Very Concrete, Local Issues and Much Broader, Ideological Issues in Higher Education

Writing for the Athens Messenger, Sarah Guinn reports that Hocking College in southeastern Ohio has fired 13 faculty members for lack of adequate credentials. Here are the opening paragraphs of the article:

“Between July and early August, Hocking College ‘released’ 13 full-time members of the faculty—some of whom had been there more than 20 years—citing a lack of credentials, according to the college’s president, Dr. Betty Young.

“The ‘releases,’ as Young referred to it, or terminations of employment, come as a result of requirements handed down by the Higher Learning Commission at an annual meeting earlier this year in March, which informed the college all faculty members must hold appropriate credentials in his or her field of teaching, Young said.

“The college had until Dec. 31 to meet the requirements, and in preparation of an upcoming HLC accreditation visit, the college formed a committee made up of faculty and faculty administrators, Young said. All faculty were asked to update their files with current transcripts, certifications, and resumes to provide the committee the most updated and correct information in order to evaluate each faculty member, she said.

“After the committee scrutinized each full-time faculty member’s credentials, it found 13 members who did not meet the HLC’s standards, she said, and therefore, the termination of their employment was recommended.

“The 2015-16 budget was built to include a reduction in these positions and was implemented July 1, Young said.

“According to a list provided to The Messenger by Young, two of the 13 faculty members did not have a college degree of any kind, and five held an associate degree, whereas a bachelor’s or master’s degree might have helped keep their position.

“Three faculty members held bachelor degrees and were terminated for not holding a master’s degree; three faculty members who held master’s degrees were terminated for not holding a specified master’s in the area he or she taught.”

Beyond the semantic issue in insisting on calling the firings “releases,” this article seems to provoke as least as many questions as it answers.

Since there is no mention of falsified credentials and since the college is providing references for the faculty as they seek other employment, the most obvious question would seem to be why the faculty members were hired to begin with.

Moreover, since some of the faculty members appear to have taught at the college for more than two decades, one must surely wonder why no previous administration at the college and no previous accrediting committee appear to have raised concerns over the faculty members’ lack of adequate credentials.

Lastly, this situation has occurred at a public college that has been subject, one assumes, to all sorts of levels of formalized external oversight. So, when one considers the issues surrounding the quality of education being provided by for-profit institutions at which there are relatively few, if any, permanent full-time faculty, one wonders all the more about the level of attention, both inside and outside of those institutions, to such basic matters as the confirmation of faculty credentials.

Indeed, as the privatizers keep chipping away at public higher education, we should pay heed to what has been occurring at the K-12 level. The “reformers” have used extensive formal assessments to highlight each and every deficiency in the public schools and to promote the alternative of charter schools. But, as much as possible, they have exempted the charter schools from the same sort of extensive formal assessments and external oversight—precisely because the assessments that are available seem to be demonstrating quite clearly that although the charter schools generate enormous profits,  they generally do not produce appreciably better results than the public schools.

The underlying notion seems to be that a private entity profiting at the public expense should not be held as accountable as a public institution serving the public interest. And frequently, under the guise of “saving” money for the taxpayer, the mechanisms for providing oversight are either under-funded or left completely unfunded.

Recall that, in the early 1980s, as the Reagan administration deregulated the savings and loan industry, it saved about $60 million a year by eliminating a slew of auditors and others who had insured the institutions’ compliance with federal regulations. There was a superficial logic to the idea that deregulation eliminated the need for those enforcing regulations. But, the problems with such superficial logic became very quickly apparent. In the decade between 1986 and 1995, 1,043 of the 3,234 savings and loans in the U.S. failed, with the cost of the debacle ultimately rising to somewhere around $160 billion.

If I seem to have gone very far afield from the firing of 13 faculty members at a small community and technical college in southeastern Ohio, I admit that I have very obviously done so.

But it has struck me with increasing force that one of the strategies of those dismantling our public institutions has been to create a plethora of issues and to treat them as if they are unconnected—so much so that if one sees a literal or more figurative connection between any aspects of what is occurring, one is quickly characterized as a ranting propagandist or someone unhinged by paranoia.

Increasingly, all motives are ultimately regarded as self-interested and therefore suspect, except of course for the profit motive.


Guinn’s complete article is available at:



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