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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What It Takes For A Conservative To Show Discrimination, Part 2

By Professor Doom
    Last time I revealed a news report of an amazingly rare case: a conservative successfully showing he was the victim of discrimination. This is a rare event because actually taking such a claim to court somewhat violates the conservative “take responsibility for what happens to you” mind set.
      It’s also rare because winning is a tough battle; this guy had very thorough, very dominating evidence showing that he was treated disrespectfully once he changed his point of view. He also had to be willing to fight for seven years to get justice in what was a cut and dry, blatantly obvious, case.
     This is, of course, not usually enough to win against a liberal bias, but he had more:
The university maintained that it had legitimate, non-political reasons for denying his promotion, suggesting that he had not done enough research. But he presented evidence that he had published more than the number of peer-reviewed articles generally considered to make one "safe" for promotion to full professor at Wilmington.

     Third: he had to show that others, sans such views, were having no difficulty getting such a promotion. This, too, can be very difficult to prove, as most institutions do a fine job of preventing anyone from finding out what, exactly, were the factors in determining if someone should get a promotion.
Faculty: “Putting an administrator on what policy clearly defines as a  ‘faculty only’ committee is a violation of policy. Why did you do it?”
Administrator: “I put myself there ex officio.”
Faculty: “And this means?”
Administrator: “I didn’t give myself a vote, too.”
--because the evidence of administrative shenanigans was so strong, a committee I’m aware of had an administrator forcibly added to it, in explicit violation of policy, and common sense regarding conflict of interest. The committee members privately acknowledged they were intimidated into ruling the exact opposite of what their conscience would have allowed; the administrator got another promotion later.
     He was very lucky to get that kind of information. I know when I tried to get it, “privacy laws” were cited for the most part, and I have to concede it was a reasonable explanation.
    It’s a curious thing about being faculty in higher administration: when policy hurts the faculty, admin pays close attention to policy. When policy helps the faculty, admin ignores the policy completely.
     I suspect it wouldn’t be this way if administrators and faculty were the same people, playing under the same set of rules, but I digress.
     “There’s a standard of fairness here that isn’t being met…”
--when I showed a retiring Poo-Bah what was going on in the promotion process in my own institution, he had the candor to acknowledge shenanigans. Since he was retiring, there was no interest in fixing the problem. He’s hardly the first person willing to tell the truth once retirement, and the golden parachute, beckons.
     So, access to resources for a 7 year court battle, overwhelming evidence, and access to usually secret documents. This isn’t enough to win, however. I’ve seen many cut-and-dried accusations against administrative chicanery go ignored. He needed one more thing to win, a secret weapon so powerful there’s a reason why it caught on in legitimate legal systems:
“…he was denied a promotion because of his political views, a federal jury agreed on Thursday.”
--I’ve added the boldface, the better to identify the key reason he was allowed to win.
    His secret weapon that allowed him to actually win? A fair jury. Time and again I’ve seen administrators get accused of pretty slimy things. Invariably, the administration gets to pick the committee that decides if the administration has done anything wrong. These rigged committees don’t dare vote against the administration. Obviously.
     This is the real reason administrative chicanery is seldom dragged into the light. I haven’t seen administrators lose under the “rigged committee” system in my near 25 years in higher education. On the other hand, when a victim has 7 years of time to fight, unarguable evidence, secret documents, AND a fair jury, he can actually win against administration.
     Well, maybe. While administration often tells the victims to just suck it up when the kangaroo committee rules in their favor, the famously prodigious administrative hypocrisy marches in when the shoe is on the other foot:
"The university respectfully disagrees with the jury¹s verdict and will fully explore its options for appeal…”

