How the University Works
December 4, 2008 6:11 AM   Subscribe

Marc Bousquet does interviews with "Faculty on Food Stamps." (1, 2, 3) He also has a book and a blog called How the University Works (pdf) where he writes about higher education. (pdf) Bousquet recently sat down to discuss some of these issues with NPR and Goucher College President Sanford Ungar. (pdf)
posted by anotherpanacea (36 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
My German professor last semester had to spend her own money to print out handouts for the class. Towards the end of the semester she stopped doing it because she hadn't been paid yet and she needed to eat.

Damn you, University of Maine. You could be investing in the foreign language programs, and instead you're building rec centers so the jocks can go use the tanning beds.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:36 AM on December 4, 2008


Low paid and contingent adjunct teaching can be a great thing for a trailing spouse, or someone wanting to bring in some extra on the side. But for the primary earner in a household, it's brutal, and (as he discusses) has gotten worse over the years at many places.

I'm going to engage in a touch of "blame the victim," though, which is that it is a system that relies on the victims willingness to go along. Every time someone he interviews says "but I was earning less than a Walmart employee," my reaction is Why are you not at Walmart, then? You'd get benefits and better pay, and anyone with a graduate degree would be a strong contender for the management track which pays a strong middle-class wage. So while I agree that the system isn't at all fair, I'm unclear why people who have other options would continue to subject themselves to it. The compulsion to stay in academia is really strong for a lot of people, I guess, but they are paying a really high price for that stubbornness, and the universities are relying on that labor immobility.

There will always be a need for contingent faculty, and some schools will always bid those wages down. But the willingness of tenured faculty over the past three decades or so to go along with the process of replacing full-time instructors with adjuncts has been really shameful. In a lot of cases it's an "I've got mine, so screw you if you haven't gotten yours yet." And because it's so discipline-specific (eg lots in English), people in other departments may have no idea what students in that field will be facing when they graduate.
posted by Forktine at 6:41 AM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Every time someone he interviews says "but I was earning less than a Walmart employee," my reaction is Why are you not at Walmart, then? You'd get benefits and better pay, and anyone with a graduate degree would be a strong contender for the management track which pays a strong middle-class wage.

Except for it not being what these people want to do for their careers, of course.

People don't choose to go into academia just to get money. Just like they don't go into writing or acting or the arts or etc....Actaully, hell, any job you'll find people who aren't there because of the money, they're there because that is what they want to do. It is their chosen vocation, and doing anything other than that would be soul-destroying.

On a weird tangent --

My German professor last semester had to spend her own money to print out handouts for the class.

Can professors claim these kinds of expenses as deductions on their taxes? That could soften the blow somewhat. Sort of...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:49 AM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Can professors claim these kinds of expenses as deductions on their taxes?

Yes. Oh, yes.
posted by erniepan at 6:56 AM on December 4, 2008


Can professors claim these kinds of expenses as deductions on their taxes?

Yes.

Still, if you need to pay the bills now, money next April isn't gonna cover it.

Every time someone he interviews says "but I was earning less than a Walmart employee," my reaction is Why are you not at Walmart, then?

And if, say, public-school kindergarten teachers are being underpaid, do you feel the same way? "Well, they should just get jobs somewhere else if they don't like it"?

If not, where's the line? At what point does teaching for little money stop being a noble sacrifice and start being a bit of blameworthy stupidity? Middle school? High school? College?
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:06 AM on December 4, 2008


But for the primary earner in a household, it's brutal
Yup. After my divorce, I left academic career (albeit as a librarian not a prof) for a corporate job.

rec centers so the jocks can go use the tanning beds.
Please tell me dunkadunc that you are kidding.
posted by pointystick at 7:07 AM on December 4, 2008


You'd get benefits and better pay, and anyone with a graduate degree would be a strong contender for the management track which pays a strong middle-class wage.

