Monday, December 28, 2015

U of Texas System: Make Women/Minorities Finalists for Admin

By Professor Doom

     I really feel the need to emphasize that the lunacy in my previous post is not so unusual on campus now, this sort of madness is common on many campuses, not just the ones that make headline news.

     Racism and gender bias run rampant in our higher education system, but you’ll never get that from the news. Every institution I’ve ever worked at has made it very clear that females and minorities (well, certain minorities) must get preferential treatment at all times, especially when it comes to hiring.

Admin: “How did you end up hiring a male faculty member in mathematics? We were under the impression you interviewed four women candidates, and one male. Why was a male even interviewed?”

Faculty: “We had over 400 applications. We called in every female applicant, all four of them. As per policy, had no choice but to have five interviewees, so we had to invite a male even though we thought we’d be wasting his time.”

Admin: “Why didn’t you offer the positions to any of the females? We’ve made it clear we need more female math faculty.”

Faculty: ”Of course, we offered the position to all female candidates in turn. Every single one was offered a position elsewhere. So we had no choice but to hire the only male candidate we interviewed.”

Admin: “What do you recommend we do to make your department more attractive to women?”

Faculty: “Offer more money. In our followups, the candidates that rejected the position indicated that they were getting a bigger “female candidate” signing bonus than we were offering.”

Admin: “Fine. We’ll budget more for this next time around.”

---Dozens of faculty got to hear this exchange, not a one spoke up about how this hiring policy violated our collegiate mission statement about hiring “without regard to race, gender, or” anything else. Anyone looking to have a career in academia today, especially in STEM, should seriously consider self-identifying as female (and minority!) because it absolutely moves you to the head of the line for interviews.

     I’ve given much personal testimony about how bigoted our institutions of higher education are now, and it’s particularly vile when it comes to hiring. As always, I completely understand if the reader chooses to ignore my (or any other) personal testimony…there’s a lot of crap online (especially if you go to or

      So, why take my word for it? Our institutions are so brazen now that they honestly don’t care about their own bigotry. What used to be done with a wink and a nod, or behind closed doors, is now officially out in the open:

     Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve nothing against the myriad of subgroups that comprise humanity, but forcing a person to be a finalist, based strictly on skin color or gender, strikes me as extraordinarily biased…and it’s a bias we really can’t afford, as doing this could easily force far more qualified candidates out. It’s already trivial for me to find extraordinary incompetence at the administrative level, I don’t believe we can afford to make our administrators even worse than they already are. Again, my personal testimony of incompetent administrators I’ve dealt with is irrelevant in the face of so much of it documented in this blog.

---from the UT website, the same UT that’s forcing discrimination on finalists for positions based on skin color or genitals, not that admin cares about such things.

     It really is remarkable that nobody at UT has the courage now to stand up and shout how wrong this policy is. I grant that all I’m doing is cowering in the back and mumbling, but I’m not at UT…but how is making interviews based on skin color not discrimination?

     [The Poo Bah] added, "While this will not guarantee women or minority hires -- nor should it if a candidate is not qualified -- it will put more women and minorities in a position for the selection committee to recognize the great talents that may have heretofore gone unnoticed."

     No, it doesn’t mandate hiring, but anyone on those hiring committees will get the message and will know full well that if they hire the non-preferred gender/minority candidate, the committee will have to defend their decision much more vigorously than if they go with what the Poo Bah wants.

Faculty: “Since we didn’t hire the female applicant, we have to submit a written justification for not hiring her…”

--from 1988 or so. Honest, this sort of thing has been around a while, but now it’s being written into policy.

     Please understand, this bias, while politically popular, is unwarranted:

“UT officials said in fall 2013, women held 45 percent of dean, provost and vice presidential positions,”

--seeing as 50% is about as fair as it can get, 45% isn’t far enough off that we need to violate principles to “make things right.”

