Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Disconnect of Higher Education

By Professor Doom


     Thank goodness for online news. There, it’s easy to find a major disconnect between what mainstream media presents, and reality: you just have to read the comments.

a tall white guy wearing a ski mask and a skull cap”

--a line from a news article discussing the attackers at mall.

     For example, the above snippet is from a mainstream article about a swarm of teenagers that attacked a mall en masse. Reading the article, you’d get no idea there’s anything racial going on; there is one, and only one, reference to race, and I’ve quoted it, above…somehow the witness determined the race of this one attacker through a ski mask. It’s possible.

      You have to read the comments to find out the actual story:

No mention that the howling mob was a pack of feral black teenagers. Yet, when some woman mentioned she saw a "white" it get immediately reported. I don't trust her version…”

     There are plenty of comments indicating the race of most of the attackers. Why doesn’t the article tell the whole story? Instead, the article insists that it was merely teenagers, and nothing else. Maybe it was all white teenagers, and this is a random, wrong, comment…but since the article has no problem mentioning one of the attackers was white, it’s curious to omit the other attackers. The comments reveal a disconnect between the article and reality. Another quick one, and then off to education:


The founder and CEO of American Title Services in Centennial was found dead in his home this week…from seven or eight self-inflicted wounds from a nail gun fired into his torso and head.


The above article doesn’t even question the possibility that this was NOT a suicide. Most folks don’t commit suicide via a very slow, very painful, very bloody, very unreliable method like this, and it just seems like a few details explaining why suicide is the only possibility should be given. Only in the comments section is the disconnect between what the article says, and reality, addressed.

Now, to education: consider the fundamental disconnect in an article by a Chief Innovation Officer in the University of Texas system, Marti Stein. A title of “Chief Innovation Officer” indicates “administrator”, as they love spiffy titles to go with monstrous salaries. The author is in the Institute for Transformational Learning—that sure sounds important, but it is just yet another administrative fiefdom. Much of the money in higher education gets soaked up by these fiefdoms, which do little beyond employing administrators who slurp up vast sums of money in make-work projects. I’ve written of the like before. Shut down these fiefdoms which do nothing but waste massive sums of money, and I bet institutions of higher education will have an easier time with their finances.

The article is Ready or Not, Change is Coming, and it’s filled with the edubabble that dominates administration in higher education. The title may as well be the whole article, as content is light. Instead of real discussion, the article is littered with lines and keywords like:

“…Not resigned to the passive receipt of knowledge, many are eager to interact with and utilize the world of content and experience around them. They have a firm belief in their own power to leverage networks of peers…”

--“utilize” and “peers” are important keywords, words that ever spew from bureaucratic mouths.


“…For these learners, the value proposition of traditional education…”

--“learners” is the blood-soaked upside-down flag, a sign that an educationist is speaking.


“…Inevitably, someone will implement the solutions that will pilot our next generation of learners...”

---if it’s inevitable, we sure don’t need to read this article, right?

Reading the article, it looks like a piece on something-or-other in Higher Education, and with all the big words, it’s easy to miss that not much is said here beyond “change is coming.” It’s only in the comments that, again, you see the disconnect between administration in higher education and that folks that actually know what’s going on:


Old wine in new casks-the author should define "we". Are they college presidents who have shown little or no leadership in leading these recommended changes?”

--faculty and administrators read this article, and you can really tell which respondent is from the serf caste, or the ruling caste.


Hear, hear! [Author], you make excellent points, thank you!

--it isn’t just that administrators are all supportive in their comments. It’s that administrators can use their real names. Faculty must post under pseudonyms (much like me), because the penalty for not supporting admin is fast termination, without due process. The supportive comments say nothing (no surprise considering where they’re coming from), so I’ll focus on the many more negative comments:


“…higher ed as an industry? - right there i stop reading . . .”

---this is the big disconnect between admin and reality. An administrator, using his name and picture, quickly responds to this comment to assert that yes, higher education is an industry, implying it needs titanic administrators.


“…Is it me, or are articles about the coming ed-tech rapture looking more and more like algorithm generated boilerplate?”

--the article really is written that poorly, and I must include a parody from the comments:


“…But have you considered that the metrics from institutional dashboards help to define the change agents who will propel student lifecycle management into a new platform to leverage the 21st century learner into a student centered space where they will flourish in the global knowledge economy through exposure to multiple instructional contexts?...”

