Megan McArdle’s piece at the Atlantic, which is a response to a piece on the rough lot for adjuncts at Inside Higher Ed asks a good question: If academics are supposedly liberal and pro-labor, why do underpaid adjuncts make up so much of the higher ed workforce?
Here are a few possible answers, plus my evaluation of those answers from the Hamster World perspective:
Tenured faculty members don’t pull their weight when it comes to teaching.
Response: I’m sure there are some tenured faculty who don’t carry their load and give everyone else a bad rap, but those people should be treated as individuals. In the Hamster World, you wouldn’t fire an entire department if it is harboring one slacker. You’d put the slacker on notice and then fire the slacker (or at least give the slacker a hard time since you can’t fire someone with tenure).
That’s what Socialism gets you.
Response: McArdle warned her commenters not to make assumptions and claim the academy made its own bed. First of all, too many people assume that academics are liberals. Anyone who’s been in the academy for any amount of time will tell you that’s not so. The Socialism argument is a crock because the system is obviously broken, and pointing fingers isn’t going to fix it. In this kind of situation, one’s political leanings are irrelevant.
More after the jump! (more…)
Since we’re on the topic of academic celebs, here’s a case where they’re using their superpowers for good, fighting the epidemic of Broke-Ass Schools: Though Homi Bhabha hasn’t signed on as far as we can tell, superstars from B (Alain Badiou) to Z (Slavoj Zizek) are rallying to try and save the day for the Middlesex University philosophy program in the UK. Many of you might have learned about this already from your Facebook news feed since a lot of academic types have joined the “Save Middlesex Philosophy!” fanpage, which now numbers of 12,000 members from around the world. Along with the powerhouses mentioned above, esteemed scholars like Etienne Balibar, Judith Butler, Hardt & Negri, and Gayatri Spivak have co-signed a letter to the Times Higher Education in the UK speaking out against the proposed shutdown of one of the preeminent philosophy programs in Europe (which I guess we can assume is true, based on the caliber of its supporters).
Some choice quotes from the letter, below the fold…
No, we’re not hosting some kind of GOP convention here at Post Academic today. It’s just that when I hear “earmarks”, I think of John McCain, just like UC budget issues–usually woes–conjure up images of my namesake, the Governator. Here’s some news about how broke-ass state universities are trying to become a little less broke-ass…
1. This is bad news…for John McCain!: Last week, Inside Higher Ed reported on congressional appropriations earmarked for institutions of higher learning, which, by their estimate, came to $1,982,532,150. Overall, that accounts for about 12% of the total amount of earmarks for 2010, around $16 bill. Of course, let’s not be purity trolls about earmarks like John McCain, especially if they go to people and entities that need money: So long as these colleges aren’t researching ways to kill people (which they might be), earmarks can help financially strapped institutions conduct research and hire people, among other things.
Interestingly enough, guess where many of the schools which have the prime places at the pork barrel trough are from? “Conservatively” fiscal red states, of course, like Mississippi and Louisiana, which thought about rejecting federal stimulus funds. That isn’t to say they shouldn’t get the earmarks–more power to ‘em!–but you gotta admit there’s at least a little bit of saying one thing and doing another by the politicians going on here. On with the top 10:
1. University of Alabama–around $59 mill
2. Mississippi State–around $48 mill
3. Texas A&M–$40 mill
4. University of North Dakota–almost $40 mill
5. Ole Miss–$33 mill+
6. University of Hawaii–$33 mill+
7. UMass-Boston–$33 mill
8. Utah State–$27 mill
9. New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology–$27 mill
10. Louisiana State–$26 mill+
See the rest of the list and analysis on education earmarks at the IHE story linked above.