     This outrageous policy is extremely insulting to women and minorities (seriously, how would you feel if you became a finalist for a job because of your genitals? Outside of pornography, of course). Injury to the insult is added when you’re hired, and forced to swear to fight discrimination, as per policy.

      The new rule only applies to administration, but you can bet this will spill over into faculty hiring as well (truth be told, it already applies, just not officially):

While the rule will apply only to searches for administrators, [The Poo Bah] also called for substantial new efforts to recruit minority faculty members.

     Again, getting hired based on the color of your skin is flat out discrimination. How is this not obvious? I know if, based on skin color, we start firing people in certain minority dominated departments (hi, African Studies!), campuses would shut down from all the agonized shrieking about the unfairness.

      It doesn’t bother me that African Studies departments are heavily weighted to minorities…I find it conceivable that people from Africa would know more about Africa, and thus could likely be better qualified candidates. Why can’t rational understanding about why some fields are dominated by certain groups, be met with rational understanding about why some fields have an under-representation?

      Mercifully, I’m not alone in finding this policy ridiculous:

     Unfortunately, the people making such complaints are outside the system—of course they are, everyone inside the system is vulnerable to the vicious reprisals administration is famous for. There appears to be no way to fix it from inside the system, alas.


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Can Higher Ed Fail Completely? It Seems So…

By Professor Doom

     A few posts back, I praised Oberlin College for standing up to black student demands to be automatically passed in all their courses. Other institutions were given similar demands, and caved, but Oberlin had a spine.

      So many times I’ve seen lone faculty with integrity, the very few with spines, stand up for integrity, only to be destroyed, and now I could very well see the parallel in higher education.

      I honestly thought administration at Oberlin, by being adults and telling students “we’re here to help you get an education, not to rubber stamp whatever you want to call effort” would honestly put an end to the silliness, that students upon (finally) having higher education administration act with integrity, would get back to work.

     I was wrong. 

     I struggled with a title for this essay, as nothing really captures the student response to admin not treating them like pampered customers and telling the students to take responsibility for their own actions. Instead of heading towards adulthood, the students doubled down on their foolish behavior.

       The students submitted a massive list of demands. While the list of demands (at this time) has nigh 90,000 views, I don’t encourage the gentle reader to click and read. Allow, instead, for me to highlight and discuss the implications of this list.
As you will see these are not polite requests, but concrete and unmalleable demands.

     As much as I grieve for what’s happening in higher education, I take some small pleasure in the students’ lack of respect for administrators. Time and again I’ve seen administration treat faculty in deeply non-collegial, disrespectful ways, and faculty could do nothing about it but lower eyes and back away meekly. The students are starting to pick up on this, and, honest, children do learn by example, and see no reason to treat with respect an administration that doesn’t treat others with respect.

We DEMAND a 4% annual increase in Black student enrollment from EACH of the Americas, the Caribbean and continent of Africa starting in 2016 to accumulate to a 40% increase by 2022.

     And again we’re seeing what goes around comes around. Admin has totally supported race/gender politics at campuses throughout the country, and the students have noticed: actual accomplishment is irrelevant, advancement is now about race and gender. Curiously, it looks like the students are a little off on their compound interest calculation (assuming that’s what they’re doing here), as 4% increase compounded over 7 years is only a 36% increase.

     Whatever, the point is still: the students are asking to adjust the population based not on content of academic character, but strictly by skin color. The student had to specify “Black” because otherwise Oberlin could admit many Afrikaners, and those are quite white, albeit from Africa. 

We DEMAND the creation of a department that focuses on languages of the Africana peoples to include a minimum of one language each from the African continent, Caribbean, and the Americas:

 ● The continent of Africa: Kiswahili, Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa/Fulani, Mende, Xhosa, Zulu, Shona, Ndebele, Lingala etc
 ● The Americas: Black English, Creole, Gullah Dialect etc
 ● The Caribbean: Haitian Creole, Jamaican Patois, etc.