--faculty are exposed to this gobbledygook nonstop, and so we often parody it…behind administrative backs, of course. This could easily have been an excerpt from the article, or from any of the last dozen administrative missives.


“…Methinks [the author is] part oft he problem.”

--The big disconnect reveal here. Faculty all know that administration is the issue. It’s like having pedophiles run day cares and operate ice cream trucks.


I certainly understand sites that don’t have comments—in my blog I have to delete comments from spammers regularly. That said, the comments on a story, especially unmoderated comments, give a much clearer picture of the reality of the situation.

I know, I tend to rant and rave about how bad things are, but I encourage the reader to see with his own eyes what administrators have to say, at least a few lines…much more than that might give eye cancer.








Saturday, February 22, 2014

Life Skills As College?

By Professor Doom


“…100 level lessons will help you find resources to pay for college, understand the steps required to apply for financial aid and prepare to repay your student loans…”

---I’m serious, this is a college course, from a supposedly non-profit institution. Not only are students being loaned money, they’re now being billed to learn how to get the loans? Professors can make assignments from the lessons provided, but I suspect many students are quickly directed to learn how to get more loan money for the institution. There are many lessons…


      Higher education isn’t just a business for for-profit institutions, all institutions are grubbing for money as much as possible. Perhaps that’s the way of the world, but higher education is supposed to be about, well, knowledge. Now, absolutely, it can be argued that the knowledge of higher education is worthless, questionable, useless for getting a real job…I readily admit that no Shakespearean sonnet has helped me in any direct way, and memorizing the Hamlet soliloquy has likewise produced no monetary benefit to me. Even much of my obscure mathematical lore hasn’t really mattered all that much when it comes time to write a check to the IRS. I like knowing it, however, and I’m grateful to learn it in an era when learning didn’t mean a lifetime of endless debt.

     But, at least it is knowledge that takes effort to learn. Administrators in higher education are so hard pressed to grab money, any money, that they’re naturally inclined to offer courses that will sell. Until now, I’ve focused on questionable courses like third grade math or courses based around TV shows and recent movies…but at least these courses have knowledge (of a sort) in them that I can suppose is not everyday knowledge. These courses sell, and sales are good for business.


“…600 level lessons will help you survive and pay for graduate school, manage debt during school and prepare for life after graduate school…”

--Isn’t there at least a tiny conflict of interest in colleges selling coursework like this? It’s like the diamond council recommending you spend 2 month’s salary on a wedding ring, or the ice cream council recommending the ideal human weight to be 400 pounds. None of the lessons are of the form “the world is full of scammers that are dedicated to separating you from you money.” Go figure. Did I mention this school is fully accredited?


     Now, it certainly is important that our young people get useful advice about debt. Call me cynical, but I have my doubts college administration is really interested in telling students what a bad idea a loan for college education can be.


  300 level lessons will help you search for a job, prepare for an interview and understand the details related to life after graduation

  400 level lessons will help you manage your credit card debt, understand credit scores and reports and protect yourself from identity theft

--to be fair, this is good advice to give, although I’m not exactly sure waiting until the students are 20 years old (the usual age of students in 300 and 400 level courses) makes sense. We’ll teach kids about sex, years before they’re interested in sex, but teach them about credit cards a full 2 years after they get their first card? Is anyone in higher education thinking this through?


     I don’t rule out the above coursework as useful, but it’s weird how much it’s been spread out. I took a course on personal finance as an elective (one of two electives I was allowed, unlike the near infinite amount granted students today—more sales!). The course I took basically covered every topic in all the above life skills lesson plans, and more. Now, of course, administrators determine what are useful life skills, and are inclined to think the things they know are important.


A former assistant dean–or perhaps deanlet or deanling might be a better title–at my university explained that students need to learn more than academic skills.12 They also must be taught, “the universal life skills that everyone needs to know.” And what might be an example of one of these all-important proficiencies? According to this deanling, a premier example is event planning. “For many students, the biggest event they’ve ever planned is a dinner at home.” But, planning an event on campus might require, “reserving the room, notifying Security, arranging transportation and lodging for out-of-town speakers, ordering food.” Armed with training in a subject as important and intellectually challenging as event planning, students would hardly need to know anything about physics or calculus or literature or any of those other inconsequential topics taught by the stodgy faculty.

