Monday, October 12, 2015

Professor Suspended 9 Months For “Sighing.”

By Professor Doom

"It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself--anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face...; was itself a punishable offense” ~ George Orwell, 1984, 60th Anniversary Edition, Plume (Paperback), 1 April 1983, page 55.

--Orwell picked 1984 for the title of his book by switching the years the book was published, 1948. Thus, he can be forgiven for not getting the year right, especially with so much other accuracy in his book.

     Time and again I’ve written of the immense abuses of faculty by an out of control administrative caste, and a few times I’ve written of how Orwellian the higher education system is becoming, with its emphasis on slogans over substance, commissars over competence.

      Allow me to share another story of what working in higher education today is like. Yes, the professor eventually received a pardon for his crimes…but by no means should the gentle reader believe this story to have a happy ending:

A professor was suspended from a top university for nine months following accusations he “sighed” and was sarcastic during job interviews.
     Yes, the professor received a 9 month suspension. Now, please, understand that this suspension didn’t come from a random lottery or something. Administrators put together a committee, whispered behind the professor’s back, and whispered with enough force to blast him off campus. This is standard issue kangaroo campus court behavior, behavior I’ve regrettably been a part of and victimized by.

     So allow me to address the charges of “sighing” and “being sarcastic during a job interview.” First, by way of apology, the sigh:

Me: “The policy says you can’t use the documentation twice. You can do it one time, and that’s it. This is a policy violation.”
Admin: “Just because we’re using it more than once, doesn’t mean we’re using it twice.”
Me: “Sigh.”
--Actually, I didn’t sigh at the end, I simply looked at the chucklehead admin hoping for sanity to prevail. It didn’t.

     Administration is an untouchable caste on campus today…they literally can do no wrong. A Poo Bah can engage in truly atrocious behavior, and be rewarded for it (examples from my blog vary from covering up sexual assaults and widespread academic fraud, to building a restaurant that loses $500,000 a year for the campus just for personal amusement…and all are rewarded). Reasoning with administration is extremely frustrating, and, frankly, yeah, I can totally see a professor sighing in frustration.

      A 9 month suspension for this?

      Job interviews, likewise, can be very challenging as faculty.

Me: “The hiring committee agreed that the candidate who lost his temper during the interview would be the worst possible choice amongst all candidates we looked at. How did he get hired?”

Admin: “All the other candidates received other offers and turned us down.”
--in the following months, I heard from 3 of those other candidates we called in for interviews; they all said they received no offer, or even an indication that the position was filled. After numerous shouting matches leading to termination of the angry guy, we had to fill the position again; admin wasn’t even embarrassed to make us interview those same candidates…before hiring yet another applicant against uniform faculty protest.

     On many campuses, administration has taken over hiring of faculty. Rather than have experts in the field decide who they want to work with, or have experts decide who can join the department’s shared goal of quality work, administration would much rather choose for themselves who can teach at the institution—by doing so, it becomes much easier to destroy the prestige of the institution, by hiring spineless sycophants that only wish to please admin, rather than do honest work.

     Not all institutions now engage in questionable hiring practices, but many do, and perhaps I’ll go over it in some detail later. Nevertheless, these institutions still have fake hiring committees, because doing so makes it look like faculty have some control in higher education.

      Many faculty now realize that serving on a hiring committee is a waste of time, and yet another exercise in frustration in higher education. Maybe he was sarcastic to a job applicant. The proper response to this would be not to put him on bogus hiring committees (it’d be too much to ask admin to have legitimate hiring committees). On the other hand, a 9 month suspension seems a bit of an overreaction.

“During the suspension, the English and Comparative Literature professor was banned from the campus and writing references for students without permission…”

     Isn’t that amazing, kicked off campus, and can’t even write letters for students? Administration is pretty callous here, punishing not just the faculty member for sighing, but punishing his students, too. Perhaps I should have included a line from 1984 about how not just alleged criminals were punished by the state, but people close to them, too.

     Of course, we all know that sighing and sarcasm aren’t the real reasons for admin’s petty actions here, the problem was the faculty member hit a little too close to home with an observation:

Professor Docherty is a prominent critic of the marketization of education who has described the Russell Group - of which the University of Warwick is a member – as "a self-declared elite…”

     Wow, talk about nailing admin right between their beady, beady, eyes. Administrators really do consider themselves titans of industry, which is why they award themselves ridiculously excessive titles, ridiculously excessive pay, and ridiculously excessive perks.

      All these things are justified because administrators honestly believe that it’s their “hard work” and “leadership” that’s brought so many students to campus.

      The simple fact is, admin has nothing to do with why so many people are going to college today. There are two good reasons why darn near any school that opens up will attract throngs of students. First, despite what our government keeps telling us, the economic situation isn’t rosy, and people go back to school when the economy heads south. Second and far more importantly, various student loan and grant programs have made it trivial for anyone willing to play with the forms to get money just by signing up for college.

       You literally can get a check just for showing up on campus. And admin consider themselves elite and actually take credit for people showing up to get free money.

      But, any faculty daring to suggest these puffed up, overpaid, pompous, untouchable suits might not really be worthy of the wealth and accolades they deluge upon themselves should expect punishment in short order.

       After 9 months of suspension while the “charges” were being considered, the professor was given a small break:

Yesterday it emerged the academic - whose suspension was lifted last month - is set to be cleared of all allegations against him.

     So, yes, after 9 months of purgatory, the professor is freed once again. This may sound good, but the gentle reader needs to understand where administration stands today: if they don’t like you, they can you kick off campus for at least 9 months, on even the most trivial of charges. Even if those charges are trivial, and false, you still can be suspended for a long time. Seriously, 9 months for an accusation of sighing! The administrators involved in this outrage won’t be punished, and the professor won’t receive compensation for the wrongs against him.

      Imagine the chilling effect this has on campus, as professors realize just how much power administration holds over them. Now realize that this is the situation on many campuses today: beetle-browed faculty members scuttling from class to class, keeping their heads down to avoid the wrath of admin, wary of committing the facecrime Orwell predicted would one day exist.

     How long until applicants for faculty positions are asked “Do you love Big Brother?” We’re getting close, folks.

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