     No, admin doesn’t like to lose, having seldom not been able to rig the system so that loss is impossible. Maybe admin will win the appeal, and I’m sure they’ll try to get to have the appeal run in the usual way—an administration-picked jury or arbitrator. My personal vote is arbitrator, since it’s much easier to control one person in that way (there’s a reason juries are popular…). Yes, the administration is, casually, that corrupt:
--seriously, this is how corrupted the promotion process in higher education can be. I’ve seen worse, on more than one occasion. You really think admin didn’t know about the vendetta implied by that false criminal complaint? You really think even one administrator would speak up about the over-the-top lack of integrity here? There was a whole committee involved with this level of fraud, with nobody willing to speak the truth.
     Still, it seems that finally we have very powerful evidence that, indeed, there is a strong anti-conservative bias in higher education. I wish the article mentioned the lawyers involved, I might want to have a chat or two with them.
     It turns out both left and right can be victims of discrimination; the latter is just less willing to do something about (or is it the former is too corrupted?). I don’t recommend calling anyone a water buffalo anytime soon…it doesn’t seem like this conservative victory will get much in the way of press.
     For many decades, people claimed that police brutality was an everyday event. In response, police departments investigated themselves, and, outside of rare circumstances where the evidence was ridiculously overwhelming, cleared themselves of wrongdoing. Now, of course, video camera technology is so commonplace that there are millions of videos of police engaging in brutal acts…it is not nearly so rare as the public was told.
     For the last few decades, conservatives have complained of incredible bias in our institutions of higher education. Administration has formed committees and investigated themselves, and cleared themselves of wrongdoing very consistently…except in this one case, where the victim was tenacious, the evidence was ridiculously overwhelming AND the victim was allowed to get a fair jury.
"The university respectfully disagrees with the jury¹s verdict and will fully explore its options for appeal…”
--repeated for emphasis.
     Could this case of discrimination be a fluke? Well, either I believe admin, that this is just a bad verdict (their hubris will not allow even the possibility of this being a case of discrimination despite the evidence), or I believe my lying eyes. I lack the imagination to conceive of a technology as powerful as video cell phones that would serve to bring justice consistently in these types of cases, so I imagine this will be a rare victory.
     Enjoy it, professor, I hope the retaliation will not be too extreme.

I guess at some point I should give my own political and religious leanings.


I totally respect the mindless idealism of progressive thought. Even with the 100% failure rate of liberalism and “big government”, I can see that it’s a beautiful theory: just let the government solve all problems, and utopia will be at hand. Granted, that path has always led to horrific disaster and the slaughter of many millions of innocents, but that kind of idealism in the face of logic is precious. “War is good, providing nobody profits” is basically the catch phrase of this line of thought.

 I started life as a leftist—heck, didn’t we all? I was trained in school to swear to the flag, sang the national anthem every day before classes, was taught that the US was a force for democracy (whatever the heck that means), and that republicans were basically evil. In retrospect, I can see I was indoctrinated, but I grant that everything a child is taught classifies as indoctrination.

The right wing is more intelligent, but leans too much towards evil. The idea of slaughtering for profit, while consistent with conservative thought, just is repugnant to me. “War is good, providing the right people make a profit”, may be a more honest way of looking at things, but I don’t like it. Once I got older and saw the left was certain to fail, I went to the right…an insidious part of that childhood indoctrination is training in the belief that there are only two possibilities, “Democrat/left” and “Republican/right”.

Now, I realize there are many choices, and, for most things, I’m a libertarian. I grant that it doesn’t solve every problem or create a utopia, but compared to the certain misery of the only options I was told about in school, I find it more palatable.

As far as religion, well, I used to be atheist, but I met so many truly nasty and amoral atheists that I found myself asking the age old questions and not getting certain answers.  Watching Hitchens get shredded in a debate didn’t hurt, I admit. Now I lean agnostic; I acknowledge atheism is perfectly reasonable, I accept that the beliefs instilled in childhood are certainly tough to shake and that may taint my views…but even questionable evidence is still not “evidence of negative”, and so I doubt.

Anyway, back to our regularly scheduled dissection of higher education…

Friday, April 11, 2014

What It Takes For A Conservative To Show Discrimination

By Professor Doom


     I’ve often been told that college campuses are hotbeds of leftist thinking. That’s what I’ve been told. What I’ve seen with my own eyes?

