As cynical as I try to be, I just can’t be cynical enough. Here’s what I’ve learned so far in our first week back to class at Baa Ram U.:
- Departments across the university are offering online classes taught by grad student and adjunct labor in order to fund research and professional travel for their regular faculty and grad students.
- Instead of “unethical” or “scandalous” or “a shocking abrogation of professional and moral values,” this is called “entrepreneurial.” The money generated by teaching face-to-face classes doesn’t count for anything–the regular faculty have to become drummers and middle-managers of an expanded exploited class of laborers, in addition to doing our regular teaching, research, and service.
- Apparently, the administrative class at my uni have adopted the values that bankrupted the banking industry: sell something of dubious and unproven quality or value just to make a buck. To hell with intellectual or educational values–we’re all about the money, honey!
- The administrative class here are engaging in bubblethink: Dow 36,000! $500 for a single tulip bulb is quite reasonable–after all, the market will expand infinitely! Go head, take out that $450,000 mortgage with zero down and an annual salary of $35,000! After all, there is an endless supply of potential students we can rook with online ed! Go ahead, hire more regular faculty with the money you make through online courses–the pie can only grow, never shrink!
- After a summer of endless e-mails from the president of my university celebrating the sesquicentennial of the Morrill Act, it’s crystal clear that Baa Ram U.’s administrative leadership has zero commitment to public higher education. They do not believe that taxpayers in my state should be persuaded to support higher education–from now on, online dupe$ and $ucker$ will fund our operation$.
- The administrative class here now sees our peer universities as Kaplan and the University of Phoenix. We are not a research university, no matter the number of Ph.D. programs we offer–Ph.D. students are the means by which we staff the online courses, and then when they graduate they can adjunct for the same courses ad infinitum, producing more revenue with which we can recruit more Ph.D. students who will teach online courses producing more revenue with which we can recruit more Ph.D. students, and so on! (It’s like that old joke: we feed the rats to the cats, and the cats to the rats, and get the skins for free!)
Private universities are frequently portrayed as elitist and exclusive, with some justification. But I’ve come to think that they might be the only places that can afford to preserve true intellectual and educational values. Like the European monasteries that preserved classical texts and kept the lamp of learning alight through the barbarian invasions, they might be higher education’s last hope.
There I go again: not cynical enough! When will I learn? Everybody knows.