Wal-Mart is a bad example because of their poor labor relations/discrimination suits, etc. Substitute another company, and a graduate degree in romance langauages is a liability for someome looking for an entry level or mid-level job in an area they have no experience in. It's not like an MBA. It overqualifies you. I've left my graduate degree (Fine Arts) off my 9-5 resume for years and years for this reason.
posted by rainbaby at 7:14 AM on December 4, 2008


What an article to wake up to. Thanks, anotherpanacea.

Years ago I had a professor who was so amazing - highly skilled and qualified to teach in multiple fields ... articulate, caring, rigorous - the model of a university academic. She quit it all and started her own landscaping business. I was shocked and confused.

After twelve years in the trenches (... Hey, that woman in the video only had 104 students per semester? slacker!) ... I am also quitting it all (albeit, a complete burn-out breakdown helped me reach the decision)

The compulsion to stay in academia is really strong for a lot of people, I guess, but they are paying a really high price for that stubbornness, and the universities are relying on that labor immobility.
posted by Surfurrus at 7:21 AM on December 4, 2008


The compulsion to stay in academia is really strong for a lot of people, I guess, but they are paying a really high price for that stubbornness, and the universities are relying on that labor immobility.

This is true and this is what the system relies on. I came to realize some years ago that the entire academic system relies upon a vast oversupply of eager up-and-comers to keep going. The (increasingly) youngsters supply large amounts of teaching and research manpower. The "haves" can rely on having a low teaching load and a laboratory stuffed with postdocs. Because what other career path is there if you have a PhD in the reproductive dynamics of social insects or industrial metaphors in Jane Austen (etc.)?

I hear you - the obvious question is why don't they leave leave academia. Yet we don't ask this of overworked medical interns, harassed teachers and underpaid social workers. The more apropos question is: are we producing too many academics? If not, the question of exploitative working conditions is very relevant.

But the willingness of tenured faculty over the past three decades or so to go along with the process of replacing full-time instructors with adjuncts has been really shameful. In a lot of cases it's an "I've got mine, so screw you if you haven't gotten yours yet."

This is sadly true. Senior academic staff are either oblivious or just mouth platitudes to the upcoming generation. And why not? To quote Stafford Beer "POSIWID: the purpose of the system is what it does". If there is an excess of junior academics working in poor conditions, that is because the system needs that to be so.
posted by outlier at 7:21 AM on December 4, 2008 [5 favorites]


A complex issue but here is my take. Full time prof allowed their universities to take on more and more part-time people (cheaper), and non-tenured track people. In the past, schools were judged by ratio of part-time to full-time faculty. Now, no one cares. Some schools save bucks by using many grad students rather than Part Timers. Faculty unions are passive, bogged down in nonsense talk because collective bargaining is "beneath" them. The major union--AAUP--has collective bargaining unit and non-collective bargaining unit but seldom is there when push comes to shove.
What is nearly criminal? regional accrediation units, whose function it is to visit each other, eat nice meals, make a few suggestions and then grant accrediation. Sometimes, at bad schools, they will put a school on "probation," but that means nothing finally and the only time a college gets to lose accrediation is when--right! when the school has gone bankrupt and closes itself . down. Why is this so? Because accrediting agencies (not the discipline ones but the regionals) are afraid of being sued since judgments are "subjective" unless it is a quantitiave one--the school can not function because it has no money.

Who accredits the accrediting agencies? The Dept of Education. But that is national and region groups are semi-private and semi govt. The govt accredits the regionals becAuse...well, because if they closed down a regional, then who is there to accredit? So at the national level, the Dept of Ed does what the regionals do when visiting...warnings, at best.

Oddly, it is public school presidents who are the new millionairs and not the privates; but the privates pay faculty more than the publics.

University coaches often make more than presidents of the schools ...athletics big, clearly, and seem to help make a school's name...so long as they win. But a school known only for its teams is , well, questionable.

Tuition has gone up substantially more yearly at most universities than has the cost of living.
Much of endowments are kept to earn money in the market rather than use it for helping students.

And now you can go on to another issue: course loads for faculty, full-time, part time, and adjuncts.
posted by Postroad at 7:24 AM on December 4, 2008


a graduate degree in romance langauages is a liability for someome looking for an entry level or mid-level job in an area they have no experience in. It's not like an MBA. It overqualifies you. I've left my graduate degree (Fine Arts) off my 9-5 resume for years and years for this reason.