    Well, certainly, multiculturalism, the demon-spawn of leftism, sure is popular. I never really attributed it to leftism, however. The courses are brain-dead simple, and even roadkill can pass the course (students that don’t even know they’re enrolled in the course still have a good chance of getting an A, according to the registrar at one institution I was at).

     When it came to outright political views, yes, I noticed that people with leftist views tended to get promotions, and people that didn’t drink the Kool-Aid were ever consigned to dark corners of campus. Again, I just assumed it was because leftists taught brain-dead courses, and had no trouble winning the student popularity awards that administrators believe are the best way to determine if the teacher is any good.

     I’ve seen many administrators spout leftist beliefs. I’ve never seen one openly state anything that would be particularly conservative (although a few accounting types have been known to whisper that they’ve listened to Limbaugh for reasons other than amusement). Again, it meant little to me; administrators aren’t trained to think, I can hardly expect them to question what they were trained as children in our publics schools to believe. The indoctrination starts there, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit that I, too, believed the things I was told as a child…at least when I was a child.

     The fact still remains: I’ve never seen anyone say non-leftist things and advance in higher education. I guess it’s happened, mind you, but it’s not something I’ve seen with my own eyes.

     Only in my most paranoid, suspicious moments did I think that conservative faculty were being left behind simply because of their political or religious views. A recent article leads me to believe it isn’t mere paranoid suspicion on my part:


“…his case represents the kind of bias many on the right say they experience in academe (typically without a verdict like this one).”

---I’m not exactly on the right, but I’ve been on the business end of some pretty extreme hate from colleagues, too…could it be I opened my mouth once or twice?


   In short: a professor was passed up for promotion. He claimed his conservative political views were responsible, while admin said “nope, we just don’t think you’re good enough.” The jury disagreed, saying the evidence was clear that his conservative views were, unfairly, the reason he was not given a promotion.


(I come to yet another meeting where admin will bloviate about their plans for growth. In preparation, I bring a sandwich):

Marxist Faculty: “You know, under the Marxist model, that sandwich you brought to the meeting would be shared with everyone.”

Me: “No. Under communism, I’d know I’d have to share, so I wouldn’t bring a sandwich. We’d all starve. That would model communism better.”

--I’m no conservative, but I’m certainly not a leftist. I had fun with the Marxist history professor, though. He laughed, denying that Marxism and communism were the same thing…I politely ceded the point. They are different words, after all.


     Now some will cite this victory as proof of academic freedom, and that this was an isolated incident of discrimination that really isn’t representative of higher education today. I feel the need to point out just what it took to get this verdict:


“Adams sued in 2007…”


     First: it took seven frickin’ years. This is enough time for a new faculty to join the institution as an instructor, and work all the way up the ranks to full professor.  Meanwhile, the victim here had to fight 7 years to just get one promotion. How many people, when wronged, have the strength of will to argue for 7 years over a promotion that might only mean a couple of thousand dollars a year? This guy might have paid half a million dollars in legal fees in order to get $14,000 in lost wages.


“He cited emails and statements from faculty colleagues taking issue with his views, which are outspoken and conservative. (You can find a selection of his columns here.) The Adams case was of particular interest to many who charge political bias in the academy because he is a political (and religious) convert. He presented evidence that his faculty colleagues liked him when he was an atheist Democrat, but started to have concerns when he became a Christian Republican.”

     Second: the evidence had to be overwhelming and unquestionable. To win this type of case, the victim clearly must first be leftist, and must save documentation that he’s treated decently as a leftist. He must establish leftist cred, and befriend the leftists. Then, only then, can he espouse conservative or religious views, and then he must save his documentation to show that he’s treated differently once his views and beliefs have changed.

     Goodness, what an abusive standard of proof.

     Someone who came on campus as a conservative would have no way to win this type of case, and should be prepared for unfair treatment indefinitely; promotions should be considered out of the question for people who come to campus as conservatives.

