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How The University Works » tuition gold rush http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress Mon, 21 Nov 2011 00:40:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.19 Occupation Season Begins; Colbert, Aronowitz on Wall Street http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/297 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/297#comments Fri, 23 Sep 2011 15:58:54 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/297 “Protest season began with a bang at UC Berkeley as hundreds of chanting, fist-pumping students angry about tuition hikes charged into Tolman Hall during a raucous protest and building occupation Thursday, ” reports Nanette Asimov for the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Wall Street occupiers end their first week with a vow to remain over the long term, disrupted an art auction in support of locked-out Sotheby’s workers, and were featured in a Stephen Colbert segment Thursday night. Stanley Aronowitz will speak to the protesters Friday at 5pm (EST). Previous speakers have included Michael Moore and Roseanne Barr.

Book Bloc March Sparks Occupation
Last night’s occupation developed spontaneously out of a march led by the Book Bloc, pictured above, protesting draconian cuts and tuition hikes while “corporations and the wealthiest individuals — including many UC Regents — continue to rake in increasing bonuses and profits, partly by speculating on our indebtedness.”

After at least two altercations with police involving injuries and arrests, protesters dispersed about 10 pm Thursday, but promised to regroup Friday afternoon.

Apparently, police across California public campuses are gearing up for an intensified year of more determined student occupations, staging SWAT-style anti-occupation drills at UC-Irvine. Be sure to keep reading until you get to the police imitation of the protesters (“We want free stuff!”).

previous coverage
police violence escalates: day five
wall street occupation day three
occupy and escalate
big brother on campus
california is burning
will occupation become a movement?
grad students spearhead wisconsin capitol occupation
the occupation will be televised
the occupation cookbook
xposted: chronicle of higher education

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Giggling at Stereotypes http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/290 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/290#comments Tue, 12 Jul 2011 13:57:55 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/290 When we added humorous chapter books (eg Roscoe Riley) to my three-year-old’s story time, we were appalled to find that one of them featured one of the cruder and, we thought, outmoded Asian stereotypes–the New Kid from the Black Lagoon, it turns out, is not the scary blue-skinned alien from Mars that the other kids imagined, but simply Xu Ping, whose family has flown all the way from Beijing to start–you guessed it, a Chinese restaurant. How reassuring.

When planning her own recent humorous chapter book, Brainstorm colleague Naomi Schaefer Riley (no relation to Roscoe) apparently didn’t get the memo that the “lazy professor” stereotype has been consigned to the cultural dustbin since, roughly, her own graduation from kindergarten. As you might surmise from the title (The Faculty Lounges–har har–And Other Reasons You Won’t Get the College Education You Paid For), the book relies on silly, outmoded stereotypes, arguments from anecdote and bluster from the likes of John Silber instead of evidence.

At one time or another in what too often reads like an audition for Fox News higher education attack dog analyst, Riley deals every bromide in the deck, usually from the bottom: while accepting conservative foundation support for her own propaganda, she goes far out of her way to caricature Ford Foundation grants in support of academic freedom as a”gravy train” for left academics (would that it were so!)

Just like the beginning chapter books my son favors, Riley’s book features one cartoon illustration per chapter, usually reprinted from stock cartoon banks. None of them have anything to do with the issues; they just underscore the irrelevance of her stereotypes (“Your wife hasn’t broken the law, professor–she can leave you even if you do have tenure!”) Ha, ha, chuckle, zzzzzz.

That’s too bad, because Riley is bright and analytical, and sometimes grasps real problems with the tenure system, which is more than I can say of many contemporary observers on my own side of the political aisle.

She’s right, for instance, to note that the tenure system as we know it today is deeply flawed:

Supposed to produce courage and security, it breeds cowardice and anxiety, check. Supposed to unite the faculty, it now serves as a marker of apartheid between the academy’s minority “haves” and majority “have-nots,”check.

Supposed to encompass peer accountability for all professional activities it too often rewards those who neglect their students, family, and the profession, check.

Supposedly the pipeline for equality in the professions, the tenure system funnels academic and professional women into subordinate positions, check.

Supposed to guarantee reasonable economic return on education (you know, so that English professors can expect lifetime earnings not too much lower than good legal secretaries), tenure has become a generational lifeboat for greybeards selfishly uninterested in the crisis of young faculty, check.

All of these concerns, which plenty of tenure’s defenders are all too happy to gloss over, add up to an argument against tenure from the labor front.

Contingent-faculty activists like Joe Berry have long observed that tenure is reserved for a shrinking labor aristocracy–the group of persons who do front-line supervision of transient labor, and who provide the talent pool for upper administration. From the perspective of actual, informed unionists like Berry, tenure has frequently served as an engine of inequality.

Nor is it generally the goal of contingent-faculty unionists to win entrance into the stressful, irrational tenure crapshoot which is far from the gold standard of job security that most faculty imagine (ask anyone who’s had a department restructured or eliminated, or had an administrator declare a fake fiscal crisis).