---one of the more ridiculous demands, and that’s a high bar. I’m not denigrating these languages, mind you, but the feasibility of finding a specialist in Jamaican Patois, for example, much less filling classes on that “language” on a regular basis, is simply nonexistent.

     The document also demands that many key administrative positions be held by Black administrators. I wonder if they’ll accept people that simply self-identify as black? I hear that’s sufficient to advance far in the NAACP…at least until they find out you’re genetically white, regardless of self-identification (note: the document doesn't make it clear if "Black" and "black" are necessarily the same thing). Why is self-identifying a gender regardless of genetics acceptable to the point of being “heroic,” but not race? I guess that’s a question for a different blog.

     There are similar demands that students should influence who becomes music faculty…I know, it’s a cliché, but I’m not sure young people should get to immediately determine validity of music, at an academic level. Let the young people study and learn and demonstrate that they understand…oh wait, that’s the successful way higher education was run before the administrative takeover where most everything academic is now decided more by whimsy and identity politics than by tradition and common sense.

     Again, it really seems like the students have a surprisingly subtle understanding of what’s happened to education.

     Hmm, I should mention that part of me wonders if this is a hoax. If it is, it’s a darn good one, and I sure don’t see students at Oberlin disavowing this document. Some have picked apart a few grammatical errors, but this is a 15 page document, obviously hastily prepared…a few errors mean nothing.

We DEMAND an online database that outlines the deadline, dates, and forms critical for the successful academic journey of Black students.

      While many demands are outright ridiculous, why doesn’t such a database already exist? So many of my students have been forced to stay on campus a year or more longer than they needed to, not because of any lack of talent, but because the exact forms and such that needed to be completed were never explained to them.

     For the readers new to my blog, allow me to quickly explain why administration has no problem opening up $100,000 administrative positions and granting themselves huge pay raises, but haven’t spent the few thousand dollars necessary to provide a nice online walkthrough on how to graduate, at Oberlin and at many other campuses: administration is focused entirely on growth, and many administrators receive bonuses the more students they trap on campus.

     If this isn’t a hoax, I bet these students are getting some good advice from someone on the inside, because very few students understand how the “retention is everything” game is played.

     Who could the insider be?

We DEMAND the allocation of resources geared towards shifting the institutional climate so that Black faculty, administration and staff can thrive and not have to engage in the invisible labor that we know is an important part of their work.

     This reference to “invisible labor” really points to the insider being a faculty member. Most people think that faculty primarily stand in front of a class for 2 hours a week, and then go home, but there really is much more (often unpaid) labor in a faculty job than that…I’ve avoided such discussion because, hey, bigger fish to fry. But I doubt 1 student in 100 thinks faculty do much more than teach, when the reality is teaching duties constitute a minority of responsibility for many faculty.

     The students specifically list faculty that should be granted tenure immediately, or put on the tenure track…if I was being extremely suspicious, I’d look carefully at the names on that list to identify the insider. I also note that no particular student name is attached to this list of demands…again, faculty know full well what happens when administration knows your name and, well, it’s not good.

     The demands go on interminably. There’s even a list of specific administrators to fire, including the Vice President of Strategic Initiatives, Director of Student Health and Counseling Services, Accounts Payable Supervisor, among others. Considering Oberlin has under 3,000 students and yet still merits people with such titles, the gentle should use these titles to understand how incredibly bloated our administrative caste is at this and other institutions.

     Ok, it’s time for administration to prove their previous actions were not simply a fluke, and that they understand how integrity works. Even though some of these demands are quite reasonable, so many are ridiculous to the point of laughable extortion, that this is the only proper response the President should give:

“Obviously, we at Oberlin have failed, and failed completely in our mission of education. Continuing to function as a school would not be acting with integrity, and so we are closing down immediately, as our final act to help our students.”