     You must literally convert from left to right, and save your documentation, and be willing to fight for seven years, to even have a chance in this system.

     While having that documentation was a lucky break, conversions from left to right are hardly rare. I’ve seen it many a time. In my experience, as soon as a leftist earns something, the whole “government should take from the people that earned something and give it to the people that didn’t” philosophy doesn’t seem nearly as fair as when the leftist hadn’t earned anything. Go figure.

     It’s funny, I’ve never seen a convert from right to left. I guess it happens, somewhere? Any volunteers?

      Next time, we’ll go over the rest of what is needed for a conservative to show bias, because crushing evidence and the willingness to fight for 7 years isn’t nearly enough. I’ll have some information on how unscrupulous admin was willing to be to block this promotion…it’s pretty amazing stuff.




Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Why Administrators have Edifice Complexes

By Professor Doom


Admin: “Plans for the new building are now available in the Administration Building. Please feel free to review them and make suggestions!”

--it doesn’t matter if most of the rooms in the existing buildings are empty most of the time, there are always plans for new buildings.


     Every university I’ve set foot on has had huge buildings that were mostly unused. One campus had, literally, enough spare buildings to be a high school (because it was, in fact, a high school). I “rented” a room there once for use as a classroom. The place was spotless. There were chalkboards that, clearly, had never been used (trust me, getting rid of every single particle of chalk dust just isn’t going to happen, and these boards had not a speck anywhere near them). Before the class met, I toured the building to see room after room that was immaculate in a way that only a classroom that’s never been used can be immaculate.


Announcement: “Our Explorations in Mathematics class has moved to the new auditorium. Maximum enrollment has been increased from 400 to 600.”


      One might think that the ever increasing class sizes are due to all the new students that have come onto campus in the last few decades, but no…there’s plenty of room. The issue is it’s so much cheaper to just have faculty teach larger classes. Yes, buildings cost millions, but that’s a different budget.

      There’s plenty of room on most campuses. Yes, there are some campuses (especially community colleges that have experienced amazing growth) that have issues with providing classroom space, but even then it’s only during peak hours.

     That campus with the spare high school? It still had trailers being used year after year for “temporary” use as classrooms.


Admin: “If you need furniture, please fill out a requisition form. We have plenty of old furniture available for use.”


     One quirk of campuses is that the older they are, the more the classrooms get cluttered with furniture. Some older campuses have rooms that are veritable obstacle courses with extra podiums and desks crammed in them. Older institutions can have, literally, warehouses filled with old, moldering, furniture. Faculty can order whatever they want, and it’ll be delivered…although often the reek coming off such furniture makes it tough to use.

     Why don’t the institutions get rid of the furniture? Well, it’s a budget thing. See, nobody actually owns that furniture, so nobody can take responsibility for selling it. You can’t sell it. It’s branded by the university, so you can’t take it home even if you were inclined to thievery. If you can’t use it in the classroom, then it either sits in the room forever (I’ve seen portable chalkboards with decades-old classwork, shoved onto the sides of rooms), or off to the warehouse.

      On one campus the warehouse, by policy, only held furniture. The policy never accounted for computers, and there was no way to update policy. You couldn’t shuffle old/broken computer crap off to the warehouse (no matter how broken, you weren’t allowed to throw computer parts away). I saw with my own eyes several rooms, former classrooms, just filled with old monitors; presumably the towers and floppy disk drives were elsewhere. That was years ago, but for all I know they are still sitting there, patiently awaiting the apocalypse.

      The bizarre treatment of furniture and computer parts is due to the budget rules of campuses in higher education; those strange rules also account for why administrators on these campuses all seem to have edifice complexes, intent on building structure after structure even when the institution isn’t even close to using all the buildings it has, and there’s no possible way the institution will use the new building all that much, either.

      The issue is everywhere, but a blog post details just how demented the situation is in North Dakota. The title says it all:


     Now, North Dakota is hardly a state renowned for its massive population growth. The article does a good job explaining why campuses are experiencing insane building growth: corruption. The potential here, obviously being realized, is immense. Trustees, presidents, and many of the higher administrators are in a great position to get a kickback and profit in many other ways by selecting which contractors get to build what buildings and where.