Therefore, many contingent faculty, and left-labor faculty of any appointment type, share Riley’s sense that tenure should be abolished. (Either that, or like me and the AAUP, they feel that a reformed, teaching-centric tenure system should be the norm of faculty experience, as it was in 1972, when the professoriate was largely populated by well-off white men.)

Riley’s at her best and most revealing when she talks about how the tenured (like her father) treat contingent faculty, like her mother. At times the book is honestly reported–Riley admits that tenure isn’t the reason college is expensive–quite the contrary, it saves on salary–and that tenure is a minority experience.

I think if Riley’s analysis had taken the form of a long essay on the extremely important theme of how the tenure system marginalizes women teaching faculty, a topic scandalously under-addressed by liberals and academic feminists alike, it almost could have been one of those occasional offerings from the right that joins with the left in challenging some of the sacred cows of the liberal mainstream. (See chapter 4, “The Academic Underclass,” which appropriately excoriates “the hypocrisy of academics who claim concern for society’s marginalized while ignoring the [gendered and racialized] underclass in their midst.”)

If you subtract the ideological claptrap from Riley’s book, you have a perfectly reasonable call to invest in undergraduate teaching. However, in adding enough vitriol and borrowed observations to make a book, Riley goes awry in two basic ways, the scary and the lame.

Under the heading of scary, I have to point out that every once in a while, Riley’s mask of reasonability slips. In chapter 2, she wonders aloud, a la David Horowitz, Don’t some radical faculty members deserve to be run off campus?

A little later we learn the identities of the radicals to be run off, when she channels the radio talk shows for this sweeping non sequitur: “Whether it’s women’s studies or black studies or queer studies, the entire premise of the discipline often rests on a political agenda…. there [is] a growing sense that projects that are not strictly academic are not deserving of academic protections.”

The scary part is that we and her actual target audience know what she’s saying even though she isn’t saying anything–what is the meaning of the nonsense phrase “the entire premise of the discipline”? This is all too much like Limbaugh, rolling empty longish words off the tongue in order to manufacture a sense of cogitation and portent.

Under the heading of lame, I have to place the one argument she really makes with any vigor, that so much of higher education is “vocational” that there’s no controversy in those fields, hence no need for academic freedom. “These are all fields with fairly definitive answers,” Riley says in total ignorance of the fields she cites–like nutrition, family sciences, security, and sports history. “Faculty members don’t really need the freedom to ask controversial questions in discussing them,” she says, with unearned confidence.

It’s hard to believe that someone with two academic parents made this argument or, having made it, kept it in the manuscript–as its great gotcha! centerpiece, no less. When Gary Rhoades pointed out to Riley that nutrition faculty, just for example, engaged in plenty of controversy, she amateurishly dismisses the point rather than checking to see whether, in fact, there aren’t some fairly intense controversies in the field. Hint: there are, as in every one of the other fields she names.

But what of the obviously roiling controversies in other “vocational” fields, like legal, business, and medical education? Riley has nothing to say.

Riley is similarly cavalier with the evidence regarding faculty and teaching. There are literally thousands of studies evaluating faculty teaching, but instead of addressing any of them, Riley uses a few administrators as quote farms in support of her preconceived thesis and dials up the Limbaugh: “Tenure means they can simply neglect their students!”

At other points the just-published work is already out of date, touting the Garcetti decision, which has been successfully challenged, or Stanley Fish’s positions since recanted.

Frequently it’s just juvenile, as with the cartoons or snarkily describing the academy as a “profession” only in skeptical quotation marks.

Sometimes it’s just inept, as when she relies on John Silber’s “analysis” of tenure to make her case that it isn’t necessary to protect academic freedom–when, notoriously, it was only tenure that protected the late, beloved and irreplaceable Howard Zinn from Silber’s relentless efforts to drive him from the campus.

Much of the rest is cribbed from usual suspects like ACTA and Richard Vedder, or retread David Horowitz–Oh my gosh, the Berkeley writing classes sometimes cover controversial content!

A couple of points under the heading of full disclosure: Riley interviewed me for this book, and I make several appearances in the one chapter I thought worthy of her talents. She treats me as far less of a caricature than she might have, and I wish I had kinder things to say about the project.

Additionally, my spouse and I are, like Riley’s parents, and as many as a third of all faculty, navigating the often-breathtaking challenges of a dual-career academic couple in a system that is particularly cruel to academic women.

I share Riley’s disquiet with academic hypocrisy. On top of still rampant sexism and sex discrimination in academic employment, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like the viciousness with which many academic “feminists” with tenure treat some of their “sisters” off-track.

As I read Riley’s book–which I had to buy because her publisher declined to send me a review copy–I thought often of my son, and his sunny disposition. I hope that we can find a way to insulate his good nature and deeply, deeply inquiring mind from the academic shabbiness, hypocrisy and dishonesty that Riley chronicles best from her personal experience.

