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 →
On some recent doctoral program cuts at Emory and Columbia:
But graduates students also act as teaching assistants, doing a great deal of time-consuming classroom work (and grading) that professors themselves are thus not compelled to do. In all sorts of courses, especially in their freshman and sophomore years, undergraduates may find themselves being instructed more often by a 25-year-old doctoral candidate than by the university’s full-time faculty members, who, of course, already have their doctorates (and one or two books to their credit, too). It is an odd, upside-down arrangement, but it has an economic logic: By providing cheap labor, graduate students save college administrations millions of dollars each year in salary costs.
So why the cuts? Well, the calculations work out differently for different schools. For instance, universities in lower tiers might not have to do as much because they can get away with having a higher percentage of classes taught by graduate students. But some of the schools making doctoral cuts this year gave compassion as their reason. Catherine R. Stimson, the dean of Graduate School of Arts and Science at New York University, was quoted in Inside Higher Ed: Given the state of the academic job market, she asked, referring to would-be doctoral candidates: “Is it fair to bring them in?” Continue reading →
For the adjuncts at the six universities and 13 community colleges governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents, the solution they came up with was to ask politely. They worked with administrators to craft and re-craft a proposal to raise the maximum pay offered to adjuncts so that someone working a 5-5 course load (the kind of load that many tenure-track faculty members would consider unworkable) could be assured the chance of topping $20,000 in annual income. They weren’t even talking about such matters as health insurance (which isn’t provided). Continue reading →
A book contract will always beat 10 years of teaching experience, publications in known journals (even though not many read those, including the authors themselves) will always beat a good record of students evaluations – why?
Yes, a good point about hiring practices and no doubt true, but it may be much worse then this given the often unacknowledged laws that govern the system. Not only is it possible to do everything “right,” e.g. finish the doctorate in a reasonable amount of time or quickly (and beating the 45% attrition rate),have some teaching experience, publish an article and/or write some reviews, participate in conferences etc., and not get placed into a tenure track position, it’s possible that this is exactly how the system of labor is structured. In his recent (and quite excellent ) book, How the University Works, Marc Bousquet discusses how earning the doctorate degree (however counterintuitive) actually serves to flush the degree holder out of the system:
Many degree holders have served as adjunct lecturers at other campuses, sometimes teaching master’s degree students and advising their theses en route to their own degrees. Some will have taught thirty to forty sections, or the equivalent of five to seven years’ full time teaching work. During this time, they have received frequent mentoring and regular evaluation; most will have a large portfolio of enthusiastic observations and warm student commendations. A large faction will have published essays and book reviews and authored their department web pages. Yet, at precicely the juncture that this “preparation” should end and regular employment begin–the acquisition of the Ph.D.–the system embarrasses itself and discloses a systematic truth that every recent degree holder knows and few administrators wish to acknowledge: in many diciplines, for the majority of graduates, the Ph.D. indicates the logical conclusion of an academic career (23).Continue reading →