Post Academic

Treating Teachers Well, Part 1: Why You Should Respect Teachers

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionA recent post by Teresa Ghilarducci over at Brainstorm deserves your attention because it shows how teachers are treated differently from other employees:

Let’s say you’re advising a business with varying quality and you want to improve performance. Would you ridicule the workers publicly; cut their pay and benefits; say they are the sole cause of the problem, and that you want brighter younger replacements who will work overtime and weekends? No new CEO would adopt this as a strategy for success. Attacking your workforce is not an effective way to improve quality, produce a better product, and attract top talent — a bright young replacement would notice the disrespect.

So why do people think attacking teachers is a route to education reform?

Ghilarducci goes into discussing charter schools and unions, but I’ll chime in with my own Hamster World view. Whether employees are unionized or not, you still have to treat them with respect. Busting the union does not let you off the hook.

In the Hamster World, I’ve been treated rather well. I’ve been thanked when I did a good job. In some cases, I even received a bonus, or at least some nice free meals. Nothing fancy, nothing Goldman Sachs worthy, but something that made clear I was appreciated as an employee and my work contributed to the company’s success.

Most employees just want a little respect on top of their paycheck. Most teachers do not get respect, or even decent, regular performance evaluations that let them know they’re doing a good job. Ghilarducci makes it clear–if you don’t treat employees well and fairly, they will leave.
More after the jump! Image of a teacher at work from 1917, public domain on Wikimedia Commons.

Broke-Ass Schools: Berkeley Fights the Bloat

Posted in Broke-Ass Schools by Caroline Roberts on April 13, 2010
Tags: , , , ,

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

More context on salaries: Furloughs and why it’s probably even worse than the numbers suggest

I wanted to add some anecdotal experience to expand on the raw data of the report, backed with some completely unscientific conjectures, to explain how the situation may even be worse than described in the articles.  Since I’m a UC type, the first thing I thought of when I saw the headlines is whether or not the data takes into account the impact furloughs have had on take-home pay.  The survey does not, so the situation is even bleaker for many state university employees.  From the AAUP report, on furloughs:

We know, for example, that faculty members and other employees of colleges and universities in many states have been forced to take unpaid furloughs during 2009 and 2010. For the most part, however, the reductions in pay resulting from these furloughs are not reflected in our data—although we cannot say for certain how much of a distortion this represents. Many institutions report data for this and similar surveys on the basis of salary levels rather than payroll disbursements.

As a result, I imagine it’s safe to say that economic status of academic instructors is even worse than the objective lowest-pay-increase-in-50-years news that can be statistically proven.  Here are some of the unquantifiable effects of the furloughs on faculty, tenured, tenure-track, or not.  And that’s not mentioning the students who are really taking the brunt of the furloughs, who are receiving less opportunities to learn even as their tuitions and fees are skyrocketing.

1. Economic and personal costs: What’s not as widely reported is the individual toll the furlough can take not just on pocketbooks, but also psyches.  At the economic level, there are a lot of absurd situations that have extracted a lot of unpaid labor not just from temporary faculty holding onto academic affiliations trying to get to the next academic job cycle, but also higher ups.  I’ve heard of cases where faculty are promoted and get raises, only to have their salaries bumped down to what they were making earlier or even less, because of the furlough.  In effect, many people end up having to take on more responsibilities to make up for the loss in pay (though that might not be the primary reason to do so), working more for the same amount of money, in practical terms.

But I imagine this scenario actually shows up as a pay increase on the AAUP survey because they only look at payscales and don’t throw furloughs into their calculations.  So it’s a good bet that the UC and Cal State contributions to the survey are very distorted, showing theoretical raises when the reality is that faculty are seeing less cold, hard cash.  (And to think, there’s probably someone working in some budgeting office earning a salary to do all the double accounting!)

I discuss the further impacts of the furloughs, below the fold…


Last week on Post Academic (4/4-4/10)

At the end of one week and the beginning of another, we catch our collective breaths on the blog and gather up links to some of the posts that have either cycled off the home page or might have been overlooked.  Considering all the posts on hoarding this week, it’s probably no surprise that some pieces got lost in the shuffle.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and thanks for reading!

* Caroline cleans up after the mess Arnold makes with a lot of great advice on how to get organized.  One of the best suggestions is to check out the do-it-yourself price-checking interface at the Powell’s Books online storefront.

* Caroline covered “broke ass schools” from the east coast (SUNY Stony Brook Southampton) to the west coast (the UC’s).

* So Arnold examines how the humanities at the UCs are trying to seem a little less “broke ass,” by competing with the sciences over who gets a bigger bang for the buck and being more like them.

* And we also had our 100th post this week, which revisits some of our greatest hits!

Have a great Sunday!

“Clean-it-up warning in Earls Colne” by JohannesJ from Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons

Solutions? Make the humanities (seem) more like the sciences

Posted in The Education Industry by Arnold Pan on April 7, 2010
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In my soon-to-disappear .edu inbox, I found a message relayed by to the grad student listserv (yes, I’m somehow still subscribed) about the imposingly named “UC Commission on the Future.”  The message conveyed a missive sent by the “Research Strategies Working Group”  (herein known as the RSWG) within the “UC Commission on the Future” (herein known as the UCOF), soliciting contributions from faculty for the following:

As part of my work for the Research Strategies Working Group (RSWG) of the UC Commission on the Future (UCOF), I seek your help with the following challenge: *coming up with examples of UC “research breakthroughs” and “discoveries” in the humanities, arts, social sciences, and related fields that might be listed alongside those in sciences, engineering, medicine, agriculture, the UC national labs, etc. in an advocacy argument for UC research.  Please adapt the notion of “research breakthroughs” as appropriate for the humanities, arts, and social sciences–e.g., to include a broad spectrum of intellectual, sociocultural, and creative or performing-arts innovations.  But the constraint is that examples must be UC-related, must be relatively discrete (can be described in a sound bite with at most a few following sentences and/or image), and must have high public impact or recognition, actual or potential.