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Parent Revolution, Incorporated http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/276 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/276#comments Wed, 08 Dec 2010 21:30:56 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/276 You’ve probably been watching or reading about a remarkable event here in California–a group of parents at Compton’s McKinley Elementary using the nation’s first “trigger law” to transfer management of the school. It’s an important story, raising interesting questions about a potentially useful law that is already being imitated across the country.

The problem is that you are getting the for-profit and charter school industry’s script–word for word–by most major news outlets, print and broadcast. Here’s some of the story you didn’t get:

+ The Compton parents didn’t rise up on their own; they were among half a dozen communities targeted for door-to-door sales campaigning by Parent Revolution, an “Astroturf organization” (ie, fake grassroots) spun off by Green Dot, a charter group managing fifteen Los Angeles schools.

+ As calculated by Caroline Grannan: by Parent Revolution’s own standards, all but one of Green Dot’s schools are failing, and on average have a California Academic Performance Index of 632, well below the 670 average of the schools that Parent Revolution has targeted for “trigger law” applications.

+ The school will now be taken over by Celerity, a four-school charter operation infamous for firing two teachers who included “A Wreath for Emmett Till” in their 2007 seventh-grade Black History Month celebration.

+In response to the firings, Celerity director Vielka McFarlane said “We don’t want to focus on how the history of the country has been checkered, but on how do we dress for success, walk proud and celebrate all the accomplishments we’ve made.”

+The California trigger law was written and proposed by the fake parent organization, a point well understood by state legislators. It passed by one vote, largely because of the ratchet on already-beyond-critical budget pressure imposed by Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top competition.

None of the major reports (Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, ABC, even the California NPR affiliates) even mention the connection between Green Dot and Parent Revolution, much less explore the dubious record of charter schools generally or the even more unimpressive record of Green Dot in particular. Most quote Vielka McFarlane, but none critically examine the pedagogy, record, or curriculum of Celerity schools. None point out that one of the quirks of the California trigger law is that the parents’ options for new school management are laid out in four fairly rigid tracks, meaning that choosing to explore the charter track doesn’t initiate an open competition. Only the Los Angeles paper noted the imposition of Celerity without competition, and none of the major accounts pointed out that in recent large-scale open competition with teacher-run charter applications, the teacher-led charters won overwhelmingly.

Lame? Sure. But sadly par for the corporate media.

How Should We Respond?

In a word: thoughtfully. I think if written and used properly, versions of trigger laws can actually be used to facilitate democratic change from below, especially when parents and teachers work together. Similar to the heartening example of the overwhelming victory of teacher-led schools in the large-scale charter competition, I have tremendous faith in the radically-democratic partnership of teachers, parents and students.

I agree that the California law is flawed, and that some parents will be manipulated by the powerful alliance of politicians, corporate media and charter/for-profit management companies.

On the other hand, there’s a lot of potential good to forcing educator trade unions to get out there and organize their communities against the bad ideas of the powerful forces arrayed against the best interests of their kids.

Yesterday, today and tomorrow: Teachers who talk to parents generally find that parents get it; parents support teachers and teaching for the whole person, not the test-prep-and-dress-for-success pap of Duncan, Rhee, and the corporate-managed charters.

There’s a real parent revolution out there, California teachers–just waiting for you to organize it.

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The “Race To Nowhere” is Everywhere http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/272 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/272#comments Mon, 15 Nov 2010 18:36:00 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/272 “Waiting For Superman (WFS) portrays our schools as undemanding; Race to Nowhere says the opposite — that we are killing our kids, figuratively and sometimes literally,” observes John Merrow of PBS. “Hours of homework produce unbearable stress; stress produces cheating, cramming to pass tests and then forgetting everything; that false learning then means remediation when they get to college; and, on rare occasions, students kill themselves.”

Filmmaker Vicki Abeles is no propagandist, so the film isn’t as slick as the glib, dishonest work of Davis Guggenheim.

It spends too much time on the issues of wealthy children competing for college admission and occasionally conflates those issues with those of other students, especially the much larger group of young people for whom “overscheduling” means wage labor pulling lattes and serving pizzas to her own children. It fails to fully capture the ways that lawmakers and for-profit education-management corporations drive education policy.

She pushes too hard on one (good) thesis–that students have too much homework from an early age–and the big picture into which it fits isn’t always crisp.

Nonetheless you should see this film, and anyone who sees WFS should be required to watch it. With just one email you can arrange to have it shown on your campus. Why not talk to your students about the film and the issues it raises? Just for starters: ritalin abuse, stress and cheating; cynical community service (and service as hyper-exploitation); the failure of content-driven pedagogy associated with high-stakes testing (and the reliably-documented “memory dump” two weeks later).

I saw the film in Cupertino, a community infamous for cramming, with tutorial services on every block, and talked with parents who, like the Oakland filmmaker, worried about their own children (up to two hours of homework a night in kindergarten).

