Monday, January 12, 2015

Admin to Faculty: More Work, No Future…Great Deal!

By Professor Doom

     So, last time I looked at ASU’s plan for the suckers they talked into higher education: sacrifice their future for the opportunity to do more work for the same pay.

      It’s good to look at the comments section of these kinds of pieces, to see what real people have to say about administration’s amazing plans. I have to look at comments section, because when I read major media’s take on quite a few news articles, I feel like I’m the only one to see the many obvious things going on (because mainstream media so often doesn’t see the obvious, or so it seems).

I handle quite a few classes for ASU Online (which is part of the Starbucks deal)--we have been told our class limits are increasing to 35 (no additional pay) effective Spring semester. So the university is making more money, and paying us less. They've also halted any promotion opportunities for Lecturers not on a multi-year contract. (P.S.--They stripped our multi-year contracts a few years back due to "budgetary concerns" and have never bothered reinstating them even as the university makes more money and President Crow and his close circle get outrageous wage increases.)

--the “Starbucks” deal is bringing in millions more to ASU, which is still, supposedly, hemorrhaging money. I’m not opposed to the corporatization of higher education, any more than I am opposed to bulldozing over some 90% of the institutions, especially the highly fraudulent community colleges, we have today: corporatization, or bulldozing, cannot possibly do any further harm to our system of higher education.

     One of the neat games higher education plays is the “1 year contract” deal that faculty get.  Pay raises are invariably only given to “employees on multi-year contracts”, which more and more only applies to administration. One institution I was at pulled this dirty trick on me every. Single. Year. It was a real joy watching class size grow and grow while admin made more and more. Even as the institutions grow and grow, faculty workload increases dramatically with no commensurate increase in pay.

     Many of the non-tenured faculty are ASU alumni. Those who have already taken on the higher workload for extra pay have likely had to in order to get out from under their student loan debt (since $30k a year isn't much when you have kids AND $40k in college loan debt to pay off). After the new policy is in place, teachers will be stripped of their ability to get out from under this debt - debt incurred by going to the very institution, and possibly even the very department, that is now enslaving them. Firing just two tenured faculty or deans could be enough to hire the additional 15 English lecturers needed to teach those 60 classes and maintain the status quo. How is it that ASU doesn't have money to pay these teachers (they will have to teach an extra class for free, which is forced labor - a form of slavery), but ASU can offer an extra $95k pay raise to president Crow?

     Getting rid of 2 quarter-million-a-year deans will allow for hiring for 15 more faculty. Hmm. I’m hardly alone in figuring out that if we just thinned out the administrative ranks a bit, higher education wouldn’t need to be so bloody expensive.

What kind of department chair thinks that adding an extra writing course to the schedules of his most vulnerable faculty is an OK thing to do?

--the kind of chair that realizes that if he doesn’t go along with administrative demands, he’ll be fired. Again, is used to be that all administration came from, and returned to, faculty. Now even most department heads are just tools of the administration, holding the post until they retire or move on and up to another institution, and thus will be free from enduring anything like the abuse they inflict.

President Crow received a rather sizeable raise this year. Construction is up on campus; plenty of new buildings. New solar projects. They just put up some kind of monument/marker outside my office this year. The athletic department has amazing facilities, which looked to have been revamped when I toured them during the last year. Administrative positions from what I can tell have also increased over the last couple of years…

     Really, it doesn’t take much to guess where all the money is going in higher education. Trouble is, as soon as the money flows even slightly less freely (and all the fake government numbers can’t disguise the economy is still heading down), the spending must stop somewhere. Administration gets to decide where it will stop, and isn’t about to stop the money going into their own pockets.

     One comment made me laugh:

I'd swear you just described what's going on at my campus in TN.

     Funny thing: I use a pseudonym and don’t indicate where I teach because I know full well what will happen when I’m caught. About every month, however, I get an e-mail saying “Are you at my school, you describe things here so well, I figure you must work here…” I’m actually at a nice place now, but I’ve worked at some sleazy places. Anyway, what’s going on at ASU, UNC, LACC, BRCC, City College, and every other campus I’ve discussed in this blog really is going on throughout higher education. It’s a massive system of plunder that does nobody any good. Ok, I guess administrators come out ok, but someday it’ll be known that these guys are as respectable as pedophiles.

5/5 for $32,000 a year? Try adjuncting (with a Ph.D., mind you) 6/6 for about 66% of that salary. I'd take your deal in a heartbeat.