--Ok, so a course on event planning. Hey, the deanling has to plan events on campus, so it seemed important to her. Just because everything you need to know can fit in one pamphlet doesn’t rule out it being higher education. Apparently.

     Now there are whole college degrees based around things that, frankly, used to be basic life skills, or at best job skills that one could learn in a long afternoon:


EVPL 240: Event Planning/Risk Management

Credits: 5.0

--I’m serious. Yes, 5 credit hours. There are serious, hard core courses on obscure topics in astrophysics that don’t get 4 hours of college credit. A look at the course objectives doesn’t explain why so much credit for this life skill. Sticking “risk management” in the title really just makes this course sound like quite a bit more than it is, or even possibly could be.


     The above course looks like they at least tried to make it as challenging as actual college courses, but other “life skills” courses look to be as accessible as a stack of feel-good brochures. There’s nothing wrong with brochures, mind you, they’re a great way to give “need to know” information about fairly thin topics. But why make courses out of brochures? The whole point of brochures is to put all the key information into the tiny packet it belongs, not spread it out over months.


The Life Skills Tool Box is a… accredited program…The Life Skills course is built around the practices of resilience, emotional wellbeing and suicide prevention.

---Seriously. Ok, I grant that “don’t down a bottle of sleeping pills” is a useful life skill…but how do you spend four or more hours learning how to not kill yourself?


     Back when educators controlled education, getting a new course approved for the course catalogue was not an easy thing. You had to convince your department head that there was a need for the course, and that, more importantly, the course would actually prepare students to learn more (recall, old accreditation mandated that education was about preparation). The validity and usefulness of the course is what allowed it to exist. Students could not be given the option to take worthless courses that didn’t do anything.

     Now, if you want a new course, you don’t have to talk to other experts in your field. Instead, you go to admin, say “hey, this will sell” and you’re set. It no longer matters if the course has any actual material in it. Students don’t just get the option to take bogus courses, catalogues are now minefields of uselessness.

     If higher education is going to stop being a joke, we’ll need to flush out those courses that are just money soaks. Higher education might well be a business, but there still needs to be integrity. McDonald’s is a business, too, and the stuff they sell is at least arguably food…too much of what is being peddled by higher education isn’t even arguably higher education.

       So that’s my two-pronged fix: trim down the bogus courses that don’t lead to degrees, and go back to the “old way” of creating college courses, where the justification for the course was more than “it will sell.”


     “Write down how you would write $17.49 on a personal check.”

--actual test question from a “College Algebra” course at an accredited institution, by a teacher that admin claims is far superior to me. Yes, the answer was “Seventeen and forty-nine/100.” Such coursework really helps with retention, but…this is not higher education.


     Should students go into debt to learn how to make an entry in a check? Should course catalogues be filled with dreck that offers no real education, and, often, no job skills? Why are the answers to these questions obvious to the reader, but not to administrators in higher education?







Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Culture of Fear in Higher Education

By Professor Doom


Patricia Adler stunned her students in a popular course on deviance Thursday by announcing that she would be leaving her tenured position teaching sociology at the University of Colorado at Boulder…Adler said that officials told her that one of the highlights of the course -- popular year after year – had to go.

--so much for thinking tenure matters. One of the points of tenure is academic freedom, but even with tenure, admin can fire a professor for discussing something admin doesn’t want discussed, and can casually make life miserable. I’m not wild about college courses on deviancy (Adler’s specialty), but I acknowledge that my opinions are quite irrelevant regarding what goes on in other classrooms. Admin doesn’t share such respect. Of course.


     In many of my most recent posts, I’ve listed many casual, obvious, fixes to higher education. I acknowledge a huge problem in my simple fixes: they’ll never be implemented unless the current crop of administrators decides to implement them. In the “real world” there’s this belief that teachers in higher education have some sort of protection, that “due process” will keep a teacher from being unduly harassed and put upon.


“…She said that Leigh told her that there was "too much risk" in having such a lecture in the "post-Penn State environment," alluding to the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Adler said that she was given the choice of accepting a buyout now, or staying but not teaching the course, and not giving the prostitution lecture, and to be aware that she could be fired and lose her retirement benefits if anyone complained about her teaching in the future.

