Thursday, November 12, 2015

Admin to Tenured Faculty: Drop Dead

By Professor Doom

     I’ve covered a few times the adjunctification of higher education, which is the replacement of full time faculty by “temporary workers” with no benefits, minimal pay, and the expectation that these temporary workers will remain as such indefinitely.

     I’ve also covered a few times how much administration really, really, wants to get rid of faculty, and I’m not the only one to notice the marginalization of educators in education. Fortunately, there’s something that’s making it difficult for our “leaders” in higher education to get rid of the few faculty keeping some aspect of higher education not exactly a fraud: tenure.

      Now, tenure is dying, there’s no mistaking that. Administration has taken over hiring and promotion to such an extent that it’s very difficult for faculty to get tenure now unless they swear fealty to admin. Administrators easily award it to themselves however, with former Penn “Sandusky Affair” State President’s $600,000 a year tenure position being a prime example—tenure isn’t close to perfect, it just happens to be helping humanity a little here, and that’s not something our “leaders” in higher education can stand.

    I keep putting “leaders” in quotes, and a case could be made that I’m not being fair by doing so. Our “leaders” In higher education, after all, have given themselves spiffy advanced degrees in Administration, where they study concepts like “leadership” in a supposedly very academic way. I’ve looked at these degrees, even taken these so-called advanced courses, and I certainly have my doubts about their legitimacy. But, why should the gentle reader take my word for how questionable these courses are, or even click the previous link? Why not take as an example how these “leaders” conduct themselves in a negotiation?

     Part of leadership is getting people to do things that you want them to do, and good leadership accomplishes this goal by having people do so willingly, hopefully by convincing them (honestly or not) that doing what you want them to do is in their best interest. Every single person who has studied leadership would know this, and a group of people with advanced degrees in leadership would realize “hey, we’re not going to get people to bend to our will by slapping them in the face repeatedly.” Alas, none of our “leaders” were able to spot obvious negotiation mistakes, despite their spiffy degrees:

      So, it’s time for contract negotiations in the Connecticut State University system, negotiations between administrators and faculty, the latter with the benefit of being unionized (far more so than tenure, unions have great potential for evil, but bear with me on this). How do these fully credentialed “leaders,” start the negotiations?

     By slapping the other side in the face, repeatedly.

      It’s no secret administration wants to get rid of tenure, and, as you can expect, the few faculty with tenure are not about to turn loose of it. If I had to come up with a one word description for admin’s plan for finally getting rid of this source of resistance to their plans to enslave our children with debt, then only one word really fits. That word is “insulting.” Please, consider one part of the plan:

“…tenured faculty members may be moved to another regional university without their consent, without the guarantee of tenure there.”

     The gentle reader may not believe his eyes at the above attempt to circumvent tenure, but, please, read it as often as necessary until satisfied just how little leadership our “leaders” in higher education possess. Why one earth would professors seek tenure, if they could just be forcibly transferred to another university, where they’ll be treated like marked subjects…because they are marked. After a year, these marked professors will be fired without cause, and it will all be perfectly legal.

      I mention the “perfectly legal” part because the tenure contracts are the only thing keeping tenure on campus now. I’ve documented quite a few times where administration was willing to pay the legal fees just to get their way despite contracts or integrity, but, for now, it’s just too expensive to pay the fees that would be associated with violating the tenure contract for all the tenured faculty that remain. At some point, there will be so few tenured faculty that admin will just pay to be rid of the rest of them, I’m sure, but that point is still a few years away at the very least.

     Anyway, perhaps this line was inserted into the lengthy negotiations contract hoping that it wouldn’t be noticed?  It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve seen admin engage in wildly unethical behavior to advance their goals. And, alas, it’s not the only suggestion our “leaders” are making to the educators:

Tenured faculty members could be terminated, not just in cases of financial exigency, as is now the case, but if the administration “believes economic or programmatic conditions exist” for retrenchment.

     There have always been financial exigency clauses in tenure contracts, and I accept that “no money to pay you” is a pretty good reason to get rid of faculty, even if it’s all too clear nowadays the reason there’s no money is because admin is taking it all. But “economic or programmatic conditions” are now good enough for cancelling tenure. What do those two phrases mean?

     “Economic conditions” means admin can get rid of tenured faculty if admin merely think that there’ll be no money in the future. Uh, conflict of interest there? Fired faculty will have no recourse if it turns out the economic conditions weren’t as bad as admin claimed. 

     “Programmatic conditions” means that admin can just close the department, and get rid of faculty that way. I’ve already seen this in other states, where, say, “Computer science” departments were closed down, and faculty terminated because admin says it’s too expensive to hire people with marketable skills there’s just not enough demand for computer skills (so hard for me to say that with a straight face, though administrators sure can). I guess Connecticut is behind the times here.
     Admin could also just close the department, fire the tenured faculty...then re-open the department a week later, offering to re-hire the faculty at a steep pay cut. Again, I've already seen this in other states.

     Just one more example of how our “leaders” negotiate:

“…And tenured faculty members also could be fired without the chance to appeal for breaking any local, state or national law, ethical standard or policy statement…”

     I can accept breaking some laws should allow for termination, but any law? Seriously, faculty can lose tenure for going 2mph over the speed limit? There are so many laws now that every US citizen is in violation of some law. The gentle reader needs to understand just how ruthless administrators are, they will use the wording of the policy in the most twisted way possible to advance their ends (I certainly saw the most demented interpretations of policy at a community college I was at…). It’s all but impossible to be in the United States today and not have violated some law at some point.

      How about violating a policy statement? Already faculty, even tenured faculty, generally make their complaints anonymously, because of the punitive misery admin will inflict on “troublemaking” faculty, as I’ve documented more than once, in this blog. Again, administration makes the policy statements, and will make the determination if a violation has been made, using the campus kangaroo court system. All it would take is for a faculty member to mumble something that might be considered a violation of policy, and he’s gone. 

     “No appeal” is just icing on the crap cake here. “No appeal” doesn’t worry me much, as I’ve seen such moronically stupid (or blatantly intimidated) appeal committees in action that not having an appeal won’t matter much. A smart faculty member will just go directly to the court system.

     So, consider these offers made by our “leaders” in higher education, made by “leaders” that have studied how to lead, how to negotiate, or, as I claim, have basically awarded themselves degrees in how to lead, how to negotiate. Consider if these offers are anything but an insult.

      Why did admin go through the trouble of being even a little subtle here? Administration should have just been honest (har, I know), and asked all the tenured faculty in Connecticut to drop dead. The chances of tenured faculty gladly dropping dead are about as likely as the above proposals being accepted, after all.

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