September
20th 2010
For-profit flim flam

Posted under: jobs, students

Here’s a little litmus test we should urge on folks who are comparison shopping colleges and universities:  do they tell you who their faculty are?  Because there’s no way in h-e-double-hockey-sticks I’d ever attend or send my progeny (if I have any) to an institution that didn’t identify, describe, and brag about its faculty.  Non-profit colleges and unis should take note, too–tenured or tenure-track faculty are the only ones around who can be expected to explain details about the curriculum, answer questions about required coursework for the major, advise students adequately, and provide letters of recommendation or serve as references for students who might have graduated a year or two (or six) ago.  Adjunct faculty can’t be expected to do these things–but these are the little things that make a degree from our institutions truly worthwhile.

Professor Harold Hill gets around these days, doesn’t he? “Wherever the people are as green as the money, friend.”

6 Comments »

6 Responses to “For-profit flim flam”

  1. truffula on 20 Sep 2010 at 1:35 pm #

    provide letters of recommendation or serve as references for students who might have graduated a year or two (or six) ago

    Hey, how’s that going to work in the brave new world of online classes?

  2. Historiann on 20 Sep 2010 at 5:54 pm #

    It’s NOT!!!

    But apparently, university administrators aren’t always thinking with 5 or 10 years’ foresight. To be fair, many of them have to solve budget crises NOW NOW NOW so maybe they don’t have that luxury all of the time. But still–someone needs to remind them that universities are more than just places where the middle-class earns credentials. The whole thing relies on a great deal of institutional memory and the goodwill of faculty who have been offered the privilege of tenure.

  3. Perpetua on 21 Sep 2010 at 6:33 am #

    Love this from the article: “When faculty have a full-time position, there’s an expectation from students, parents, taxpayers that they’re fully committed to it,” he says, “not that they’re also working part-time for a for-profit and contributing to that company’s profits.” I have an idea – how about paying faculty enough money that they don’t NEED a second job? And he’s clear that he’s talking about tenure-track faculty here, working as he admits (with two job) 70-75 hrs a week.

    I completely agree with your points about transparency and faculty, Historiann. I don’t mean to derail the aspect of this issue you want to talk about. I was just so struck by the POV of administrators that “We need transparency so we can punish our full time faculty for needing extra work.” There’s this bizarre, unintended subtext to it about how miserable it is to be a t-t faculty in some places. And the invocation of the taxpayer’s rights and expectations! Oy ve!

  4. Natalis on 21 Sep 2010 at 7:24 am #

    In an ideal world, non-ttt faculty should not be expected “to explain details about the curriculum, answer questions about required coursework for the major, advise students adequately, and provide letters of recommendation or serve as references…” In the real world, instructors, lecturers, and adjunct faculty DO all these things.

    This is not to diminish the underlying truth of Historiann’s statement: industry “best practice” would dictate that only those faculty compensated for these “extras” can be expected to do them. Reality dictates that everyone in the boat has to bail, particularly if one is an at will employee with one’s job perpetually on the line. More importantly, being non-ttt does not deplete goodwill or compassion. If worthy students come to ask for a rec or advising, good faculty members (ttt or no) tend not to turn them away. Universities then capitalize on this goodwill to extract more labor with lower capital outlays.

  5. Historiann on 21 Sep 2010 at 8:06 am #

    Natalis–that’s true. I didn’t mean to demean the contributions of non-tt faculty. However, because at-will employees have a tendency NOT to be around more than a few years, it’s difficult if not impossible for even dedicated former students to track them down and request letters of recommendation, references, etc. Relying on temps to do the full-time work is short-sighted at best, and abusive of both faculty and students at worst.

    Perpetua–I see what you’re saying, and I didn’t like Bob Smith’s punative approach either. However, I think it’s more than a little ethically dodgy for tenured or tenure-track folks to moonlight at another institution. But, “special” and other non-tenure track faculty–all’s fair in love and war, right? (Another reason why it’s professionally and ethically dubious to try to run a uni on non-tenure track labor.)

  6. Historiann on 21 Sep 2010 at 10:33 am #

    Funny coincidence: I just received an e-mail from a student of mine from 4-1/2 years ago. He had contacted me earlier in the summer for a letter of recommendation, and wanted to report that he was enrolled in the graduate program of his choice and doing well.

    Would a student who had taken a class with a temporary or “special” faculty member 4+ years earlier be able to track down that adjunct for a letter? Would she remember him well enough to write an effective letter on his behalf? Would he care enough to keep her posted about his professional progress? I don’t know for sure, but I’m glad for this student’s sake (and many others) that I’m not an adjunct.

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