Parsing the bureaucratic-ese of the call, it basically asks the humanities to justify its existence on the grounds that scientific programs would, trumpeting “research breakthroughs” that would be equivalent to those in the sciences and engineering.  Really, what’s up with quote-unquoting of breakthroughs and discoveries: it’s almost like the RSWG doesn’t believe the humanities can come up with real ones, so the best they can do is some kind of pomo linguistic shell game.  So in effect, the key to the humanities at the UC is to sell itself as more like the sciences–that and more working groups and subcommittees and faculty retreats for members of the commission on the future.

To continue with the report, it provides some examples from the sciences of “research breakthroughs” and “discoveries” that could be templates for the humanities faculty:

To support this recommendation, we have been asked to collect examples of UC “research breakthroughs” and “discoveries” with high public impact that might be showcased to the general public (and also to customized sectors of the public).  So far, the examples we have begun collecting come primarily from the science, engineering, medical, agricultural, and related fields (including the UC national labs), which, as part of their ongoing advocacy, have ready-to-go “top ten lists” of great research.  See, for example, the document I have *attached *…The examples are of the sort: “Cyclotron,” “Laser Diode,” “Insect Control,” “Sustainable Fisheries,” “Nanotechnology,” or “Largest Biological Simulation Improves Medicines.”

Hmm…I’m wondering where something like “What to do with critical theory?” would stand in relation to “Cyclotron” or “Sustainable Fisheries” in the UCOF “research breakthroughs” rankings?  And when in doubt about how to market yourself, the UCOF’s inspiration seems to be “what would David Letterman do,” busting out those “top ten lists” of “great research.”  I had make sure that the date the original message was sent was not April 1, since it reads a little like an April Fool’s joke.

But seriously, it seems like the thinking is that the solution to the problems facing the humanities at the UC have very little to do with the humanities themselves.  While the RSWG of the UCOF is asking faculty to mold the humanities after the sciences, UCLA Professor Robert N. Watson (in an article previously discussed by us here) can, compellingly enough, justify the existence of humanities because they yield a profit.  I guess it’s refreshing that neither argument falls back on the trite humanities-for-humanities’-sake ideology that can be lazy and pompous, but trying to dress up the humanities as things they are not–as the sciences or a profit-generating juggernaut–doesn’t make the most effective case for the humanities either.  On the other hand, snarking at the problem–like I am–isn’t particularly helpful, but maybe I’d be more constructive if they made me UC faculty!

“UC campuses and labs” by Fastfission from Wikimedia Commons, public domain

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]

Broke-Ass Schools: So Goes the UC, So Goes the Nation?

Posted in Broke-Ass Schools by Caroline Roberts on March 24, 2010
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The University of California has released suggestions for easing its budget crisis. Some of the suggestions seem genuinely reasonable, but they raise legitimate questions. Here’s a list of the suggestions, followed by Post Academic comments:

1. Establishing three-year degrees: Many students graduate in three years to save money, so the university is changing to fit student habits. However, the three-year plan all depends on the major. For example, since engineers are so vital to everyone’s safety, perhaps they should stay in a little longer.

2. More online courses: Uh, since when did the UC become the University of Phoenix? Then again, other states, such as Massachusetts, have incorporated more online courses. They should probably be an option for juniors and seniors, though, as students need to develop the discipline to see online courses through. Someone who has just entered college and who isn’t being monitored by parents and teachers is more likely to blow off a course.

3. More out-of-state students: This one seems inevitable. But what about all the students from California who are applying to UCs?

4. Making Berkeley and UCLA more expensive: What are the other schools, chopped liver? Option No. 3 would be preferable to this, as it would punish students who got into Berkeley or UCLA and happened to live nearby. They shouldn’t have to go a long distance and pay the dorm fees if they don’t want to.

What suggestions would you offer? What is the UC overlooking, and is there anything that other systems can learn from these choices?

UC panel proposes three-year bachelor’s degrees, other big changes [Los Angeles Times]

UC President Mark Yudof Has Not Resigned, But He’s Tweeting

Posted in Broke-Ass Schools,The Education Industry by Caroline Roberts on March 4, 2010
Tags: , ,

I’ve been monitoring the #march4 Twitter feed. Some of it is great, some of it makes no sense, and some of it is flat-out wrong. But I was intrigued by a Tweet declaring that UC President Mark Yudof was resigning in the wake of the protests.

Alas, this appears to be wishful thinking on the students’ part and on the part of some Internet pranksters. Yudof tweeted back that he was not resigning.

Whether or not Yudof is the problem, part of the problem, or not part of the problem, here’s what I want to know: Who is watching his tweets? Surely he has something better to do during major student protests than tweet? And how much is the person watching his tweets getting paid?

UC President Mark Yudof Caught In Resignation Hoax [HuffPo]

#march4 Twitter feed

Mark Yudof’s Twitter

Updated by Arnold: If you haven’t read the NY Times Q&A with Yudof, it’s definitely worth a look.  It’s sure nice of him to think of the UC as a cemetery.

Questions for Mark Yudof: Big Man on Campus [NY Times]