     The money for this doesn’t really come out of tuition; for public universities, legislators usually have to work to have a bond offering…again, the potential for corruption there is pretty straightforward. From the article:


“…Senator Lonnie Laffen (R-Grand Forks), whose company JLG Achitects receives millions of dollars worth of building contracts from the university system, [took]- the presidents of the state’s two largest universities on a pheasant hunting trip in his company’s private airplane. The universities defended the trip by claiming that the presidents don’t have anything to do with picking which contractors get building contracts, but it’s worth remembering that the university presidents appoint the committees who make the decisions….”


      Presidents don’t make the decisions? Seriously? What do they get those massive salaries for? Anyway, the article is correct: the president cherry-picks the committee that makes the decisions. He can personally destroy anyone on the committee that doesn’t make the decision he wants. Yeah, he makes the decision.

     The committee is a smokescreen at best. I’ve been on a few such committees, our “decisions” are simply ignored if they don’t agree with admin, in addition to retaliation that comes later. What’s funny about this is when admin’s decision is criticized, they claim it was “the committee’s decision,” so we got flack for the “bad decision” that was the exact opposite of what we said to do.

     The blog article does a great of job of showing how, obviously, all the new buildings are completely unnecessary:

     First off, enrollment has been dropping the last few years…what business expands in the face of a shrinking customer base?

      Out of state student enrollment is increasing, but that’s no justification in light of the overall decrease. In fact, it’s rather insulting, since North Dakota taxpayers pay for the bonds for the buildings, but administrators get the fat loot from the out of state tuition.

     Online student enrollment is up, further exacerbating the overall dropping of student enrollment (and you sure don’t need buildings for online students).

     Finally, Students are taking less credit hours per student. There are less students, spending less time on campus.

     Seriously, there’s no way a competent administrator can look at the numbers and think that these institutions need many more new buildings. The article sums up the situation nicely:


     Every institution I’ve set foot on has new buildings going up, with administrators doing cartwheels over the “success” of putting up what will eventually be a mostly empty building. When I teach, my classroom is packed full…while the rooms adjacent are completely empty of students. Nevertheless, my institution always seems to have a new record of students, every year, and I’m often taking detours from new construction on campus.

     Back to North Dakota. North Dakota hardly has a reputation for corruption, at least no worse than many other states…and yet their institutions of higher education are spending hundreds of millions on new buildings. Perhaps it’s a bit worse there than in other states, but my own eyes tell me it’s not by much.



--in just the classes I teach, the students are charged this much tuition over the course of a year. Even if students don’t actually pay that tuition, the money comes from somewhere. I’m very lucky to be paid more than average, but I don’t get even 5% of that figure. Where oh where could all that money go?


     The next time you hear someone saying that higher education needs more money, or you see your local government floating yet another bond to pay for new construction, realize that it’s all a lie. There’s just no way the buildings are necessary, and no way the money couldn’t be found another way.


Friday, April 4, 2014

Student as Customer is Failure, part 2

By Professor Doom


Last time I started on an article written by faculty about how viewing students as customers has affected higher education. For the most part, I agree completely with what the article has to say, but there’s one line that I feel is quite off:


“We turn universities into brands…It also justifies potentially corrupt and exploitative athletic programs in the name of brand recognition and alumni contentment.”


Here I outright disagree. Why not have a brand, particularly a legitimately earned brand? Princeton University and M.I.T., for example, are brand names that are well deserved. Is it the brand that attracts customers in higher education, or is it (in the case of Princeton) the thought of being in rooms where Einstein taught or where (in the case of M.I.T.) the most advanced technology in the world is being developed? A brand per se is not a bad thing, provided it’s not being exploited ruthlessly.

Places like Princeton and M.I.T. didn’t get their prestige by running scams, either. So, yes, I think a brand that is earned from being legitimate is well worth developing.

