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Sunday, July 20, 2014

4 Faculty Apply As 1 Administrator

By Professor Doom

     Faculty members always grind their teeth when an administrator leaves. It isn’t simply that now we’ll have to deal with the mess the administrator left behind, nor is it the frustration of realizing that the new administrator will get paid even more than the old…and that the new admin’s higher pay will be used to justify no pay raises for us.

     No, what really drives us mad about it is when the administrator leaves…nothing happens. When a faculty member leaves his job, it is immediately a problem. All the classes that would be taught…are not taught. The students that need those classes to graduate are in big trouble—a single faculty leaving can disrupt the lives of hundreds of students, costing many of them half a year or more of their lives if nothing is done. We all scramble to do something about the loss of a position, knowing that we must do so to help the students.

     But when an administrator leaves, especially the Grand Poo Bah running the place? It’s completely irrelevant. No faculty member is affected, no student is affected, heck, no sportsball team is affected. The Poo Bah has nothing to do with an institution’s goals of teaching and research, and yet they are paid many multiples of what any faculty member gets, and treated like gods, critical to the institution.

     As the months go by without a Poo Bah (or lower level admin), the realization that we don’t need a Poo Bah just gets worse and worse, not that faculty can do anything about it. The huge disparity of pay between relevant faculty and worthless administrators is well past sanity now, and some faculty decided to at least try to point out how ridiculous both the job and pay of the Poo Bah is:

     A Poo Bah is leaving the University of Alberta. Although this Poo Bah is making a mere $385,000 a year (a pittance by today’s standards for Poo Bahs), four faculty stepped up to take the position. 

      Let me clarify: four faculty, together, offered to step up and simultaneously fill the single position. Imagine if you needed a full time nurse helping you, and instead of hiring 1 nurse, FOUR nurses offered to show up and do it for the same money that you were going to give just the one. How could you turn down the deal, especially if all four were quite qualified to the do the job? Instead of 8 hour a day service, you’d get 24 hours a day, and a backup. A no brainer, right?

      Administrators award themselves bogus Ph.D.s, so they can claim to be educated, which is something that you want in a leader of an institution of higher education. Even if such degrees were legitimate, no single administrator could possibly have the education of 4 faculty members—that’s 4 legitimate Ph.D.s (as opposed to a bogus administration degree), which few, if any, (individual) people have.

     I’m serious. Four faculty to do the job of a single “titan of industry.” Actually, 56 faculty have applied, in groups of four. I grant, this is a publicity stunt; it seems Canada (like every country) is having serious economic difficulties, and the faculty are doing this to highlight outrageous administrative pay even as the institutions face cutback after cutback.

     The first group of 4 to apply wrote a nice application letter, well worth a read.

“Even a quarter of the typical remuneration offered to top administrators would mean doubling or tripling her and her co-applicants’ current salaries, she said. Indeed, a yearly salary of $400,000 is four or five times the pay rate of your average tenured academic, and “at least 10 times that of a sessional,””

--a “sessional” is what we in the U.S. call an “adjunct”, a miserably paid professor that gets no benefits and poverty-level pay as he leads students down the path to endless student debt the riches of higher education. The dollar amount quoted is Canadian, but it’s about the same as U.S. dollars. Hey, does anyone else remember when Canadian dollars were worth much less than U.S. dollars? Anyone connecting dots in that regard?

     Isn’t is neat that if you cut the Poo Bah’s pay by half, and hire four faculty to do his job and share the halved salary, those four people would still be making more money?

     The benefits of having four people do the job of one are pretty amazing. Sick leaves and vacation? Not needed, each member could easily miss 3 months and there would still be three people available at any given time to handle problems. A lone Poo Bah can’t possibly keep up with that. While the Poo Bah can’t possibly teach and do his supposedly-important job, the four faculty members would easily share duties well enough to also have time to teach at least a course or two a year. With 4 people in that position doing actually relevant work, the whole group leaving would indeed be a problem for the institution.

     Wow, a “Poo Bah” that is actually relevant to education? That’s just unheard of nowadays. Administrators that teach would change everything for the better, just like back when higher education wasn’t mostly a scam to fleece young people. 

      I sure hope the board of trustees, which choose the Poo Bah, hires one of the groups of faculty that are applying for the position, and I deeply hope the idea takes off elsewhere in higher education. So much money is going into worthless administrative positions that using groups of faculty looks like a win for everyone involved. Well, except for professional administrators, but “peace breaking out” is always a problem when you’re just a plundering cutthroat mercenary.

