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…”