Post Academic


Broke-Ass Schools: Slap a Fark Tag on These Florida Universities?

Posted in Broke-Ass Schools by Caroline Roberts on April 21, 2010
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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]

On Improving the Relationship Between Grad Students and Professors

Posted in Ask an Academic,Surviving Grad School by Caroline Roberts on April 19, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox Extension Notorious PhD hosted a forum over at her blog to encourage discussion about the relationship between grad students and professors. She summed up the results of the debate, and much of it involved better communications on the part of professors.

I was glad to see one student laser in on one of Post Academic’s chief causes: Helping grad students with a Post-Grad Plan B. Here’s the quotation:

“There should be a system to help those with PhDs get other relevant non-professorial jobs. It’s hard to leave graduate school (with its low but guaranteed paycheck) for unemployment. Make the transition easier, and the graduate students may actually finish.”

More professors need to get the memo that there are fewer academic jobs, but students can definitely use their knowledge in other ways, provided they are trained for it. The catch is that most professors haven’t been trained to be career advisors. So, does anyone have suggestions for how professors can get more involved in helping students with non-academic careers? Perhaps nurturing relationships with other departments, such as education or computer science?

More after the jump! William Hogarth: A Rake’s Progress, Plate 2: Surrounded By Artists And Professors, public domain, Wikimedia Commons.
(more…)

“F” Is for “Fired”: No More Trump University?

Posted in Absurdities,Broke-Ass Schools by Caroline Roberts on April 18, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox Extension 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.

H/T Chronicle of Higher Ed

Administrators: Are They on the Dark Side or the Other Side?

Posted in Broke-Ass Schools,The Education Industry by Caroline Roberts on April 15, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionTerri Givens wrote an enlightening article at Inside Higher Ed about the time she spent as an administrator. Earlier, I wrote about professors getting a bum rap, and I often direct my rage toward administrators, who earn far more money than professors do, at least according to Bain & Company’s recent study of UC Berkeley’s financial problems.

Givens, however, offers a perspective that makes me pause a little bit before railing against administrators:

People tend to assume that I am happier being a faculty member rather than an administrator – that I have returned from “the dark side.” Many of these people don’t seem to understand that this is a false dichotomy. I feel that it is a responsibility for those of us on the faculty with administrative skills to spend time in administration. There is no “dark side” if we consider that faculty as a whole are responsible for the governance of a university. We are all administrators in one way or another, whether you are a member of your department voting for changes to your graduate curriculum, or the president of a university.

More after the jump! Fantasy image of an administrative fatcat from Wikimedia Commons, public domain. (Actually a caricature of Leopold de Rothschild from Vanity Fair, 1884.) (more…)

Broke-Ass Schools: Berkeley Fights the Bloat

Posted in Broke-Ass Schools by Caroline Roberts on April 13, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionWhen humans feel bloated, they take a few pills to fit in their pants. When universities feel bloated, they pay $3 million smackers to a consulting firm to diagnose the problem and recommend solutions.

Consulting firm Bain & Company has evaluated the University of California Berkeley and discovered the real source of its financial troubles—managerial bloat. According to the San Francisco Chronicle,

The biggest [problem], say the consultants, is too many managers. The human resources department alone has one manager per 63 employees, compared with an average of one per 127 employees across other universities.

However, will the university be willing to lay off from among their own? Or will they pass the cuts on down the line? Bain & Company also made suggestions that involve eliminating grad student housing and child care services. I have a sinking feeling that the university might spend $3 million more figuring out how to implement these suggestions.

UC Berkeley bloated, wasteful, consultants say SF Gate
Full Report on UC Berkeley Managerial Bloat

What Disco and Academia Have in Common

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionThe article “A Letter From a Graduate Student in the Humanities” over at the Chronicle of Higher Ed provoked a comment frenzy. The article, by Katharine Polak, rightly calls for academics to stop panicking and start thinking of solutions to the glut of PhDs and humanities adjuncts.*

Some of the comments stirred the pot, but one commenter offered a simple suggestion that might help academics shift gears:

The secret? Always be on the lookout for work, always say yes — to any work for which you are arguably qualified. Don’t hold back for that good fit job, or that academically rewarding job. Hustle. If you are not smug, do not have a sense of entitlement to a tenure track job, if you are willing, available, and present, you will likely work.

I don’t agree that all academics who are out of work harbor a “sense of entitlement” and are turning down jobs because they’re not tenure-track. Entitlement really doesn’t matter when the economy is in the toilet. However, the commenter’s advice to “always say yes” and “hustle” is completely on target.

In a tough situation, the survivors are always the ones who are willing to “do the hustle,” so to speak. Having an open mind, learning new skills, and taking on jobs outside academia could open up some wonderful career opportunities. Administrators and tenured faculty could also learn from this advice and think of new ways to market the humanities in an era of budget cuts.

*Though there’s nothing this Post Academic enjoys more than the occasional freak-out over a broke-ass school.

A Letter From a Graduate Student in the Humanities [Chronicle of Higher Ed]

Broke Ass Schools: New York State of Mind

Posted in Broke-Ass Schools by Caroline Roberts on April 9, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionIf you thought the grad school humanities job market was bad, the entire academic job market just got bleaker. The State of New York has shut down an entire campus, Stony Brook Southampton.

