Thursday, November 13, 2008


Friday Quotables

From IHE:

Charles Manning, chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents, acknowledged that adjuncts teach a large share of the classes at the board’s institutions. “They are critical,” he said. Asked if they were well paid, he said that they are “clearly not.”

At the same time, he defended the decision not to raise the maximum [pay] level. “That would raise expectations when we don’t have the money,” he said.

It's not a matter of enlightening the suits. We know. The problem is deeper.

From Gene Lucas, executive Vice Chancellor of the University of California at Santa Barbara, in response to this week's round of devastating midyear budget cuts:

I’ve been at the executive vice chancellor position for six, going on seven years, and I’ve had five years of budget cuts out of that and no year of recovery,” he said. “It hasn’t been all that much fun.

Solidarity, brother. I'm right there with ya.

From Drew Gilpin Faust, President of Harvard:

Tradeoffs and hard choices that can be avoided in times of plenty cannot be averted now.

When even Harvard has to economize, it's time to stop pretending that this is anything other than structural.

From Rahm Emmanuel, President-Elect Obama's incoming Chief of Staff:

You don’t ever want a crisis to go to waste; it’s an opportunity to do important things that you would otherwise avoid.


I sympathize with adjuncts. But if a qualified person is willing to do a good job teaching me for 12$/hr why should I pay them more? I don't see anyone lining up to pay me more just because I could use a higher standard of living.
Joe, when colleges and universities start paying adjuncts for out of class work I'll be happy to take a pay cut. As an English comp teacher (teaching 5-7 classes a semester), I made more money working for "insert random retailer here" than I do teaching. Heck, as an adjunct, since we are considered part-time workers we have no access to health benefits, but I had that working for a retailer. If my students knew the extent of what adjuncts make, most of them would react by asking, "Exactly how does an education help my ability to get a better paycheck?"

Course, I'm also bitter these days since it has been mentioned that the place I teach is looking at a 80% adjunct / 20% full-time split.
Joe, most people recognize that higher education has a very odd place in a traditional capitalist labor market. "Employees" produce products like syllabuses, lectures, paper assignments, tests, etc. that "consumers" purchase through registration. But at the same time, "consumers" produce a "product" (papers, tests, even discussions), which is evaluated by the "employees." Furthermore, graduation requirements are not guided by the choices of the "consumers" but the expertise of the "employees." "Employees" are drawn to the job more by personal passion than by salary and benefit packages. Etc. etc.

In other words, it's a mess. Why give in on this issue? We do all sorts of silly things that reflect more the behavior of medieval monks than modern capitalist drones. Why not stand up for fair compensation for our fellow teachers?

And while we're at it, let's draw a line in the sand, arguing that there are minimum amounts of money, staff, and faculty to provide for the educational mission of our institutions and insist that other expenditures get cut? Not all schools are so well off as to be able to have their athletics programs live off athletic foundations--the football program uses money that could be used elsewhere.

In my humble, very humble opinion, higher education in a form vaguely resembling that of the liberal arts has lasted for about 1000 years. Certainly its origins in religious and philosophical scholarship can be traced back much, much longer. The current form of higher education, however, with huge universities and multimillion-dollar sports teams and free top-notch gym memberships and social organizations goes back 50-100 years. I wonder which will prove the enduring model and which will die a slow and painful death?
Perhaps someone can explain to me why that quote from Emmanuel ("You don’t ever want a crisis to go to waste; it’s an opportunity to do important things that you would otherwise avoid.") is just fine and dandy but the following:

"Only a crisis-actual or perceived-produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable."

...constitutes "the shock doctrine."

Inquiring minds want to know.
If my students knew the extent of what adjuncts make, most of them would react by asking, "Exactly how does an education help my ability to get a better paycheck?"

Really? If they can do arithmetic, I'd expect them to ask "Exactly where is my tuition going?" at a private university.

If it happened to be a state university, a really well-informed student might be asking "So where is all of the state money going?"
Underlying much of our discussion (and disagreement) on various threads in this forum (if I may) seem to flow from fundamentally differing answeres to the question

"What is the value of higher education?"

and a corrollary that presumes that the answer to this question may be fundamentally different for different colleges, departments, and disciplines . . .

Our funding models for "Education is Entertainment" and "Education is an Investment" would be somewhat differnt, c'est vrai?

(afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted, I always say!)
confused prof., the real question I think is not just what is the value of higher education, but what is the value for whom. Higher edu--hell, all education--is not just a private good (the student-as-consumer model) but also a public good (the student-as-product model). F'r instance, as a citizen it is in my interest, I would argue, to ensure that my fellow citizens are well educated, seeing as they are going to be making decisions about things that affect me. It's also in my interest to ensure that the people educating my fellow citizens are good at what they do and justly compensated, not just because I want them to perform well, but also because poor treatment of people performing such a core task for our society encourages the diminishing of the importance of their role, the importance of their mission, and thereby directly attacks the very public good that interests me. Therefore, I am willing to forgo a private good (immediate consumption or private investment) in favor of a public good.

I guess what I'm saying is that education is too important to be left to educators. At the same time, the political class of this country and, I would argue, the citizenry as a whole, have abdicated their responsibility to choose intelligently between public goods. Galbraith put it very clearly, albeit in the context of a time of plenty, that it's not a question of the nation not having resources but to what use does the nation choose to put those resources. Contrary to what some pundits are saying now, Galbraith's observation is only more true in times of want.

