Thursday, September 18, 2014
"Our Business Model." From the Tuba Playing Prof.
After it ran off the former president, the board of trustees simply crowned the then provost the president in two steps: interim president then president. It did so after it spent thousands of dollars on a flawed, awkward, slanted, and quick search. The campus had no choice but to turn to the interim president and persuade him to take the job. Looking for his replacement, the president selected as his interim provost the associate vice provost—who quickly went from interim provost to provost—without having to be interviewed by anyone at any time—because the now provost was “just the type of leader the campus needs to take us to the next level.”
Here's the next level: The new provost has started creating more and more administrative positions—for every imaginable task on campus. Yet to fill these positions, the provost only “promotes” current faculty members away from teaching departments. Not one has been staffed by someone coming from some other institution.
These new administrators have this in common: most never really cared for the day-to-day duties of teaching, the grunt work of trying to arouse the interest of a freshman,the stack of essays, the lab reports, etc. Most are “done” with publishing, and all never achieved the type of status in their fields that might attract a “better”school from hiring them away. So I guess being the Associate Vice President of Assessment Rubrics and Parking is something to report to one's major professor back at Big Time U.
Leaving their departments, they all say the same things: “as much as I hate leaving the classroom, I feel that...” and “my research projects will absolutely continue as planned.....”
Yet, because the new admins do not technically leave their departments--although they NEVER return to their departments--because they might, the departments “hold the line” and cannot replace them with new, actual members of the department. The departments can and must hire adjuncts to “cover” their classes, of course. We overwork our adjuncts and we pay them less than minimum wage, so rightly we never ask them to do anything but “cover classes.” Everyone agrees to that. But covering classes is only one part of the duties. Hiring adjuncts to cover the classes that “members” of the department cannot teach because of administrative duties does not account for the department work of serving on committees, advising students, mentoring the few junior faculty members that we do have, etc. And with each new office, we have more to do: more committees, more reports, more duties, etc.
The new admins have little incentive to return. The provost sweetens these new positions with twelve-month pay and flex time, especially vacation time not tied to teaching assignments; he finds office space with regulated climate in the newest buildings, good lighting, cherry wood desks, new computers, laptops, and tablets, and for the special select the most prized perk of all, a parking spot.
I'll not say that the new admins don't work; they are always busy. Yet too often the new admins mostly seem to argue for the existence and necessity of the offices they hold. And I am amazed how quickly these former colleagues have turned, ever ready to point out that the provost is a good guy, such a smart guy, who deeply cares about the students and their education, a natural born leader, etc. To a person they all seem to repeat the emerging idea that “teaching is a small part of what we do here, our responsibilities to the community, and the state....”
How we do business here: staff every administrative positions with weary, bored, disenchanted, and/or embarrassed tenured faculty members. By doing so, one cuts the largest “drain” on any campus—fair salaries. Hire tenured professors beholden to you but have them to do administrative duties without paying them administrative salaries; then hire adjuncts and pay them an offensive “salary” to “cover” classes. Then leave the department work to those “who just teach.”