Tuesday, December 16, 2014

4/4 to 5/5, with no additional compensation

Recent developments at Arizona State*, sadly, pretty much sum up current trends in higher ed:

  • Admit more and more undergrads, and express great commitment to providing them with a
    from https://asuagainst55.wordpress.com/
    high-quality, affordable education; increasing their writing and critical-thinking skills; retaining them through a timely graduation; etc., etc.  
  • Staff foundational courses, including freshman comp, with severely overworked, underpaid faculty (a considerable number of them your own recent grad-school graduates). 
  • When you can't supply enough seats at the wages you're willing to pay, raise the caps in those classes.  When that still doesn't do the trick, pay some of the faculty to work an overload.  
  • When you need still more seats at a yet cheaper price, decide that the overload (with the raised caps, but minus the additional compensation) should become standard practice, and that faculty teaching your gateway classes no longer need to do service (i.e. think or talk to each other about what they're doing, and why, and the effect of their choices on the student experience). 
  • Wash, rinse, repeat until -- the faculty finally quit?  students stop entering grad school and the faculty who were teaching grad classes become available to teach freshman comp?  all but the sharpest, most independent first-year students drift vaguely away?  the retention software (and/or retention office/dean) implode(s)?  ??????? 

*One of things I like about this article is that it mentions the long-ignored ADE and CCCC recommendations that a writing teacher's load be no more than 2-3 classes of 15-20 students, for a total of no more than  60 students per term.  Sadly, it also relates that the CCCC has now removed those numbers from its guidelines.  It's generally an excellent article, with an unusually high density of thoughtful quotes from various interviewees, and useful links, including one to a petition.  Even the comments (so far) are mostly pretty good. 


  1. The lack of comments on this saddens me.
    We're inured to this now?

    1. I was hoping people would at least have colorful/amusing/hyperbolically apocalyptic end-game scenarios to suggest, but apparently, yes, we're going down with barely a whimper rather than a bang.

      I suspect we're all too exhausted from grading all the extra papers that show up with those ever-rising course caps to be very creative, or even reactive, at this point (which may have something to do with why this change was announced at this particular time of year).

    2. You're probably right about the timing.

      My slowness in commenting was due to needing time to produce something worthy of the issue (as you can see, still haven't had time).
      However, I really didn't want it to slip from the first page with no comments whatsoever.

  2. Point taken. It didn't surprise me, which sure says something.

  3. It's not a bad thing when posts move down the page - it's a sign of a healthy blog.
    I thought this would either be hugely commented on, or not at all: I was sad, not surprised.

    My place used to be so good to work at, and it's still not bad, but I see so little future when so many of the recent admin would applaud the moves at ASU.

  4. Our SLAC is planning a new science building (yay!), but the administration wants to plan it so there are 24 students in a lab section. The architects looked at them like they were insane, and asked why a small college wants to run their labs just like Giant State University.

    Pennywise and pound foolish, as usual.

    1. 24 students in a lab section! Sometimes I lie awake at night dreaming of having 24 students in a lab section (they only hung me right side up the other day)!

    2. Are you doing it with TAs? If not, you have my sympathies. I used to have 24 students in a lab section in grad school, and all I had time to do was look out for students doing things that were actively dangerous.

  5. I want to comment. I really do. But the salty tears sting when they run over the cuts, and I'm afraid I might start to like it.