Saturday, January 25, 2014

Please provide a citation for your statement, good sir.

As I've said before, I work on a fully unionized campus.  For the most part, faculty and staff alike reap the benefits of years of strong negotiations.

But there is also a bit of institutionalized diffusion of expertise. For example, whenever a university committee is populated, it is the faculty union that decides who gets to sit on the committee and this is always done by a vote from the larger organizational unit.  In other words, there is a delegation where one member of each college represents the whole college.  All union members in that college get to vote.  At no point are qualifications for said committee ever considered, unless you cast your vote thoughtfully.

And of course, there is rarely more than one person running for an empty seat.

I chair a committee, a pretty powerful one.  I was elected to this committee with a grand total of one vote (my own).  Let my reign of terror commence!

All kidding aside, I often think about expertise on our campus.  I'm essentially - by contract - assumed to be an expert in assessment, pedagogy, curriculum, peer evaluations, recruiting, promotion of events, guest speaker programming, even in crafting an effective library collection.  The list goes on, as I'm sure it does for most of us.

No question that I have an opinion (usually strong) about these things, but I'm no expert.

Similarly I read posting after posting here that reflects a certain lack of respect for expertise from our students.

So when I read the article linked below, it really resonated with me.

The death of expertise

Money quote:

"Universities, without doubt, have to own some of this mess. The idea of telling students that professors run the show and know better than they do strikes many students as something like uppity lip from the help, and so many profs don’t do it."


  1. Interesting article. Also, the comments section is worth the price of admission.

    1. Sorry, the comment section on this article just makes me want to shoot myself.

  2. It's been my experience that intelligence or expertise or even education has been shit on nearly my entire adult life. What's that great Dennis Miller line about how in America calling someone an "Eiinstein" is an insult.

    1. Oh, and I wanted to also say I love this article. Thanks to the TShirt Prof for bringing it. Very germane to the life of a college proffie.

    2. Sorry to hog the comments, but this line from the linked article is brilliant: "As a result, many academic departments are boutiques, in which the professors are expected to be something like intellectual valets. This produces nothing but a delusion of intellectual adequacy in children who should be instructed, not catered to."

  3. This piece by the same writer on "Democracy" (the misconception, not the political system) is apropos. The misconception is that "Democracy" means equality of ability, knowledge and qualification.


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