I totally concede athletic programs are, in general, corrupt and exploitative (the author is being very, very, generous by saying “potentially”). Thing is, nobody seriously believes that college athletics (particularly football) are anything but “minor league” athletic programs exploiting people that often make no claim to even being students. One of these days I’ll hit the highlights of how bad it is, but there are so many bigger fish to fry in the ocean of corruption of higher education that it hasn’t been a priority.

Eh, no reason for me to agree with everything I read, the faculty writing this has much of right. Maybe I don’t know everything. Maybe. The article continues:

“We focus on growth for growth’s sake. There are plenty of legitimate reasons to grow academic programs and colleges and universities. But too many institutions grow for the sake of growing itself, …Such growth is unsustainable, on a variety of fronts. “

Dead on again. It’s all about the growth now. Time and again I have more students filing into my classroom than I have desks to seat them. Time and again I’m told no pay raise for me as my workload increases. Time and again I learn of another layer of administrators being placed above me, paid thrice what I get, and I have no idea what they do or why they’re necessary. Oh yea, I was supposed to lay off admin for a bit. My bad.


Adjunct: “…I was scared to flunk my students for cheating--I knew that the renewal of my contract depended on my keeping the customers happy…”

--honest, the reason cheating is out of control is because administration makes it very clear that faculty should not catch cheaters.


Anyway, yeah, I’ve quoted administrator after administrator talk about how improving education means (for them) improving growth. Education has left the building in higher education, and it’s clear that, at some point there will be no further growth. Most institutions will close their doors if they don’t grow—they’ve mortgaged their future on the premise of insane growth. At almost every institution I’ve been at, if student enrollment drops slightly (or even reverts to the levels of just a few years ago), the institution will be in dire, dire, financial difficulty.

Unsustainable, indeed.

“The student-as-customer model, because it is premised upon unsustainable growth and unsecured debt, and government abandonment of its responsibilities, is the human equivalent of strip-mining.”

Indeed it is. The line about “government abandonment of its responsibilities” is the sole reference in the article to the complete fraud that is accreditation. Seriously, if accreditation were legitimate, schools would have to be legitimate, and would have to act with integrity (a school cannot be accredited unless it swears to “act with integrity”)…legitimate accreditation would shut down every school that has screwed students in the student loan scheme. That would be most (all?) institutions of higher education.


Student: “I know I’m always late, but the class before this is on the other side of campus.”

--institutions have grown so large that now I commonly have students coming 5 to 10 minutes late to class, every day, because they simply can’t cross campus in the 10 minute break between classes, and that’s when the weather is perfect. Seriously, there’s a limit to growth that should be observed.


If accreditation were legitimate, overnight, the strip-mining of our nation by institutions of higher education hell-bent on growth whatever the cost to our youth would stop. That would be a good thing.


Faculty: So the Prez sends out an email wherein s/he uses the horrifying phrase “improve customer service.” It’s not even subtle anymore…when I pointed this out to a colleague s/he states “Oh that’s fine for student affairs, registration and the like, I have no problem with that, as long as they don‘t expect it in my classroom.” …Do you REALLY think that the snowflakes will magically change their behavior/attitudes from “customers” whilst in building X to “responsible adult learners” in building Y? Did someone from administration come by with some funky Kool-Aid while I was in class? And when Snowy McSnowflake doesn’t like the zero I just gave her in building Y, you can bet she will march her little ass over to building X where she will be a customer, and the customer is always right. And more importantly, the customer must always be HAPPY. Yeah, a customer service philosophy on one half of the campus will work great. Idiot. It is like trying to half flush the toilet...

-- I’ve mentioned what unhappy customers do before. Why do you think the faculty here is concerned about unhappy students going to admin?


And it all started with faculty saying “yeah, maybe we should advertise for more students, we might help someone get a higher education…”



Thursday, April 3, 2014

I can sure tell the drop date is near.

The drop date is the last day of the semester to drop a course, and not fail.