Ditto-ing this. In my field (biology), those that leave commonly obscure their academic years or omit their PhDs, in the belief that these can only hurt their job prospects. Mostly they disguise the period as "working as research technician". If 3-5 years on self-motivated, higher study is a liability on a CV, that's pretty screwed up.
posted by outlier at 7:28 AM on December 4, 2008


Can professors claim these kinds of expenses as deductions on their taxes?

Probably only if you can prove you spent at least a certain base amount, which is some several thousands of dollars I believe.
posted by hermitosis at 7:30 AM on December 4, 2008


And if, say, public-school kindergarten teachers are being underpaid, do you feel the same way? "Well, they should just get jobs somewhere else if they don't like it"?

That's the wrong comparison. It's more like someone saying that they have been working as a part time teacher's aide in a kindergarten classroom for ten years at sub-poverty wages, hoping to break into full-time kindergarten teaching someday. The full-time classroom teacher is in the same category as the tenured professor -- low pay in comparison to the private sector, but with benefits, job stability, and a modicum of social status in compensation.
posted by Forktine at 7:42 AM on December 4, 2008


In terms of being top heavy, academia really only compares to the military. At the top you have the executive administrators and tenured faculty, bringing up the bottom dregs are the adjuncts and staff. I've worked in higher education for over six years now, and I can't imagine doing anything else with my life, but it is a system that will make you pull your hair out with impotent rage. When a dean who makes six figures a year cuts my 18k a year job to leave a department head office with only one full time staff employee for a thousand students I have to wonder what kinds of business the new "business oriented financial planning" is referring to. When there are faculty who make 70-80k a year who can't be bothered to come in more than two days a week, and with absolutely no oversight or accountability, one really wonders who they expect to be doing the grunt work of the university in the first place.

Last year I had the great pleasure of working with several top notch graduate students, who were creating work and teaching on a level that really gave me hope for the department I worked with, but I left it all to go work in a completely different (and much more "office" like environment) simply because I had to keep food on the table and what belief I had in the value of education was shaken enough to start to wonder about the Wal-Mart job mentioned above.

In my mind, the university system hasn't been this clueless about the outside world since the 1920's and it'll be interesting to see where it ends up after the looming financial crunch. Education is a business, true, and everyone needs what it's selling, but they're alienating their customers and losing sight of what they're about, and I feel like it's only a matter of time before we see university businesses on par with the automotive industry, HMO's or Big Pharma who are universally reviled and inches away from either bankruptcy or a huge smackdown by the federal government.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 7:46 AM on December 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


David Noble, an interesting historian has written similar things about the automation of education. An student activist group at my old school wrote up a very impressive expose on the corporate-educational-complex.
Part of the "speed-up" process where universities churn out obedient workers can be attributed to the horrors of US domestic policy management in the 1960s where kids had the free time to protest, fuck, and threaten wages/profit/productivity trinity, where wages were outstripping productivity and cutting into profits. Hell, Samuel Huntington wrote a piece for the preeminent organ of policy making, the Trilateral Commission, called the "crisis of democracy" where he attributed a break down of civil society in the 60s to an "excess of democracy"- that is the increased demands of blacks, women, and the anti-war protesters to break the smooth space allocated for them by the disciplinary society of the 50s.

So the capitalist trick of stifling revolutionary desire is and always has been to put people to work. Get a job you dirty hippy! The increased interest rates on student loans, the higher tuition, the greater push towards investing in intellectual capital on trade skills like business/engineering can be seen as a response to the threat of working class agitation and the traditional (by now nostalgic) link between students and labor, May 1968 in France as the best example. So the corporatization of the university ought to be seen as a response from a threatened capitalist system, not some spontaneous "natural" order.
There's an excellent set of readings by my old professor on the political economy of education which I'd highly recommend.
posted by bodywithoutorgans at 8:18 AM on December 4, 2008 [16 favorites]


I can't favorite bodywithoutorgan's comment enough.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:28 AM on December 4, 2008


This is quite the timely post. It's amazing how much the priorities have shifted from creating and passing on knowledge to furthering the administration. Penn, who has one of the larger endowments in higher ed is worrying about the economy? Maybe they're afraid because the top-heavy administration senses that the model isn't working in business, and self-preservation is kicking in.

