- What's wrong with the current crop of undergrad students?
I think they've been screwed in high school. Their expectations are that they will be coddled, prodded, helped along. They expect testing, but no real learning. Any kind of independent critical thought is foreign to them, so most of what I need them to do they are forced to do for the first time. Their adaptability and flexibility are nearly nil. I have students who "shop around" for professors who'll meet their needs, so they never have to really gird their loins as long as they can find someone who'll treat them like the special creature they believe they are.
- What's wrong with the current state of higher education in America?
Everyone thinks they have to go. Everyone tells them they have to go. It's just grade 13 to them, another place where the government and their parents will march them along and care for them when they stumble. There are all sorts of paths to life happiness. For me, it was college that worked best, but I have a ton of friends who dropped out and found their own ways, and that should be available to all kids more normally and in more of an accepted way.
- What could regular faculty do locally to improve things?
Make university courses rigorous. Quit trying to be liked. I'm not immune from the temptation of getting good evaluations and having a happy enjoyable set of students. But non-passing college work gets passed all the time at my regional uni, and it's a terrible insult to everyone involved, students, faculty, the college, etc.
- What could part-time faculty do to not only improve their working conditions, but also the fate of our students?
They're fucked. They really are. The system has turned against them and they are at the mercy of bean-counters, not educators. On this page I've seen a few instances where adjuncts and part-timers get some support, but really most of the time it sounds as if adjuncts are just tools, just fill in the blank warm bodies that the colleges never really give a shit about it. It leads to all kinds of bad habits, good evaluation hunting, loss of confidence, loss of engagement, etc. Part-timers are going to be dependent on power-rich faculties wanting their schools to turn the corner. Full time faculty have to lead the change, or it'll keep going downhill.