Pharyngula

Cut-rate professors, education done cheap

As is their habit, the Chronicle of Higher Ed has published another cockeyed article, this time arguing that the problem with the budgets of universities are all those expensive faculty, and suggesting that a solution would be outsourcing the instruction and turning the professorate into a collection of market-efficient middle managers. Profgrrrrl takes that whole idea apart, so I don’t have to.

The whole purpose of a university is to provide a space for the play of ideas among those faculty, in an environment where young men and women students can be participants and learn to contribute. The whole point is the people, and that’s why the number one priority of a university is (or ought to be) to fund a community of scholars who are actively involved in sharing their knowledge.

For someone to claim that the money spent on the people needs to be redirected, and that the people should become managers instead of scholars and communicators and teachers…well, they’re missing the whole point. I suppose some beancounter could analyze an automobile plant and declare, “Well, you’re spending an awful lot of money building these…whaddayacallems, car thingies…you could become much more efficient if you built fewer of them. Or at least cut corners and left out that costly ‘engine’ thingumabob.” It sure would. And universities would be much cheaper to run if we decided that all they were for is to house a few attendants to manage the parking lots.

By the way, my university, UMM, gets it. The administration here is working hard to raise faculty salaries and maintain parity with comparable institutions despite the all-too-typical hard financial times we’re all in. I think they know that the way to maintain the viability of the institution is to invest in the critical, irreplaceable resources, the faculty. Our virtue is that we’re supposed to be a place with smart, interesting professors who are directly involved with our student body—why would any student want to go to a place where they phone in assignments to harried, cookie-cutter ‘managers’ in cubicles?