2. “I’ll be back”–with more funding? Maybe?: Last week, the Governator announced that he won’t be signing any state budget without significant provisions for funding to the UCs, the Cal States, and the state’s community colleges, with $848 million going back to the state’s university systems. Also, any budget bill must include funding for the Cal Grant financial aid program. $848 million is a huge number, of course, but the scary thing is that it’s only about half of the $1.7 billion budget cut the three systems have absorbed this year. UC Prez Mark Yudof has described his boss’s decision to restore half the budget cuts as “visionary”, although I’m not sure whether that counts as an endorsement or a kiss of death to most UC followers. (This story also gives us an excuse to link this NYTimes interview with Yudof, which never gets old!) So maybe Ahnold isn’t going to be Mr. Education Budget Freeze any more, but it doesn’t seem like the UC is out of the furlough and tuition raise woods just quite yet, either.
Looks like the University of Maine will follow through on many of its proposed budget cuts. The school plans to suspend the following majors: German, Latin, theatre and women’s studies.
On the bright side, French and Spanish will not be suspended. Someone must have come to their senses on that one … Maine does border Canada. Of course, if liberal arts education vanishes, people might forget that important fact.
Another interesting note in the announcement:
Hiring lecturers in liberal arts disciplines of high student interest, with the understanding that those professors will be exemplary educators free from research expectations who will also teach in the Honors College …
So, “lecturers in the liberal arts.” No boost in tenure-track faculty, eh?
Kennedy Announces UMaine Academic Reorganization [University of Maine]
UMaine president approves cuts, revenue plan to close $25 million gap [Bangor Daily News]
Here at Post Academic, I am guilty of a few assumptions, and one of those top assumptions is that grad students in the sciences have it better. Labs can get funding outside the university, and their skills and achievements are easier to quantify and monetize.
Well, I’m not entirely right based on a recent post over at Female Science Professor’s blog. FSP must be an amazing advisor because she worked hard to get a smart student into a physical sciences grad program that looked like the perfect fit. It would appear that this student did everything right and got in. And yet …
He applied and was accepted, he visited the department, and .. the financial offer was so inadequate that there might as well not even have been one. The student would have had to get a job and take out loans to make it through grad school (just as he had done as an undergrad), and no one should have to do that in the physical sciences.
FSP moved quickly and helped the student get into another group, so this student is covered. He’s lucky. Not all advisors would have been willing to help that much, nor would they have understood the financial issues.
No one should go into debt for grad school, unless that person is rich or they have a guaranteed job upon graduation. (And the contract for that job should be signed in blood.) The fact that students in the sciences are having difficulties with funding makes me wonder just how bad it is in the humanities. Anyone care to share what funding packages looked like in your departments, and how did they stack up compared to previous years?
What I Don’t Know [Female Science Professor]
Yesterday I linked to guru Seth Godin, who singled out colleges and universities for “amateur and bland direct mail” that encourages applications or donations.
Maybe Godin should have revised “amateur and bland direct mail” to read “mail that will piss former students off and lead to craigslist meltdowns.” One student received a brochure the student’s alma mater, where the student received an MA in public policy. Alas, the school’s timing was bad, as the student remains unemployed, despite a pricey MA:
So, what I want to know is, why are you wasting money on glossy fundraising brochures full of meaningless synonyms for the word “Excellence”? And, why are you sending them to ME? Yes, I know that I got a master’s degree at your fine institution, but that master’s degree hasn’t done jack shit for me since I got it! I have been unemployed for the past TWO YEARS and I am now a professional resume-submitter, sending out dozens of resumes a month to employers, and the degree I received in your hallowed halls is at the TOP OF IT and it doesn’t do a fucking thing.
You know, maybe if you wanted a little bit of money from me (and these days you’d get about $3) maybe you should send me a fancy color brochure admitting your role in the bubble economics that got us all in to this mess.
Note to institutions of higher education—perhaps your alumni might be willing to send you money if you printed those brochures on newsprint because full color gloss is expensive. Second, you might get more respect from your alumni if you sent them brochures about what your career center has to offer.
And who is Seth Godin and who is he to be so mouthy about higher ed? Well, Mr. Godin is one of the premier marketing gurus of the US. Marketing often falls in the category of junk science since so-called “marketing gurus” are so transparent about getting more people to buy more stuff.
