What professors do

Anthropologist John Ziker decided to try to find out.  Ziker recruited a non-random sample of 16 professors at Boise State University and scheduled interviews with them every other day for 14 days.  In each interview, they reported how they spent their time the previous day.  In total, he collected data for 166 days.

It’s a small, non-random sample at just one university, but here’s what he discovered.

All ranks worked over 40 hours a week (average of 61 hours/week) and all ranks put in a substantial number of hours over the weekends:images

Professors, then, worked 51 hours during the official workweek and then, in addition, put in ten hours over the weekend.

What were they doing those days?  Research, teaching, and service are the three pillars of an academic workload and they dominated professors’ time.  They used weekends, in particular, to catch up on the first two.  The suspension of the business of the university over the weekend gave them a chance to do the other two big parts of their job. Continue reading “What professors do”

Weighty academic issues

Overweight professors across academe describe battles to achieve self-acceptance, full inclusion in academic life, and genuine respect from students and colleagues. Vitae reports that:

“Some struggle daily to navigate campus spaces that don’t comfortably accommodate their size. Some stand in front of classrooms and wonder whether their bodies influence how students perceive their minds. Some say they have trouble adhering to exercise plans or healthy eating habits because their jobs come with lots of research and little structure.Yet larger professors often grapple with these concerns in isolation and silence. On a national level, discussions of obesity have become increasingly common—and, at times, increasingly contentious. But many fat professors, along with allies in the emerging field of fat studies, feel that colleges and universities have yet to hold productive conversations on the topic, especially when it comes to “fat shaming” and how size influences hiring, tenure, and promotion decisions.

“The situation for fat academics has worsened as our national discourse about obesity has ramped up,” says Christina Fisanick, an associate professor of English at California University of Pennsylvania.Fisanick has tracked the discourse for some time, in part because she herself has struggled with obesity. (Due to a binge-eating disorder, her weight has risen as high as 353 pounds; it’s now down to 228.) Writing in 2007 for Feminist Teacher, she pointed out that the few fat professors depicted on film are treated farcically: Think of Sherman Klump in Eddie Murphy’s remake of The Nutty Professor, for example, or the unnamed (but Colonel Sandersesque) biology professor played by Robert Kokol in Adam Sandler’s The Waterboy. These images, according to Fisanick, affect students’, professors’, and administrators’ expectations of what a scholar should look like.Fisanick’s piece also hinted at a question that many fat academics have found themselves asking: Will they face bias in job interviews or in tenure and promotion decisions? Continue reading “Weighty academic issues”

Adjuncts in poverty

When you think about minimum-wage workers, college professors don’t readily come to mind. But many say that’s what they are these days, as NPR reports:

“Of all college instructors, 76 percent, or over 1 million, teach part time because institutions save a lot of money when they replace full-time, tenured faculty with itinerant teachers, better known as adjuncts.

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“Kathleen Gallagher, a published poet and writer with advanced studies and a master’s degree, spent 20 years as an adjunct English professor at several colleges in Akron, Ohio. The most she’s ever made in a year is $21,000; last year, she made $17,000.

“After one college laid her off last summer, Gallagher was desperately short of money, so she sold her plasma. “It is embarrassing to talk on the radio and say, ‘I think I’ll have to go give some blood,’ ” she says with a sigh. “But I needed gasoline. I have applied for other work,” she says. “I had interviews, but then I remembered what I feel like in the classroom.” Gallagher tears up. She says teaching is her life, her calling. She’s always assumed that eventually, a college somewhere would offer her a full-time professorship, but that just doesn’t happen as often anymore. There’s a good reason for that, says Rex Ramsier, vice provost at the University of Akron, where Gallagher is teaching one class. Continue reading “Adjuncts in poverty”

Rise of the administrative class

In the two decades from 1985 to 2005, student enrollment in the US rose by 56 per cent, faculty numbers increased by 50 per cent, imagesdegree-granting institutions expanded by 50 per cent, degrees granted grew by 47 per cent, administrators rocketed by 85 per cent and their attendant staff by a whopping 240 per cent, reports the Times Education Supplement.

“The obvious question is – why? Have students become so needy that a university needs not only a “dean of student life” but several associate deans, assistant deans and a plethora of deanlets – Ginsberg’s coinage of the term “deanlet” is wonderfully offensive – to cater to their whims and shield them from the temptations of booze, drugs and illicit sex? Have we become so trapped by information technology that we need an IT officer apiece in order to function?