     Attached to the article is a poll, and 90% of the respondents agree that, indeed, administrative salaries are too high. 10% of the respondents are administrators. 


Thursday, July 17, 2014

“More Students Without Increasing Faculty”

By Professor Doom

     I readily admit higher education of yesteryear was imperfect, and even had some serious flaws. I still maintain that it’s superior to the higher education of today, ruled by an administrative caste that sucks up ridiculous salaries and benefits, at the expense of faculty and students.

      Now, if the theft were contained at the top, then, perhaps, higher education could still be preserved. Yes, most of tuition would go to the parasites running the place, but still, a degree could mean something, and the United States could keep its claim of having a great system of higher education, devoted to education and research.

     The problem is those administrators are quite bored. They have really nothing better to do than write Vision for Excellence plans, go to meetings, and establish fiefdoms.

     It’s the latter administrative task that’s a threat to higher education. A fiefdom is an administrative kingdom, filled with little administrators. These fiefdoms are where all the administrative bloat comes from. As administrators occupy more and more space on campus (one campus I taught at had over half of the floorspace devoted to administrative fiefdoms—I bet you thought campus was mostly classrooms, eh?), they start to realize those pesky faculty are getting in the way.

     I’m hardly the first to notice that administration really doesn’t understand why faculty are on campus. Ginsberg has a book detailing this fact and warning against the rise of the all-administration campus.

    Some view the endless growth of administration as a conspiracy theory, but I see no such thing. James Levy says it best (albeit not briefly):

Since when is seeking power a "conspiracy theory"? When groups of stock holders, or legislators, or lobbyists, or churchgoers, act in concert to further their ends or feather their nests, is that a "conspiracy'? How about the fact that the more people report to you, the more you can claim you are due as compensation? Or the way that the Dean system leads to salary inflation. The more layers of deans, the more each one want to be differentiated from those below, and the greater the separation between the senior faculty (who make solid salaries) and the various levels of administrators above them. At the university where I taught, the dean made more than any of the profs he administered, then the Provost made more than double what he made, then the President made more than double what he made (at the top of the heap, $900,000 dollars). It doesn't take a conspiracy to see the bureaucratic logic of extending and expanding the number and layers of bureaucrats in order to claim the right to a higher salary. And control of access to those high-paying jobs and the perks that go with them gives the Administration plenty of leverage over the faculty, and divides them into those who want to conform in order to possibly get one of those deanships and those who just want to be profs. This ability to divide and rule really does give the Administration power. And they like it that way--or is that a conspiracy, too?

     Conspiracy or not, in the past, administration still had to maintain a veneer of respect to the faculty. Alas, I fear they have achieved critical mass, and the faux-civility that once was common when administration deigned to talk to and about faculty has fallen by the wayside. 

      Or maybe administration has become so incompetent now that they don’t even realize what they’re saying. I’ve certainly quoted many administrators saying asinine and insulting things. But I humbly ask the gentle reader to consider what new University of Hawaii president David Lassner had to say regarding his new promotion. He likes online coursework, because:

“It is one of the ways we can take on more students without  increasing faculty at a linear pace.”

     It’s just one sentence, and he says it in reference to the many online offerings that his institution has. It reinforces all the things I’ve said about what’s happening in higher education.

     First, the administrator is planning growth. This is always the case, every administrator fetishizes growth. I’ve never seen an administrator give the slightest whisper of a hint of a rumor that he’s interested in improving quality of education. That’s just not on the table, which is a big factor in why so many degrees are basically worthless today.

     Second, and this one deals with today’s discussion: he finds this particular method of growth attractive because, and I’ll abbreviate here, the institution can “take on more students without increasing faculty.”

     Hmm, faculty are already a minority on campus, and most faculty are minimally paid adjuncts. The Poo-Bah here of course wants growth, but, in no way is he willing to risk an increase in faculty to go along with the increase in the student base.

     Of course he doesn’t, if he could, his institution would simply get rid of all the faculty, and simply issue credit hours in exchange for that sweet, sweet, student loan money. It’s no conspiracy, administrators know without those pesky faculty,  their job would be much, much, easier.

