In Which I Become Florida Man, Emeritus!

Shortly after Professor Dorf announced our most-of-July hiatus on this blog, I republished my 2019 column "In Which I Become Florida Man!" as a Dorf on Law classic.  That was not a random choice, because at the time I had already accepted and signed an official retirement offer from the University of Florida, and I knew that I would soon be writing this column to announce my upcoming departure from UF's Levin College of Law.

Specifically, I have agreed to spend the upcoming 2023-24 academic year continuing in my current position at UF, but with an "enhanced research assignment" -- that is, the year will be treated as a research sabbatical before I transition to emeritus status.  (To be precise, the emeritus designation is to be determined at the end of the academic year, but the retirement plan is set in stone.)

But Professor Buchanan, some readers might say, you're kinda old, I guess, but you're not retirement-age old.  Yes, that is true, and thank you for pointing that out.  When it comes to retirement, I write about it, but I don't do it.  As it happens, however, the concept of retirement is a bit odd in academia, where it is rather common for a professor to take emeritus status at their current institution but then move on to another university.  My UF colleague Lynn Lopucki, for example, is the Security Pacific Bank Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus at UCLA's law school, but he joined UF Law a year ago as the Levin, Mabie & Levin Professor of Law.  Similarly, Paul Krugman retired from Princeton in 2015 (at age 62) but immediately became the Distinguished Professor of Economics at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

So it will be with me, it seems, except that my next landing place is not yet known.  During my final official year on the UF non-emeritus faculty roster, I will be a visiting scholar at two law schools in Toronto: the University of Toronto and Osgoode Hall Law School (which is part of York University).  Either of those situations could evolve into something more permanent -- indeed, I have explicitly expressed my interest in such a possibility -- or I could and up leaving Toronto after only one year and moving elsewhere.  No matter where I am in the coming years, I will write academic articles (and possibly finish some long-stalled books), organize and attend conferences, write columns here on Dorf on Law and on Verdict, and so on.

Longtime readers of this blog will, however, note that what I just described is no different from what I have been doing for many years.  In the just-completed 2022-23 academic year, for example, I was a visiting scholar at universities in Vienna, Auckland, Melbourne, and Brisbane, and I spent two months in Amsterdam as an unaffiliated scholar on sabbatical.  The only thing that will be different about the upcoming year is that I will be in the same place for twelve whole months!  In any event, even if I were to retire in the sense of no longer being a member of any faculty, I would still be doing everything I did before, possibly even including some teaching (as an adjunct).

Even so, I could have continued to do all of that without accepting UF's retirement offer.  I even had a fully sketched-out five-year plan running from 2022-2027 that combined my Fall-term research assignments as UF's Director of Global Scholarly Initiatives with some accumulated sabbaticals, which would have had me spending almost all of my time abroad in any event, without retiring.  Why walk away from that?  More to the point, why leave a tenured position at a highly ranked public research university, especially when tenure is the most sought-after status in academia?

In what will almost surely be a long series of columns here and on Verdict in the coming weeks and months, I will discuss the various reasons that I decided not to stay in what was on paper a fantastic professional and academic situation.  In those columns, I will focus on how policy and politics have changed in ways that are relevant far beyond my unique situation.

I do want to be clear here that I am still very happy about my decision to accept UF's offer in 2019.  The dean who convinced me to make that move, Laura Rosenbury, has recently left UF herself to become the President of Barnard College in New York City.  I have the greatest admiration for President Rosenbury, and I will always be grateful to her for making me see the wisdom of moving to Gainesville.  And although I was certainly aware that deans move on in only a few years, I readily admit that the announcement this past Spring of her departure made me see the future in a different light.  UF Law has made a solid transition into Merritt McAlister's service as Interim Dean, but beyond that, the future is unclear.

I will miss my UF students, colleague, and staff -- along with the wonderful craft beer culture in one of the most surprisingly fun college towns in the country.  But for now, I need to check whether I still own any winter clothes.