     Of course, that’s not the response administration gave. Instead, they’re going to have a meeting in early January.
      Maybe then they’ll announce they’re closing down the school? I don’t recommend the gentle reader hold his breath. To judge by the administrative response so far, no breath-holding at all, please:

     So it’s nigh Christmas, and I find myself playing the role of Grinch. I’m taking back the praise I gave to Oberlin earlier…and will hold it until I know exactly how Oberlin will respond to these often hysterical demands.

     I strongly suspect the student demands will be mostly met. Suppose they are. Knowing that a degree from Oberlin will merely assert one’s skin color is black, does the gentle reader suppose such a degree will be worth anything at all?


Monday, December 21, 2015

Professor Fired Over Loyalty Oath

By Professor Doom

     The terrorist attack in Paris brought a strange memory back to me. Yes, there were similarities between the Paris attack and the 9-11 attack, but it wasn’t a sense of déjà vu, although plenty of that was justified. There was just something…familiar. No, it wasn’t the weird suicidal assault on a pointless target (commercial buildings, restaurant-goers) when high value targets were nearby  (there were many better targets than those buildings, and the President of France was vulnerable and five minutes from the shooting, guess the terrorists didn’t want to go after a political leader?). No, it wasn’t the conveniently found “dropped” passport quickly identifying the culprits (maybe these guys should start investing in fanny packs or something?). And no, it wasn’t the quick and convenient claiming of responsibility by the group involved, allowing for a quick plunge into war for France without any investigation. Much like back then, I annoy people when I ask questions about how neatly this is all done…but people are too angry right now to consider more thoughtful responses (again, déjà vu…).

      But it wasn’t this familiar script that brought back a memory. No, what I thought back upon was the loyalty oath I suddenly had to swear to the state, in response to the 9-11 attack. Most faculty shrugged and swore the oath, and I did the same. It struck me as silly—does anyone think, in this day and age where horrific crimes are committed every day by the people that rule us, that a signed slip of paper swearing perpetual loyalty to state masters is really going to matter? I found it quaintly medieval, and I had other battles to fight.

      Anyway, loyalty oaths are back in vogue. A beaten-down faculty generally don’t resist such silliness, but sometimes some faculty can afford integrity:

     The novelist is an adjunct, the "temporary worker" that is now quite common in higher education, and has been one for 14 years at a community college in Arizona. It seems I’ll never run short of community college stupidity, and I admit this is hardly the worst I’ve seen….but it’s just one more straw on the back of our incredibly incompetent higher education system. If loyalty oaths were so important, why did the college wait 14 years to enforce it?

     The college is hiding behind accreditation as an excuse:

Officials at the college told the station that it had no choice under state law but to require Sallis to sign. The officials said that, in preparation for an accreditation review, the college reached out to 800 adjunct instructors -- Sallis among them -- and found that some of them had never signed the loyalty oath, and that they have been told they must do so to keep their jobs.

     Ah, admin sure does like to obfuscate. The college in question is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. It’s simple enough search their policies and see there’s nothing about loyalty oaths there. Maybe it’s a state law thing…but why not fire the administrators who were in violation of state law for 14 years? These guys are paid a fortune, after all. As always, I think some questions need to be asked here, even over something so piffling as loyalty oaths. If the adjunct can be fired over these “important” things, why not the administration who failed to keep proper paperwork for 14 years? Oh yeah, that’s right, community colleges violate so many other laws regularly this is hardly worth mentioning.

     But he goes on to say that the issue is a serious one. "Signing an oath under such circumstances isn’t an expression of loyalty, however. It’s blackmail."

     Indeed, “sign this oath or be fired” is hardly a way to win loyalty, especially for adjuncts, who, like most community college faculty, can expect nothing but a kick in the teeth if they try to act with integrity.

     And so the school loses a teacher with 14 years of experience, a successful novelist who knows more about real writing than faculty at many prestigious institutions. 

      As always, the question comes up: why would you expect a quality education from an institution which treats the teachers like this? If administration at community colleges can force the teachers to engage in this empty gesture, if administration is more concerned about useless and meaningless forms than quality teachers, why would you suspect the education will have any substance there?