What would happen to faculty if we failed 80% of the time? Or, being a $1.5 million coach means never having to say you’re sorry.

Imagine, if you will, that my university recruited and hired a superstar professor and paid her $150,000 a year.  (This would make her among the highest paid of all faculty here, I am sure.)  Imagine that this professor then issued failing grades to 80% of her students, failed to publish 80% of her books and papers, and failed to do 80% of all service assignments and advising assigned to her.  Do you think that a professor  with this kind of a record would be rewarded with even more university resources such as a $25 million new lab or a $25 million donation to a research group that she led?

Now imagine that the sums I’ve given you above have been multiplied by ten.  Are you still with me?  Do you think that Professor Jerky McJerksalot would still have a job here?  Because the president of  my university just announced in an e-mail today that he’s going to go ahead with plans to build a $250 million new stadium for our $1.5 million football coach who has won exactly one game this season.  That’s right:  a guy with a 1 and 4 record isn’t out on his a$$–he’s even being rewarded for this kind of performance!  (And guess what?  Baa Ram U. is still paying out to other coaches they’ve fired in the past several years.  Sing it loud and sing it proud:  being a football coach is awesome!!!)

Look, over there!  It’s a schoolteacher, and 80% of her students failed to make adequate yearly progress!  Let’s get her!  She’s what’s wrong with education today.

19 thoughts on “What would happen to faculty if we failed 80% of the time? Or, being a $1.5 million coach means never having to say you’re sorry.

  1. Batting one-for-five even has its own Wikipedia page, and for all I know its own Facebook page in baseball. It’s called the “Mendoza Line,” and it was coined at the end of the 1970s at the expense of a journeyman shortstop, the proverbial “good field, no hit” guy who tended to hover in that range year after year. His teammates hung it on him but I think some sportscaster popularized it, and it somehow was supposed to be redolent not only of offensive futility but to be a vague reference to Central American dictators, military coups, what scholarship would call fillibustering, or something like that. Speaking of offensive futility, it seems to have somehow escaped becoming proscribed as a slur in a sport which has mined Latin America for talent but done little to promote the wellbeing of the region itself; much less that of players who don’t happen to turn into stars. The term has taken on a life of its own in various realms, with wikipedia calling it a “benchmark for borderline incompetence.”

    But as for the prez., I’m guessing he’d say it’s not about the coach, it’s about the boosters, plus of course this makes me a “job creator” and all of that bllzzzht. 250 mill would buy a great new library that could absorb actual books probably for decades, plus of course the requisite Coursera docking station on the ground floor.


  2. I am kind of surprised at the post’s implicit surprise. Above a certain level and in most fields, failure does happen even if it does. The president of U Virginia was fire for her success. Bush was reelected because of his failures. Obama looks like a successful failure too. One doesn’t run out of example even recitation lasts indefinitely.

    My impression: that’s the normative behavior.


  3. Yeah, yeah: rub it in! This is all kinds of messed up.

    Koshembos: I guess I’m not surprised, but I still have a great deal of capacity for outrage. I had thought that the craptastic record of their $1.5 million coach would have made it a little more difficult to go ahead with this idiotic new stadium scheme, but I guess it was clear already last spring that the fix was in.


  4. Football (and college athletics) does not obey the laws of gravity, or any laws that apply to normal mortals.

    But like TR, I’m glad not to have a football team. We’re not even in NCAA. I had a student who was on our nascent soccer team, and she quit after three weeks because she was working from 6 AM to 11 PM. Smart woman. (She really is.)


  5. I know. In fact, I’ve seen this before: the more prominent the position in a university one is promoted to and the more money one makes, the less accountable they become for their actions and performance, because university administrators will never admit that they made a mistake in putting that person in hir position of prominence.

    I’ve seen this on a micro-level at a former university when my department there got stuck with a very destructive department chair. Of course it’s even more difficult for a uni prez to admit that he made a bad hire with $1.5 million–the only answer is to spend more and more money to justify the first mistake rather than admit it!


  6. Well, now, how did you think you were supposed to keep up with your Excellence Without Money program if they didn’t keep spending the money elsewhere?

    I’m still weeping here as they’ve reinstated the hockey teams after a good decade and more without them. Now there are people demanding a new hockey arena for the university that could also be a showpiece for the new architectural school that’s being built downtown and and and and. . . .

    Meanwhile, our department faculty has shrunk by 1/3. Good times, good times!


  7. Ugh, Janice: we’re in the same boat (or rink.)

    I don’t know if any of you heard this interview on Morning Edition, but Renee Montagne was just in town and she interviewed my colleague John Straayer about Colorado & the election. He talks about something at the end that neither Dems nor Republicans want to talk about: public investment in education and infrastructure for the public good.

    BTW, she mentions that she talked with him in the “political science” building. That dept. doesn’t have its own building–they’re just down the hall from us in History, in the spectacularly awkward Clark Bldg.


  8. @Janice,

    I know where your school could get a lightly-used, lovingly-tended university hockey arena that has also been previously used as a practice facility by a Stanley Cup NHL team. Fairly brutalist in its design elements, so your architecture school might or might not like it, and also, of course, the acquiring school would have to figure out how to uproot and transport it to its new location. It’s still used for recreational skating, but it seems destined to be demolished for a “Money Without Excellence” campus expansion program now underway.

    The elimination of the hockey program decades ago saw one of the great examples of stakeholder confrontation that did not end well. The hockey team and their girlfriends charged the admin building and barricaded the president in his office. They waited until the campus radio station got there to broadcast it and then began presenting their “unconditional demands.” The team captain first insisted (at length) that the hockey program be reinstated and the building occupiers get complete immunity from punishment. After this awkward soliloquy he said: “How do you respond to that President _________?. Will you agree to our first demand?”

    After what seemed like twenty minutes of dead air on the radio the president emphatically said “NO!!!” The negotiation unravelled from that point on, but suffice it to say that it was not Columbia or Harvard in 1968. The team stayed disbanded–thus the availability of the arena–and I think the girlfriends got new boyfriends.


  9. I heard that interview with Professor Straayer– (we were always shocked as his students to hear that he was registered as a Republican even though he works at a public university.)My boyfriend and I were both Political Science majors at Baa Ram U, and were horrified by the physical state of the classrooms. Clark was falling apart. In our capstone seminar, there were times we couldn’t even hear our professor speak over the buzzing of the light fixtures, and he had to show videos from the 1980s because the TV had only a VHS player. The drop in ceiling tiles were falling down, and it was all very distracting. We would walk past the newly remodeled recreation center on our way home from this class and grumble about the university’s obvious priorities. This doesn’t go unnoticed by students. I don’t know why there aren’t riots at the Oval.


  10. Although I would never defend D-1 football, its measure of success isn’t goals scored or games won. The Chicago Cubs management has giggled all the way to the bank with its payroll-saving Loveable Lovers motif in a big city whose fan base could support high-paid players.

    With college football, if alums and apparel manufacturers and TV networks and the NCAA are happy, the program is successful and should enjoy lots more $. Retch.


  11. Where I was in grad school, the faculty used to cheer a losing football season, because it meant the admissions office was doing its job. Most of my profs had never taught a football player == they didn’t take history classes.


  12. Wrong. Swarthmore doesn’t have a grad program. (But, ironically, my father played football for Swarthmore. He will still — even with dementia — talk about the Swarthmore honors program.)


  13. Pingback: Baa Ram U. featured again on NPR : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present


  15. Pingback: Baa Ram U. featured again on NPR | Historiann

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