     There are now enough courses with enrollments of over 1,000 students (yes, one thousand) that it’s statistically valid to do studies on them. I know, teachers always say they want smaller class sizes (because, you know, that always improves the education of the students), but now that class enrollments have more zeroes in them than administrators can readily count, it’s safe to say classes are way too large.

     I often tutor, and, 1 on 1, I do so much better with students than when they perform in a classroom with 30 or more students. Hiring me this way is very expensive for the student, but some parents are willing and able to have me. The expense is still high, and that’s how schools came to be—it was just more economical for the students involved to pool their resources for the teacher’s time. In the past, the teacher was better off at a school; the education might not be as good, but the teacher would get a better living for his or her family. Nowadays? When I tutor 1 on 1, I make more money (hourly) than what I get for teaching classrooms packed with students.

     There is, obviously, something wrong with education when both student and teacher are better off when the school is not involved. Much of the reason for this is so much of the money just goes to administrators that have nothing to do with education.

     And now, administrators are so confident in their position that they can boast of a “plan” for education that will, and I repeat, take on more students without increasing faculty. Anyone with a clue knows that this will reduce the quality of education. But administration boasts.

     Seriously, the head administrator is bragging about how he’s going to decrease the quality of education at his school. I repeat: bragging about how he’s going to decrease the quality of education.

     Every student hearing this should run as far away as possible from that school, any parent should forbid his child from going to that school, accreditation should discredit that school, and no tax dollars should go to that school in any form (especially student loan or grant money).

     But the administrator is so clueless he thinks he’s saying something great. It’s like the CEO of a car manufacturer boasting “our cars will break down more often” or a new restaurant owner boasting “our food will taste worse.” Only an idiot would say something so stupid.

     But a higher education administrator can say “We’ll make our education even worse” and actually work to make it so, with nobody pointing out the idiocy of it.

     Seriously, something is very, very, wrong in higher education.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Higher Education Promotes Cheating

By Professor Doom

    Continuing with a book by an Australian academic, I see more reinforcement of what I’ve testified to in this blog. What I’ve read leads to another conjecture on my part.

     See, there’s obviously something really wrong in the world right now. America, as “world leader,” obviously has to be part of that wrong. Fraud, lies, and corruption are so everyday that nobody even cares any more. So what if supposedly-conquered Iraq is now being overrun by a few thousand mercenaries (am I the only one that remembers Iraq’s size was why we couldn’t find WMDs even with a couple hundred thousand troops)? So what if the government says inflation is 1.5% even as every expense I have is up more than that (am I the only one with a pocket calculator)? So what if politicians get massive  kickbacks from constructing universities even as on-site student population is dropping (am I the only one to notice the empty buildings)?

     This sort of corruption is not the act of a single person, it takes many people looking the other way to pull the previous capers off. Many of the people that do this are trained in the US education system, a system that has infected the Australian higher education system. I’ve discussed many times how college administrators encourage cheating, and overlook even the most extreme examples. That’s just my testimony, however, even as I’ve shown that faculty who catch cheaters will be punished.

     Cheating is rampant in America’s higher education system, but administration only wants growth, and getting rid of cheaters would cut into that.

     I’ve seen many student papers where it was clear all the student did was “cut and paste” from somewhere, then call the writing his own. In times past, this was called plagiarism, and cheating, and students that did such were failed, if not tossed from university. Now, it’s still called cheating, but students are no longer penalized…and admin tells me to just let the student plagiarize write another paper.

     Educationists have succeeded in making cheating acceptable to the point that most students cheat. In Australia, they’re upping their game:

The “cut and paste” habit is a hard one to break. Undaunted by such problems, noted Educationalist and “Futurist” Dr Dale Spender has castigated university academics for admonishing the “cut and paste” approach to university assignment work. According to Dr Spender, it is just part of the way students learn and “ in fact a new and fast and obviously digital way of synthesising information.”

    Wow. “Cut and paste” is now a “new and fast and obviously digital way of synthesising information.”  Since it has big words and the meaning is unclear, I trust the reader can guess that “synthesizing information” is an Educationist term. It is. It’s what us normal folk call “learning.”

     Seriously, what used to be “cheating” is now “learning.” How can there be any wonder that lies, fraud, and corruption are so dominant in the world today?

