Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Philosopher Looks At Today’s Higher Education





By Professor Doom

     I’ve certainly given the mathematician’s perspective on what’s going on higher education, and I’ve also provided the English professor’s perspective, and the Liberal professor’s perspective. Despite our disparate fields, we’ve independently come to the same conclusions regarding higher education today.

      A philosopher has provided his viewpoints as well, in a post entitled “The University as a Money Funnel.” One can guess from the title what he has to say, but it’s interesting that a philosopher, not exactly a practitioner of what is considered a seriously pragmatic discipline, still manages to connect the dots on the reality of higher education today.

      Let’s take a look at what he has to say:

What seems to be the major factor contributing to costs is the ever-expanding administrative class at universities. This expansion occurs in terms of both individual salaries and overall numbers. From 2000 to 2010 the median salary for the top public university administrators increased by 39%. The top administrators, the university presidents, enjoyed a 75% increase. In stark contrast, the salaries for full-time professors increased by almost 19%.

     While can read from that last line that faculty pay has been increasing, realize that 19%, over the course of a decade, doesn’t keep up with inflation. Realize also he’s qualified that increase with “full time professors,” a dying breed on campus, and not the ones doing most of the teaching. While professors are dying out, administrators are thriving.

     The philosopher considers this:

From 1978 to 2014 administrative positions skyrocketed 369%. This time period also marked a major shift in the nature of faculty. The number of part-time faculty (the analogues of temp workers in the corporate world) increased by 286%. The use of adjuncts is justified on the grounds that doing so saves money. While adjunct salaries vary, the typical adjunct makes $20,000-25,000.

     Realistically, then, if by “professor” one means “teacher at a college or university,” then the professor pay has dropped, while administrative pay has skyrocketed.
     Full-time professors are undesirable now:

There was also a push to reduce (and eliminate) tenured positions which resulted in an increase in full time, non-tenure earning positions by 259%. Full time tenure and tenure-track positions increased by only 23%. Ohio State University provides an excellent (or awful) example of this A&A Strategy: the majority of those hired by OSU were Adjuncts and Administrators. To be specific, OSU hired 498 adjunct instructors and 670 administrators. 45 full-time, permanent faculty were hired.

     To put those numbers in perspective, for every full time professor hired, there are 15 administrators hired, the latter being individually paid much more than the professor. There were also 11 adjuncts hired, for a tiny fraction of the cost. The philosopher doesn’t delve into details, but many of these professor positions are filled not through academic need (that’s what adjuncts are for), but as political patronage.

      One can hardly fault the philosopher’s pragmatism here: he’s clearly looking at the numbers, and coming to the same result any other decent faculty member can reach:

Someone more cynical than I might note that the university seems to no longer have education as its primary function. Rather, it is crafted to funnel money from the “customer” and the tax payer (in the form of federal student aid) to the top while minimizing pay for those who do the actual work.


     No, it’s not cynicism, it’s empiricism. It’s a simple fact that the university now spends most of its money on the administrative caste, while leaving the students and faculty—the ones that would be important if education were on the agenda—to pay the price.

     I’m fairly ambivalent about tenure, since I see much potential for abuse there. While philosophers tend to be far more ambivalent about things than mathematicians, curiously, this philosopher sees only advantages of tenure:

Tenure has been a target in recent years because tenure provides faculty with protection against being fired without cause (tenured faculty can be fired—it is not a magic shield). This is regarded by some as a problem for a variety of reasons. One is that tenured faculty cannot be let go simply to replace them with vastly lower paid adjuncts. This, obviously enough, means less money flowing from students and the state to administrators. Another is that the protection provided by tenure allows a faculty member to be critical of what is happening to the university system of the United States without running a high risk of simply being let go as a trouble maker.


     This is indeed the truth: only the tenured faculty feel like they can speak up now. I was at one university, over half a century old, that had only one tenured professor in a large department, and he did speak up, did try to stop the debasement of the state institution into little more than a trap to lure in students, suck their loan money away, and spit them back out.

