Friday, November 23, 2007

No Tenure for You

No need to worry about ''tenured radicals'' anymore. According to the NYTimes: ''Professors with tenure or who are on a tenure track are now a distinct minority on the country’s campuses, as the ranks of part-time instructors and professors hired on a contract have swelled, according to federal figures analyzed by the American Association of University Professors.'' What percentage of people teaching in colleges and universities are adjuncts? According to the report, about seventy percent, although that's a bit hard to believe.

Apparently, university administrators are trying to recreate the striking success of American public high schools in the university sector. Judging by the article, it sounds like adjuncts make approximately $2,000 a course and teach about five courses a semester. They say you should spend two or three hours outside of class preparing for each hour in class, not to mention the time spent grading. So, now we're talking about a PhD getting about $20,000 a year to work 50-60 hours a week, or more, with no benefits or job security. Higher ed is starting to sound like a Ponzi scheme.

Why are administrators phasing out tenure? I'd guess so that they can treat instructors like temps. According to the article ''The shift from a tenured faculty results from financial pressures, administrators’ desire for more flexibility in hiring, firing and changing course offerings, and the growth of community colleges and regional public universities focused on teaching basics and preparing students for jobs.'' Or, basically, so they can treat instructors like temps.

The public has yet to catch on to the fact that their kids are being taught by part-timers, graduate students, and temps without PhDs. It's not clear that they'd be unhappy with the situation anyway. As one provost puts it, “We have to contend with increasing public demands for accountability, increased financial scrutiny, and declining state support.” The
public, apparently, has yet to notice the ridiculous cost of maintaining a top-heavy, needless glut of administrators at most universities. And usually a money pit sports program on top of that. But it's easy to appeal to their knee-jerk animus against ''elitists'' and ''eggheads'' and ''hippies with tenure''. What was that Joe Biden line? ''Don't tell me what you value; you show me your budget and I'll tell you what you value.'' No shit.

As for the tenured professors, to say that they don't worry about the non-tenure track untouchables would be unfair- they'd have to notice them first.

As for the students, we'll see how long universities can keep short-changing them. I'd give it another decade, at most. But, understand this, my dear undergraduates,- when you have a grad student like myself teaching you, while trying to finish a dissertation, you are not getting an education anything like what you would recieve from a full-time professor who has years of experience and the time to develop a rewarding or enriching course. And that's what you should be expecting from a university education.

The silver lining to all of this crapola? According to this study, and others like it, Canadian universities will likely have to replace about half of their faculty in the next decade as the baby boomers retire. And, from what I can tell, they still value education in Canada. (dirty commies!) Besides, the Canadian economy is booming and it's really not that cold here. So, I'd suggest that American grad students, PhDs, adjuncts, and instructors leave the Ponzi scheme behind and move north of the border.


Hiromi said...

That seems so typical of America, this yawning class divide. You get your gated community of institutions that are secure in their huge endowments and with entrenched cultures that stress quality and rigor, and then you have The Rest.

Holly said...

Who would drive the change on this?

If grad students cannot be found to teach, the classes will be taught by undergrads (this is already happening), and barring that, homeless people. 20k is pretty sweet if you live in an igloo made of empty plastic fifths.

The public universities, just like the public primary education system, have no incentive to depart this course of action. If they're all doing it, there's nowhere else for students to go.

The students only have so much latitude about where to go. The people who can afford to go wherever they want, will. Those who cannot, will be shown DVDs twice a week.

The actual tenured staff have little motivation to protest. Sure, it'd be nice to expand the field of their peers, but since they're an endangered species, it doesn't make sense to run right up to the barrel of the gun on this.

Oh, wait, I know. The students just refuse to go to university. "No, thanks. I'll just spend my college money on books, and find some people to discuss them with, on the internet."

Probably the cheapest college education you can buy is $5,000/semester, and if you really hustle, you could do it in 6 semesters. That's $30,000, which is a sweet, sweet library*. Even if you knock some off to purchase cinder blocks and boards.

* Especially sweet if you're buying really quality books, and not the college text super-scam editions, which must be purchased for new, higher, collector's edition prices because they corrected a typo, or were edited to contain a picture in the public domain to use instead of the original one, which was copyrighted.

Rufus said...

I think more people will seek out self-education. I'm actually planning to offer free courses at some point in the future through a local community center.

Incidentally, my mood greatly improved over the weekend, partially because I thought of some other fires to keep my irons in, and partly because we're meeting with an immigration lawyer to get the process towards Canadian citizenship going.