By Professor Doom
It’s so hard to keep up with the collapse of higher education. One of the big problems is administration; our universities are so overloaded with overpaid admin that they no longer can afford to have full time faculty. So far, they’ve addressed this issue with providing minimal pay and harsh working conditions to “adjunct” faculty, who receive so little they qualify for welfare.
Soon, these will be the lucky ones. A recent request from a functionary at Southern Illinois University highlights how this school will deal with the “no money for teachers because admin is taking it all” problem:
…seeking qualified alumni to join the SIU Graduate Faculty in a zero-time (adjunct) status.
“Zero-time” is admin-speak for volunteer. So, instead of adjuncts getting sub-minimum wage and no benefits, this school wants to get adjuncts to work for, quite literally, nothing.
I feel the need to highlight the functionary here. His name is Michael Molino, and his title is (big inhale): Southern Illinois University Associate Dean for Budget, Personnel, and Research. Seriously, the length of the title is a hint there’s a problem here: we have so many deanlings on our campus that they can only distinguish themselves from one another by lengthy titles. If we ever do decide to restore sanity on our campuses, the first rule will be to eliminate any position whose title is twice as long as the name as the title holder. It’s disturbing how the majority of administrators I quote in this blog could not keep their jobs based on this rule. Do note: this guy is just the “associate” Dean…presumably there’s at least one Dean above him (and likely an Assistant Dean of Yaddayaddayadda below him as well).
Now, maybe these “volunteer” adjuncts are just getting called adjuncts, and aren’t actual academics?
“…they will generally hold an academic doctorate or other terminal degree as appropriate for the field.”
I’ve mentioned the Ph.D. glut a few times, but this is ridiculous. Do we really have so many jobless Ph.D.s floating around that they’d honestly do volunteer work? Perhaps they won’t actually do the job of faculty? Let’s see what is being asked of these volunteers:
…service on graduate student thesis committees, teaching specific graduate or undergraduate lectures in one’s area of expertise, service on departmental or university committees, and collaborations on grant proposals and research projects...
Um…that’s a faculty member’s job. It used to be, the entire purpose of a university was teaching and research. Today’s universities exist only to support the administrative class, and thus it is that now they’re seriously considering volunteers to do the “extraneous” things like teach or perform research.
I can’t make this stuff up.
Could this get more insulting? Absolutely! Not only are they looking for volunteers to do what used to be the primary mission of higher education, these volunteers will have administration watching over them:
…appointments are for 3-year periods, and can be renewed.
Wow, how hard up do you need to be to consider, after spending a decade or more getting a Ph.D., working for absolutely nothing for 3 years, and after that, you’ll have to beg if you want to keep the “job”?
I…can’t make this stuff up. This really is how insane administration is today, that they honestly think they’re going to get volunteers with the utmost of credentials, and they’ll have so many that they believe they can possibly “thin the herd” every 3 years. I admit, I live in a bit of a bubble in my ivory tower…is there any organization or field out there with so many top tier candidates they honestly have a problem with too many volunteers willing to work full time for free for three years or more?
The school is being rightfully roasted over this, and has an official response:
"This is a proposed pilot project developed in collaboration with the SIU Alumni Association to connect qualified alumni with our students as mentors to enhance – not replace – the work of our faculty…
Yeah, right, and if you buy that I’ve a wide selection of bridges I can sell you. The statement above, incidentally, comes from the (big inhale): Interim Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Meera Komarraju. Seriously, the titles alone really do tell the tale of what’s going on in higher ed today.
If this school manages to acquire volunteer faculty, it will be pretty much over for higher ed. How can anyone possibly think education is a key to a better life when the most educated people in our country will literally be begging to be unpaid volunteers?
This e-mail/atrocity is making the rounds, and some of the comments highlight the larger issues here:
I think we need a zero time volunteer chancellor
It’s funny how getting rid of the excess administration is never on the table, no matter how severe the financial troubles the school claims to have. In times past, many administrative positions were volunteer positions. This may sound strange, but the Dean really only needs to do “Dean things” for a few hours a week, and then only when classes were in session. Because of this, a faculty member would take over as Dean; he might get a little extra money, he might get to teach one fewer class that semester…or he might just get kudos for his volunteer service to the institution. Because the pay, if any, was so minimal, most faculty didn’t serve as Dean for years on end, just a year or two before going back.
But now these full time mercenary deanlings have flooded our campuses, to the point that, yes, there is no money left over for faculty pay. This place has had mass layoffs because there’s “no money,” so they’re trying this volunteer gambit. I sure hope it doesn’t work.
Inside Higher Education also covered this, and another issue was brought up in the comments section:
“…these appointments will probably be used to boost SIU’s placement rates.”
The Federal government, as well as the general population, is slowly figuring out this Ph.D. mill business, responsible for the glut of Ph.D.’s. So schools are now reporting “placement,” in other words reporting how many of their graduates are actually getting jobs. The e-mail is targeting alumni of the school, and you better believe that the school will say these alumni “are in academia” when it comes to reporting how successful their graduates are. That the alumni will be “working” not simply a low paid adjunct position, but as a full on volunteer “we don’t care if you starve to death with that education we sold to you for hundreds of thousands of dollars” position will be left out of any reporting.
There’s a part of me that really respects the brutal ruthlessness of admin here, as getting these volunteers would simultaneously free up more money to flow into administrative pockets and increase those “placement rates.” Brilliant.
While our schools are reduced now to seeking out volunteers to do the teaching and research, our total student loan debt in this country is around $1.5 trillion dollars. It’s clear that quite soon literally none of the future student loan money will be going towards education, so can we just end the student loan scam now?