     Tenure protected him from being fired, it is true, but the nonstop harassment by admin, combined with constant “betrayals” from the non-permanent faculty who had little choice but to betray him or be fired, wore him down. So while tenure does protect, a little, from the debasement of higher education, tenured faculty are such a minority now that this benefit is questionable.

     On the other hand, I totally understand, and agree with the philosopher, tenure is a problem for the plundering, mercenary caste of administration who rules now: every dollar that goes into a tenured faculty’s pocket is a dollar that’s not going into administration’s pocket, and that, from their point of view, is bad.

     Of course, the philosopher may have a good reason for approving of tenure:

As you might guess, I am a tenured full-professor. So, I can use my freedom of speech with rather less fear of being fired. I also enjoy the dubious protection afforded by the fact that people rarely take philosophers seriously.


      Careful, professor, I’ve documented and seen plenty of administrative retaliation against tenured faculty for daring to speak out. Even if administration doesn’t take you seriously (not that I’m implying that they are necessarily people), they’re more than petty enough to do you all the harm they can, as a show of power if nothing else.






Monday, August 31, 2015

Higher Education Not Leftist Enough? Seriously?





By Professor Doom

     My own eyes have shown me a distinct leftist prejudice on campus. I feel that people can believe whatever they want, but I’ve experienced some of the bigotry for not adhering to the Left view, and documented just how hard it is for a conservative to show discrimination against him; you can’t find it in the other direction because liberals easily outnumber any other group on campus. It’s bad enough now that there are political litmus tests for hiring and promotion.

“The extent of the tilt to the left has been growing and has now reached a magnitude not remotely matched in the past. In some areas it is so extreme that it amounts to virtual exclusion of any but left-of-center faculty members…This pattern is strongly suggestive of a conscious intent in the hiring process.“




     A recent study showed that the leftist bias among college faculty has gone from “strong majority” to “nearly no other viewpoints possible.” I don’t think it’s quite that bad in my field, but the study says it’s much worse in more politically-inclined disciplines (eg, political science and sociology).

      The study also suggests that the overwhelming majority of liberals on campus are corrupting higher education, especially In California. Again, yeah, no kidding. Micro-aggression theory, for example is ripping apart UCLA.

      How did hiring that could draw on only tiny numbers in the general population produce so large a Marxist campus presence without a substantial amount of discrimination in favor not just of the left, but of the extreme left? This suggests an illegal political test in hiring. 


     While I agree with the study’s conjecture, above, and have experienced a similar discrimination in promotion as well, it does rather beg the question: how do these people get their degrees without at least a little respect for empirical evidence? I mean, the 100% failure rate of Marxism in the 20th century—colossal, bloody failures at that, resulting in the deaths of tens of millions of human beings—should make it hard to subscribe to Marxism. I do wonder if Marxists are quite as common in the hard sciences, where empirical data is highly valued, as in the social sciences (anecdotally, I’m going with “no,” as every avowed Marxist I’ve met has been in social sciences and history).

     Anyway, the Leftist bias in academia has been well known for some time, even if the current up-spike is not so well known.

     How then, can someone write a book, Why Higher Education Should Have a Leftist Bias? The book argues that the incredible (and hypocritical) bias is actually a good thing for higher education. We’re already at the point where there’s real concern that leftist students aren’t being served in higher education because they can go their whole college career without being exposed to any other point of view. A college degree takes 40 or so classes…the bias is very strong if picking 40 Leftist professors in a row is now considered quite possible.

     Considering the huge downward slide of higher education these last few decades, there’s no existing trend in higher education I’d support. Granted, I’m not convinced the rise of bigoted Leftism is the primary cause of higher education’s ills (the student loan scam is the biggest source, with mercenary administrators not too distant a second), I see no way how making Leftism the only point of view on campus is going to help.

