they spend their weeks.
All these jobs have their merits, stresses and rewards, but they serve different purposes and are responsible to different audiences. I am no more interested in teaching four classes a semester than I am raising my own salary entirely via grant funds, which is why I fall where I do on the spectrum. Others have made different choices, but it's time to ole' yeller the fantasy that one can describe a typical professor.