Thursday, December 03, 2015


Middle States, Day Two

I’m happy to report that community colleges weren’t entirely absent from the discussion on the second day of Middle States.  

Terry Hartle, from ACE, gave the morning keynote.  Much of it was a fairly predictable overview of the current political scene, though he drew a pretty striking contrast between the Congress of 2015 and the Congress of 1965, exactly fifty years ago.  The latter passed the Higher Education Act when it wasn’t busy passing the Voting Rights Act.  This one, well…

He threw in a real head-scratcher, though, asserting that of the “three-legged stool” of quality control in higher education, only accreditation has any public confidence.  (The other two legs are the states and the Feds.)  I’m not sure what he based that on, but it was debatable at best.  Accreditors took it on the chin in Congress at the hearings about Corinthian Colleges -- why weren’t they tough enough? -- while simultaneously getting attacked in California for trying to shut down CCSF -- why are they so mean?  That’s a pretty narrow strike zone, and it hardly suggests great public confidence.  Worse, as Hartle noted, most legislators don’t make a distinction between national and regional accreditation, so the sins of the former are visited upon the latter.

Other than that, though, he seemed largely on target.  He noted the public focus on costs, and the eagerness of many policymakers to believe that financial aid is always immediately gobbled up by greedy colleges in the form of tuition increases.  (That’s easily refuted by comparing average community college tuition to the maximum value of a Pell grant, but articles of faith easily survive mere facts.)  He also noted the temptation for policymakers to resort to “bright line” criteria in determining whether colleges are succeeding or not.  To take the most obvious case, a “bright line” graduation rate based on the first-time, full-time, degree-seeking cohort would be so badly misleading in the community college sector as to constitute a sort of malpractice.  But many policymakers are so enamored of appearing tough that they don’t want to be bothered learning the fine points.  We need to get better at telling our stories.

The rest of the day was divided between concurrent sessions and catching up with a few old friends.  A quick highlight reel:

On to day three...

The "coaching model" sounds eerily similar to the "intrusive advising" debacle of a few years ago.

The problem is that when CCs in dirt-poor states try to implement such a beast, they're simply going to foist it onto the already-overworked faculty. My CC can't even afford to run a writing lab, let along hire full-time advisors. Worse yet, faculty here have no collective bargaining power to fight such abuses.

I don't want to hear anyone's bright ideas about improving retention until they first propose a plan to properly fund it.

Even though I'm tenured, I don't think the university that employs me is necessarily going to take care of me if it's inconvenient. And I think that DD has previously said something along the lines of faculty jobs being, in the end, jobs. So I feel some loyalty to my institution, but more to the students and the discipline/profession.

It's less true for me than for other people who aren't faculty, but there has been a broader shift in the employment relation where people don't expect to work for the same company for their whole careers anymore. I think that's filtering through to faculty with respect to being transactional.
"Younger generations tend to be more transactional"
If true, don't you think this reflects the reality that the younger generations have spent their *entire working lives* going above and beyond for little, if any, reward?
When you have no reason to expect your hard work to ever be repaid, you would be an idiot to continue providing it for free.

Older generations with different experiences aren't better. They were lucky.
During the q-and-a, someone mentioned that employee goodwill is a resource, and that very strapped colleges sometimes burn through that by asking people to go above and beyond for years on end. Lex responded that members of her generation often went above and beyond, but younger generations tended to be more transactional.

My organization was recently discussing why 'younger' educators seem less involved in voluntary organizations. One of the older members remarked that his generation did a lot of voluntary service because (a) it was voluntary, and (b) they had the time. He said that he'd never have been hired today, let alone got tenure, given how cut-throat the competition for positions has become.

After he listed all the things that younger faculty have to do to just-maybe get their contract extended, and have a shot at a professorship someday, well, that explains why they have no time for voluntary service that isn't laser-focused on looking good to a search committee. And ticking all those boxes for the CV is essentially transactional, right?
Nanani said...
"Younger generations tend to be more transactional"
If true, don't you think this reflects the reality that the younger generations have spent their *entire working lives* going above and beyond for little, if any, reward?
When you have no reason to expect your hard work to ever be repaid, you would be an idiot to continue providing it for free.

This. Very much this.
On 'younger generations tend to be more transactional'. Umm... Cart horse? With so much faculty bandwitdth now in the sessiona/adjunctl (read transactional) space, of course employees will become transactional. Employers/colleges have become transactional.

You should show your employer an equal amount of loyalty that they show to you.

It's also quite possible that a perception issue is at play. If it's constantly difficult to fill service roles it could be that fewer people are putting their hand up than before because they are transactional or it could be that fewer people put their hand up because there are fewer people.

Lastly, the old standard degree for college teaching was a masters. The new a PhD. Simultaneously, we've shifted the cost to students from society. Again, a move to transactionalism and a move that puts greater pressure on the time of those who are lucky enough to get work.

All of this to say, essentially, that if you don't want a transactional workforce, don't build a society that emphasizes transactionality.
FYI - Here is the rigorous scholarly treatment of coaching you requested;
And of course adjuncts don't exist.
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