No Exit

Then I talked to someone I’ll call Terri N., one of our babysitters, who we pay fifteen to seventeen dollars an hour. She’s a pre-med biology student attending a local private university and works three jobs during the school year and as many hours she can get summers. She works at a sports bar, averaging twelve dollars an hour or less including her tips. She works as a science tutor and peer health educator for eleven bucks an hour. Summers she’ll work sixty hours a week; “more if I can get it.” There’s no time for partying, dating, seeing movies.

What is she spending the money on, besides tuition? To pay for what she sees as gilt-edged service learning, an immersion trip with a self-titled “global medical brigade.”

“I’m actually working to pay for volunteering,” she says. “It’s definitely good experience and probably a fun trip. But the truth is you have to do it. Everyone does it now. These are the things you have to do to get in. If you’re the one that doesn’t, you’re the one who’s not getting in.”

Turns out Terri went through the same thing in high school. Not from a wealthy family, she worked twenty-five hours a week in order to pay for her clothes, books and a similar immersion trip, gilding her college application.

And here’s the thing. Terri’s one of the “winners” in this crazy system. She’s not burned out. Her family is supportive, stable and just well enough off to pay a lot of her bills. She’ll make it in to a decent school, come close enough to the employment she imagines for herself, make a good salary, pay off her loans, probably manage to have kids if she wants them.

Most people don’t have Terri’s abilities, support, and emotional stability. A system that with tremendous sacrifice barely works for someone like Terri is failing most other young people–not because it demands too little of them, but because it demands way, way too much.

Fixing this problem is not rocket science. It just requires some honesty. We are exploiting and super-exploiting young people. We herd them into a system that manufactures desperation and then hand them hamster wheels with sickly hypocritical grins on our faces. The best of them tell us to piss off, find a better path or destroy themselves in the searching. The next best run in circles just to make our shopping, our research leaves, and our foreign policy as cheap as possible. Only a handful ever stop pacing the wheel.

Many things may get more expensive, from education to fast food. But we need to stop displacing adult wage labor with students and volunteers, especially volunteerism of the extorted variety.

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Fix Non-Profit Higher Ed First http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/270 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/270#comments Mon, 11 Oct 2010 18:45:31 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/270 Jesus asked his followers to address the whacking huge piece of lumber in their own eyes before performing optical surgery on others. And I can’t think of a better case study of His wisdom than good old U.S. higher education, where the 5,000 nonprofits–many of them pushing what they perceive as Christian values–are engaging in high hypocrisy about for-profit education vendors.

Sure, the for-profits are just as bad as they say. They fail to graduate students and the students they graduate are often un-, under- and mis- educated. The students go into debt to pay outrageous tuition for the attention of under-qualified faculty, and then fail to find the employment for which they were putatively prepared. And from all of this under-regulated misery and failure, the shareholders are racking up massive capital accumulation.

The problem is that the for-profits did not invent any of this. All of these tactics–what I’ve called the tuition gold rush–were pioneered by the nonprofit sector.

1) We nonprofits have been teaching students with  underqualified faculty, graduate students, and even undergraduates for the past forty years (all while braying inanely about an “oversupply” of persons with doctorates).

2) We charge outrageous tuition for degrees which will not lead to employment, while putting students to work at super-exploitative wage discounts.

3) By overcharging students and underpaying faculty,  we have been accumulating capital–not in shareholders’ pockets, but capital nonetheless, in buildings and grounds, endowments, in tech infrastructure. We also spend down a lot of the dollars that an enterprise institution captures as profit and sends along to its shareholders. Sometimes those dollars are spent on valid public non-education goods. Just as often, though, they’re blown by the million on administrator initiatives like big-time sports, social engineering, business ventures, and the pet projects of influential campus or community actors.

The reason our administrator-dominated accreditation system couldn’t hold for-profits accountable between 1990 and the present is because between 1970 and 1990 it allowed the wholesale substitution of students and m.a. holders (willing to work for status and peanuts) for a largely tenurable workforce with terminal degrees as the preferred qualification.  As I’ve been saying since the early 1990s: if one or two big education states restored the 1970 percentage of tenure-stream faculty with doctorates in teaching-intensive positions, there’d be a vast, sucking undersupply of persons with doctorates in many fields.

I agree, by the way, that a Ph.D. by itself is far from an ironclad guarantee that any individual is an effective teacher, researcher, or campus citizen.  As we began to misconstrue tenure as a merit badge for research faculty the system of doctoral preparation grew increasingly flawed as a preparation for teaching-intensive faculty positions. But in fields where terminal-degree programs exist, they remain the right intervention point.  Where employers at teaching-intensive institutions hire better-prepared faculty into teaching-intensive positions, programs have quickly begun to compete with each other to prepare faculty who are excellent teachers.

While employing more persons with doctorates is desirable, the point is to put them through the rigorous seven-year peer assessment of the tenure system. One of the biggest failures of the accreditation system is that it has permitted the development of slapdash, hare-brained systems of hiring and evaluation by administrators. Despite propaganda to the contrary, the toughest standards for faculty evaluation–by far–are still embodied in the arduous, long-term peer scrutiny of the tenure system.