It's an important day, because it's the last day a student can avoid failing a course. In the olden days, a student could only drop 3 courses his whole career, and the drop day was in the first two weeks of the semester.

Administration, more than willing to screw students in order to increase growth, changed the rules so that students could drop courses over and over again, and changed the drop date to laaaaaaaate in the semester, to inflate the campus numbers as much as possible.

But a few weeks are left in the semester in much of the country.

And how do I know the drop date is near? Students are typing into google questions about what to do if failing in college, and finding my site. I'm getting more hits to the page I wrote on that (six months ago) than on the most recent six pages combined.

Welcome, students. Please, also read of the black secret of higher education so that you can see what's being done to you.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Student as Customer is Failure

By Professor Doom


     While I’ve placed much of the blame for the fraud that is higher education today at the feet of the plundering administrative caste, faculty are hardly blameless. One trend that was just starting when I entered academia, a trend that faculty did not rebuke, was the idea that students should be perceived as customers.

    This is core to faculty’s fault for what has happened. Faculty thought the idea was harmless enough, so went along with small administrative plans to bring on students. New students flowed onto campuses, drowning administrations in a sudden deluge of money; this money was used to cement the administrative stranglehold on higher education.

     That faculty were ignorant of how easy it would be to find suckers to check off a box and sign up for the student loan scam in no way excuses their responsibility for what happened to higher education. We handed loaded guns to the chimpanzees of administration.

     At first glance (which, alas, is all we gave it), “student as customer” sounds harmless enough. What harm could come from advertising a bit for more customers? Perhaps some soul would see a commercial or whatever, decide that higher education was for him, and a great mind is thereby saved from ignorance. Sounds noble enough.

     We didn’t accumulate a trillion dollars of student debt overnight, and churn out worthless degrees by the millions in a year…it took time, and the clock started with the very first tick of the “student as customer” paradigm of higher education.

     A great article on Inside Higher Ed addresses many of the flaws of “student as customer”. Because the author is faculty, and not administration, the writing is not edubabble boilerplate, and is quite coherent. I have some things to add, however:

The above basically hits the nail on the head. One campus I was on had a “recruitment day”, where institutions from around the country set up little tables and passed out slick brochures. What was most striking about these institutions of higher advertisement education was how the posters presented their programs as “convenient” and “quick” and how they promised to help students with financing (about as intellectually honest a way of putting it as describing a guillotine as a way to help with headaches…).

Rows of tables, each with a barker howling about how easy and convenient his institution is. It won’t even cost the customer a thing, just check this box to qualify for federal loans…

The dog that didn’t bark, of course, is how none of the institutions spoke about how challenging their programs were, or how incredibly skilled their graduates were, or, frankly, anything at all about the delivery of the product.

Institutions today are now all about pulling in those students (primary), and retention of those students (secondary).  Then comes keeping student complaints down…education doesn’t make the top three goals of institutions any more. That’s why not even 1% of 2-year college work is at the second year of college work. Over 99% of students just swirl around high school level material for a few years while the loan money runs out. That’s not a success rate to be proud of…but that’s the real success rate of higher education.

Suck ‘em in, and nobody cares after that. The article has more to say.


“We extend these student-customers an astounding amount of easy credit…The student-as-customer model allows us to rationalize…student-loan debt that increasingly appear to mortgage many young graduates’ futures. Such logic also allows us to write off as unwise those students who accumulate large debts on seemingly “impractical” degrees...The burden of debt has been shifted onto students in the first place, because state legislatures appear to be less and less inclined to subsidize education…on the very logic that students are “customers.”


I’m not sure I buy that the reason state funding of institutions is dropping fast is because of the “student as customer” idea—the country is running out of money on every level. States are using every rationalization they can to justify doing what reality says they must do.

On the other hand, the author of the article is dead on about the “astounding amount of easy credit.” Institutions that followed the mission of “education and research” instead of “lure suckers in” would not be getting people to destroy themselves with easy credit.

Next, the article says something I fundamentally disagree with. Next time.