Saturday, March 8, 2014

What Administrators Think of Faculty, part 2




By Professor Doom

 

A couple posts back I examined why administrators don’t want to give faculty even a crumb: administrators are trained to think that way in their graduate level administration courses. The reasoning as given in the course is simple—the administrator is terrified that the faculty’s knowledge will become worthless, and thus faculty are a waste of money, money that is far better spent going into the administrator’s pockets.

 But how exactly does that knowledge become worthless?

 

Admin: “Graduating students must take at least six hours of a foreign language (French, Russian, or Chinese/Mandarin).

--Part of my graduation requirements in the 80s…I studied Spanish for 2 years in high school, only to find out that, what with all the native speakers in Florida, that I’d have to learn a different language once I got to college. D’oh—back then, education was about learning new things, so you couldn’t take courses filled with stuff you already knew.

 

Admin: “In lieu of the foreign language requirement, graduating students can take a 3 hour introductory computer course.”

--It seems harmless enough, but removing the foreign language requirements effectively annihilated such departments on campus, causing tenured faculty to be fired. Students complained about taking Mickey Mouse courses with information they already knew (sample test question: “Identify the monitor in the picture of a set up computer”), but admin had the stranglehold on by this point.

 

Admin: “We’re removing the computer course requirements.”

--because it was impossible to find people to teach the (very basic) computer course for the miserable pay being offered (even for Mickey Mouse courses, faculty need graduate degrees), admin, rather than do their job of trying to find people or make the resources available, just got rid of the requirement. Keep this in mind when you meet a college graduate that knows nothing besides skills taught by otherwise unemployable people (eg, multiculturalists). It’s not his fault, the system is designed to teach people the cheapest possible skills, and learning to say “it’s not my responsibility because of [insert whatever reason you’d like, especially one involving white males]” is a cheap skill to learn, indeed.

 

 

Part of the reason faculty can be “no longer useful” in administration’s eyes is because administration has changed accreditation. It used to be, accredited schools had to teach “the classics.” There were no “fad” subjects, so a professor of, say, History, could be comfortable knowing that his subject was secure, as history is a “classic” subject. Now, an administrative pen can say history is irrelevant, and the professor is out of a job. Then admin can say mathematics past basic arithmetic is irrelevant…and admin can just keep doing this until students have no course options except gender studies, multiculturalism, and, well, whatever subject has so little market value that instructors can be rented for it, very cheaply. There are many reasons why degrees are so worthless nowadays, but one of the biggest is the elimination of serious coursework.

Curiously, the titan of industry running the course doesn’t seem to hate tenure much (it was probably handed to him as part of his package for running an institution), but he hardly has anything good to say of it. While faculty think tenure is for granting protection and insuring academic freedom from administrative whimsy, the administrative view of tenure is far different:

The test of optimal use is whether, using the same amount of money invested in a current faculty member, you could get a better faculty member in the market. Positive tenure decisions represent a bet by the guild and the institution that the capital investment in faculty members will deliver a high value over their professional lifetimes, a value that is as good or better than any other investment in faculty members that the institution could make.

Tenure is purely a financial investment, to be made only if there’s no better investment available. It is not a reward for years of successful research, or honest work, or anything like that. That first line bears repetition:

 

The test of optimal use is whether, using the same amount of money invested in a current faculty member, you could get a better faculty member in the market.

 

This is why tenure is dying—admin certainly sees no value in academic freedom, naturally sees no value in giving any sort of faculty protection against administrative abuse and, heck, it cuts into the ability of administration to just go buy another faculty member from the auction block when the time is right. Uppity faculty with integrity should be discarded as quickly as possible.

 

The significance of this investment and the risks it entails often encourage universities to rent faculty rather than incur the risk and future costs of tenured faculty.

And finally, the Poo-Bah addresses “rental” faculty, in other words, those minimally paid, no benefit, part time, adjuncts that teach the majority of classes in higher education. Again, the administrator shows ignorance here; when you “rent” something for a long time, you normally pay more than if you “bought” it. Rented slaves faculty actually cost much less, even when they’re rented for years on end.

 

Contingent faculty have many different perspectives on this issue. For some, the freedom from having to meet tenure requirements in the up-or-out atmosphere of most university tenure processes is an advantage

 

(Pause for laughter…but the administrator/professor of the course is not joking)

Wow, seriously? “Many different perspectives” is a hysterical way to put it, comparable to the “many different perspectives” slaves viewed their own situation, I suppose. I guess somewhere on the ‘Net there’s an adjunct saying how great it is to have no benefits, no job security, and to be paid $2000 to teach a class with 50 students (representing perhaps $100,000 or more of revenue to the institution in the form of tuition), basically doing the exact same job of the permanent faculty (those that remain) for a small fraction of the price. This theoretical adjunct is probably thrilled to see the money saved go to huge administrative salaries, too.

Educationist trying to teach trigonometry: “How come I can’t get the cotangent of 90 degrees by taking the reciprocal of tangent of 90 degrees? My calculator keeps saying ‘error’!”

--Because they can be rented very cheaply, educationists, people with bogus “Math Education” degrees, now teach mathematics courses. I respect that, sometimes, they ask for help about topics they’re utterly clueless about but…students paying many thousands of dollars for their courses probably shouldn’t be given the cheapest possible teachers. Alas, that’s what admin thinks students deserve. Curiously, getting cheap admin is never an option…

 

I really appreciate the candor of the Poo-Bah to reveal his real thoughts. We need more of this. When I tell people the truth of what’s going on higher education, how a clueless administrative caste is plundering the system and destroying everything that made the higher education system the best in the world in the 20th century…the tales come out so farfetched that I can appreciate if someone finds it all hard to believe.

But when a high grand administrator backs up what I say, and doesn’t even realize it? That’s priceless. I encourage anyone who thinks I’m being thin-skinned about this to take the above, direct quotes, in this and the previous essay on this topic and substitute all references to “faculty” or “faculty members” with “Negro.” Hilarity will ensue. I’ll start with my favorite:

 

faculty who no longer serve an economic purpose can only be reconstructed at such a high cost that it is often more efficient to buy a new faculty member rather than reconstruct an old one.