--if tenure doesn’t protect against something that someone, somewhere, might, theoretically complain about, what is it for? It’s also a little weird that faculty are supposed to pay the price for the massive administrative failure at Penn State (failure to cover it up, or failure to stop it?).


Even with the supposed protections of tenure, administrators can still fire and remove retirement benefits from a professor that has been working at the institution for years. Now, I understand admin are just trying to avoid lawsuits in a typical very cowardly way, but with Adler teaching the course for years without any hint of complaint or legal action, such a fear seems excessive.

Unfortunately, the imbalance of power doesn’t just stop with admin jamming their noses into content of specific courses. “Integrity” is both literally and figuratively a four-letter word with these guys.


Faculty: “I was harassed for months by the dean and vice chancellor. I filed a formal complaint. The HR department, long term friends of the administrators harassing me, looked into it and said nothing untoward was going on.

--I’m not saying the harassment really happened, but I do note the vice chancellor could just fire the HR department and get people more able to find nothing untoward was going on. Conflicts of interest like this are very common.


Faculty, even tenured faculty, are pretty firmly cowed in higher education. With my own eyes I’ve witnessed some outrageous denials of due process against my colleagues…and I’ve seen a few terminated for even daring to suggest administrators lacked even a patina of integrity. I’ve also seen colleagues intimidated into engaging in very humiliating behavior; I apologize for them.


“…It is the fear of speaking freely. Reason 75 saw the 2,000th comment posted on 100 Reasons, and all but a tiny fraction of those comments were posted anonymously.

--100 Reasons Not to Go to Graduate School is a fun read, and anyone thinking about going should check it out. Faculty posting know better than to use their real names.


I’ve seen administrators harass and punish faculty for tiny slights, retribution taking place over the course of years…faculty have no defense against it. Faculty are terrified, which is why most faculty posting online, post anonymously, even if they have tenure. Before setting up this site, I thought about using my real name, but, ultimately, thought better of it. Even though at this stage I have little to lose, I wanted to know just how long it would take before an administrator tracked me down and fired me…I figure it will still be a while, one blog on the internet is not a big deal, after all.


“…There is probably no American newspaper today that publishes more articles by writers using pseudonyms than the Chronicle of Higher of Education. Even Professor William Pannapacker, the patron saint of graduate-school realists (and a Harvard PhD), wrote his first columns warning people about graduate school using the pen name Thomas H. Benton. The author of a recent book about his experiences as a college instructor is known only as Professor X.”

--I’m hardly alone in writing under a pseudonym, although I, like Professor X, at least use an obvious one. The Chronicle is pretty respectable, and a professor’s prestige would be enhanced by writing for it…but the risk of offending out-of-control administration is such that most faculty are indeed scared out their mind of incurring it.


Even if the rules for tenure are explicit about security and protection, administrators have no difficulty getting around them, or even just ignoring them—administrators will just investigate themselves and clear themselves of wrongdoing in any event.


“…in the name of “strategic investment for the future vitality of the University,” president Julie Wollman announced that 42 teaching staff, including 18 tenured faculty, would be laid off, or “retrenched.”

--the purpose of the layoffs is to get more money to build student dorms. But who’s going to teach the students that will need those new dorms? The logical error here never seems to come up.


All tenure contracts allow for faculty to be removed for “financial exigency”, which is interpreted to mean “if admin needs the money for something else.” Such abuses are getting more common of late. Now, faculty can complain, but it can take years to resolve.


…filed a 91-page complaint with Maryland’s Office of Legislative Audit…The complaint alleges that [university president] Ms. Aldridge and her administration bought the silence of 23 university employees who had been forced out...The employees were fired for lapses in loyalty and challenging what they perceived as the administration’s attempts to water down UMUC’s academic rigor…

--now, one could say at least the faculty were paid off, but it’s well worth noting: the faculty with integrity are goners. All that are left are the sycophants that will do the bidding of administration.


Not just financial need, but a simple “lapse of loyalty” is enough justification to fire tenured faculty. How on earth can even simple fixes like “stop taking advantage of the mentally disabled for personal profit” occur with administration holding such a stranglehold over anyone with integrity?










