Golden Pillow: Trauma of Returning to Teaching

UPDATE: Chuck points out this take on the situation – my favorite passage:

“Could I have done it without a research leave?” [Chancellor] Moeser said. “Sure. But I would not have been approaching the fall with the same excitement and anticipation as I am.”

This is strangely short story from InsideHigherEd without much explanation, just facts:

The University of North Carolina paid $8 million over the last five years in “retreat rights,” salaries to help former administrators prepare to return to the classroomThe Raleigh News & Observer reported. In many cases, the salaries were what the officials earned in senior positions, far more than the faculty jobs for which they were preparing. The article noted that while some of these officials were well respected, others were paid “for a job poorly done,” and that there is no requirement that those receiving the funds actually return to teaching. The article noted that one former provost in the system was paid $104,000 to prepare for a return to teaching, but after taking the funds, retired.

Interestingly enough, UNC The Raleigh News and Observer has a longer version of the story: Continue reading

Wal-Mart Edu

Marc Bousquet has an interesting response to Obamba’s initiative to pump some money into higher ed, in particular community colleges.  The short of Bousquet’s concerns, which I think is warranted, revolve–for one– around the consequences of the top-down organization of cc’s:

Louisville fails for the same reason many community colleges fail: they put cheap, permanently temporary teachers (students, retirees, moonlighters, folks willing to work for status) in the front lines of first-year courses, and then–desperate to armor-plate the curriculum against the uneven preparation of the faculty–convert the tenure stream into supervisors of the temps.  The bribe for the tenured overclass includes being freed to teach only the fraction of students who get through the obstacle course of the first year or two.

But this suckiness is what Obama and Duncan like about community colleges and enterprise universities like the U of L.  Not the low graduation rates–they’ll pull at their chins thoughtfully and agree with you there.

What they like–no, love–is the organization of community colleges, the top-down control of curriculum, the tenured management and the disposable teachers. That’s perfect! Community colleges regularly fire union officials and anyone else who gets in their way. Continue reading

Against Schooling

This morning I was clicking around in the quasi-harmless trade journal The Chronicle of Higher Education and I came across an opinion piece entitled, “America’s Most Overrated Product: the Bachelor’s Degree.” The author, Marty Nemko concludes “College is a wise choice for far fewer people than are currently encouraged to consider it.” But that’s getting ahead of ourselves, here’s the beginning:

Among my saddest moments as a career counselor is when I hear a story like this: “I wasn’t a good student in high school, but I wanted to prove that I can get a college diploma. I’d be the first one in my family to do it. But it’s been five years and $80,000, and I still have 45 credits to go.”

I have a hard time telling such people the killer statistic: Among high-school students who graduated in the bottom 40 percent of their classes, and whose first institutions were four-year colleges, two-thirds had not earned diplomas eight and a half years later. That figure is from a study cited by Clifford Adelman, a former research analyst at the U.S. Department of Education and now a senior research associate at the Institute for Higher Education Policy. Yet four-year colleges admit and take money from hundreds of thousands of such students each year!

Even worse, most of those college dropouts leave the campus having learned little of value, and with a mountain of debt and devastated self-esteem from their unsuccessful struggles. Continue reading

Awesomeness of Students: Professor Zero edition

Taking a break from grading this morning I came across Professor Zero’s interesting post about a letter from a student arguing why he should not fail her course, but instead receive a D. Now, I am no stranger to such audacity (as chronicled here, here, here, and here) having been accused of ageism last semester and more recently (by which I mean last week) I had a student who will without a doubt receive an “F” explain to me that she is actually an “A” student and I can’t fail her because she will lose her scholarship. To which I replied, “Well, perhaps you should have, you know, attended class regularly and turned assignments in. If you were confused you should have approached me, I’m happy to help out, but now it’s too late.” It’s a problem. As Detective McNulty (from HBO’s entertaining cop show The Wire) says to his partner sometime during the first season “You know what I like about you? When you fuck me you’re gentle and you take your time.” Or something to that effect. Sometimes the perverse egalitarianism at work in the University works its magic to fuck the unsuspecting.

Recently, a colleague of mine received a cc (she was one of 6 addressees) of a letter from a student via the President of the college. Yes, the student, after complaining loudly to student services, got passed off to to the dean, who sent it to the department chair, who passed it onto the coordinator, who eventually met with the dept chair, student services and the discipline dean all at once to resolve the situation. The original disagreement over a final grade for the course was not changed and remained an F. Case closed. Not quite, now that a letter was sent to the President, the VP of Academic Affairs is on the case. The student is upset because she received an “F” in a class and will lose her scholarship, she wants it erased from her transcript. Now, this student earned a 28 on the final exam, a twenty fucking eight percent!!! Continue reading