Across the country, management-dominated hiring and evaluation of the majority of faculty and student instructors is capricious, ill-informed, and aimed at hiring the cheapest and most docile faculty, not the best. Fixing higher ed will inevitably mean either reinstating the rigors of peer assessment (the tenure system) or finding a credible substitute–which, so far, 40 years of management innovation has failed to provide.

You actually want to fix higher ed and stimulate the economy? It’s not rocket science.

1) Make tuition free at public institutions. Heck, go further and provide stipends for housing and expenses. Raise taxes on the Real Housewives class to pay for it.  Hold mainstream journalists, mass-media outlets and politicians accountable for honesty on education issues. Likewise, encourage higher-ed unions and professional associations to learn something from smart, militant schoolteacher unions in the US and abroad.

2) Raise standards for the qualifications, training, and continuing professional development of all faculty.  Many great researchers need incentives to learn to teach better. Great teachers should have opportunities and incentives for earning terminal degrees and remaining current. This doesn’t mean their job descriptions should be changed: the difference between  a bad teaching-only appointments and a pedagogically appropriate teaching-intensive appointment is support for professional currency.

3) Put more people with doctorates in teaching-intensive tenure-track positions and prepare them better for teaching.  Which for most would mean less teaching in graduate school but with far more training and supervision.

4) Remove undergraduate students from work-study positions unrelated to their course of study, and hire adult workers in their place.

5) Place limits on student labor outside of the education workforce, and provide incentives for the employers of “workers who study” to reduce their workload while engaged in learning.

The panic about for-profit practices has a basis in reality, but it’s a hypocritical and propagandistic misconstruction of history to claim that “they” influenced the nonprofit sector to adopt ruthless, shallow, exploitative practices–whether it’s passing off first-year grad students as teachers or promoting what Jeff Williams has reasonably argued is student debt as a form of indentured servitude.

No, fellow hypocrites. The for-profits didn’t teach us any of these sleazy innovations. We taught them.

x-posted:  howtheuniversityworks.com

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Who’s Teaching Johnny? Hold Administrators Accountable for Student Retention http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/258 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/258#comments Mon, 21 Jun 2010 18:05:35 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/258 Let’s say you teach at an M.A.-granting state school with 2,000 new first-year undergraduates entering annually. Let’s further say they take half their load with faculty on part-time appointments. Controlling for other variables, one new multi-campus study suggests that this degree of contingency in faculty appointment could play a significant part in 600 students dropping out before their sophomore year.

The latest chapter (pdf) in the cautious series by Audrey Jaeger and Kevin Eagan focuses on the critical first year in four-year institutions, following up previous efforts on community colleges and the lower division more broadly.  Their conclusion: a merely “average” degree of contingency in faculty appointments and working conditions at four-year institutions affects year-to-year student retention by as much as 30 percent:

Students with average levels of exposure to full-time, nontenure-track, “other”
contingent, and graduate assistant faculty may be as much as 30 percent less likely
to persist, compared to their peers who have only full-time faculty.

Noting that at all of the institutions they studied but one, “more than 50 percent of the credits taken by students during their first year were led by a contingent faculty member,” Jaeger and Eagan dryly conclude, “given these findings, employment status of faculty deserves further discussion.”

Studying several years of data from a state system, they carefully document a close correlation with the degree of contingency in faculty appointment and retention.

In the baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral-extensive institutions studied, they found consistent decreases in the likelihood of sophomore-year retention ranging from 2 to 7 percent for every 10-percent increase in contact hours with faculty on contingent appointment.

Disaggregating appointment categories, they found that the more contingent the appointment, the stronger the association with negative student outcomes.

Credit hours led by faculty on full-time nontenurable appointment outperformed those led by graduate student instructors and both outperformed sections led by faculty on part-time appointment.

But “greater levels of contingent faculty instruction, despite whether these faculty
are working full time or part time, typically have a negative effect on student persistence,” they emphasize.

Working Conditions Matter

At the two doctoral-intensive institutions they studied, Jaeger and Eagan found modest positive correlation between retention and exposure to graduate student and faculty on contingent appointments. This finding contradicted what they learned at the other institution in this study and in their own previous work.

This unusual finding led them to examine the working conditions of faculty serving contingently at those two institutions. Finding greater support, funding for faculty development and integration, they hypothesize that supporting part-time faculty better might have an impact.

As in their other published studies, Jaeger and Eagan interpret their results to mean that the conditions of contingency are the culprit, not the faculty. They observe that there may well be less harm in appointing faculty on a part-time basis in upper division and graduate study.

Research-Intensive Faculty Share the Blame

The shrinking minority of research faculty have developed a culture of contempt for general education. Regular readers know that AAUP conspicuously declined to sign on the latest report by the “Coalition on the Academic Workforce” in large part because this report, scripted by the staff at disciplinary associations, essentially abandoned the first two years of college instruction.

