Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Colleges Struggle With Belated Attempt To Make Online Ed Legit

By Professor Doom

    Admin, addressing full time faculty: “We’re going to put more of our programs online, for more efficiency. I know we’re asking for a great deal of work from you, but you’ll be helping to build a great institution.”

     Admin, 6 months later: “Thank you for your hard work developing these courses. We’re going to hire a Vice President of Online Education and a full complement of support staff for our four faculty teaching online courses.”

     Admin 6 more months later: “We really don’t need as many faculty for online courses, so we’re letting most of you go. Also, we’ll be hiring another Dean to handle the extra students. Feel free to apply for that position, but we’ll need someone with recent experience working in the last year as a Dean.”

     Admin (one semester later, after considerable growth): “We have an open part time adjunct position to teach the online courses. We’d be quite happy to see a resume that doesn’t have any online degrees on it, so we can finally hire someone. If you know someone, have them apply.”

---It’s a real joy working for these people.

     Online education has been a huge growth industry for higher ed. It barely existed 30 years ago, and today just about every student takes at least some online work to get a degree.

      Trouble is, many online classes, even whole degree programs, are fraudulent. It isn’t just the obvious cheating, the content of the coursework is so minimal that it doesn’t actually help a student learn anything, much less train for a job. The latter detail is the important part, since much of online college is sold as “train for a new job without leaving your old job!”

      But it’s mostly fraud. The administrators of online colleges know its fraud, too, since they refuse to hire people with online degrees. If the people running the “jobs training” programs won’t hire anyone trained in such programs, it’s little wonder that the real world generally won’t hire online graduates, either.

      After decades of such fraud, the Federal government has finally, after seeing much of a generation destroyed by this type of fraud, decided to do a little something about it, by instilling basic rules like “the college must inform students that their degrees are of limited, if any, market value.”

       Naturally, colleges are having a tough time adapting to such draconian rules:

     The implication of the above needs to be drawn out a bit. One of the big justifications for online education was that students from anywhere could take the courses. But, the colleges had been selling their online job training courses knowing full well that their “certifications” weren’t worth the paper they were printed on in most states (and by “most” I mean 49, possibly 50 of them).

       Now, if we give the schools benefit of the doubt (not my inclination, to be sure), it still makes little sense that so many kids were “accidentally” misled about the value of the job training. Our schools are drowning in admin, after all, it would have only taken a few phone calls to find out if the training would have passed muster in another state (assuming they bothered to check their own state, there are only 49 other states to check certification rules in…and that’s a worst case scenario, it could be done every year without a problem).

     Under the new regulations, all higher education institutions that offer classes online must demonstrate that they are authorized to operate in every state where they enroll students who receive federal financial aid. The rules also mean that institutions must make clear their refund policies and procedures for receiving student complaints.

     Again, the implications of the above bear highlighting. These schools knew what they were doing, and knew that the students, once they graduate, were going to come back and say “hey, this certification is absolutely worthless. I want my money back!”

      And the schools doubtless responded with “No refunds, even when we knowingly sold you something worthless. Sorry.”

       The students complained to the government, and the specific types of complaints hinted at above came up so often that, yeah, the Federal government decided to make the rules very clear about how schools sold their training programs, and about that whole “no refunds” thing.

     I should also mention, accreditation forces every school to put, in writing, that they operate with integrity. But, alas, accreditation has no penalty whatsoever for violating accrediting rules so, integrity is jettisoned shortly after a school becomes accredited. Accreditation now only serves to grant a school access to Federal student loan money, which, again, is why the specific wording above clarifies for whom this new rule applies.

      If accreditation were legitimate, you wouldn’t need that specific wording at all, because accreditation would already be forcing schools to act with integrity, or, more accurately, removing accreditation from schools acting without integrity.

Additionally, institutions must provide specific information to students who are pursuing professions that require state licensure, which is common for nurses, teachers and counselors, among others. Institutions will be required to inform students if they are taking a program that will not qualify them to practice their chosen profession where they live. This means every institution must track the requirements for professional licensing in every state where they operate. Failure to meet these requirements could result in institutions losing eligibility for federal financial aid.

     Not to beat a dead horse here, but the above rules were created because, obviously, schools weren’t acting with integrity as far as their license-required jobs training courses.

     Sooner or later the Federal government is going to realize what a mistake, what a waste of time, it is to have accreditation as the gatekeeper for Federal funds. When that happens, they’ll simply change the rules to remove accreditors from higher education completely. They already serve no purpose, mind you, but I reckon it’ll be another decade or so before our government will make them obsolete.

      I don’t think this will be a good thing. Accreditation came into existence because schools legitimately wanted to do honest work. All accreditation rules were written with an assumption of good faith in the participating school. Accreditation was never meant to be a gatekeeper for over a trillion dollars of student loan money, and, with that kind of money on the table, assuming good faith is, simply, stupid.

     Maybe after the government annihilates our current system of accreditation, we can hope that a new system of accreditation will come back into play, but I have my doubts: as long we’re talking over a trillion dollars on the table, the entire idea of good faith will be an antiquated concept.

      Now, like any set of rules from the government, they’re pretty confusing and subject to arbitrary enforcement. So, colleges are complaining, and to some extent I see their point.

      But the fact remains: if colleges acted with integrity, or if accreditation was legitimate, these new rules would never have been written…and the fact also that none of the “leaders” running our schools get this important concept speaks more about the state of higher education today than any number of pages of new Federal regulations.


