Reviews of Recent Books Concerning Current Issues in Higher Ed: No. 6
Donoghue, Frank. The Last Professors: The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities. New York: Fordham U P, 2008.
In this seminal work of the corporatization of American universities, Frank Donoghue offers a much longer historical view than most other authors focusing on the topic. Some have started in the mid-1970s, when economic recession and the “Rust Belt” decline of American manufacturing and working-class economic security, along with post-Baby Boom demographics, created new fiscal pressures on our universities. Others have looked back to the late 1940s, when the G. I. Bill eliminated many previous socio-economic obstacles to a earning a college degree and drove the very rapid expansion of our universities–the public university systems, in particular. But Donoghue starts in the post-Civil War era, when the establishment of most of our land-grant universities marked the beginnings of the modern university in America. He not only historically delineates the tension between the proponents of utilitarian education and the proponents of “liberal arts” education, but he emphasizes that, from the beginnings of the modern American university, this tension has been inherent in our shifting conception of the core mission of our universities. The Gilded Age and the Roaring Twenties marked previous high points for the proponents of utilitarian education, and it is hardly surprising that at the turn of this century, as the nation seems to have settled into a second Gilded Age, the proponents of utilitarian education have once more moved into the foreground. Unlike most critics of the increasing corporatization of our universities, Donoghue does not, however, view this as a cyclic phenomenon. Instead, he believes that most colleges and universities have already passed a tipping point and are moving inexorably toward an increasingly corporatized state in which the humanities and social sciences are being reduced from major disciplines within the curriculum to basic skill sets and diversions for dilettantes and subversives. Continue reading
Here’s one from The Onion. If you don’t subscribe to their daily newsletter or site feeds or regularly visit their site, you really ought to do so. Sometimes the satire is very close to the reality that it is targeting, but at least you can laugh instead of weeping.
Professor Deeply Hurt by Student’s Evaluation
Leon Rothberg, Ph.D., a 58-year-old professor of English Literature at Ohio State University, was shocked and saddened Monday after receiving a sub-par mid-semester evaluation from freshman student Chad Berner. The circles labeled 4 and 5 on the Scan-Tron form were predominantly filled in, placing Rothberg’s teaching skill in the “below average” to “poor” range.
Rothberg, though hurt by evaluations that pointed out the little globule of spit that sometimes forms between his lips, was most upset at being called “totally lame” in one freshman’s write-in comments.
Although the evaluation has deeply hurt Rothberg’s feelings, Berner defended his judgment at a press conference yesterday.
“That class is totally boring,” said Berner, one of 342 students in Rothberg’s introductory English 161 class. “When I go, I have to read the school paper to keep from falling asleep. One of my brothers does a comic strip called ‘The Booze Brothers.’ It’s awesome.”
The poor rating has left Rothberg, a Rhodes Scholar, distraught and doubting his ability to teach effectively at the university level. Continue reading
I am always amazed how some administrations defend themselves, as Brooklyn Law School Dean Nicholas Allard does, by claiming that the AAUP has somehow authorized their dubious actions. Allard claims that the school’s new policy on “demonstrated incompetence” is a “long-recognized and widely accepted regulatory term supported by the AAUP and others.”
Brooklyn Law School’s new policy defines the term as: “Demonstrated incompetence, including but not limited to, multiple unsatisfactory performance reviews or complaints from supervisors; multiple complaints from students or multiple unsatisfactory student evaluations; sub-standard academic performance; lack of collegiality.”
Because the AAUP allows for the firing of “incompetent” professors, Brooklyn Law School’s administration thinks that it call anything “incompetence” and fire anybody at any time. That’s not how it works.
Reviews of Recent Books Concerning Current Issues in Higher Ed: No. 2
Altbach, Philip G., Patricia J. Gumport, and Robert O. Berdahl, eds. American Higher Education in the Twenty-First Century: Social, Political, and Economic Challenges. 3rd Edition. Eds. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins U P, 2011.
In selecting the essays included in this collection, the editors have attempted not only to provide an overview of the major issues confronting America’s colleges and universities, but also to suggest how at least some of those issues are affecting higher education on an international scale.
The authors collectively address several paradoxes. First, although the American system of higher education has long been and still remains the best in the world, there is a growing sense that its future is more uncertain than it ever has been–and may be perilously uncertain. Second, although higher education has always been defined by some degree of continual flux, there is a growing sense that the changes that are currently occurring are more definitive and more irreversible than previous cycles of change. And, lastly, the movements toward more specialization in the curriculum and toward more contingent employment among the professoriate seem to have reached critical tipping points, beyond which it will be increasingly difficult to readjust institutional missions in response to shifting political, economic, and cultural pressures.
The collection includes seventeen essays, which are divided into four sections: The Setting, External Forces, The Academic Community, and Central Issues.
Reviews of Recent Books Concerning Current Issues in Higher Education: No. 1
Ginsberg, Benjamin. The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters. New York: Oxford U P, 2011.