Disciplinary associations are dominated by research-intensive faculty who have been making this bargain with administrators for the past 40 years: “Keep our tenure lines in the major and grad program, and we’ll supervise students and lecturers teaching gen ed.”

Probably the number-one reason AAUP declined to sign the CAW report is the disciplinary associations’ insistence on recommending that “tenure lines should be sufficient to cover courses in the upper-division undergraduate and graduate curricula and to ensure an appropriate presence of tenured and tenure-track faculty members in the lower division.”

As my committee at AAUP analyzed it, CAW’s waffle regarding “an appropriate presence” in the lower division aimed to serve the self-interest of a tiny fraction of the faculty at the expense of students and most other faculty.

The CAW report and the minority faculty it represents flies in the face of research by Paul Umbach, Jaeger and Eagan, and many others. The recommendations are exactly the reverse of Jaeger and Eagan’s, who find great impact from contingency in the early years and less in the upper division and graduate study.

So long as privilege continues to flow to the disciplines, the CAW is cheerfully willing to underwrite the steady casualization of the majority faculty teaching the majority of students, i.e. community colleges and the first two years everywhere.

Responsible policy makers, researchers like Jaeger and Eagan, and many administrators, however, acknowledge that the lower division and general ed are the area where the US system of higher education already is the most dysfunctional by most measures of student success.

The Buck Stops With Administrators

Administrators ultimately make resource allocation decisions that shape first-year teaching.

Many administrators would willingly see more experienced tenure-stream faculty in the first-year classroom and grumpily point to the unwillingness of research-intensive faculty to appear there.

However, administrators are the ones who have steadily whittled away at a career path that this research suggests is one of the most important in the academy: the teaching-intensive tenure track.

While no faculty appointments should be teaching only—it is the teaching-only nature of most contingent appointments that accounts for much of the negative impact—appointments that are teaching intensive should be an important component of every faculty.

Much reduced from their high point in 1970, appointments to the teaching-intensive tenure track nonetheless remain widespread, especially at the M.A. and B.A.-granting institutions where the difference between their student outcomes and those of faculty on contingent appointments are most obvious.

At 9-plus teaching hours per week, with full campus citizenship and full obligations to professional development—which might include appropriately modest expectations for research activity—faculty on these appointments work hard for bartenders’ wages, but deliver real results for students.

Over the decades, administrations have lost literally millions of students by replacing appointments that enable teaching-intensive campus citizens with those that give faculty little choice except to be teaching-only freeway flyers.

As I and many others have noted, administrators have actively chosen to disinvest in faculty, spending instead on sports, infrastructure, and venture capitalism.

Even in naked business terms: were the gains they achieved with these allocations really worth the loss of  millions of “education customers”?

Considering the role tuition plays in most budgets, I doubt it.

related posts:

The Figure of Writing and the Future of English Studies
Dismal Science Fiction

Who’s a “Historian” to the AHA?
Conversion to Tenure

Stabilizing Persons, Creating New Lines
We Work


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OMG! DIY U means EM do RTW!!!! http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/255 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/255#comments Tue, 01 Jun 2010 18:08:17 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/255 So when I heard Anya Kamenetz, once the passionate shoot-from-the-hip spokesperson against student debt, was reinventing herself as the passionate shoot-from-the-hip analyst of new media in education, I was prepared to give her a listen. I thought, well, at least she has enough dignity and intelligence not to turn herself into a pimpette for learn-while-you-sleep audiocassettes.

Whoa, was I wrong. She turned out a book that stays relentlessly on its Twitter-sized message: OMG! OMG! The internetz a library! (Speaking of Twitter, you can relieve your boredom with the book by following Kamenetz’s real-time feed about her visits to the dentist.)

Kamenetz turns out to be an adherent of the most shopworn education fantasy in history: education without educators! Like untold generations of blatherers before her, she opines that information technology will deliver education without an education workforce–therefore saving untold bazillions of dollars that would otherwise go to faculty salary. These savings will inevitably result in a “free or marginal-cost” education! At least for savvy “edu-punks” and “edu-preneurs.”

Right you are, Anya, and monkeys are flying through the webbing of my chair seat as we speak.

This fantasy didn’t work with prior revolutionary education technologies (like, hm, the book, the library, the pony express, the radio, or the tee-vee, where free education of the sort that Kamenetz envisions for non-Yalies can still be had for the asking.)

All those technologies have been accompanied, not only by more teachers and teaching, but also by massive growth in non-educator education employees (to tend to the technology, administer the credits, cash the checks, etc).

So–as I’ve already (pdf) pointed out, like, I dunno–centuries ago in texting years?–in The Informal Economy of the ‘Information University’–ditching the faculty (even the modest minority of them who actually earn wages higher than bartenders!) isn’t going to magically reduce costs:

…The concern with technology represents the faculty’s idea that students are willing to accept a disembodied educational experience in a future virtual university of informatic instruction. On the other hand, the student concerns are overwhelmingly attentive to the embodied character of their experience-where to park, what to eat and so on. Why do the faculty envision students willing to give up the embodied experience of the campus, when the students are in fact increasingly attentive to embodied experience?