Sunday, February 16, 2014

Vision For Excellence is Idiocy

By Professor Doom

Administration: “We’re now tirelessly working on a strategic plan…”
--a notice that lets faculty know that a(nother) vast sum of money is about to be thrown away.
   I’ve written many times about the glut of very highly paid administrators in higher education, and a very natural question concerns what, exactly, these people do with all those resources. It’s time I address what they consider their most important (overt) task: the strategic plan.

     When a new president/chancellor/Grand Poo-Bah is hired, the very first thing he does is put the old strategic plan right in the shredder. Hold that thought, because we’ll come back to that.

      Next, the Poo-Bah starts work on the new strategic plan, with many great meetings and administrative retreats soaking up thousands of hours of administrative time putting together this new plan.

      “Two running tracks, two stadiums, football and baseball, with a combined seating of 5,000, a student recreational center, an administrative building complex, an orientation building just for incoming students, an indoor and outdoor pool, a 2.4 mile long walking route…”

---I can’t even begin to describe how grandiose this plan was, for a campus situated in a town with total population under 2,000, which never had more than 1,000 students on campus at any one time. The campus has no sports program, nor any actual plan for a sports program.

     What’s a strategic plan? It’s the plan for the growth of the institution. Growth and retention are all that matters, and administration feels it very important to set down how exactly, growth and retention can be maximized.

Administration: “We’ve updated the strategic plan to include a multi-level parking garage, so that when we have varsity teams, their families can have a place to park their cars.”

--I’m not sure if the town even had a single two-story building in it. Does the water tower count?

     It’s important to understand that the strategic plan is a living document. It’s never finished, so the work being done on it is perpetual. These things can run hundreds of pages. There is considerable planning for the planning:

“…a system-wide strategic planning process designed to ensure that each campus and the system have a focused plan for the next five years. Throughout the 2012-2013 academic year, MU’s Strategy Workgroup drafted a document that outlines our campus’s strategy for the next five years. Since it was first drafted, that document has been revised multiple times in response to two campus-wide meetings and feedback from Faculty Council, the Strategic Planning and Resource Advisory Council (SPRAC), Provost’s Staff, Chancellor’s Staff, the UM System, and the Board of Curators.

--this isn’t even the ONLY strategic plan for this particular campus, it actually has multiple strategic plans. Consider all the committee time spent on this plan…and then realize all the other plans use a likewise amount of time from another legion of committees composed of tetralegions of administrators…

     It isn’t just wildly ambitious plans for further building development. There are also pages and pages of pure blather.

“…conducted a year-long comprehensive strategic planning process. The significant endeavor involved 900 persons from the university’s network of stakeholders in a focused, five-phased planning process. The result, Strategic Plan 2017, was recently approved by the Board of Trustees. The plan is a complete articulation of a new vision for Saint Mary’s as a top-tier, national university…”

     I’m not picking on this institution. All strategic plans go on and on talking about how much time was put into making the plan, which, every single time, uses a ton of words to say “we’ll try to do the best we can with what we got.” Literally, millions of dollars’ worth of administrative time is poured into these things. Just how focused can a five-phased process involving 900 people going years into the future be? That is more people than Congress, the Senate, and Executive branch combined, and nobody accuses the US government of being particularly focused. It’s like they don’t even read their own words. I feel the need to quote from one phase:

“…Create a vibrant campus and transformational residential life experience at the College.”

--it took nearly a thousand people a year of work to decide this is worth having? Flip the meaning of this statement. Were there many proponents of a plan to make the campus dull and campus life completely pointless? Every phase is filled with statements whose goofiness becomes obvious once you flip their meaning. Do note that the plan doesn’t, you know, indicate how to actually achieve the goal, merely that a vibrant campus, for example, is something to want.

      These massive, weighty, documents are awesome bureaucratic constructs. They’re also a big part of the resume of the Poo-Bah. When he leaves and goes to another campus he shows off how amazing he is at formulating a strategic plan.

Admin announcement:      “We’re moving to a new campus.”