Some of the greatest achievements in the United States happened during times of economic distress. It seems counter-intuitive that universities are 'hunkering down' when in reality this is probably one of the best times in history to expand. Building materials are cheap and work crews are sitting idle due to the lack of credit -- why not build a few buildings cheap and expand some programs? Stimulate the economy with the money that's just sitting there!

Instead, the Corporation-University decides to 'hunker down', much like the financial institutions that they aspire to be. And, of course, the administration is doing fine with their humongous salaries while academics still fight to get tenured.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 8:50 AM on December 4, 2008


I just wanted to point out that this entire discussion is really field specific. There are certain domains of academia where there are plenty of jobs that pay well. Business, Law, Engineering, and other disciplines pay quite well and there is not the same reliance on underpaid part-time faculty.

In fact as a business professor it is often quite odd talking with professors from other fields at the same university because our lives are so different.
posted by bove at 9:27 AM on December 4, 2008


In fact as a business professor it is often quite odd talking with professors from other fields at the same university because our lives are so different.
posted by bove at 12:27 PM on December 4 [+] [!]


unless you are a business/finance grad student and your department thinks you only deserve a 13 week contract for a 16 week semester (true story)

When a dean who makes six figures a year cuts my 18k a year job to leave a department head office with only one full time staff employee for a thousand students I have to wonder what kinds of business the new "business oriented financial planning" is referring to.

the MBA mindset is as disastrous for US higher education as it has been for US business. that sums this up in a nutshell.
posted by geos at 9:41 AM on December 4, 2008


Some of the greatest achievements in the United States happened during times of economic distress. It seems counter-intuitive that universities are 'hunkering down' when in reality this is probably one of the best times in history to expand. Building materials are cheap and work crews are sitting idle due to the lack of credit -- why not build a few buildings cheap and expand some programs? Stimulate the economy with the money that's just sitting there!

most universities are funded by the states, and the state budget has to be balanced. say goodbye public higher education...
posted by geos at 9:43 AM on December 4, 2008


Can professors claim these kinds of expenses as deductions on their taxes?

Yes.

Still, if you need to pay the bills now, money next April isn't gonna cover it.

Also, the money you get next April won't cover it. A deduction is far from a reimbursement; it's a subsidy equal to your tax rate. But of course these are teachers earning so little that something like a couple hundred in photocopy costs is breaking their back. That's not someone likely to be in a 50% tax bracket. 10-15%, tops. Which means that at best 15% of those expenses will eventually be come back as a tax deduction. Whoopies. And for the ones on food stamps, the tax rate and reimbursement is likely bupkus.

And yet teachers at all levels routinely go on paying out-of-pocket for basic supplies, students' books, copies, etc. We don't need to lose them to WalMart. What we need is to end the education system's shameless exploitation of low-wage workers' willingness to personally underwrite the true cost of education delivery.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 10:08 AM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Instead, the Corporation-University decides to 'hunker down', much like the financial institutions that they aspire to be. And, of course, the administration is doing fine with their humongous salaries while academics still fight to get tenured.

If academic institutions aspired to be more like financial institutions, they'd pay their administrators a lot more than they do now. Have a look at the data gathered by Inside Higher Ed:

-Average salary of senior administrators: $78K-365K

-Average salary of mid-level administrators: $33K-102K (most in the $33-80K range, with two outliers at staff lawyer and physician).

-Average salary of faculty: $69K-107K for full professors; $39K-55K for instructors.