     While real academics laugh at the insanity of redefining cheating to be learning, it’s no laughing matter. Administration controls what happens to cheaters, you see, and not faculty:

On two occasions, following discovery of plagiarism, a course coordinator gave the two students involved verbal warnings in the presence of a witness. On the third occasion, the students received a mark of zero for the plagiarised work and formal proceedings were instigated. 

     I’m all for second chances, but after three times (in the same semester!) of being caught cheating, it’s tough for students to say it was just a mistake. Almost certainly, these students were cheating in their other classes just as prodigiously, they just had the misfortune of running into one of the few educators left with any integrity.

     In America, a faculty that caught cheaters like this would be punished. And how did administration in Australia respond to these three time losers? 

The academic who instigated proceedings was then ordered to prepare and mark two new assessment items, a different one for each offender, to replace the one for which the students received zero.

     So, the poor faculty member who caught the cheaters repeatedly is punished, and forced to create new assignments for the cheaters to “do.” No penalty at all for the cheaters. One can only hope the faculty member wasn’t so stupid as to check for cheating again, because I’m sure both students and faculty learned the lesson here.

     The book has more to say:

…where a group of students have been caught cheating red handed and
instead of faculty management pursuing the matter, the academics
concerned were ordered to provide written apologies to the students for
making their lives transiently uncomfortable…

     Again, just more punishment for faculty that catch cheaters. As I’ve said before, faculty in the US get the memo early, “do not catch cheaters.” I imagine as word of the apology spread through the campus, other faculty there got the memo as well.

     I’ve mentioned before that faculty no longer have much control over academics now, and I’ve cited a few cases where administrators have sold degrees (even Ph.D.s) and changed grades without faculty being consulted. Isn’t it neat that today you can become a professional expert simply by getting a rubber stamp from an administrator with no knowledge of the subject? Am I alone in seeing a possible problem here?

     In Australia, this sort of fraud is just getting established:

“I had a student who was permitted to sit the same examination four times. The last attempt was almost a year after the first. On the final attempt I was ordered to mark but not grade the examination. By my count the student failed again but, upon examining their official academic record some time later, it was obvious that someone higher up the chain had awarded them a pass…”

--I too have seen students fail multiple times, only to have an administrator step in to grant that passing grade without faculty input.

     It really won’t be long before an administrator realizes “having a student take a test 4 times is just wasting our time. Past this point, we’ll just grade all the tests ourselves, instead of having unreliable faculty that actually know the subject do it.”

     In a few years, if we start to see the same type of massive, overwhelming everyday fraud and corruption in Australia as we see in the United States, that would go a long way to advancing my conjecture: our best and brightest are being trained in higher education not to study and work their way to success, but to cheat in every way possible in a system that encourages it. What's going to happen when, someday, someone pulls back the curtain and we see just how much of the world is built on lies and illusion?


Friday, July 11, 2014

100 pennies, for only $3.49!

I know some folks just can't be convinced that inflation is a problem, but I humbly ask the reader to look long and hard at that picture, to realize completely what's happened to our currency.

Fake, "counterfeit" money, made from cheap plastic, now sells for over 3 times as much as what people (mistakenly) consider real money. Counterfeit money is now worth more than "real" money.

In what universe would purchasing this make any sort of sense? I'm half tempted to get 350 pennies just to go to the store and buy this. I wonder if the cashier would notice the surreality of the transaction.

Someday, people are going to realize these slips of paper with arbitrary numbers on them are really just part of a massive confidence game.

Until then, feel free to point and laugh at how ridiculous things are. I know I do.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

More On The Failings of Higher Education

By Professor Doom

    Of late I’ve been reading a book by an Australian academic, which details the collapse and fraud of Australia’s higher education system.

     I should point out, what he sees there and I (and many others) see here isn’t really a result of higher education, per se. It’s quite common in institutional systems for administrators and bureaucrats to take over. It happened with many US corporations (especially in the area of Detroit), where bloated middle management sank company after company.

      There are some differences, though the most important from the view of the taxpayer is that the wild inefficiencies created by too much management no longer lead to bankruptcy of a corporation. Instead, they lead to higher tuition, paid for by the taxpayer. That the underlying product, education, is very susceptible to being fraud is just icing on the crap cake that the taxpayers are now forced to buy.

