Monday, October 3, 2016

Poo Bah Arrogance Exposed Again

By Professor Doom

     As I’ve pointed out so many times before, the administrative caste on campus is an expensive irrelevancy.  Even a campus with but a dozen faculty (making $35k a year) might sport two dozen or so administrators, each getting $100k a year, and I’ve highlighted more than enough Poo Bahs whose “compensation” for ruling over a campus of a few thousand students nevertheless has them raking in a million bucks or so a year.

       The people are starting to catch on, starting to realize that the reason tuition is so high has nothing to do with the cost of education, but instead has to do with the cost of supporting an incredibly bloated administrative caste.

     Administrators have been caught in their own trap with the solution of “growth leads to economy of scale.” Time and again I’ve seen my class sizes grow, and I scarcely have a semester where I don’t have more students registered for at least one of my classes than proper desks for them to occupy. “Economy of scale!” shouts the deanling before she goes off to Hawaii for another leadership retreat, “You can test 30 40 50 60 students as easily as 20, so no need to pay you more!” At the end of the year, the deanling gets a big bonus for growing the school while keeping costs down, and also gets to hire a sub-deanling to help her do her job.

     Meanwhile, I just scale back the work and put less on the tests. Most other faculty compensate by making all their lectures PowerPoint and all the tests multiple choice, for easy Scantron grading…I’m getting close to that point, myself. It’s one thing to spend an afternoon hand grading papers for an oversize class…but when you have five super-sized classes, something has got to give.

      Anyway, the “economy of scale” argument is starting to be turned on the administrators. After all, if the number of faculty haven’t changed, it does seem silly that we need twice three times four times as many bosses to watch their every move.

The Vermont State Colleges’ move to fold two of the state’s northern colleges into one institution reflects increasing interest in mergers throughout higher education,

     Now, I’ve been part of an institutional merger before, and saw the taxpayers get screwed. I saw the teaching positions cut: “Why offer the same class on both campuses when we can double the size and just have the class on one campus?”  

     On the other hand, every administrative face stayed around. No faculty dares speak out against this distinctly unfair situation, of course.

     So, Vermont doesn’t want to call it a merger, but does want to merge the administrative positions. Good for them. The pushback against this is funny to watch.

Faculty members at the affected institutions worry about their campuses’ identities.

     Faculty are worried? No way. This concern is garbage. Most faculty are adjuncts that wander from campus to campus just scraping by…they don’t care about “campus identity,” whatever that is.

In Vermont, [Poo Bah] Spaulding has avoided calling the proposed consolidation between Johnson State and Lyndon State a merger. He’s instead labeling it a unification that would have the campuses keep the Johnson and Lyndon names. Current Johnson State President Elaine Collins would become president of the combined institution. The unified institution would have a new overall name, which has yet to be determined.

     Gee, you’re worried about identity, but you’ll annihilate the name of both campuses. Why not do the obvious thing? Holy crap, one college is “Johnson State” and the other is “Lyndon State.” And these guys can’t come up with merging the name with something clever like, uh, “Lyndon Johnson State”? 

      Seriously, these guys get paid hundreds of thousands a year and struggle to see the obvious. Ok, that name has been taken, so go with “Lyndon-Johnson.” This isn’t rocket science.

      I trust many of my gentle readers went to college. Was the name of the college a deciding factor? Of course not, and that’s what our Poo Bahs worry about…education just isn’t a factor, and they emphasize that point time and again.

      The things Poo Bahs worry about are just stunning to an educator:

Also yet to be determined is where the president’s office would be located, according to Spaulding. The president only regularly appearing on one campus would not be acceptable, he said.

     Again, I find myself wondering if this guy is serious. For my undergraduate, Master’s, or even going for a Ph.D. degree, I only saw the Poo Bah of my school one time: at graduation. At best…I honestly can’t recall ever seeing one, but even at graduation the Poo Bah means nothing to a student. 

     In decades of working in higher ed, I’ve seen the Poo Bah outside of graduation eleven times, if memory serves, making appearances at a new building going up, to give a pep talk in response to a school shooting, and at nine “beginning of the year” meetings to tell us bureaucratic irrelevancies.

      Does even a single one of my readers recall anything about the Poo Bah at his school? The Poo Bah has absolutely nothing to do with education…we already have studies that show getting rid of the Poo Bah is the best way to lower student debt.

     Higher education really is supposed to be about education, and not about how many personal appearances some pompous Poo Bah makes on campus. The students don’t care, the faculty don’t care. Only the Poo Bah cares about this issue.

      Hmm, two campuses and one Poo Bah. How hard would it be for him to put in appearances at both?

“…two small institutions separated by roughly 43 miles of state highway…”

     The arrogance to say it is not acceptable for the Poo Bah to only appear on one campus is…astounding. We’re talking an hour and a half of highway driving here, round trip, in a lightly populated region. How many of my readers spend that much time commuting, every day? He could drive like us serfs do, no problem. I guess having him live, even a little, like the peasants who fill his campuses is unacceptable, too.

      Vermont has almost figured out what to do here. They’re decided that it’s stupid to have two Poo Bahs for these two campuses. Hey, Vermont? It’s also stupid to have even one Poo Bah, because having someone with an incredible ego really isn’t that important to a campus. 

     Vermont, will you please try going without a Poo Bah here for a couple of years?

      The comments section as always points out what a joke administrators are, but one bears mentioning:

I'm a faculty member at Lyndon, and I learned more from this article than from the system leadership about the merger. Much of what is disclosed in this article is news to me. It is disgusting how poor communication has been. The chancellor sent us the press release the day it was released to the public.

     One of the weird things about being faculty is how administrators seldom tell us what’s going on (assuming they even deign to tell us the truth). Again, this is because faculty are powerless in education now, and live in fear—the poster of the above message made his complaint anonymously. 

     Of course it was anonymous. I assure the gentle reader, no administrator worries about the culture of fear in higher education being so strong that faculty know to make all their complaints anonymous. Instead, they worry about the name of the institution, and having to drive an hour and half a day.

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