     Even though the book’s premise is false on the face of it, it still has a list price of—holy cow!--$84. Adding insult to injury is a major publisher (Macmillan) actually published this. Perhaps there’s a Leftist bent to the publishers, too?

    The book has a glowing professional review attached to it, but, no reader reviews (no shock, with the price so high…why would publishers publish a book that nobody would buy?). Mercifully, a Forbes article gives something far less one-sided. The blatantly false premise makes criticizing the book a little easy, but a few quotes stand out:

“From [the author’s] perspective, the dark and greedy forces of corporate America and its right-wing attack machine have prevented President Obama from moving full-throttle to transform the U.S. into the wonderful country we could enjoy. He maintains that the country is so dominated by “conservative” thinking that college professors must try to even things up.
It’s impossible to take that seriously.
Twice the U.S. elected the very leftist Obama, and has many media outlets that push relentlessly for more statist policies and demonize anyone who opposes them. …”


     Both Left and Right have their hands covered in blood regarding what’s happened in this country. It is, indeed, impossible to take seriously any claim that only one side is responsible.

There are many educators who make the principled case that big government conservatism and big government liberalism are equally blameworthy for our ills.  but Lazere dismisses them because he thinks they’re bound up with loathsome “conservatism.”


     To clarify the Forbes article, the issue probably has more to do with “big government” than with any Left or Right points of view.

     Not that Lazere doesn’t raise some good arguments, but they do nothing to advance his idea that college faculties should teach with a leftist bias.


      Back to the supposed thesis of the book, apparently there’s not much to justify why we need a Leftist bias in our education, preaching to the students the glories of their faith, regardless of whatever the course subject will be.

      The author of the book, of course, loves socialism, and says we should still espouse it despite the millions of corpses in its wake. Forbes reasonably disagrees:

There is nothing wrong in studying socialism in courses where it’s pertinent. In an advanced economics course, for instance, students might read Ludwig von Mises’ 1922 book Socialism, which would go a long way toward disabusing them of the idea that socialism can bring about the delightful world Lazere imagines. But it’s not  appropriate for professors to smuggle their na├»ve beliefs about socialism (or other topics) into English classes where they’re neither pertinent to the subject nor within the professor’s field of knowledge.

     I have to disagree with that last line, especially when there’s only one point of view allowed in certain fields of knowledge. I smuggle a belief or two in my classes. No, you don’t have to have “Ph.D.” after your name to be able to say something relevant.

      Hey, I admit, it’s hard not to mention politics, and I feel entitled to do so even if that’s not my so-called field of knowledge. Here’s an example of something political in my math classes:

Me: “ ’Infinity’ isn’t a number, it’s a concept referring to ‘that which is larger than any number.’
           ‘Negative Infinity’ doesn’t refer to ‘smaller than any number,’ but instead to ‘that which is more negative than any number.’
      “While it’s not possible to get to infinity, or negative infinity, the US government is currently engaged in a project to achieve negative infinity. This project is called ‘The National Debt’.”


     The class laughs at the above, and I consider it a political joke as well as commentary. As an aside, anyone else notice how economics on any level doesn’t seem to be a factor in today’s political discussion? I can’t tell you how many questions about Iran/Iraq/ISIS were in the debates, but darned if I can recall even a single question about our government’s ridiculous spending policies, zero interest rate loans to cronies, or student loans. 

     Folks, Iran didn’t get you laid off, ISIS didn’t destroy the returns on your retirement investments, and Iraq isn’t the reason our college graduates can only get minimum wage jobs….but I digress.

     Back to Forbes:

I applaud professors who succeed in improving students’ ability to employ logic, but Lazere’s approach was badly flawed in that respect. Worse, I fear that many other professors will seize upon his title and proclaim that their dogmatic, leftist pedagogy is justified.

