The beatings will indeed continue until morale improves

First, go read Tenured Radical’s post from yesterday.  I’ll wait.

Doesn’t President Barack Obama’s speech at the University of Michigan remind you of the time that George W. Bush went to Notre Dame and Bob Jones and told them to stop being such one-issue whiners about abortion?  Or like that time he went to Haliburton and lectured them about keeping costs down, otherwise he would de-fund the National Security State?  Yeah:  just like that!

Personally, I liked this response– mysteriously, it was the final paragraph in the Denver Post this morning, rather than the lede:

University of Washington president Mike Young said Obama showed he did not understand how the budgets of public universities work. Young said the total cost to educate college students in Washington state, which is paid for by both tuition and state government dollars, has actually gone down because of efficiencies on campus. While universities are tightening costs, the state is cutting their subsidies and authorizing tuition increases to make up for the loss.

Did you think we were done with the stupid for today?  As if!  Here’s another brilliant idea from the enormous number of higher education policy geniuses who apparently populate our nation and share their ideas in letters to the editors of their local newspapers:

A significant part of the solution to the problem of rising tuition is for colleges and universities to put more full-time tenured professors in the classroom. Dropping or significantly reducing the other requirements on professors — such as research, scholarship, service, and the like — would materially reduce academic costs.

The professors I had while pursing my Ph.D. taught only three courses per year on a quarter system.

Try it: Students and parents will like it. Professors and administrators will holler bloody murder. But it’s the real answer. Stop beating around the bush.

As tempting as it is to turn Barack Obama and other misguided citizens into the villains here, I think the real problem lies with the public university presidents who haven’t educated politicians or the public at all about the “effeciencies on campus” they’ve enacted over the past twenty years.  Everyone who reads this blog knows that those “efficiencies” are human beings called adjunct instructors, temporary faculty, or “special” faculty who on many campuses (including mine) comprise now the MAJORITY of faculty, and certainly produce the largest number of student credit hours.  They teach 4-4 loads (or more), and have zero responsibility for research or service to the university.  In my department, they don’t advise students and they can’t sit on graduate student committees.  They are on contracts that expect them only to teach, and they don’t enjoy the protections of tenure.  This is how universities have kept tuition as low as it is.  I have seen the charts and data tables for my university.  The Provost of Baa Ram U. came to my department with a slide show that demonstrated that Baa Ram U. has held their expenses at 1990 levels for the past 21 years–so the tuition increases in those 21 years are entirely attributable to the withdrawl of support from the state and the federal government.

But university presidents have held their tongues and played along, and they’ve therefore encouraged citizens and taxpayers to believe that it’s really possible to get something for nothing, to squeeze blood from a stone, and to do more with less.  They have also unforgiveably encouraged the notion that somehow offering free farm clubs to the NBA and the NFL are somehow better “investments” in the quality of education than hiring new tenure-track faculty, purchasing books and journal subscriptions, and improving the quality of their classrooms.  Because they have been happy to exploit the “efficiencies” of casual labor, public university presidents and administrators haven’t told the general public that (for example) the people doing the majority of teaching don’t enjoy the protections of tenure and don’t get credit for anything but their teaching.  They haven’t told the public that there’s no guarantee from year to year that these folks will be around to continue to teach required courses so that students can finish their majors, nor have they explained that these folks might not be available to write leters of recommendation to further their students’ careers.  They also haven’t even begun to attempt an explanation that universities are not just places that pass on knowledge, they’re places that produce new knowledge, new knowledge that’s really important to the quality of teaching that a college or university can offer.  And this is a failure I place squarely at the feet of the current generation of university and college presidents who earn C.E.O.-type salaries while gutting the instructional budget and lecturing the tenure-track faculty about the sacrifices we “all” have to make. 

I’d almost enjoy the schadenfreude if I thought Barack Obama’s crazzy tuition-limiting scheme would cause real hardship among the Mike Youngs and Tony Franks of the world–the university presidents who have failed to provide real leadership for the good of their states.  But unfortunately, the C.E.O. presidents will be just fine and continue to draw their six- and seven-figure salaries.  The people who will pay for these schemes are the staff who make $20,000 or $30,000 a year, the adjuncts who make $25,000 to $35,000, or the regular faculty who make $50,000 or $60,000.  That’s who will be expected to make new “efficiencies on campus.”

18 thoughts on “The beatings will indeed continue until morale improves

  1. Wait, he calls himself “Mike” Young? Intra muros, he signs his memos “Michael” Young. Is the Mike thing an attempt to make himself sound more like your average Joe that your average taxpayer could have a beer with, I wonder?

    To be fair, he did step in very recently to a UW already totally decimated by “efficiencies” – he has yet to personally oversee another round of budget cuts, but they are forthcoming and he’ll do nothing to stop the juggernaut of Excellence Without Money (Except For Sports).

    At least he’s not a career sports manager who will quit mid-term as soon as the NCAA dangles a gazillion-dollar contract in front of him.

    Have I sufficiently outed myself as a bitter Washingtonian?!

    What you identify as the drift (more like a gallop) towards a factory-farm approach to education is exactly right, and has destroyed the UW for all but business, medical or high-tech students. We were already ridiculously “efficient” before the financial crisis (my own department has 5 tenure-line faculty for 150+ majors and a full grad programme). I think that for some very highly-placed administrators, the crisis was actually a welcome excuse to push through a business model that they’d been wanting for a lot longer. Now they actually have a reason to keep denying us new hires and to ask that classes get bigger and bigger.