Ginsberg’s book has very quickly become a seminal work in the growing body of scholarly literature dedicated to higher education’s institutional self-examination. This literature has been written almost equally by administrators and faculty, who share a singular focus on the increasing corporatization of our colleges and universities. Not surprisingly, most of the administrative authors of these studies have expressed largely positive views of corporatization, while most of the faculty have presented decidedly negative views of it. What the administrators have typically seen as the salient benefits of corporate modeling in shaping the future possibilities of our institutions, the faculty have generally regarded as a further compounding of the trends that have turned our institutions into misshapen caricatures of what they have traditionally, and ideally, thought themselves to be or sought to be.
The movement toward presenting core curricula through MOOCs delivered by outside providers will continue unabated until some basic questions are answered. What is the maximum number of students who can take a MOOC before the scale becomes preposterous: 30,000–300,000–3,000,000? How do digital videos of classes avoid the pedagogical issues inherent to large lecture classes, issues which have been documented and addressed in dozens of studies over the last two to three decades? How will MOOCs delivered to colleges and universities by outside providers affect institutional budgets, given that courses in the core curricula are among the most predictable revenue- producing parts of most curricula? And how will MOOCs affect the efforts of individual institutions to create a distinctive “brand”: that is, if all of their students are enrolled in MOOCs for the core curricula, will institutions increasing become, in effect, “branches” of the MOOC providers?
Attention to the bloated salaries and benefit packages provided to university presidents will continue to deflect attention from the unmitigated expansion of mid-level administrators and administrative staffs. Some tentative discussions will be initiated about where colleges and universities might focus their resources as they enter a “post-education future.”
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
Total number of degree-granting colleges and universities in the United States in 2009: 4,495
Post-secondary enrollment in 2009: 20.4 million
Percentage of the total U.S. population enrolled in 2009: 5.7%
Enrollment by percentage in four-year institutions in 2009: 62%
Enrollment by percentage in two-year institutions in 2009: 38%
The November-December issue of Academe looks at faculty service. It is perhaps the most ambiguous of the traditional triad along with teaching and research, and the articles in this issue seek to describe the different ways that faculty conceive of service, and the different ways that service is (or is not) recognized. Read the issue here.
Thomas Miller has been serving on promotion and tenure committees for decades. In that time, he’s seen how faculty service is taken into account when considering a candidate, and seen it often take a backseat to other faculty work. Research has always been considered a faculty member’s “real” work, he writes, though tenure committees are increasingly taking teaching into account as well. But “service and outreach remain peripheral” to such considerations. Read the full story here, from the November-December issue of Academe.
The following is a roundup of news relating to contingent academic workers, courtesy of activist Joe Berry. If you have suggestions for to include in the next roundup, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s what has been happening lately, in Joe’s words:
- An appeal for support for Chicago Teachers Union, AFT local 1, to their solidarity fund in their fight and possible fall strike to preserve and improve public education (and against the privatizers). I personally urge us all to contribute and get further donations from your union and organization. No foundation will fund this fight. The rich and their foundations (Gates, Lumina, et al) are all on the other side.
- Reports and photos from COCAL X: the tenth Conference of Contingent Academic Labor are here and here.
- Very good article on the killing of American universities from the Junct Rebellion blog.
- A wonderful article on the revolt of the Chicago teachers, in 1933, when they, through massive direct action, and over the objections of many union leaders, directly attacked the banks to get the money to pay them and keep the schools open. Every teacher unionist should read this. The best telling of this story that this labor historian has ever read.
- The George Washington University adjunct unit, SEIU, reaches agreement on a contract.
- An Inside Higher Ed blogger and adjunct describes getting a “visiting” full-time job.
- COCAL and other contingent movement support gets union president Diana Vallera’s disciplinary meeting delayed one week. Thanks to all who sent messages. See details.
- Wayne State University in Detroit could be the first Research I university to end tenure.
- Steve Street, teacher, writer, and Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor, United University Professions, and New Faculty Majority activist, dies of cancer. Read a remembrance of Steve. Read one of his many pieces in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
- Check out the international New Unionism site for some very good stories and a new newsletter.
- One of the three main views on how to save City College of San Francisco. (The other two are focus on the parcel tax or just do everything the the accreditors, say.) Well expressed and circulated on the Occupy Education list.
- Al Jazeera article on adjuncts.
- Greene County Community College adjuncts (NY) get small raise; no mention of a union.
The following is a guest post by Donald Rogers. Rogers is the chair of the Organization of American Historians Committee on Part-Time, Adjunct and Contingent Faculty, and serves as the OAH liaison to the Coalition on the Academic Workforce. He is currently serving as an Assistant Professor of History at Central Connecticut State University.
Recently, the Delphi Project brought an important report on “The Changing Faculty and Student Success” that demands our careful attention and discussion. Here’s what I personally think about it from my vantage point as a long-time contingent faculty member and as chair of the Organization of American Historians (OAH) Committee on Part-Time, Adjunct and Contingent Faculty.