“A common explanation of the growth in administrative numbers, both in the US and the UK, is that government demands for information and an increasingly complicated regulatory environment make it impossible to manage with fewer administrative staff than institutions actually employ. Ginsberg doesn’t deny that some growth in numbers could be accounted for in this way, but he argues, I think rightly, that most cannot.

“Because the US has a genuinely private and a genuinely public higher education sphere, it’s possible to compare administrative growth across the sectors; and because public universities and colleges are vastly more tightly regulated than private universities and colleges, it ought to be the case that they have added far more administrators. In the 30 years from 1975 to 2005, the reverse was true. Administrative and managerial staff grew by 66 per cent in the state sector against 135 per cent in the private sector. Continue reading “Rise of the administrative class”

On instructional autonomy

Individual professors largely retain the right to choose what they teach and how, even when they’re teaching sections of the same course as other professors. That’s the American Association of University Professors’ take on individual vs. collective responsibility for course design, as laid out in its new statement on the matter, reports InsidehigherEd.

“The freedom to teach includes the imgresright of the faculty to select the materials, determine the approach to the subject, make the assignments, and assess student academic performance in teaching activities for which faculty members are individually responsible, without having their decisions subject to the veto of a department chair, dean, or other administrative officer,” reads AAUP’s “The Freedom to Teach.”

“It continues: “In a multisection course taught by several faculty members, responsibility is often shared among the instructors for identifying the texts to be assigned to students. Common course syllabi and examinations are also typical but should not be imposed by departmental or administrative fiat.” Essentially, beyond the shared choice of textbook among professors teaching the same course, which may make logistical sense, other pedagogical freedoms remain “undiluted,” AAUP says. Greg Scholtz, director of academic freedom, tenure and governance for AAUP, said no particular incident or institution prompted the statement. Rather, who decides who teaches what was something the organization had been meaning to address, in the same statement, for some time. Previously, different parts had appeared in various AAUP documents — but there is one notable change. The new statement includes entirely new language saying such principles “apply equally” to all faculty — including adjunct faculty, who often feel that course materials are “imposed” on them, Scholtz said.

“The statement comes at a time that technology makes it possible for multisection courses to get quite large, and when an increasing number of instructors may not be teaching such courses in structures that designate someone as the lead professor. Don Eron, a full-time, non-tenure-track professor writing at the University of Colorado at Boulder, is part of AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, which drafted the statement. In his opinion, he said via email, individual vs. collective responsibility for course design is the “probably the central academic freedom issue” confronting adjuncts — particularly for those teaching core courses, which are more likely to be subject to administrative calls for standardization across sections.”

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/11/08/aaup-asserts-instructors-should-control-classroom-curricular-decisions#ixzz2kJCmQ3nN
Inside Higher Ed

Professors aren’t retiring

Since the economic downturn, many experts on the academic work force have worried that professors will delay retirement (given that their investment accounts took hits), and that an already-tight job market will get even tighter. InsideHigher Ed reports that:imgres-1

“A new study takes more of a long-term view, but ends up confirming those fears. Examining trends at a large private university from 1981 to 2009, the study finds faculty members are likely to take much longer to retire. And unlike the more recent studies focused on the impact of the economic downturn, this study covers time periods in which retirement accounts would have been up and down several times. The dates in the study come before and after 1993, the last year in which colleges and universities were permitted to enforce a mandatory retirement age of 70. (An abstract of the study appears here. The paper, by Sharon L. Weinberg and Marc A. Scott of New York University, is in Educational Researcher.)

“While Weinberg and Scott stress that they have studied data only for one university (and urge similar research at other institutions), they also suggest that the logic behind lifting mandatory retirement for higher education was flawed. Most other employers were barred by law in 1986 from using mandatory retirement, but colleges were given an exemption for a while, based on concerns that delays in retirement would make it difficult for colleges to hire people in emerging disciplines, and to diversify their faculties. But Weinberg and Scott note that these arguments became considerably weaker when the National Research Council issued a study in 1991 predicting that those things would not happen.

“At most colleges and universities, few tenured faculty would continue working past age 70 if mandatory retirement is eliminated,” says the NRC report.

“At the university studied, that was decidedly not the case. Among the findings were that while 11 percent of faculty members at this university during the era of mandatory retirement worked after age 70 (with special arrangements), 60 percent of faculty members now work beyond the age of 70, and 15 percent retire at the age of 80 or older.”

