Wednesday, November 29, 2006

    Tenure must die

    This is a cross-post from the comments section of Dean Dad’s page here.

    Tenure = job security. Sounds a lot like the dinosaur of having a “union job” at the local factory. Both were relicts of an age when the individual put faith into the institution to take care of him into old age. As I watch Ford, GM, Delphi, etc. implode and renege on this social agreement, I wonder if a similar reckoning will occur in academia. Tenure = free time (to research, serve on committees, etc.). Dean Dad rightly described the tendency for tenured faculty to migrate to lower enrollment, upper-level courses, leaving the high-need, large-enrollment courses to the part-timers or adjuncts. He speculates that such movement is inherent in the system. It is. I don’t know, though, if tenure is the agent of this dynamic. If a prof is given tenure, one of the assumptions is that he is granted academic freedom to explore ideas with less pressure to conform. That is, he is free to be radical (to a point, it would follow) adventurous in exploring ideas, breaking ground, etc. Publishing (for most institutions) is an expected result of tenure.

    So, the dynamics at play are:

    • tenured faculty teach fewer students
    • tenured faculty have more time for research
    • tenured faculty are expected to spend time on institution business (committees, etc.)
    • If tenured faculty capitalize (read: economic sense) on these advantages, then they will continue to ensure their position in the institution
    So, if an institution wishes to retain the best and brightest that it is able to, then tenure is a nice carrot to dangle in front of profs.

    But I agree with Dean Dad that this carrot may not be good for the institution as a whole. A segment of the profs will definitely like it. But the largest pool of workers (adjuncts and part-timers) are either led by the mistaken notion that they will achieve the promised status (few actually do) or resent the caste system altogether (lots do).

    One final note is the quality of instruction. A recent story in EdOnline reported a study that indicated that the quality of cc-instruction was diminished by an over-reliance on adjuncts. The jist was, adjuncts teach the bulk of the students (especially the lower level freshman/sophomore type and non-trads), those who would greatly benefit from contact and exposure to profs, were not getting that exposure because adjuncts and part-timers didn’t spend the same amount of out-of-class time with them. Especially telling in non-trads (night and weekend or online users) were likely to have limited or reduced prof exposure.

    My final point. Institutions are part of the problem. If they continue to offer the sanctity of tenure and allow the Chosen to withdraw (into research, small classes, etc.), then the quality of the bulk courses (and those students—those who probably need the exposure the most) will continue to suffer (caveat—not all part-time or adjunct instruction is of lesser quality—but, on average without the fiduciary carrot to put out extra effort quality will suffer). It seems that the mission of the institution should be clarified. For CCs, student-to-prof interaction should be highlighted. For land-grant, I would argue the same. Eliminate tenure and the dynamics of withdrawal and work to increase access and exposure.

    For R1’s, the school brand might trump, even for the student, the benefits of higher student-prof interaction. That is, for R1’s (not to mention the Elite or Ivies), brand maintenance might be a better force on keeping quality instruction than other factors. Or, more directly, quality instruction is measured differently. I go to a CC in order to acquire skills. I go to land-grant to acquire skills-knowledge. I go to R1 to gain access (skills, knowledge, etc. are benefits).


    Bonus Extra…

    Below is the first paragraph of the Inside HigherEd article:

    A new report on community college student engagement suggests that the academic experience of full-time students is substantially more interactive than that of their part-time peers and also documents a disparity between the proportion of students who value academic advising and those who obtain it.

    Would you like me to read this to you? Listen

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

    Adjunct Addict

    Where have I been? Well, pull up a mouse and let me tell you.

    Longtime readers (both of you) will know that I had a rather large work load this past few months. I commute to Gotham weekly, leaving the weekend to try and retain some semblance of family (Pookie and Lovely Wife shoulder quite a large amount of this work arrangement’s burden).

    While commuting, I was also teaching a series of three and three sets of classes for one college (one of the first three was a 12 week course) as well as a 14 week course at cc#2. So, at any given point I had, in addition to my real job, at least 4 active courses. While this has not been burdensome in the past, three of those courses were completely new builds of which one was an experiment in using the college’s own material. That was a big time suck.

    Well, that has all changed. More on that later. Suffice to say that my work load has lessened dramatically. In doing so, my feeling of burnt-out-ness magnified. So, I took a break. No blogging, no bitching, none of the usual. I stepped back.

    But, today I was offered some courses with cc#2, which, it seems, I really need to do. Apparently my sense of completeness involves some sort of teaching.

    I am an addict of instruction. An adjunct addict. Help me.

    Would you like me to read this to you? Listen

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

    One down

    With the "resignation" of the Secretary of War Defense, it seems that the Days of Wonders continue: Brittany divorcing K-Fed, Dems win the House and tying the Senate, Lieberman winning as an Independent, pigs flying through the air, the gates of Hell spewing forth the undead…yada yada yada.

    I say, if the Days of Wonder have any power, that one final puzzle piece of the past six years needs to be placed into the bright picture of Harmony on Earth…

    Has a Veep ever been fired?

    One can dream.

    Would you like me to read this to you? Listen

    Post election morn.

    When Bush won by one vote in 2000, he saw it as a mandate from God. He said as much in 2004 when he won by a bit more (having 2 or more encouraged him greatly).

    I am interested to see what he has to say about losing the House…

    Faith is partially restored in the voting public. I just wish it didn’t take this long.

    Yay team.

    Would you like me to read this to you? Listen

Monday, November 06, 2006

    Election eve.

    I voted absentee over the weekend, which puts a weird perspective on the last minute maneuvers. In fact, I propose that more people vote absentee, even if you would be in town. The more the vote is fluid, the less the last minute death decrees of dictators may have.

    Other snarky news has to do with white-washed tombs called evangelical preachers, now committed to “curing” his sexual orientation confusion. It sucks to be fired from your own mega-church.

    Sometimes hit and miss, Bill Maher has a hit with his latest “new rules” in which he provides talking points to the Dems as they attempt to close the mid-term election deal.

    So, vote early and vote often.

    Would you like me to read this to you? Listen

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

    Kerry, Kerry, Kerry

    I find it interesting an administration led by one so maladroit in speaking can spin someone else's gaff so effectively. I really shouldn't be, though.

    The morning talk show that I found in the rental car this morning (sorry, no station id) referred to the whole broohaha an indication of Kerry's perceived aristocracy and Bush's (ironically tragic, really) "down-home" vibe. I tried to argue, as I navigated the deadlocked traffic, but I could really come up with no better explanation. I would like to, and have, demonize Rove as the source of all evil (see the TN GOP-approved ad), but at some point the listeners out there have to discern...and maybe they are. Perhaps the average 'merican sees Kerry as a metonym for the Dems--and I see quite a bit of convincing evidence that this is indeed the case.

    How else does one explain how a decorated, swiftboat, war veteran seems less patriotic than a fly-boy, Daddy-pass Guardsman (today is not yesterday's guard...)?

    Two reasons--and Dems as a whole seem to suffer from this--lack of pithiness; lack of crass.

    Seeing multiple sides of an argument is very appealing in a policymaker. Not being able to draw a clearly demarcated line on issues makes for a poor politician. Talking in nuanced arguments is great for wonks; suicide for passively interested voters.

    Kerry is attempting to shoot from the hip. It is not his strength, and in this he is outmatched. John Stewart could hold his own in this type of debate, John Kerry can't.

    Know your strengths and work within oneselves.

    I fear for Tuesday.

    What Kerry said: War Room -
    "Campaigning with California gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides Monday, John Kerry told a crowd at Pasadena City College: 'You know, education -- if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq.'"

    Would you like me to read this to you? Listen