--Despite the years of effort going into grandiose plans, the campus of the small school ended up being moved to a totally new site…with a grim boiler room for faculty cubicles, bland classrooms, and an architectural ambiance that is best described as “yellow outlet mall.” There was never the slightest chance of anything in that perpetual strategic plan being used, and everyone who worked on it over a decade knew it. Before the move, our Poo-Bah retired…wanna guess the first and second things the new Poo-Bah did?

    When the old Poo-Bah leaves, a new Poo-Bah is selected. Guess what? The new Poo-Bah needs to put together a new strategic plan—if he uses the old, he’ll having nothing for his resume for when he moves on up. So, the old strategic plan goes into the shredder, and legions of new committees are formed to give input on the new, completely irrelevant, strategic plan.

“Today, however, virtually every college and university in the nation has an elaborate strategic plan. Indeed, whenever a college hires a new president, his or her first priority is usually the crafting of a new strategic plan. As in Orwell's 1984, all mention of the previous administration's plan, which probably had been introduced with great fanfare only a few years earlier, is instantly erased from all college publications and Web sites….”

--I thought what I’d seen with my own eyes was a fluke, but it turns out it’s quite common. It takes a few years to craft a plan…and most Poo-Bahs only last a few years, creating an endless pointless cycle of shred/craft/shred/craft.

      As I’ve written many times before, administrators in higher education get paid enormous sums. I’ve shown that administrators in higher education seldom have any qualifications to run an institution of higher education. To justify their pay, and their jobs, they engage in many make-work programs, the most glaring of which is the strategic plan. I guess I should be grateful that Vision for Excellence strategic planning is a pure waste of time since so much of other administrative work seems to be focused on destroying any scrap of integrity in higher education.

     But seriously, it’s very clear that we have far too many administrators with far too much time on their hands, and this is quite possibly the greatest factor in the rising costs of tuition. For, literally, centuries, institutions of higher education managed to do just fine without strategic plans, but now every institution is perpetually constructing them.

…In 2006, the chancellor of Southern Illinois University's Carbondale campus was forced to resign after it was discovered that much of its new strategic plan, "Southern at 150," had been copied from Texas A&M University's strategic plan,"Vision 2020." The chancellor had previously served as vice chancellor at Texas A&M,…"

--not only are plans generally irrelevant, they can easily be plagiarized (I’m astonished some wonk actually read both plans and could remember the crap well enough to see it was cut-and-pasted). I saw such things when I brought an institution through accreditation, but thought little of it and saw no reason to protest the plagiarism (sometimes years-old official documents have names of other institutions on them, “somehow”).  It’s just gibberish anyway.

     When students choose schools, they often do so based on tuition. Wouldn’t it be nice if they got a breakdown of how much of tuition goes to administration? Even better, a breakdown of how much of tuition money goes into education? For many institutions, I suspect the true amount would be well under 10%.

     Think about it.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Flush The Administration, Part 3

By Professor Doom

Admin:     “Congratulations to our new dean. It was a long process, but worth it to find such a leader!”

--Many administrative positions are chosen after months of faux interviews. Time and again I’ve seen those appointments ultimately go to close personal friends of administration already on campus, often over serious objections from faculty. Despite the long interview process, often these new administrators have totally bogus degrees (as opposed to the basically bogus administration degree).

     A few post back I proposed a serious change to higher education, again just a reversion to the system of education that made higher education in the US respectable: administrators are chosen from faculty, for short appointments, to return to faculty afterwards. I want to talk more of this.  
     After he’s served his time as dean or whatever, the faculty member will in turn be available to train his replacement while he returns to honest work educating or researching. Over a decade or two, campuses will be filled with faculty with the knowledge to do most basic administrative functions, functions which truly do not require Ph.D.-level understanding, since they have nothing to do with teaching or research. Faculty performing administrative work and then returning to faculty positions used to be common in the past, and it needs to be common again.

     There are some limits to how far this can go, but the organizational structure of any campus should have many, if not most, administrators coming from, and returning to, faculty positions. Only administrative positions with specialized skills that absolutely cannot be filled by faculty (eg, accounting or legal) would not have this turnover—but these are positions that have no real impact on the primary purposes of institutions, education and research. A faculty member that wants to devote his life to administration might be able to do so, but only at the tolerance of the other faculty repeatedly renewing the administrative part of the contract; the would-be administrator will be under constant pressure to do a good job to keep his position if he wants it. This is a vastly better deal than today, where administrators, no matter how bungling, can only either keep their positions or move further up the ladder.