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/08/02/new-study-shows-difficulty-encouraging-professors-retire#ixzz2axu56PPC
Inside Higher Ed

The suicide of the humanities

You’ve probably heard the baleful reports. The number of college students majoring in the humanities is plummeting, according to a big study released last month by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.imgres

The news has provoked a flood of high-minded essays deploring the development as a symptom and portent of American decline. As reported in that bastion of humanities expertise, The Wall Street Journal, one culprit is mostly to blame. As WSJ puts it, “But there is another way to look at this supposed revelation (the number of humanities majors has actually been falling since the 1970s).The bright side is this: The destruction of the humanities by the humanities is, finally, coming to a halt. No more will literature, as part of an academic curriculum, extinguish the incandescence of literature.

“No longer will the reading of, say, “King Lear” or D.H. Lawrence’s “Women in Love” result in the flattening of these transfiguring encounters into just two more elements in an undergraduate career—the onerous stuff of multiple-choice quizzes, exam essays and homework assignments.The disheartening fact is that for every college professor who made Shakespeare or Lawrence come alive for the lucky few—the British scholar Frank Kermode kindled Shakespeare into an eternal flame in my head—there were countless others who made the reading of literary masterpieces seem like two hours in the periodontist’s chair. In their numbing hands, the term “humanities” became code for “and you don’t even have to show up to get an A.” 

“When people wax plaintive about the fate of the humanities, they talk, in particular, about the slow extinction of English majors. Never mind that the preponderance of English majors go into other fields, such as law or advertising, and that students who don’t major in English can still take literature courses. In the current alarming view, large numbers of people devoting four years mostly to studying novels, poems and plays are all that stand between us and sociocultural nightfall.”

 

More at: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323823004578595803296798048.html

Academic jobs going unfilled

Much has been written about the plight of new Ph.D.s in search of tenure-track positions that are becoming increasingly scarce.

But according to InsideHigherEd, however, some schools can’t fill their job openings.

“Even as new academics across the country struggle to find permanent positions, often teaching at multiple campuses as adjuncts to pay their bills, tenure-track positions at some institutions are going unfilled. Faculty salaries at public universities in particular are failing to keep pace with those at private institutions and in other industries, making it hard for some campuses — especially regional universities in small-town America — to retain and attract talent.

“Experts say the trend could further erode the tenure-track system and educational quality.

“The University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point isn’t alone in facing faculty turnover due to low salaries, but it may be among the most severe cases. Some 81 faculty members, out of an average of 340, have left during the past three years, about half from retirement and half from resignations – many more than in the years prior. And departures this year alone outnumber departures spanning the past three years. The College of Natural Resources alone has experienced a 25 percent turnover this year, although it is one of the university’s flagship programs. Continue reading “Academic jobs going unfilled”

How the health law delay could help adjuncts

In many ways, the White House’s surprise announcement that it would delay the employer mandate provision of the Affordable Care Act by one year, until January 2015, is good news for colleges and universities struggling to figure out just who will be covered under the law. imgresInsideHigherEd says that “It gives institutions more time to decide how they’ll count adjunct instructors, whose credit hour-based schedules don’t fit neatly into the law’s existing metrics for qualifying for coverage.

“And while the announcement could lead to good news for adjuncts who have had their hours limited by colleges worried about the new provision taking effect, there was little celebration Wednesday. Colleges said that they were studying the situation, but no one was pledging to lift limits or restore hours to anyone.

“But in other ways, it adds a new layer of confusion onto what is already a complicated situation, particularly for those colleges that already have announced plans to limit adjuncts’ course loads to avoid having to provide them with health insurance as full-time employees. Questions remain as to whether institutions will temporarily backtrack on their plans, and if that’s even possible, given the timing of the announcement, so far into summer when planning for fall courses is already under way.

“I think that the government has poorly served institutions by announcing this delay so abruptly and so relatively close to the date of implementation,” said David Baime, senior vice president for government relations and research of the American Association of Community Colleges – one of many organizations that’s asked the federal government to issue long-promised specific guidelines as to what constitutes a full-time employee in higher education under the law. (In January, the Internal Revenue Service asked higher education officials to use “reasonable” means of calculating faculty hours worked.)

“At the same time, Baime added, “We hope that colleges will take this additional time given to them to evaluate their approach to policies in this area and, even more importantly, ask the government exactly what’s expected of them as institutions.”