The Stony Brook Southampton page has a few notes in tiny print: “Admissions events cancelled” and “Residential program and new undergraduate admissions at Stony Brook Southampton will be suspended.”

According to the NYT, the cuts will save $6 million dollars. Later in the article, however, the author points out that Stony Brook as a whole faces a staggering “$34 million budget gap in the coming year.”

How did this happen? Think Magazine noted that, “President Stanley alone makes $650,000 a year, and the combined salaries of those on stage totaled over $1.4 million based on 2008 figures.” High salaries alone didn’t cause this problem, but it makes you wonder if the administrators have been working hard enough to prevent this situation. They sure didn’t work hard enough to keep students informed, as many of those quoted in the Think Magazine article argued that they were blindsided by the announcement.

Maybe our commenter who said academia was most like “Battlestar Galactica” was right. In the “Battlestar Galactica” view of academia, “there’s never enough of anything,” and now there’s a whole lot less.

Stony Brook Southampton site
Facing Cuts, Stony Brook Will Close Programs [New York Times]
Administration Announces Decision to Close Most of SB Southampton [Think Magazine]

Why Are UC Schools Broke? Maybe Because They Deserve to Be

Posted in Broke-Ass Schools by Caroline Roberts on April 5, 2010
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After the March 4 student protests, some people may have been on the side of the University of California. Even with the fee hikes, the UC would still be cheaper than private schools, and the UC really needs that money to maintain the same high level of service. Right?

Nah. In UCLA’s case at least, they just want to spruce up a basketball court. The LA Times reports that UCLA is taking fees students thought were going toward one line item and putting the money toward a renovation of Pauley Pavilion, the basketball arena:

In 2006, administrators launched a campaign to raise $100 million from private contributors to pay for the $185-million upgrade, which includes cushier seats, a high-definition scoreboard and expanded locker rooms. But when the fundraising effort fell victim to the recession, administrators changed the finance plan to include $25 million from student fees.

Where will those fees come from? Oh, the students won’t mind chipping in, will they?

Most of the student money, $15 million, will come from fees approved by a student referendum in 2000 to maintain two older campus buildings that house gyms and student centers. The remaining $10 million had been set aside for seismic repair of student facilities.

If the students approved a fee hike to upgrade buildings other than Pauley Pavilion, then the money should go to the original upgrades. And besides, don’t universities pay their chancellors big money to raise funds? Maybe administrators should do their jobs instead of dipping into the student kitty.

Now that universities have decided to become businesses, they need to be run like businesses. If the administrators needed money for Pauley Pavilion so badly, they should have held a referendum on whether or not making Pauley Pavilion cushier is more important than seismic repair. (Uh, what’s more important than seismic repair in Southern California?)

Or, maybe the students should think of themselves as shareholders. Shareholders of any business would band together to vote out leaders who can’t seem to lead.

State universities tap student fees for unintended projects [Los Angeles Times]

Transfer Your Skills: Steer Clear of Unpaid Internships

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on April 4, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionWhen you’re making a career change, an internship accelerates your transformation. Not only will you build new skills, but you’ll also build your network. Accepting an internship at a dot-com helped me get my first real job after grad school, and I’ve been working for dot-coms ever since.

But here’s the deal—I was paid for my internship. I wasn’t paid much, but the people who hired me knew that a person can’t eat and make rent on experience and contacts alone. The hourly pay was low, but it still beat minimum wage, and it led to something better.

Unfortunately, more companies are calling for interns, and based on what I’ve seen on Craigslist, many of the new internships are unpaid. According to the New York Times, the Department of Labor is on to this scam:

“If you’re a for-profit employer or you want to pursue an internship with a for-profit employer, there aren’t going to be many circumstances where you can have an internship and not be paid and still be in compliance with the law,” said Nancy J. Leppink, the acting director of the department’s wage and hour division.

An unpaid internship might be all right if you are in college and getting credit, but remember that a legitimate company should pay for your time. Internships typically involve making photocopies and brewing coffee, but that is still work, and you should still get money. If the company refuses to pay you, don’t take the internship, no matter how prestigious the company is. You can’t eat prestige.

Growth of Unpaid Internships May Be Illegal, Officials Say [NYT]

University Salaries Revealed! Kind Of

Yesterday, I recommended Glassdoor.com as a way to get the scoop on a company. Then I wondered if I could get any information about universities from the site.

For kicks, I looked up “assistant professor,” and the sheer range of salaries that appeared was astonishing. You can look up any school, but I plucked out a few salary ranges:

Assistant Professor at Texas A&M: $58K-113K
Assistant Professor at the University of Florida: $52K-$95K
Assistant Professor at University of Illinois at Chicago: $55K-$87K

Right below the salaries for the Assistant Professor at University of Illinois at Chicago position, I noticed listings for the University of Chicago, and profs at private schools appear to make more, between $58K and $186K. Yet their base rate isn’t all that different from the base rate at public universities.

The base rate is probably the most realistic expectation if you are hoping to land a job as a humanities prof. However, knowing how high a university is willing to go can give you more bargaining power if you get a job offer, especially if you find out how much similar universities are willing to pay.

If you are considering grad school but think you might have to go into debt, checking Glassdoor.com can help you figure out how long it will take for you to pay off your loans with a certain salary. If you don’t think you can pay off your loans at between $50 to $60K a year, you might want to shift gears or go to a less expensive school.

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