Monday, April 07, 2008


Observations from the AACC

After my first full day at the AACC in Philadelphia, a few observations:

your comment about the convention center cracked me up. I attended my first major professional conference in philly and was I ever lost. Pretty much all the time. And what *is* the story on the dangling tinker toys?
Ahh, the mysterises of the Philly Convention Center.

Having attended professional association conferences in Philadelphia since the early 1980s, I will have to give a tip o' the hat to city for two huge changes:

- Crime is way, way, down around the city center; or at least it feels a lot safer to walk around at night

- The city center is one heck of a lot cleaner than it ever used to be!

Enjoy your boondoggle err conference!
Concerning bullet point 3:

I teach a lecture course where our tuition and fees add up to the paltry sum of about $280 per semester. The list price of the textbook for this course is only $96 and is good for two semesters (if the student actually opens the book, attends class, does the homework and survives to the 2nd semester). Most other textbooks for this sort of course have a list price of $180 or so. These can be sold, of course, to recover some of the cost, or bought used or discounted on line.

The associated lab, however, has a $100 textbook. The lab class costs less than this. (I'm not sure what we charge for lab fees, but it is probably less than $90.) The book is good for two semesters, if they make it that far. If not, the book costs more than the class and has no resale value.

PS - What artist/architect is credited with that work? I'm too lazy to Google it....
Our chair is expected to step down at the end of this semester and a successor has yet to step forward from within the department. One prof. was the former chair for many years, others are not interested and one guy is interested, but has no tenure which is risky. It is rumored they will hire from outside and alot of people are nervous. What do you do when there are tenured faculty, but no one wants the job?

Also, in line with this topic is unions. At one CC I have taught at there is a strong adjunct union with most of the reps being at
retirement. At faculty meetings they regularly try to recruit volunteers from the younger adjuncts, but people are busy teaching from one college to another.

I guess the question is how to older, retiring administrators or union reps. rally younger members that all that responsibility is worth it?
Ahhh the confusion between "costs" and "price." I suspect the challenge is to make students realize that their tuition is subsidized while their books are most likely not .

If you want to actually make a legitimate comparison, then either the CC needs to start subsidizing the cost of the books (making them far cheaper, as well) or start passing on the "full freight rate" of having students.

Oh--and please, don't go after the publishers by saying they "let it fly with abandon." I suspect they are exercising the same business practices as everyone else who contributes to the cost of the student attending the CC. Do you accuse the janitorial services, copy center, or utilities, of letting their costs "fly with abandon?"
I'm taking classes at a CC right now towards finishing my degree (I'm an adult working full time/taking classes) this term my tuition/fees come to about $530. My books (1 used, 2 new) are $300 and there's a workbook I didn't buy because I know for a fact we won't actually use it.

For me, the hardest part of this is that I generally pay my tuition over the course of the term, so a hundred or so dollars from each paycheck, but you obviously can't do so with the books. Grin & bear it I guess... I wish that the cost of books was included in the registration materials somehow, so that I could take it into account when choosing classes.
If only the college could negotiate with publishers to get a system wide contract price for goods and then offer them at a cheaper rate to the students! Of course then everyone would have to agree to use the same text and some students would resent buying new each semester....
Those dirty rotten selfish textbook authors need to just post their work on the internet for free . . . the greedy capitalist bastards!

[Interesting comment about unions and their desire to increase the supply of labor. I always wondered why Cesar Chavez supported immigration and the unions associated with manufacturing/skilled trades in the northeast and midwest were so welcoming to the migration of minority workers from the south in the 1960s and 1970s. Now I know why! They were interested in increasing the supply of labor, so as to keep the price of labor reasonable!]
The problem is that the first student is paying for every used sale -- and this is intensifying, so there is a spiral upwards in prices as higher prices drive more used sales which drive more higher prices, etc.

Separately, a lot of econ texts simply contain a pile of extraneous material.

I recently had the pleasure of evaluating a text which was much smaller than usual, because it didn't contain either the annoying "example" blurb thingies or the homework problems. Those were on the website, which required a book-specific password. The idea was that the book wasn't resellable, so it should only contain reference material, and that the website is extremely cheap to publish on a marginal basis.

Cost for the book -- $60. Compared to $120 for the average text ($80 used). I thought it was revolutionary.
Concerning bullet point #2:

Inertia is a fact of nature, and it is institutional inertia that keeps your college from developing some kind of professional training program. The assumption that leaders just happen, that a new chair will just step forward, is a poor one. Maybe it worked when some college had lots of young full-time faculty, or maybe you were just lucky and merely thought it was working.

And don't overlook the possibility that a bit of leadership training might lead to better run committees. Improving how they run might even be a good lever to start such a program, with the side benefit of identifying people who can make the place run.

Further, people might be turning down the job simply out of the fear of the unknown. Dean Dad, you might write about what aspects of your job (or that of the people who report to you) make for a pleasant day at work.
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