Thursday, October 27, 2005

Showing Up

What do you do, as an administrator, when (you have good reason to believe) a tenured professor regularly fails to show up for class?

I have to confront this issue, and I’m not liking my options. One option, of course, is to get a copy of the professor’s schedule, stand outside the appropriate classrooms at the appropriate times with a clipboard and a stopwatch, and take notes. But I don’t want to do that. The union would accuse me of singling this professor out, which would be true to the extent that I haven’t made a habit of doing that for others (and have no plans to). I’d look ridiculous, the example would be toxic, and it’s not like I don’t have other things to do. Even if I got good data, I wouldn’t have anything to compare it to, since many classes run at the same hour and I can only be in one place at a time.

Students (or students’ parents) sometimes report it, but they frequently don’t. The temptation to coast is simply too powerful for most to resist. (This wouldn’t have happened at my previous school – there, students would have (did) stormed my office, demanding immediate refunds. Different culture.)

I asked the department chair if the reports I’ve been receiving are true – he didn’t know, and he hasn’t been able to ask the professor in question due to her/his frequent absences. A classic catch-22: if you never show up, you can’t get busted.

In the business world, the answer would be easy: give the AWOL employee walking papers, and hire someone who actually wants the job. Tenure defeats that strategy, even though I know there are plenty of adjuncts out there who would give relatively important body parts for a job like this. Between tenure and the faculty union, any discipline beyond the informal ‘cut the crap’ is incredibly costly and difficult.

As with most low performers, this one knows the faculty contract forward and backward.

Any ideas out there? I’m actually losing sleep over this.