Yes, as educators (administrators) we need to recognize that there is truth to the student-as-consumer model, because our students do, after all, need decent jobs and upgradeable skills. And for some schools the education-as-entertainment funding model may actually be appropriate (assuming by that you mean quasi-pro sports). Nevertheless, we absolutely have to balance this with the public good of higher education, the value of having a knowledgeable citizenry. It's not a question of different departments within an educational institution having different notions of value. The whole notion of the value of education has this essential tension at its core. If we don't deal with that, as a society, we go nowhere.

Captcha: Palen (I kid you not)

Without taking a position either way (as to which definition of "Value" is "correct") I agree with the notion that there are *different* definitions of "value."

We have jointly described at least 4:

- Entertainment1: learning for learning's sake; fine arts
- Entertainment2: the "industrial" side of the "education industry" (ie football games and recitals open to the public); I would characterize this differently
- Investment: learning to increase one's value to society
- Public Good: learning to increase one's value to . . . the state? This was your dimension; the "we need educated neighbors" dimension

- Others? (I'm sure many others exist)

The point of this exercise is this: the different value dimensions of education may be
- incompatible?
- complementary?
- unrelated?
- deserving/undeserving of "public fininancing" (euphemism for using the state's monompoly on force to confiscate wealth from the subjects)

For example

- Some may argue that confiscated dollars should not be used to finance the campus symphony (or football team)
- Some may argue that confiscated dollars should not be used to finance art appreciation classes
- Some may argue that confiscated dollars should not be used to teach creationism, communism, womyns studies, nazism, buddhism, deconstructivism, nihilism . . .
- Heck, most of my colleagues argue that confiscated dollars should not be used to fund "postmodernism" of any stripe!
From info I posted as a comment on IHE:

Tuition at the University of Tennessee is $681 for a 3-credit class, not including any of their other fees.

Adjunct gets $1800, which is covered by the tuition of 3 students.

Thirty students pay over $20,000 for the class taught by the adjunct, subsidizing other classes at the university.
confused professor: "confiscated dollars?" "fine arts = entertainment?" "public good = the state?"

I'm afraid you are more than confused...I would say ideologically swoggled. Try putting down your yard sign for a moment and think about the discussion again from another point of view, preferably one that has not been steep in false economism.

captcha" damnatie (really!)
The problem with the whole "taxes are not optional so everything that is funded with public dollars is confiscated" line of argument is that it blurs the line between a legitimate and illegitimate state -- that is, between a state which acts (if imperfectly) in the interests of its citizens* due to regular feedback mechanisms (elections, referenda, impeachments, et cetera), and a state which is nonrepresentative.

A legitimate state has much more latitude in its discussion of providing public goods, managing risk through pooling, and providing goods with large positive externalities. It can reasonably be said to be, in addition to the monopoly holder on violence, the expression of the collective will of the persons making it up.

*note that if one holds a fringe view, this means that one does not get one's policy preferences enacted. This also should not matter if one's fringe view involves basic human rights (i.e. "Women should vote, too, because they are people.") This can lead to folks with fringe views redefining policy preference as human rights in order to justify outrage.
Interesting discussion of "value".

Based on the enthusiasm of the discussions in class, our college's students clearly value football games, parties, and parties far more than they do what they are learning in class. I can always tell when the class after mine is going to have a test: that is the one day they come into the room holding animated conversations about the subject matter of the class. The same is often true of my students, although some will also talk about homework problems when they are coming due.

Quite a few seem to think they will be socially promoted into a good job, and classes are the minor labor they need to perform to pay their dues so they can stay in college and go to parties.
I will blog whore on this a bit
Punditus (and Richard):

The problem is obviously not *your* using the monopoly on violence embodied by the state to force *me* to pay for *your* causes du jour . . . the problem, obviously, is when the state sticks a gun in *your* face to force *you* to support the stuff that *I* want to see happen!

The third way, of course, is that we use the power of the state sparingly and advisedly. And only to support stuff that benefits ALL of us.

Of course, we departed violently from *that* point of view over a hundred years ago (when we started treating the consitution like some penumbra-emanation filled looking glass reflecting our own personal dreams) . . .

"The State" as you envision it has lost ALL moral authority for any rational (not exceedingly self interested of course) student of human affairs.

Tick Tock.
@confused, I don't recall bringing up the state at all--that was your addition. Societies making intelligent choices, and recognizing that they are making choices, is what I was talking about. The state may be an appropriate mechanism for achieving that, and it may not. If it is to be the state, then we need an equitable way of determining choices that does not overvalue, for example, GM, AIG, Disney, and Monsanto over the rest of us. As I suggested before, this might be easier to see if you tear yourself away from the randroid shadows and poke your head outside your cave.

@punditus, in general I agree, but I note that one person's "basic human rights" is another person's "fringe view." It's not that long ago, right here is these United States, that the very example you gave of a basic human right (women's suffrage) was broadly considered a fringe view; a more current example is of course Prop 8 and its ilk. Thus warnings about one of the challenges of democratic systems identified by Mill: tyranny of the majority.
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