Thursday, August 16, 2012

How the American University was Killed

There's an interesting post up at The Homeless Adjunct, entitled "How the American University was Killed, in Five Easy Steps."   I'm not sure all of the universities are quite dead yet, and I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the numbers, but there are some points that hit home for me: 

As an example:  the average yearly starting salary of a university professor at Temple University in 1975 was just under $10,000 a year, with full benefits – health, retirement, and educational benefits (their family’s[*] could attend college for free.) And guess what? Average pay for Temple’s faculty is STILL about the same — because adjuncts now make up the majority of faculty, and earn between $8,000 to $14,000 a year (depending on how many courses they are assigned each semester – there is NO guarantee of continued employment) — but unlike the full-time professors of 1975, these adjunct jobs come with NO benefits, no health care, no retirement, no educational benefits, no offices. How many other professions report salaries that have remained at 1975 levels
And this: 
If you are old enough to remember when medicine was forever changed by the appearance of the ‘HMO’ model of managed medicine, you will have an idea of what has happened to academia. If you are not old enough – let me tell you that Once Upon a Time, doctors ran hospitals, doctors made decisions on what treatment their patients needed. In the 1970s, during the infamous Nixon Administration, HMOs were an idea sold to the American public, said to help reign in medical costs.   But once Nixon secured passage of the HMO Act in 1973, the organizations went quickly from operating on a non-profit organization model, focused on high quality health care for controlled costs, to being for-profit organizations. . . .Well, during this same time, there was a similar kind of development — something akin to the HMO — let’s call it an “EMO”, Educational Management Organization, began to take hold in American academia. From the 1970s until today, as the number of full-time faculty jobs continued to shrink, the number of full-time administrative jobs began to explode. As faculty was deprofessionalized and casualized, reduced to teaching as migrant contract workers, administrative jobs now offered good, solid salaries, benefits, offices, prestige and power. . . .They  have not saved money by hiring adjuncts — they have reduced faculty salaries, security and power. The money wasn’t saved, because it was simply re-allocated to administrative salaries, coach salaries and outrageous university president salaries. There has been a redistribution of funds away from those who actually teach, the scholars – and therefore away from the students’ education itself — and into these administrative and executive salaries, sports costs — and the expanded use of “consultants”, PR and marketing firms, law firms.
And while I don’t see this as a fait accompli at my university yet, I do see signs that we might be headed in this direction, at least for core classes (and, of course, without strong core classes, students won’t be ready for challenging upper-level ones):

While claiming to offer them hope of a better life, our corporatized universities are ruining the lives of our students.   This is accomplished through a two-prong tactic: you dumb down and destroy the quality of the education so that no one on campus is really learning to think, to question, to reason. Instead, they are learning to obey, to withstand “tests” and “exams”, to follow rules, to endure absurdity and abuse. Our students have been denied full-time available faculty, the ability to develop mentors and advisors, faculty-designed syllabi which changes each semester, a wide variety of courses and options. Instead, more and more universities have core curriculum which dictates a large portion of the course of study, in which the majority of classes are administrative-designed “common syllabi” courses, taught by an army of underpaid, part-time faculty in a model that more closely resembles a factory or the industrial kitchen of a fast food restaurant than an institution of higher learning.
And for another take on the current state of higher ed, see the past week's Doonesbury (start at the linked strip and work your way forward).  Pretty good (as was the "Jimmy Crow Comeback Tour" series a few weeks ago), but I still miss Sam Folkchurch.  

*No, this typo, and a few others, are not helping her/our case, but I'm a scholar, so you get the text as originally published, warts and all.  


  1. To paraphrase a Frank Zappa quote about jazz, the American university isn't dead, but it sure does smell funny.

  2. What Bubba and Froderick said.....this is a real eye-opener. And the worst part is, these kids have no idea how they're being fleeced like sheep.....


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