Higher Education?

In an otherwise confused and incomprehensible discussion about academic life in the NY Times, Mark C Taylor made one comment that I actually agree with: “Nothing represses the free expression of ideas more than the long and usually fruitless quest for tenure.” I’ll leave aside whether or  not it’s a fruitless quest, but Andrew Hacker makes a similar case in The Atlantic.

A lot of the pressure to publish is tied in with the pressure to earn tenure. You argue that tenure actually doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do—it doesn’t preserve academic freedom.

Here’s what happens. Academics typically don’t get tenured until the age of 40. This means that from their years as graduate students and then assistant professors, from age 25 through 38 or 39, they have to toe the line. They have to do things in the accepted way that their elders and superiors require. They can’t be controversial and all the rest. So tenure is, in fact, the enemy of spontaneity, the enemy of intellectual freedom. We’ve seen this again and again. And even people who get tenure really don’t change. They keep on following the disciplinary mode they’ve been trained to follow. Continue reading

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

The Universities In Trouble

UPDATE II: Marc Bousquet follows up his critique of Marc C. Taylor on The Valve. 

UPDATE: Apparently everyone is hastening to announce the end of the university as we know it (will we feel fine?)

Interesting review from NY Review of Books

Since the financial meltdown began to accelerate last summer, the world has changed utterly for colleges and universities just as it has for everyone who had not been stashing cash under the mattress. Along with failing banks, auto manufacturers, and insurance companies, universities have been making headlines—especially those whose gigantic endowments (Harvard’s was approaching $40 billion before the crash) have sharply declined. Last year, politicians and pundits were complaining about the unseemly wealth of such institutions. This year, alumni are getting e-mails from beleaguered presidents assuring them that Alma Mater will somehow ride out the storm.

Read the rest.

Drugs That Make You Smart (Cont.)

Another story related to our interests in “drugs that make you smart”: 

Society must respond to the growing demand for cognitive enhancement. That response must start by rejecting the idea that ‘enhancement’ is a dirty word, argue Henry Greely and colleagues.

Today, on university campuses around the world, students are striking deals to buy and sell prescription drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin — not to get high, but to get higher grades, to provide an edge over their fellow students or to increase in some measurable way their capacity for learning. These transactions are crimes in the United States, punishable by prison.

Read the whole story here.

Prof steals signs, quits

In other campus related oddities:

A visiting professor at St. Olaf College who confessed to stealing several Republican campaign signs has quit his teaching job.

Philip Busse, acknowledged last week in The Huffington Post that he had stolen signs touting John McCain from yards along a rural stretch of highway near Northfield, Minn., where the college is located.

Mr. Busse, who had a one-semester temporary visiting appointment to teach one course on introductory media studies, “has tendered his resignation and is no longer affiliated with St. Olaf College,” according to a college spokesman quoted in the Northfield News.

On top of losing his job, Mr. Busse has been charged with misdemeanor theft and faces up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, the newspaper reported.

Apparently, Busse saw his theft as a form of civil disobedience.  Ok.  Really, I thought the most honest part of his confession in the Huffington Post was when he talked about how satisfying stealing the signs were.  I’m not sure why he had to resign, nor do I think this should make him “un-hirable.”  Was it the smartest thing to do, probably not, but it will just provide more ammo for those who think that the university is overrun with wack job lefties…