Campus administrators continue to build new stadiums, restaurants, fitness facilities, media rooms, libraries, laboratories, gardens, dormitories and hotels: are these huge new building projects, funded by thirty years of faculty downsizing, really about to be turned into ghost towns?

In my view, the claim that (future) students will generally accept a disembodied education experience is at least a partial displacement of the underlying recognition, not that future students will accept an “education experience divorced from the body,” but the extent to which present students have already accepted an embodied experience divorced from “education.”

While the dystopic image of distance education captures the central strategy of the information university (substituting information delivery for education), that dystopia erroneously maps that strategy onto the future, as if informationalization were something “about to happen” that could be headed off at the pass, if we just cut all the fiber-optic cables…

Close readers will know that this piece, substantially rewritten and expanded, became ch 2 of HTUW. For a more fun, blistering and relentlessly scatological skewering of Kamenetz, you can’t do better than the anonymous purveyor of ginandtacos.com (h/t to Bill Benzon of The Valve).

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Learning to Remember: After March 4 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/245 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/245#comments Wed, 03 Mar 2010 00:24:03 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/245

I am the seed ground. I am a prairie that will stand
for much plowing. Terrible storms pass over me.
I forget. The best of me is sucked out and wasted.
I forget. Everything but Death comes to me and
makes me work and give up what I have. And I

It began with a handful of direct actions and refusals–bold occupations, sit-ins, a one-day strike and walkout, and a manifesto that fired the imaginations of students planetwide.

Today it is a mass movement, with marches and pickets across the country scheduled for Thursday’s National Day of Action. The hope and the stories will keep coming all weekend. If you jump a bus for Sacramento, you might get a seat next to Etienne Balibar. If you try to enter the UC Santa Cruz campus–the epicenter of the movement–thousands of students and workers will be picketing every gate. Over a hundred major actions are scheduled.

But Tuesday morning, March 8 will begin the next news cycle. Where will the movement be then?

It might look a little bit like this video. Give it ten seconds. I’m pretty sure you’ll watch it to the end.

While there seems to be endless conversation about the violence of smashing windows and the damage to the movement done by spontaneous action, there is a notable absence of discussion about the violence of class division in American society and its relationship with higher education.

Is the movement so fragile that a smashed window destroys it–yet broken bodies don’t bring it to boiling point? We are told that the streets must be policed in order to be safe–that no one will join us–that people who would have supported the cause are now frightened to participate. Yet what we see is laughter, dancing and a freedom that is not possible to describe in the language of everyday capitalism. How, we must ask, is a movement that collapses under the weight of overturned trash cans going to withstand the presence of millions of people challenging their relationship to the economy?

As I listened to this young voice, I could not help but think: “This is Carl Sandburg with a video camera.”


I AM the people–the mob–the crowd–the mass.

Do you know that all the great work of the world is
done through me?

I am the workingman, the inventor, the maker of the
world’s food and clothes.

I am the audience that witnesses history. The Napoleons
come from me and the Lincolns. They die. And
then I send forth more Napoleons and Lincolns.

I am the seed ground. I am a prairie that will stand
for much plowing. Terrible storms pass over me.
I forget. The best of me is sucked out and wasted.
I forget. Everything but Death comes to me and
makes me work and give up what I have. And I

Sometimes I growl, shake myself and spatter a few red
drops for history to remember. Then–I forget.

When I, the People, learn to remember, when I, the
People, use the lessons of yesterday and no longer
forget who robbed me last year, who played me for
a fool–then there will be no speaker in all the world
say the name: “The People,” with any fleck of a
sneer in his voice or any far-off smile of derision.
The mob–the crowd–the mass–will arrive then.

Flyers and posters
Pamphlets and powerpoints
Planning on getting arrested? (ACLU pdf)
California occupation movement blog
New York occupation movement blog
United States Student Association

Notes on the European occupations (pdf)
Most important conference of the decade
on the occupation movement: Minneapolis, April 8-11

related posts
California is Burning
Occupation Movement Sweeps California
Berkeley Standoff via Microblog
Students Occupy UC President’s Office
UC Davis Occupiers Force Negotiations
Occupy the AHA!
Occupy and Escalate (AAUP)
Inside the Barricades (AAUP)

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California is Burning http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/230 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/230#comments Thu, 19 Nov 2009 18:17:25 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/230

Update: you’ve got to watch this video.

Yesterday the UC Regents walked into a room packed with gasoline and nonchalantly lit their cigars–handing down tuition increases that will hike 2010 rates 44% over 2008, turning higher ed into a gated community for the offspring of California’s “Real Housewives” class. Their bet is the usual bet made by the comfortable: someone else will get scorched.

Why wouldn’t they feel safe? We live in an upside-down world where bankers–not the capitalists, just their paid lackeys–get bonuses larger than the deficits of entire states, and the money pimps at the Wall Street Journal are saying, yeah, take it, citizens, take it, ha-ha! And say thank you, too!