    This pressure will also keep administrative salaries from skyrocketing, as there will always be many candidates suitable for the position, right on campus. Short contracts would help institutions avoid repeating the mistake of letting these mercenaries take over the system again. This would vastly reduce administrative abuses and bring integrity back into the system.

     Certainly, there will be some faculty that will take advantage of these administrative positions, doing a terrible job in their year of servitude in exchange for extra money. Bad administrators are already a problem as it is, and can do great harm in their years of unstoppable power (check my long series on administrative corruption for more on this). In a system of rotating administrators, all that would happen is the bad administrator would be gone in a year or two, and paid much less than before. This is vastly superior to the current situation, and the eventual return to a faculty position will provide a check on power and abuse that is nonexistent now.

     Make many administrative positions short-term positions filled by faculty at the institution and have them return to a faculty position afterwards. This will prevent administrative undermining of education, and allow the administration to do something they haven’t done in a long while: act with integrity.

     A question arises: what of administrators with those expensive doctoral degrees in “administrative leadership of institutional advancement integrity utilization”? You probably think I’m kidding about such degrees.

“Educational Leadership and Management, Curriculum and Instruction, Instructional Design for Online Learning, Leadership for Higher Education, Leadership in Educational Administration, Post Secondary and Adult Education, Professional Studies in Education, Training and Performance Improvement, General Public Administration…”

--Sampling of doctoral administrative degrees, just at one accredited institution (one I’ve seen with my own eyes doesn’t ask much for that doctorate). Wouldn’t you rather someone with a doctoral degree in Physics set up the curriculum and instruction for Physics, rather than someone with a doctoral degree in Curriculum and Instruction? In what field would you NOT trust an expert in the field to do something like that?

     I’m hard pressed to have much sympathy for these folk. They suckered in so many students for bogus degrees, burying them in debt, that it really seems like some sort of justice that their own resources spent on education were also a waste.

      With top administrators no longer owning complete control over educators’ very existence, the administrators won’t be able to threaten and browbeat faculty into supporting the numbers of students needed to cover administrative pay. There will be little choice but for administrators to cut back on administrative and support positions, hopefully bringing it back to levels before the administrative takeover of higher education, back to when a college degree was distinctly worth more than a high school diploma.

      Again, this is an “easier said than done” fix. Administrative strangleholds on hiring have made spinelessness and sycophancy common traits among faculty, making this change tough to implement via a country-wide strike. I’m not the first to call for such a mass protest, but due to the corruption of graduate education flooding the market with pseudo-graduate (i.e., joker-education) degrees, scabs would quickly come in to replace those few with the integrity to try to save higher education.

     It’s not hopeless, and allow me to present a parallel.

--Michael Phelps has won this many gold medals at the Olympics, a face-stomping record, above all others. He’s made millions in endorsement and promotional deals from it. As an added bonus, there’s good evidence that he’s very comfortable using marijuana. The government’s claim of “it’s bad for you, so it must be illegal” sounds a little shrill when an athlete of such titanic stature can use it with obviously minimal drawbacks. The idiocy of the drug war is for another essay, if not another blog.

    Recall that, for years, participants in the Olympics were forced to not be professionals in their field of expertise. The greatest athletes of humanity were forced to live in poverty, little more than slaves dependent upon handouts. Then the rules changed so that athletes were allowed to use their athleticism to support themselves (shocker!). 

     Why the change?

     At long last, Olympic rules were changed to that athletes were given some influence, just 20% on each governing board, over how the games were run. The very first thing athletes asked was permission (!) to be allowed to make money as an athlete, and people of integrity granted it. That was over a decade ago, enough time for any negative effects of the change to show up. Have the Olympics become utterly meaningless because of this change? Of course not, and now our best athletes no longer live as beggars.

      The greatest sign of faculty’s lack of control over education is that the majority now work as minimally paid adjuncts, qualifying for welfare even as vast sums flow into higher education. It’s little different than those starving Olympic athletes of many years ago.

      As faculty, I’m asking permission for higher education to have foundations based upon integrity again. If just a few people of integrity can change the Olympics, why not higher education? It’s not as hopeless as it seems.

     Think about it.