    Another victim of the New Normal is teaching in any language other than English. The UW, again, is typical of large state institutions in adopting a doublespeak in this regard. We all have to teach in English now, in order to attract hundreds of students to our classes. On the other hand, the puff-talk about “commitment to producing global citizens” has never been more inflated. When our individual majors are abolished (and they will be soon, in favour of a “humanities” major – you heard it here first), we will be producing global citizens who can only function in English and have only worked with texts and ideas available in English in the first place. What a sadly appropriate testimony to the US’s position in the world.


  2. This ought to be required reading for Obama, and it ought to appear in the Chronicle, Inside Higher Ed, and the NY Times–especially this: “But unfortunately, the C.E.O. presidents will be just fine and continue to draw their six- and seven-figure salaries. The people who will pay for these schemes are the staff who make $20,000 or $30,000 a year, the adjuncts who make $25,000 to $35,000, or the regular faculty who make $50,000 or $60,000. That’s who will be expected to make new “efficiencies on campus.”


  3. I had the same reaction when I heard this on the radio. The President and his pals are either clueless about what’s really going down on campus or could care less and are up to something else.

    As to university presidents, of course they have not been sounding an alarm. They are, increasingly, part of the corporate executive class for whom a primary goal is to do whatever it takes to land the next job. Balance the books, keep the trains running on time, and erect some new buildings. The president of my university has an abiding animosity for organized labor, one he stated clearly to a group of union reps within weeks of arriving on campus. Not long after that he threw student leaders out of our “shared governance” structure. The fish rots from the head down and it seems unlikely to me that the rottenest bit will notice, let alone comment upon, the stench.


  4. Thanks to both you and TR for such lucid and spot-on commentary. The sad thing is the current student loan crisis (very real) is fueling this attack. Private student loans and for-profit universities should be target number one. Not struggling public universities (minus athletic departments and upper administration-they are just fine). The real anguish of students struggling under enormous debt is being used as justification for vilifying, well, folks like us. It makes me crazy.


  5. truffula and LouMac, you are probably right that my comments here are just not cynical enough. I think LouMac is correct that many of the professional managerial class were just waiting for an excuse–and I see it happening in all kinds of different sectors, not just education.

    I think truffula is right that uni presidents are neither motivated nor inclined to stand up for educational values and for fairness, so it looks like everyone needs to find hir own lifeboat.


  6. This is effectively exactly the same policy that is being implemented in England (education is devolved in the UK, so we have a range of policies). So the new policy is: we’re taking away state support for most fields of study (except some STEM, but definitely all the humanities); to compensate you can charge tuition fees but we will put a maximum cap on this and you need to have your fee levels authorised by the govt; so this doesn’t hurt poor people, we will decide how much tuition you can charge based on how many grants you offer to those from deprived areas; students can pay their fees by getting large student loans from the state that they can pay off for the rest of their lives; to help give students’ choice, unis must provide statistics on their tuition fees and earnings of their graduates.

    In this case, this is a new policy and not just the status quo, but it’s still depressing.


  7. Take ten people with food for five of them. Two of the ten are extremely strong. We know what will happen in the long run, especially if the strong aren’t exceptionally smart and benevolent.

    The country is almost broke and the rich cannot tell the difference. Universities, education systems, workers are asked to starve for the strong. It all comes with the typical tribal dances, apology for all tribes, pagan ritual and assorted crap.

    Now everyone is free to complain. It never helps.


  8. Pingback: First (Link)Loves « Adjunctorium

  9. “Even without the last two, that’s $22.75 billion we are paying through the tax code to make college tuition and student debt more manageable. This amount is in the middle the range of the cost of just making public high education free. Now these aren’t equivalent — much of what is spent through the tax code will be biased more towards private and professional schools, which are more expensive. But this also isn’t anywhere near the full extent we subsidize student debt (a government creation from 1965).”

    So we could save money if we made public high education free, but we’ll do this stupid $%&* instead.


  10. Ugh. Policy points are not any better here in Canada, I’m afraid.

    We heard talk at our U of our SS&H faculty being the one targeted for “continuing restraint”. Jeebus, people, you’ve already eliminated 1/3 of our faculty complement and now you’re not only saying “no new hires” but “don’t count on those courses for adjuncts”. Even as I teach more students, I shoulder a heavier administrative burden due to a dearth of colleagues and a glut of needy students.

    And I know it’s not easy in the other faculties where they’re being driven to chase research monies while holding together their programs in the face of professional society reviews or the like. Our peers aren’t the enemy. Taxpayers aren’t the enemy. It’s the educratic reform movement that’s out to destroy the heart and soul of universities as outposts of teaching and scholarship, closely allied as they are to a business mindset that sees outsourcing as the smartest move in the playbook and anything that can’t be quantified as unreal and unimportant.


  11. Pingback: Here is a neoliberal speech on higher education by Barack Obama, in which he does not call for states to reinvest in higher education, insists universities cut costs further, and emphasizes the importance of defense funding | Mictlantecuhtli

  12. Pingback: Here is a neoliberal speech on higher education by Barack Obama, in which he does not call for states to reinvest in higher education; insists universities cut costs further; and emphasizes the importance of defense funding | Mictlantecuhtli

  13. Thanks for that silly link, cgeye. The writer lost my confidence by the second paragraph, in which he writes this:

    And consider that cost: Colorado College, for example, has an annual tuition of $39,900 — and once room, board, and supplies are factored in, that rises to a whopping $52,000 for non-Colorado based students.

    Of course, CC is a PRIVATE college, not a public college, so the cost to Colorado residents and non-Colorado residents alike is the exact same thing, with the exception that out-of-state students might need more gas money and/or plane tickets for school breaks.



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