The University of North Carolina to its emeriti faculty who have volunteered to return to the classroom for no pay: Drop Dead! (Via The University Diaries–the blue bracketed editorial comments are UD proprietor Margaret Soltan’s.)
In February, an association of retired UNC-Chapel Hill professors sought to help ease daunting budget cuts by offering to jump back into teaching, free of charge.
The response from the university, they say, has been underwhelming.
“It was more than a gesture; it was a well-thought-out offer to the university,” said Andrew Dobelstein, a retired professor of social welfare policy and the group’s president. “I’m quite frankly surprised we haven’t gotten much response.” [Top-heavy with overpaid administrators, Chapel Hill responds to this offer with paralysis. Mouth hangs open. Doesn’t know what to do. In its world, people don’t behave this way. Doesn’t understand what has happened. It doesn’t compute.]
This year, UNC has had to pare its operating budget by more than $60 million, a 10 percent cut. While most of the reductions have to come in nonacademic areas, students are seeing the effects in classrooms, which have become more crowded this fall.
Whatwhatwhat!?!? A university administration adverse to faculty performing uncompensated labor? Oh–that’s right. Retired faculty really aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer now, are they?
But for university officials, the offer isn’t quite that simple.
While budget cuts have strained many academic departments, university leaders are leery of plugging retired faculty members into roles that may not fit them perfectly.
“This really has to be one of those things where matches get made,” said Ron Strauss, executive associate provost. “We don’t want to bring back people who ended their academic careers several years ago and aren’t keeping on the cutting edge of their disciplines, just as a stopgap measure.” [Yes, let’s act cautiously. Or not at all. After all, we can put a sh!tload of courses online and have them taught by part-timers and grad students! Who needs these guys?]
I might add: what’s with the gratuitous and insulting assumption that the gaffers are spending their days playing shuffleboard? My bet is that if they won tenure at UNC–even if it was 20, 30, or 40 years ago–that they’re pretty darn smart and probably still very active scholars. (I know UNC has smart grad students–but really, even the most promising grad student doesn’t have as much to offer, as even grad students themselves will agree.) Soltan concludes: “Really, even a university-wide email from the executive associate provost encouraging departments to do this would be a big help. But we wouldn’t want him to act too fast.”
This strange hesitation to take advantage of volunteers–and moreover the strange need to insult the volunteers as too old and out-of-touch to offer anything of value to UNC’s students–isn’t strange if we understand that universities now operate on the assumptions of corporate America, and that their object is to turn their workforce into at-will wage slaves who don’t have a voice in university policy or governance. The opinions and commands of university administrators will mean less than nothing to emeriti faculty working for free–because university administrators have no leverage whatsoever over these folks and can’t instill fear in them. They’re already working for free–what’s UNC going to take away from them? (I guess it could revoke their library privileges and cancel their e-mail accounts, or something like that, for their daring and totally threatening generosity!)
I thought francofou had another great point in the comments at UD: “It would be a different story if the administration had initiated a cutting-edge, ground-breaking Center for Wisdom Resources, with a new associate provost, a full staff and a 5-million-dollar budget. Now we’re in grant-getting territory.” Indeed.
If I were an emerita faculty member at UNC, I might start holidng teach-ins or be-ins on campus, or do something similarly generationally appropriate like that. (Consciousness raising? EST? Wev–to borrow a corporate slogan from my youth, just do it!)