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/07/05/colleges-consider-how-delay-employer-insurance-rule-will-impact-plans-cap-adjuncts#ixzz2YEWkxKsk
Inside Higher Ed

The question of collegiality

Collegiality can be a dirty word in higher education — particularly in regard to tenure or promotion, where it frequently becomes a catchall for likability and other subjective qualities that some faculty advocates say can be used to punish departmental dissenters. But two researchers are trying – through data-based definitions and metrics – to sanitize collegiality enough for it to be a viable, fourth criterion in personnel decisions, reports Inside Higher Education.imgres

“In academic departments, “what we want is productive dissent,” Robert Cipriano, professor emeritus and former chair of the department of recreation of leisure studies at Southern Connecticut State University, and author of Facilitating a Collegial Department in Higher Education: Strategies for Success, said during the American Association of University Professors’ annual meeting Thursday (where their push to formalize the role of collegiality in faculty employment decisions drew some skepticism from the assembled professors). “As passionate as the discussion is, it has to be respectful. You go to lunch and it’s over.” Cipriano and his colleague, Richard Riccardi, director of Southern Connecticut State’s Office of Management Information and Research, have conducted several studies and written numerous articles about how department chairs deal with their jobs, including difficult personalities. Some 83 percent of department chairs in their current, national study of 528 chairs reported having or having had an uncivil or non-collegial professor in their department; in another, earlier study of 451 chairs, 79 percent said they would be in favor of having collegiality as a criterion for tenure and promotion if there was an “objective, validated tool” for assessing collegial behavior.

“Clearly, Riccardi said, collegiality matters — an idea outside research supports. Belonging to a collegial department figured higher in faculty satisfaction than did work and family policies, clear tenure policies and compensation, according to one cited study. Having just one “slacker or jerk” in the group can bring down the team’s overall performance by up to 40 percent, according to another.

“Fostering a culture of productive dissent means first developing operational definitions of collegiality and civility – lest they be subject to the “I know it when I see it” test, coined by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart in reference to the hard-core pornography at issue in Jacobellis v. Ohio in 1964, Cipriano joked. As an adjective, “ ‘collegial’ indicates the way a group of colleagues take collective responsibility for their work together with minimal supervision from above.” Civility indicates politeness and courtesy, demonstrated by collaboration, speaking in a professional and respectful manner toward others and “stepping up” when needed, among other similar traits.

“Non-collegial faculty consistently fail to demonstrate these traits, Cipriano said. “It’s not a bad day. It’s consistent behavior, over and over again, when that person is labeled a ‘jerk.’ ” Riccardi said uncivil behavior is on the rise, due to economic uncertainty, the “classic” mandate to do more with less, and less motivated and prepared students.

“Developing definitions is only half the battle, however; they then have to be shared with faculty as expectations in faculty handbooks, collective bargaining agreements and contracts, Cirpriano said. Discussions of collegiality should be proactive, not just reactive or punitive. (Riccardi said that while department chairs is his current study largely reported proactive attempts to curve uncivil or non-collegial behavior, such as contacting the dean (80 percent of those dealing with or who have dealt with uncivil colleagues), provost or human resources, others attempted punitive measures, such as scrutinizing the use of personal or sick days (9 percent) and exclusion from social functions (3 percent).”

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/06/14/collegiality-experts-advocate-its-role-personnel-decisions#ixzz2WMKPAO1U

The academic underclass

New York Times recently reported that 76 percent of American university faculty are adjunct professors – an all-time high. Unlike tenured faculty, whose annual salaries can top $160,000, adjunct professors make an average of $2,700 per course and receive no health care or other benefits, as the ever-insightful Sarah Kendzior writes in Al Jazeera this week.

“Most adjuncts teach at multiple universities while still not making enough to stay above the poverty line. images-1Some are on welfare or homeless.  “Others depend on charity drives held by their peers. Adjuncts are generally not allowed to have offices or participate in faculty meetings. When they ask for a living wage or benefits, they can be fired. Their contingent status allows them no recourse.

“No one forces a scholar to work as an adjunct. So why do some of America’s brightest PhDs – many of whom are authors of books and articles on labour, power, or injustice – accept such terrible conditions?

“Path dependence and sunk costs must be powerful forces,” speculates political scientist Steve Saidemen in a post titled “The Adjunct Mystery”. In other words, job candidates have invested so much time and money into their professional training that they cannot fathom abandoning their goal – even if this means living, as Saidemen says, like “second-class citizens”. (He later downgraded this to “third-class citizens”.)

With roughly 40 percent of academic positions eliminated since the 2008 crash, most adjuncts will not find a tenure-track job. Their path dependence and sunk costs will likely lead to greater path dependence and sunk costs – and the costs of the academic job market are prohibitive. Many job candidates must shell out thousands of dollars for a chance to interview at their discipline’s annual meeting, usually held in one of the most expensive cities in the world. In some fields, candidates must pay to even see the job listings. Continue reading “The academic underclass”