      The “titans of industry” running the institutions in Australia, much like here, are degrading the system first by treating the students as customers, rewarding them not for learning, but by simply paying for tuition. The results in Australia are likewise similar to the United States:

The end result of a Student-Centred/Constructivist education is the
emergence from our institutions of poorly-educated people with
unrealistically high opinions of their abilities. This feature of modern
Australian society is something that citizens experience through
virtually daily encounters with rank incompetence at every level of the
society. …”

     The above is so familiar to me. I’m reminded of a student who said he was a “human calculator” but could not function at the 7th grade level in math comes to mind. I’ve stopped asking for “6 ounces of provolone cheese” when I go to the deli…I get a blank look, since the scales are digital. When I instead ask for “.375 of a pound”, I still get a blank look—the counter person really doesn’t understand the decimal system much beyond “1 pound” or “half a pound”.  Rather than frustrate myself or confuse the drone behind the counter, I just buy the prepackaged cheese. I see Australia is having the same problem.

“…Without the mental resources that should be acquired as part
of a proper education, these products of Australian “Educational
ism” typically blame others for their own failures and expect everyone else
to do the hard work…

     Again, there were so many people at Occupy Wall Street, just completely clueless what had been done to them, and wanting someone else to bail them out. Indeed, much of what is said in this book is familiar.

     The similarities continue:

“…Fortunately for the hapless, Australian universities, with a keen eye on collecting fees from young Australians and foreigners alike, have responded by simplifying their courses and degree curricula so that in many cases they are teaching what previous generations learned, sometimes as far back as primary school. After all, who cares whether our graduates can do long division or write a coherent sentence?...

     While the author doesn’t delve into in how the courses got simplified (mainly through bogus Educationist degrees and firing faculty with integrity, as I’ve documented in my blog), what he’s observed in Australia is no different in here. It’s a simple matter to show that 90% of college work is at the high school or lower level, after all. Because all that matters is “butts in seats,” having any challenge or educational material in the courses would be counter-productive.

     The rampant greed I’ve shown to dominate educational institutions in the US is also pretty apparent in Australia:

“… Surely all that matters is the amount of money that can be extracted from the consumer of education product (i.e. you or your children)…”

    For the most part, the book just shreds all the inane Educationist theories that are being inflicted on Australia’s youth. The author does a fine job of this, but he does have an unfair advantage: the idiotic ideas of Educationists have already failed horribly in America, so he’s got a head start on understanding their failures in Australia.

     Most people outside the system truly don’t understand on how many levels Educationist idiocy is harming education, from primary school to higher education. Pointing out all the ways it’s bad is counter-productive. Instead, we just throw the entirety out, and use common sense to realize what should be done. The author makes it easy:

    “…If you needed to learn something conceptually challenging, what learning environment would you choose? Most people would choose to have the best physical resources at their disposal, an expert in the relevant area to teach them and a class size of one... “

     I’ve certainly pointed out that, throughout human history, humans have learned by standing near an expert. I’ve accomplished in a few months tutoring a student 1 on 1 than what the student learned in years of being in a stuffed classroom. We all know the obvious here.

     These are obvious things, and higher education did the best it could for centuries, following the obvious ways for how humans learn and become educated. Modern Educationists have studied education as a scientific endeavor, supposedly, for decades now.

     What have they done for education? Have they managed to improve upon the obvious ideas, or have they managed to turn education in the exact opposite direction?
      Are our classes well supplied, small, and led by experts? No.

Faculty: “So the dean, vice chancellor, and CFO all told me there’s just no money for glass beakers in my chemistry lab. They each make 100k or more a year. Shut down the lab, and there goes my job.  The beakers cost a few hundred bucks…guess I’ll just buy them myself, because there’s no way to teach the lab without them.”

     It really is nuts how time and again I can’t get lightbulbs or basic things for my classrooms, and my requirements are pretty minimal. There are college classes with 1,000 enrolled students in them, massive lecture halls filled with students that text or play on their computers while a very distant instructor drones away futilely. Instead of teachers with actual knowledge, time and again I’ve seen Educationists that don’t have a clue take over teaching positions, because their degrees in Education mysteriously qualify them for everything. Even though casual conversation reveals them to be incompetent, they get promoted through the advance more idiotic ideas.

      Much like modern drug companies are forever trying to find drugs just as good as aspirin, and ignore aspirin, so too does it seem that Educationists seem to ignore obvious ideas for education, in exchange for bizarre ideas of their own creation. Only one question remains: do they do this out of greed, incompetence, or pure evil?