That means that, on average, senior administrators are paid at most 6x full professors and 10x instructors, and mid-level administrators on average earn in the same range as both groups. That's nowhere near the multiples you see in the private sector. Now, you may think that these multiples are still too high (I don't), but this clearly is not a case of fat-cat administrators scooping up outrageous salaries while faculty (even junior faculty) work for a pittance. Also, administrators are generally pulled from the ranks of the faculty; and, unlike faculty, they do not set their own schedules, and generally work 9-5 or more every day without summers off. The idea that there is some kind of class-based oppression within the academic power structure is a tremendous oversimplification.
posted by googly at 11:59 AM on December 4, 2008


"most universities are funded by the states, and the state budget has to be balanced. say goodbye public higher education..."

For varying degrees of "funded." It's true that declining state revenue means declining state support but at my alma mater state support has been terrible for over a decade. 15 percent of the budget comes from the state, at this state university. So they've leaned on alternatives, like endowments, research grants and alumni donations. I've heard suggestions that the amount of money received from the state approaches not being worth the price of compliance with state regulations (acquisition, hiring etc.).

Personally, I have a hard time feeling sorry for people who feel teaching is a charity worth dedicating their lives to -- one they can't afford. Certainly most undergraduates aren't loading up on debt for the sheer bliss. If I had a family to care for, I like to think their well-being would be a higher priority than standing in front of a lecture hall. But maybe that's why I have a degree in Computer Science and not Literature.
posted by pwnguin at 12:09 PM on December 4, 2008


I'm confused, pwnguin. If everyone held your values and thus nobody taught literature, who would those undergraduates be listening to in their lecture hall anyhow?

In response to googly:
So of course it's no good that adjunct faculty are paid as poorly as they are. And being a young proto-academic (postdoc) myself, I do have many very talented friends who have left academia for the much better paying professional world (and their fields are poorer for the loss). And I think about the hard road to get to tenure and wonder if I'll fall off before I get there.

But given that data (that admins are not really paid an unreasonable multiple of the salaries of faculty), then where is the money going? As per the recent thread on college affordability, students are having to pay more, not less, for their educations.

Is it mispurchase of expensive technology that doesn't actually increase learning (as I sit here typing on my presumably university-owned computer)? Is it the cost of benefits (e.g. healthcare) for all university workers? Building costs? It's got to go somewhere, and I'd love to learn more about where.
posted by nat at 12:55 PM on December 4, 2008


googly: ...this clearly is not a case of fat-cat administrators scooping up outrageous salaries while faculty (even junior faculty) work for a pittance...

No, you're right, it isn't, but universities are scaling back massively on full-time employees. That salary is going to less and less employees. This is like a business hiring more and more VPs while relying on temporary help for everything below. It seems counter-intuitive to run a business about knowledge while having massive turnover in those who need the most knowledge and experience to deal with students. To use my earlier comparison, it would be like a hospital hiring all new doctors and nurses, or an auto manufacturer to hiring all new technicians every three years. See also this comment from your first link:

If you work in a student services environment... (y)ou are paid to provide the instant access that students, and parents, required. You are paid to have such things as access to info, form submission, transcript access, online verification and online registration operational 24 X 7. You are paid to work weeks of 60+ hours because staffing everywhere in higher ed is the lowest common denominator, and demand times of the academic cycle mean you live at the office...

These are the people with the highest turnover and these are the people that the students, taxpayers and alumni should be demanding the retention and compensation for, because these are the public face of the university and the ones who can and will do the most for a student's education, save the student themselves. One could make the argument that universities are primarily for research, which is valid, but if the university is going to (increasingly) rely on the income from tuition, doesn't this imply that teaching may also be a priority?

Some schools, particularly private institutions and art schools, have adapted to this high turnover rate and used it as an advantage but I don't see any major accredited universities adapting to any part of this, especially considering the rules they themselves have created through the accrediting process.

pwnguin: I have a hard time feeling sorry for people who feel teaching is a charity worth dedicating their lives to -- one they can't afford.

Fair enough. But some of us really do believe in the empowerment of education. I don't want a sports car and a pro-athlete level salary, I just want work without being hampered by the increasing stupidity of the "knowledge business."
posted by 1f2frfbf at 1:10 PM on December 4, 2008


Ditto pwnguin. I teach at a four-year college in the SUNY system, and last time I checked, our state funding amounted to no more than 20% of our budget. (Given the origin of SUNY--Nelson Rockefeller swooped in, rounded up a lot of failing private colleges, and incorporated them into a public system--some of us have been speculating that in a few years the whole system might wind up reprivatizing itself, if only by default.)