The misery of tens of millions in every sector of the public–in education, health, income security, could be swept away if we forced more bankers and executives to live like teachers and nurses for a year or two.

California is Burning

That pent-up misery is volatile, though, and starting to flow around the feet of the bankers. More and more of us are waking up to one thought: It’s the capitalism, stupid!

For over a year now, students, faculty, and parents across the globe have been turning out by the hundreds of thousands to protest American-style “reforms.” You know: junk curricula, volunteer teaching, the return of indentured servitude, corporate domination of research, ruthless administrator control. The NYT serving up Stanley Fish (“Do your job, punk!”) as the face of higher ed.

Today, American students, staff and faculty are protesting American-style education.  Led by staff strikes and student occupations, a pillar of fire is racing across the California desert toward the huge air-conditioned mausoleums of the trustee class.

No question, it’s not yet an inferno.

But last month’s occupations featuring a few dozen are now occupations of a few hundred: 500 students have set up barricades at UC Santa Cruz; hundreds more marched chanting through hallways at San Francisco State, taking over an administrative building.

At least a thousand students and faculty will face off against riot police and join staff picketing the Regents in Los Angeles.

Yesterday 14 students were arrested for chanting and singing “We Shall Overcome” during the regents’ theater piece (“we’re having a meeting here and trying to pretend that the outcome is in doubt!”)

At 6 am this morning two or three dozen students stormed UCLA’s Campbell Hall, chaining the doors.

Give Thanks for the Disobedient

This has actually been a season of swift victories for faculty and students–wherever we’ve seen truly organized and militant faculty, as with AAUP-Oakland in Michigan in October, or grad students, as at Illinois this week, the administration has quickly caved.

Of course the administrators caved–the real power is where it’s always been, with the mass of us, if we can just keep ourselves together long enough to say “no” in one breath.

The California situation is bigger and more complex.

And the faculty with the loudest voices, those in the tenure stream at the UC campuses, aren’t unionized: most of them and many of their students have little experience with solidarity with other education groups, much less other labor sectors.

They’re doing their best, but they can’t help themselves. So far it seems they want to save their idea of Berkeley and other public research universities–and just don’t care all that much about Cal State Fullerton,  third grade teachers in Modesto, or the nontenurable faculty they work with every day.

Because, honestly, if they did care about other educators and workers, they’d have been out in the streets long ago! And not too many of them are in the streets right now.

The biggest problem with this California movement is that the folks who are actually in the streets–staff, especially, but grad students, contingent faculty and undergraduates–are letting the tenured do the talking for them.

I mean, these are decent folks doing the talking. Don’t get me wrong. Still, why not shut up and hand the mike to the militant, articulate, intellectual staff, for a change?

As higher ed becomes a mass experience–as more and more workers in all sectors become highly educated, whether they learn in schools or on the job–it is harder and harder to pretend that higher ed is just about the reproduction of the Bush family’s privilege. Today, higher ed is a field of working-class struggle, and one of the reasons it’s still hard to see that is the hierarchical, undemocratic tendency represented by handing the mike to Judith Butler. Again, no offense to Butler and other mike holders. (After all, I’m holding one right now, aren’t I?)

This might be a moment where the tenured might–just might–have unexpected humility thrust on them & achieve enough overnight wisdom to subordinate their Stanley-Fish-sized egos and take leadership from pipefitters, nurses, and food service workers.

We’ll see.

In the meanwhile, I’ll be giving thanks for the disobedient, those chaining themselves to doors and shutting down the absurdity of business-as-usual while thugs in suits hand over our future to yet another movie actor.

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Pay to Work? GEO Says No! http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/228 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/228#comments Tue, 17 Nov 2009 02:42:39 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/228

Does your idea of public higher education include values like fairness and diversity? Yeah, me too. Ditto for the several hundred grad students drumming in the rain in Illinois today, after their union struck to defend tuition waivers.Get updates and join their 2,500 fans on the GEO Facebook page.

Charging tuition to working graduate students is essentially a pay-to-work scheme that would represent an educational death sentence for many grad students, as Robert Naiman at Huffpost puts it.

Noting that the administration’s refusal to bargain tuition security would fall most heavily on “out-of-state, minority, and foriegn graduate students,” AAUP president Cary Nelson walked the line with GEO this morning.

“The diversity that is the lifeblood of the campus is at stake,” he said.

California Students Demand: “Let us Study!”In advance of Wednesday’s walkout and strike at several University of California campuses–and kicking off the “Education is not for Sale” Global Week of Action (hat tip to Eli Meyerhoff again)–about 250 students rallied and then occupied the science library this weekend at UC Santa Cruz (video; watch to the end to see students keep pouring in).

This could be an interesting week, folks.

Couple things of note: the walk-out poster’s imperative to “escalate,” drawn from the language of the more radical UC Santa Cruz occupiers.

Plus all that dancing and drumming.

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