Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Destroying Higher Education a Conspiracy?





By Professor Doom

     Let’s look at the third fact as part of the supposed conspiracy to destroy higher education:

Step III: Move in a managerial/administrative class that takes over governance of the university.

     Again, this is totally a true fact, but the article neglects to mention the huge salaries those people get (paid for by the student loan scam). Even more importantly, to destroy higher education, this is all you need. The other parts of the “conspiracy” in the article are not necessary.

     The de-funding of higher education wouldn’t be that big a problem by itself and is totally not a problem for non-state schools that never got the tax loot anyway. Unfortunately, the chokehold has given administrators the ability to award themselves pay raises (and bogus advanced degrees, and tenure)…and it’s this huge drain of resources that is a problem for current higher education, not the lack of tax support.

     There’s a glut of Ph.D.’s, because the people running the universities tell graduate programs to reduce their standards and increase the number of students, so that getting graduate degrees is pretty easy (if you’re willing to pay); I demonstrated this earlier when I’ve examined what’s going on in Education and Administration graduate programs, even to the point of taking advanced graduate courses in those dubious programs.

     Since the administrative class cares nothing for education, then, again, it sees no need to treat the faculty with any decency, much less respect. It’s also even more motivated to generate that glut of Ph.Ds. It’s so sad to the new doctorates awarded at my institution come back and apply for, well, those minimal jobs, because there’s nothing else out there. The administrative caste all by itself explains the Ph.D. glut and the horrid treatment of adjuncts.

 Admin announcement: “Congratulations to our new Poo-Bah. He comes from [a thousand miles away].”
--a typical announcement. Maybe not poo-bah, but provost, chancellor, or other fancy title, always it’s someone with no loyalty to the institution.


      So, the moving in of mercenary administrators is a true fact…but not necessarily a conspiracy, just the usual abuses by those in power. In times past, administration was drawn from faculty at the institution. Administration, years ago, wasn’t a stupid-high paying job where you were serviced by a platoon of supporting staff. Instead, you got a few extra bucks, a few extra duties, taught one less course…and returned to a faculty position after a few years. Because administrators returned to faculty, they didn’t treat faculty like garbage, and worked to maintain the integrity of the institution.

     Now, administrators are drawn from outside the institution. It’s called the “Seagull School of Management”. These administrators fly in from far away, crap on everything, consume all they can, act aggressively towards everyone, and then leave to do it all over again elsewhere while the folks left behind clean up the mess. That’s a metaphor, of course, but the fact is, administrators are now a professional caste, do not come from the institution they rule, and have no loyalty to it. Instead, their only loyalty is to whoever hired them (i.e., an administrator further up the food chain)…and so have no qualms about doing whatever it takes, no matter how vile, to get more growth, and then get promoted to go somewhere else.

      The massive sex scandal at Penn State was no fluke…dozens of administrators over the course of a decade independently covered up what was going on in the showers there. Why do I stress the word independent? Because nobody told them to cover up those crimes even though it would lead to an ever devastating scandal for Penn State…they didn’t care what happened to Penn State, they cared about growth and retention, and then moving on to another institution. Those administrators could have been at any other institution, and will do it again cheerfully (many of those Penn State administrators have moved on to other schools…people should really consider the administration at the schools they send their children to. Just sayin’).

    With leaders like this, you need nothing more to destroy higher education.

    Let’s take a look at the 4th step:

Step IV: Move in corporate culture and corporate money.

     This is another true fact; administrators talk in corporate-speak that is laughably stupid, spend stupid-amount of times on retreats and trips, and advanced the “student as customer” paradigm that has done much harm to higher education. But, this came in with the tide of administrators; flush them out, and the corporatism will drop off just as quickly.


Step V: Destroy the students.

    
     This too simply follows from the influx of administration; they don’t just sacrifice faculty for personal gain, they sacrifice students as well. But I don’t see how this can be part of a plan to destroy higher education—the other steps are ongoing, but if you destroy the students, you’ll just get another crop the next year. That said, the article tries to tie it all together:

Our students have been denied full-time available faculty, the ability to develop mentors and advisors, faculty-designed syllabi which changes each semester, a wide variety of courses and options. Instead, more and more universities have core curriculum which dictates a large portion of the course of study, in which the majority of classes are administrative-designed “common syllabi” courses, taught by an army of underpaid, part-time faculty in a model that more closely resembles a factory or the industrial kitchen of a fast-food restaurant than an institution of higher learning.


     All of the above, while true and very destructive to students, requires no secret cabal running a conspiracy to destroy higher education…just the administrative caste that controls it all doing what it takes to solidify their power and feather their nests. That line about no syllabi that change every semester, incidentally, is wrong, as many courses cover far less material than in years past…administratively designed, after all.

      The article ends by asking how higher education can be fixed, and providing no answers. I’ve addressed this before, but it’s pretty simple to say (if not to do):

      Fire most every administrator and support staffer over the rank of registrar. Fill only the actually useful positions with faculty, but only faculty that have worked at that institution a few years…and change the laws and accreditation so that only faculty that have taught at the institution can be an administrator, and that only active teachers can be administrators. Change the laws so that accredited institutions must have more faculty than administrators/staff (how it used to be, unlike today where faculty are a minority). Then, reduce administrative pay to, at most, twice the average faculty pay at the institution (and that includes the Poo-Bah, who now typically makes 50 times an adjunct’s pay), and restrict administrative tenure to two years or so, at which point the administrator must return to faculty for a few years before serving again (it used to be, administration was “service” not “chance to feather your nest and establish a fiefdom”).

     Just like that, the massive drop in pay to administrators will offset the lack of public funding the article says matters. The professors will be professionals again, the ruling caste of loutish administrators will vanish, corporate culture will disappear, and destroying students will no longer be common in higher education, since no administrator/faculty will want to go back to having to deal with angry, abused, ripped-off students in the classroom that don’t even want to be there anyway.

     My fix is easy on paper, but I admit it has an important weakness: the administrators will have to let go of power. Accreditation will have to become legitimate before that can happen, and refuse to accredit institutions that are unwilling to do what it takes to become legitimate again, but I digress.

     It takes no grand conspiracy to destroy higher education, just a mistake. In this case, faculty allowed for the hiring of mercenaries to control what happens at our colleges and universities. Faculty screwed up. Mercenaries are only in it for the money, which the Federal government supplies in huge quantity. There are numerous historical precedents for mercenaries taking over, or at least trying to…most of which are every bit as disastrous as what’s happening in higher education today.

     That’s a light overview of how to fix things, of course…but it’s an obvious start. Maybe it’s a conspiracy that no institution is making these obvious fixes? Well, University of the People comes close, which is probably why you can get an accredited degree there for $4,000, instead of the $100,000 that is typical elsewhere...and they never had any state funding. Any other places?