    I fear Forbes is right on this, it’s about the only explanation for this book being published. Almost nobody will read it, but the title alone might be influential. I’ve known quite a few so-called scholars that obviously don’t read the books they claim (apparently they’re not aware the library keeps records on what books have been checked out…), but I’m sure they at least glanced at the titles.

     My own book on what should be done in higher education, how to fix it and keep it from turning into an ever more massive scam to indebt our youth, sells for about a 1/10th of the price of this pro-Leftist waste of paper…and has actual positive reader reviews. Of course, I had to self-publish. Perhaps I should have changed the title to something more Left sounding?

 

www.professorconfess.blogspot.com

 


Friday, August 28, 2015

UCLA Offers Paid Internships to Illegals





By Professor Doom

     California in general seems to be a good source of whacky ideas, so perhaps it’s not fair to keep picking on it when Californian educational institutions do the most ridiculous things:


     I’d like to present the above, completely offensive idea, as a message of hope: our rulers of higher education are now so openly incompetent that at no point did anyone in any position of power point out how atrocious the idea is.

     Or maybe they’re just quite confident they can get away with anything:

The UCLA Labor Center’s Dream Resource Center is allowing undocumented students to apply for Dream Summer, a ten-week summer program that provides paid internship opportunities…


     Consider the previous outrage in the above: “undocumented students.” In their quest for growth over everything, administration allowed not just wildly incapable students on campus, students who take 3rd grade level courses semester after semester…they also allow “undocumented students” to enroll.

      I don’t want to sound elitist, but UCLA is taxpayer supported. I can’t be alone in thinking taxpayer-funded universities shouldn’t be supporting “undocumented” (the current politically correct term for “illegal”) students in our universities.

UCLA is among the growing number of University of California schools, including UC San Diego and UC Berkeley, to provide academic scholarships and opportunities for exclusively for illegal immigrants.  
--exclusively! Trying giving academic scholarships and opportunities exclusively to white males, and see how far you get…


     With no public outrage over this, I can see how administration thought hiring illegals wouldn’t be a problem, either. Trump wants to build a wall to keep illegals out, but he’ll need to also have a plan for university administrators going to the wall and putting up ladders, so they can get more students into UCLA (more students means more money for admin, after all).

     Anyway, back to the internship program:

The program will encourage them to advocate for immigration reform and promote universal health care access regardless of immigration status.


     Mercy! I mean, if the internship program was, you know, academic in nature, I could accept this as “well, they’re just making it open to everyone.” Internship programs in science, for example, make some sense, giving students the chance to gain rare skills that are difficult to get any other way, and I don’t see much need to restrict applications.

      But this is an internship where the interns will do what they’d do anyway, right? I mean obviously immigration reform and free health care for illegal immigrants are going to be things illegal immigrants want. How could there possibly be a shortage of applicants for this?

     Naturally, this internship is of interest for immigrants that came here legally. Unfortunately, legal immigrants will have to jump extra hurdles:

For international students, the requirement is more stringent. “Students have to get credit for paid as well as unpaid internships to stay in the U.S. on an educational F-1 visa with approval from the Dashew Center for International Students and Scholars,” the Daily Bruin reports.


     This is pure California crazy here. Illegal immigrants actually have an advantage for getting this paid internship. Is there truly no legal issue with this sort of thing?

      Oh, wait, there totally is:



      Is it such a stretch to view offering jobs specifically to illegal aliens as encouraging them come here in violation of the law? At the very least, the chuckleheads at UCLA who came up with this plan should be indicted, if not arrested, for this program. There have been no such indictments, of course. How is a wall on our border going to make the slightest bit of difference with illegal immigration when our government doesn’t enforce the laws we already have, and our own public institutions outright encourage illegal immigration?

     And here I thought our community colleges regularly violating Federal law was amazing. At least the community colleges don’t overtly advertise their violations. UCLA advertises its foolishness and lack of common sense…and nothing is done.