In re Bousquet, it's worth noting at least two significant components of his argument. First, that the very term "academic job market" obscures how hiring actually takes place; and second, that "[t]he concrete aura of the claim that degree holders are 'overproduced' conceals the necessary understanding that, in fact, there is a huge shortage of degree holders. If degree holders were doing the teaching, there would be far too few of them" (41). By "degree holders," he means Ph.Ds. The thrust of Bousquet's book is that, for a variety of reasons, universities have chosen to use adjuncts in job slots suitable for Ph.Ds, not that there are too many Ph.Ds for job slots.

A couple of days ago, Inside Higher Ed published an interesting article on what adjuncts are teaching.
posted by thomas j wise at 1:13 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


If everyone held your values and thus nobody taught literature, who would those undergraduates be listening to in their lecture hall anyhow?

Well, I'll play along and assume there are actually people in those lecture halls right now. It's possible that if less people were willing to teach literature than was needed to meet a steady enrollment, salaries would rise. I don't think it's a logical argument to say that not teaching literature is part of my values; it's about not teaching literature at sub-subsistance wages. You appear to be operating on the assumption that learning Lit isn't worth anyone's money. If that's actually the case, lets just put another math class in that lecture hall instead.

And while it wasn't in response to me, at least at the local college where I work, I'm told salary and benefits compromise 80 percent of the budget. And we employ waaaay more adjunct in all areas than Universities. Technology isn't all that expensive really. If an average employee makes 40 thousand a year, that's basically ten classroom's worth of equipment. Servers and online classes are even more cost effective. Most public universities are open record; if you visit your librarian they can probably show you the budget...
posted by pwnguin at 1:30 PM on December 4, 2008


But given that data (that admins are not really paid an unreasonable multiple of the salaries of faculty), then where is the money going? As per the recent thread on college affordability, students are having to pay more, not less, for their educations.

The simple answer is I don't know. But let me throw out a couple of thoughts that address this question tangentially.

Many here complain about the increasing "corporatization" of the university. Part of this "corporatization" includes the institution of policies and procedures that increase efficiency. One way to increase efficiency is to pay people a set amount for a set amount of work, and reduce the amount spent on people not working.

This in part explains the turn towards adjunct faculty. An adjunct gets paid X amount for Y amount of work, no more and no less. Contrast this to a full-time faculty member, who gets paid 10X salary for Y amount of work plus the promise that they are contributing to the university in other ways.

Now here's the fucked-up thing: As those faculty members move up the ranks, in many cases they generally do less and less work and get paid more and more. I don't have hard data on this, but I do have anecdotal evidence from my experience at 5 different academic institutions and what I have heard from many friends and colleagues. And the situation is ugly. Tenured faculty generally get paid more to teach less and do less administrative work than junior faculty. In the sciences, the case could be made that the senior faculty make up for this by bringing in larger grants, which is to some extent true. In the humanities, this is not the case. Many humanities departments are saddled with tenured faculty who earn twice as much as their junior colleagues, have few responsibilities, and are basically impossible to get rid of. [One anecdote: at one university I was affiliated with, at least two tenured faculty in my department got such terrible reviews and were such incompetent managers that they only taught one course a year and had no administrative responsibilities - they were, in effect, rewarded for their incompetence]. It doesn't take a genius to see that putting more people on the tenure track won't solve this problem.

So if you want to blame someone for the "corporatization" of the university, take at least some of your vitriol for the capitalist system and retrain it on the tenure system. One of the unintended consequences of the laudable goal of preserving academic freedom has been the institution of a winner-takes-all occupational hierarchy. The winners (some of whom pen Marxist tracts blaming capitalism for the situation of their junior peers) get total job security, guaranteed salary, and few responsibilities; everyone else gets the hope that they will be one of the lucky few that will join the winners' ranks. So at least some of the money is going to pad the pockets of faculty who are simply tremendously overpaid for what little work that they do.

