Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Post-Academically Adrift


Based on surveys and interviews with nearly 1,000 recent college graduates from the cohort featured in Academically Adrift, the book reports that a large number of graduates are having difficulty finding jobs, living somewhere other than a parent's house, assuming civic and financial responsibility, and even developing stable romantic relationships...."Colleges are implicated in this," Arum, a professor of sociology and education at New York University, said in an interview. "They've legitimated this. Students are going away to college for a longer and longer time. Colleges are disinvesting in faculty and investing in amenities." Many four-year universities attend to students' social adjustment rather than developing their characters, he said, allocating resources toward what will attract teenagers to their campuses rather than what will help them learn. Campuses cater to satisfying consumer preferences instead of providing rigorous academics and counseling, Arum and Roksa write. Like students and aspiring adults, they argue, colleges and universities are also adrift.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Those who can't teach, administer

Indira Samarasekera, the president of the University of Alberta, is about to leave her job. It pays roughly half a million Canadian dollars, which is equivalent to about 4 full professor salaries. That's why 56 Canadian professors applied as groups of 4 to replace Samarasekera. Their stunt, led by the "gang of four" pictured above, was designed to call attention to the outrageous pay disparities between university administrators and professors, and it worked. Their story caught the attention of the Canadian media, and revealed one major failure mode in today's higher education system.


Do we really need administrators? Universities can't get by with just instructors--granted. We definitely need non-academic workers. We especially need secretaries. They're the ones that make universities, firms and other organizations run. I'm prejudiced here: I used to be one. And we need people to do IT, to help with our computer miseries. And we need people to maintain parking and security, to do catering and food services, and to maintain the grounds and buildings. And they should be paid a lot more.

But do we need administrators--paid at 4 times the salary of full professors? And 10 times the salary of secretaries?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Chomsky on the New University Business Model

When universities become corporatized, as has been happening quite systematically over the last generation as part of the general neoliberal assault on the population, their business model means that what matters is the bottom line. The effective owners are the trustees (or the legislature, in the case of state universities), and they want to keep costs down and make sure that labor is docile and obedient...

If you have to control people, you have to have an administrative force that does it. So in US industry even more than elsewhere, there’s layer after layer of management—a kind of economic waste, but useful for control and domination. And the same is true in universities. In the past 30 or 40 years, there’s been a very sharp increase in the proportion of administrators to faculty and students; faculty and students levels have stayed fairly level relative to one another, but the proportion of administrators have gone way up. There’s a very good book on it by a well-known sociologist, Benjamin Ginsberg, called The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters (Oxford University Press, 2011), which describes in detail the business style of massive administration and levels of administration—and of course, very highly-paid administrators. This includes professional administrators like deans, for example, who used to be faculty members who took off for a couple of years to serve in an administrative capacity and then go back to the faculty; now they’re mostly professionals, who then have to hire sub-deans, and secretaries, and so on and so forth, a whole proliferation of structure that goes along with administrators. All of that is another aspect of the business model.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Survey of Core Curricula at Catholic Universities

Here is a link to the full report described below: http://home.sandiego.edu/~baber/core/catholic_core_report.pdf

This survey is meant to be a basic reference. We have not captured all of the details of each core, and encourage you to use the included links to explore further. Our hope is that these examples can suggest some of the options availabe to USD, as it seeks to design a Catholic-inflected core curriculum.
  • Unless otherwise noted these are 3-unit, semester courses.
  • For consistency, with each curriculum we count the maximum number of
    language courses.
  • Many core requirements can be double counted, like USD’s D courses. These are
    identified with an asterisk, and for consistency they are not counted in the total
    core size tally.
  • Some schools have slightly different core requirements for business or
    engineering schools. Reported here are requirements for colleges of liberal arts.
  • All information is taken from university websites. 

  • “Distribution by category”: a standard distribution structure, but not by department. In some places the categories are the familiar units, “social science,” “humanities,” etc. and in other places they are thematic, such as “Critical Thinking” or “Engaging the World”
  • “Required Core Course”: a course with a relatively universal syllabus, required for all students, such as Columbia’s well known Literature Humanities course.
  • “LLC”: Living Learning Community, such as USD is currently developing
  • See the Core Action Plan glossary for further descriptions of types of core

    Compiled by Abe Stoll and Lance Nelson

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Hypothetical Carrots and Sticks

So we had a discussion Core Curriculum Revision and were given two reasons why we should adopt the "model" promoted the the Bosses.

There were the carrots. Even though the proposed revision would force us to revise our courses according to the dictates of the Bosses, increase our workload and impose additional committee work on us we would be compensated, we were told. But how? And how much? That, we were told, was a matter of a matter for the Implementation Stage of the program--for the future. And, we were told that in any case, if we didn't bite on the carrot, we would get whapped by the Stick.

The Stick was WASC, holding the threat of disaccreditation. Having done some research (something that will be severely curtailed if the Core Curriculum proposal is adopted) I discovered that since 1996 WASC has only disaccredited 4 academic institutions, all of which were fly-by-night enterprises that were zapped for financial and administrative irregularities. Since, pace Hume, I believe in induction I suggested that it was highly unlikely that WASC would pull our accreditation because we would not comply with their curricular recommendations. Core Commissar Carole Houston however claimed that WASC was changing its ways and was now scruitinzing academics. Mebbe. But, I still wonder whether WASC would be likely to disacredit a college like USD.

Houston however pulled out the Good Cop/Bad Cop card. WASC would protect us from the Obama administration's push for more affordable, more vocation education. If we complied with WASC recommendations we would be protected. But really? As far as affordability goes, the carrots which we are promised will only crank up expenses. And in any case it isn't the traditional liberal arts education that colleges like USD offer that has driven up the cost of higher education: it is soaring administrative salaries (see the link from my Trouble in Paradise site here http://home.sandiego.edu/~baber/trouble/financialrecords.html  for figures) and the multiplication of adminisratorinos and deanlets that has driven up costs as well as the restaurants, glitz, fancy furniture and entertainments aimed at pleasing our student-customers.

So once again, colleagues, I urge you to resist both the carrot and the stick and to JUST SAY NO to Core Curriculum revision. It is Pareto anti-optimal. It is highly unlikely that it will benefit students in any way, and it is certain to make most faculty worse off, by increasing our work load, undermining our autonomy, and diminishing time and resources for research and professional development.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Assessment Fever

Erased Answers on Tests in Philadelphia Lead to a Three-Year Cheating Scandal


Across the country, public school activists and teachers’ unions have criticized what they see as a pervasive culture of high-stakes testing that they say can contribute to cheating because educators fear the consequences if they do not raise scores.

And now, just as Americans are beginning to recognize that endless "assessment" and testing in the interests of "accountability" are counterproductive in K-12 education, colleges are jumping on the bandwagon.

"Treat students like adults and they'll behave like adults," we've been told. And it works. Treat faculty like proletarianized service workers--surveilled, supervised and under the gun--and I hope we will behave like like proletarianized service workers, and recognize that we have no stake in the program pushed on us by the bosses in the interest of selling USD to students, parents and donors, and that we should resist it with all we've got.