      The instructors at ASU really are the lucky ones. Most college courses are taught by even more minimally paid, no benefit, adjuncts that would *kill* to be making a lofty salary of $32,000 a year, with benefits.

They actually have shoved a few dozen of the teachers into the oldest, most dilapidated dorm on campus, six to a room, with stained carpets and peeling paint and in some cases holes in the walls. It's an absolute embarrassment. Then again it's representative of how administration feels about the Instructors.

      I seldom talk about this aspect of what’s going on in higher education, but it is important. I’m lucky to have an office now, but I too used to share offices in a building too decrepit to still be used as dorms. On the other hand, the administration gets to do their job in luxurious offices, a single piece of furniture in which is worth far more than all the furniture in my office today. I say this, of course, because I’ve been in administrative offices (after I go through the dean’s secretary, the dean, and the executive secretary…each of whom likewise gets far better accommodations than faculty)…I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

That also doesn't account for the material issue here--that some of the instructors teaching overload are doing it because of the awful pay they receive (starting pay for somebody with a terminal degree is about $32K). An overload for two semesters can get that up to about $38K. And that's with the terminal degree.

--“terminal degree” is what most folk call a Ph.D. In ages past, you really had to do something relevant to get a Ph.D., and they were fairly rare…most college professors just had Master’s. Hmm, wonder why there’s such a huge glut of Ph.D.’s that haven’t done anything notable, available for these jobs?

     Yes, some people teach an “overload”, an extra course a semester, in violation of best practices. Hey, some people are young and energetic, and admin is only too happy to save a buck. But I do want to point out here what’s happening to the instructors: they spent 10 years of their life getting a Ph.D., spending well over $250,000, and might have to pay $10,000 a year or more in interest servicing their student loan…and the best they can manage is $38,000 a year working overtime in a job with absolutely no potential for advancement. There are many, many, jobs paying at least $28,000 that don’t even require a college degree, much less a Ph.D and 8-10 years of training. 

     Throughout the country, administration in higher education is luring in suckers for “higher education”. Administrators tell the suckers that higher education leads to more pay and a bright future, and thus justify monstrous tuition and massive loans, which primarily goes into administrative pockets. Simultaneously, they pay highly educated people practically nothing, and seek to trap them into miserable jobs with no future.

     If you beat the hypocrisy out of these people, would there be anything left? 

     Another comment from someone outside higher education:

When I worked as a retail manger, I would often pick up extra hours at this time of year. It was a fair deal for everybody: they needed the help, and I needed extra money for the holidays. Most of my friends did the same, and we'd joke about having zero fun during the holidays; that additional money came at the expense of our personal life.

Even the silliest company for which I worked did not think of turning around and saying "Ah-HA! This proves you can work more hours for the same salary. MWAHAHAH."

     The above comment probably best highlights the insane lack of basic human characteristics in administrators. I trust many of my gentle readers have worked overtime, for extra pay. Imagine if your boss said “Oh, you CAN work harder, eh? Well, then, there’s no reason to pay for those extra hours!” This really does describe the “deal” faculty get in higher education today, and there’s not a thing to be done about it.

     Accreditation doesn’t involve itself in such things. Tenure has great potential for abuse, but is irrelevant since it doesn’t really exist anymore, not in the way people outside of higher education think it does. Unions, despite being prone to violence, might be a solution, but, again, administration would have to condescend to allow them, and that’s sure not going to happen.

     Accreditation, tenure, and unions can’t fix this. Can anything can, beyond just burning it all down and starting over?


  1. I grew up in academia.

    During the 1950's, professors like my dad went often to military sales and auctions to pick up desks, chairs, vehicles (loved our WWII jeep!) tools, etc. etc. etc.

    No one minded this much due to the fact that everyone was in the same boat! But contrast that with today and the administrators living like royalty while the professors and students get fleeced?

    A looting operation is at work, isn't it?

    I remember Sputnik. My dad looked up at the night sky and said, 'At last, we can get some funding!' Back then, the money supported space research not fancy offices for administrators. Now, the University of Arizona or Stanford University in California or Cal Tech (all places my dad worked) or the University of Chicago spend this money on frivolous, stupid rich stuff for the top elite rulers of academia.

    My father died a rather bitter man, by the way.

    1. Sorry to hear of your father, but he close to the golden era of being a professor. Tenure was relevant, entrance exams existed, your boss was also your co-worker, and loan scammers weren't closing in on half the class...