This is admittedly only one facet of a more complicated picture; and I certainly don't think that the tenure system is completely to blame for the rise in adjunct teaching. But I do think that it contributes to the sense of entitlement that afflicts academics - including those in the videos linked by the FPP. There is an expectation that anyone with a PhD deserves the brass ring of tenure, and that being paid a specific amount for a specific amount of work is demeaning and humiliating. This isn't entirely the fault of administrators trying to balance university budgets; its also the fault of a winner-take-all academic culture.
posted by googly at 1:49 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Tenured faculty generally get paid more to teach less and do less administrative work than junior faculty.

That hasn't been the case, at all, in any of the universities I've been a part of. In all of them, untenured faculty are deliberately kept from nearly all administrative work above the department level, and have their departmental administrative work limited.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:35 PM on December 4, 2008


Tenured faculty generally get paid more to teach less and do less administrative work than junior faculty.

That hasn't been the case, at all, in any of the universities I've been a part of. In all of them, untenured faculty are deliberately kept from nearly all administrative work above the department level, and have their departmental administrative work limited.


And to refine on the above comments: there were definitely tenured faculty at my undergrad alma mater who were being "paid more to teach less" (e.g., a couple of graduate courses per year); this was at a Ph.D-granting UC with a reasonable amount of $ coming in. At my father's CalState...um, no. The only course releases were for administrative heavy lifting (e.g., department chair or department UG adviser). At my SUNY...also, um, no. Untenured faculty have fewer advisees and little in the way of committee work, whereas tenured faculty are expected to do much more in the way of committee work (including at the campuswide level--which is also the only way to get a promotion to full professor), have more advisees, and, unless it's something like being department chair, get no release time for any of it. (I run my department's graduate program. Still no release time.)

IOW, it's really, really difficult to generalize about what "tenured faculty" are or aren't doing, because it depends on classification (research university? comprehensive teaching college? community college?), available cash, university "mission," contracts, etc.
posted by thomas j wise at 4:09 PM on December 4, 2008


But given that data (that admins are not really paid an unreasonable multiple of the salaries of faculty), then where is the money going? As per the recent thread on college affordability, students are having to pay more, not less, for their educations.

Governor Patterson in NY wants to raise state college tuition and use 80 to 90% of that increase for other state uses instead of for the benefit of the students.
I have no idea how much the state currently takes back to use elsewhere, or if other states do this.
posted by amethysts at 4:16 PM on December 4, 2008


What we need is to end the education system's shameless exploitation of low-wage workers' willingness to personally underwrite the true cost of education delivery.

Actors and musicians. I just figured it out. Young academics are treated like aspiring actors and musicians -- striving, starving and conniving for a few high-placed, big-money jobs. They can be treated as disposable because fresh-faced talent is waiting to do any work they won't do. I don't know how, or if, academia can be brought around from this exploitation.

I majored in archaeology, but I didn't enter the field, because I could see that the game was not worth the candle. I've got a lot of regrets in life, but not entering academia is sure as hell not one of them.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:52 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Countess Elena- I think your insight works, if you drop big-money from the list. Academics are paid in respect, job security, etc, not so much in dollars (many would make more in the private sector).
posted by nat at 7:42 PM on December 4, 2008


Oh, and googly-- I personally don't have much vitriol for capitalism, just a little confusion about where the money goes (and an awareness that money is finite-- it's not ok to complain that faculty aren't paid enough while simultaneously complaining that tuition is too high, unless there is some other waste that's occurring.)

I also can't really put vitriol on the tenure system, however, because I really do believe in the notion of academic freedom; I don't have much insight for how this works in predominately teaching universities though. It makes perfect sense to me for research institutions, and there I think the benefits of the tenure system outweight the (considerable) detriments.
posted by nat at 7:46 PM on December 4, 2008


.
posted by dagosto at 11:41 PM on December 4, 2008


. , indeed.
posted by jeanmari at 4:58 AM on December 5, 2008


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