Wednesday, March 27, 2013

And so begins the end of my career as faculty in higher education.

Before I dive down the rabbit hole of what’s really going for most college students, I need to plant an important seed.

One detail not fully addressed in the sordid Sandusky affair concerns the years and years where he was allowed to engage in his “inappropriate” behavior despite witnesses reporting it to administration on multiple occasions. Administrators have two key goals, which trump all other considerations: retention and growth. Retention means keeping students in the system as much as possible, and a professor having low (with administration defining “low”) retention will generally not keep his job. As the easiest way to lose a student is to fail a student,  “Failure is not an option” has taken on new meaning in higher education. Growth generally means growth of the student base, as more students means a larger institution, and a larger institution means more administrative pay; thus are admission standards annihilated nowadays.

So, it was no grand conspiracy that administrators would cover up even the most grotesque of behavior on campus. The scandal, if revealed, could easily drive students away, reducing both retention and growth. It was no conspiracy…administrators were merely doing their job, nothing more.

But here’s the thing missed in this debacle: administrators are not physically attached to a single school. There’s a bit of a revolving door in higher education, an administrative career is marked by going to an institution, improving retention and growth, and then being hired/promoted to another institution. Job descriptions for open positions almost invariably describe how candidates must have demonstrated success in previous positions.

There’s nothing special about the administration of Penn State any more than the administration of NYU, LSU, or UCLA. This behavior would’ve been covered up anywhere else.

The administrators at Penn State were not some good ol’ boys with the same last name or with 20 years of experience working together, they’re a collection of administrators that have all moved up through the system the same way via numerous institutions, through improving retention and growth, sacrificing everything else about education for these goals and these goals alone. Thus, like an ancient Greek phalanx, each administrator knew what to do without there necessarily being any specific order given: retention and growth are paramount, sodomization of prepubescent boys in the showers on campus is nothing next to those goals.

Now we come to the seed I must plant: if a simple random sample of administrators has so little concern for integrity and human decency that implicitly condoning the sodomizing of children does not cause even one administrator to resign in disgust over the course of years, is it possible that their void of integrity fails the cause of education in other ways?

Please, think about that as I detail all the ways that college has changed due to enforced policy changes from the administrative caste.

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