That said, Godin knows how to analyze a trend, and he thinks higher education marketing has gone off the rails, especially when it comes to serving the student:
Why do colleges send millions (!) of undifferentiated pieces of junk mail to high school students now? We will waive the admission fee! We have a one page application! Apply! This is some of the most amateur and bland direct mail I’ve ever seen. Why do it?
Biggest reason: So the schools can reject more applicants. The more applicants they reject, the higher they rank in US News and other rankings. And thus the rush to game the rankings continues, which is a sign that the marketers in question (the colleges) are getting desperate for more than their fair share. Why bother making your education more useful if you can more easily make it appear to be more useful?
There is a big difference between being useful and appearing to be useful. However, many colleges and universities appear to have forgotten that difference.
The solution does not lie in the presentation of the education; it lies in the education itself. Now, marketers are all about presentation. That’s how they make a living. Educators should realize that the situation is dire when a marketer is telling them that they need to become useful to students, and they need to become useful in a hurry … or they will lose customers.
If you’re looking for the most current news on Broke-Ass Schools and how they are creating Broke-Ass Students, we’ve found a great resource for up-to-date info on budget crunches across the nation. The Chronicle of Higher Ed‘s “Campus Cuts” blog compiles a list of schools facing cut backs. The “Campus Cuts” list covers everything from large scale salary freezes and furloughs to programs and faculty/staff positions that are threatened by the chopping block. Or you can just click on our own “Broke-Ass Schools” category listing and see which schools are hurting right now, which include SUNY Stony Brook Southhampton, UMass Amherst, some UIowa humanities grad programs, University of Maine, and–of course!–the UC.
So it looks like Broke-Ass Schools are trying to keep afloat by breaking-ass their students: Huffington Post has digested some of the latest tuition hikes at state universities in Virginia, Maryland, and the Kentuck. Reporting the second-hand info third hand here, the schools in the university system in Virginia seem the hardest hit–just hope the tuition hikes aren’t used to fund Confederate History Month. Here are the numbers, courtesy WaPo’s College, Inc blog:
U Virginia: almost 10% increase / $956 tuition hike for in-state students ($1900 hike to an almost $34,000 tuition for out-of-state students, too!)
Va Tech: 9.7% increase
James Madison: 8.5% increase
UMaryland is raising its tuition by 3%, while UKentucky and Louisville passed a 6% increase, which hopefully won’t go to paying the multi-million dollar salaries of basketball coaches John Calipari and Rick Pitino.
FARK.com, repository of all that is goofy in the news, lets its site visitors submit stories from all over the Web and then tag them in some clever fashion, usually with “stupid,” “obvious,” or “Florida.”
Well, the following story definitely involves “stupid” and “Florida.” Some employees of Florida universities allegedly decided to go hog wild with the company credit card. Purchases made by some employees included the following:
–Weight Watchers books, labeled as “WWII books” (at least the initials were similar …)
–Xbox “gaming currency”
–CDs and DVDs, labeled as “soil and nutrients”
These types of indiscretions aren’t what put university systems in such dire financial straits, but they don’t make university employees look good when they ask for students to pay more money each year.
Credit card fraud, misuse found at 5 Florida universities [SunSentinel.com]
Earlier, I recommended trying out for Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice” as a way to make a little money in a terrible job market. Mr. Trump, however, may want to try out for the show himself since he could use a few lessons on opening up a for-profit university. According to the NY Daily News,
“Trump University” just caught heat for using the word “university” even though Trump doesn’t hand out degrees:
In a strongly worded letter obtained by the Daily News, the state Education Department slammed the tycoon for calling the cyber-school a university and demanded he stop using the term.
“Use of the word ‘university’ by your corporation is misleading and violates New York Education Law and the Rules of the Board of Regents,” wrote Deputy Commissioner for Higher Education Joseph Frey.
Now that more students are turning toward online education programs and bricks-and-mortar universities have to compete, it’s nice to see the NY Education Department making sure that customers are informed about what is and isn’t a university. Sure, if you want to take a Trump-certified course, go ahead, but you should know that the school is unaccredited.