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Chicago Professors Walkout To Protest Working Conditions

By Professor Doom

     Leftism, in its current representation, is nothing without hypocrisy, and today I  want to focus on one aspect of this system of belief, namely socialism. Socialism is all about “power to the workers.” The most common worker on our campuses used to be, and should be, the professoriate, the people who actually do the teaching and research.

       Our campuses are to a considerable extent taken over by believers in Leftism. 

How’s that working out for the workers? Terribly. Time and again I’ve covered how the average professor in higher ed is a sub-minimum wage adjunct, barely able to get by only if he teaches quadruple the class load that was typical of faculty before the takeover.

      Now, professors tend to be free thinkers, so we’ve been slow to join a group, a union, to organize to resist this treatment. After years of being squeezed, it’s starting to happen:

      The above was only a one day walkout from the English faculty. I certainly decry what’s happened in mathematics, but I feel great sympathy for English faculty: grading papers is grueling, time consuming work, but there’s no other way to help students improve their writing skills. For this reason, class sizes in English courses are supposed to be smaller than in other disciplines. Trouble is “smaller than” used to mean their classes were around 20 while everyone else’s were around 25. But now the typical class size is 50 to 100, and admin are using the “well, English classes should be 5 students fewer” idea for the writing courses…English faculty find the increased workload impossible, so they have no choice but to strike for better conditions.

      They joined the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and so now take their marching orders from the SEIU in hopes of a better life. SEIU has a good track record:

SEIU won a commitment from Tufts University in 2014 to bring the pay for part-time faculty members up to at least $7,300 per course by 2016. To non-tenure-track faculty members in much of higher education, such levels are two or even three times what they earn per course.

       Yes, the SEIU basically tripled adjunct pay. As I’ve said many times, the money is already there in higher ed, it was just being sucked into administrative pockets.
      Loyola Chicago has been slow to negotiate:

Union officials say there has been progress in negotiations over issues of pay per course, typically around $4,500 for those with terminal degrees, but with a limit of four courses per year for part-timers.

      Allow me to do the math here, to really emphasize how little Loyola Chicago thinks of faculty. They want to cap the total amount of yearly income for their adjuncts, their typical college professor, to $18,000, and this princely sum only for those with “terminal degrees,” for example a Ph.D.

      Think of how ridiculous this is. Imagine spending 4 years to get a college degree, another 4 to 6 years getting a Ph.D., paying outrageous tuition all the while, as the university tells you how valuable your education is.

      Then, you get your degree, and the same university will tell you all they will offer for that precious education is a no-benefits, no-security job paying $18,000 a year…this income puts you below the poverty line once interest on those student loans comes into the calculation.

      Oh, wait. I’m getting ahead of myself, the union is negotiating to raise faculty pay to the poverty level, and Loyola Chicago isn’t interested.

       How better to represent the miserable conditions of the faculty there that they have to negotiate to get enough pay to reach the poverty level? Isn’t socialism supposed to help the workers at least a little?

SEIU contracts at Tufts and elsewhere have included provisions that, while short of tenure, have given some job security to adjuncts.

      Pay isn’t everything, and one of the main perks of teaching in higher ed is supposed to be some level of job security. Tenure is scarce in higher ed today, and most faculty not only do not have it, they will never get it. I totally understand people don’t like the idea of tenure, and I share some of the common concerns…but the bottom line is many of our campuses have degenerated into the moral and academic abyss because tenure is gone. Every time a non-tenured faculty tries to bring standards back, he just gets eliminated.

      Added to this issue is that adjuncts are “temporary” workers who work for a decade or more at the same job. Admin justify the low pay and lack of benefits to these “temp workers,” even as they know the adjuncts will be at the school long after the administrator doing the hiring has retired with a golden parachute.

      Like I said, they’re nothing without hypocrisy.

      So, the union called a 1 day walkout just to show the university that it’s time for them to show a little respect to the faculty. I hope it helps.

      These types of actions aren’t just restricted to Chicago, however:

“…the American Federation of Teachers, which represents lecturers at all three University of Michigan campuses, said it would strike for two days next week if a new contract is not negotiated…”

Many faculty members in Kentucky are angry over a provision in the state's budget bill, expected to soon become law, that would roll back tenure protections in cases where colleges are changing or eliminating programs.

     There’s been a real pattern of “roll back tenure protections,” claiming such a roll back doesn’t mean anything beyond bureaucratic formalities…and then immediately destroying the newly-vulnerable faculty. After years of this sort of behavior, faculty are starting to catch on: professors can do nothing about administrators summarily changing contracts after they’ve signed them. That said, if they simply refuse to be abused further, perhaps admin will listen?

     I have my doubts these short strikes will make a difference; there’s a huge Ph.D. glut and so I suspect it’s not yet too inconvenient to just fire every teacher in the school and then hire a new crop (and, again, I’ve seen the like). Eventually, these strikes will get longer, and hopefully will work—Ontario had a 5 week professor strike last year, and they made real progress.

     The fact remains: our most educated workers have been backed into a corner for so long that many of them are seeing no choice but, at long last, to fight back. Is it too little, too late? Perhaps, but at least they’re fighting back.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Higher Ed Pay Skyrockets In Canada Too

By Professor Doom

     So I’m finishing up on an excellent article taking the entire Canadian higher education system to task. The American system operates by essentially the same rules, however, and Canada’s is merely a reflection of the incredibly corrupt system of their much larger southern neighbor.

       The last abuse discussed in the article is administrative looting of the system. It’s little different, of course, from what goes on in the U.S., only smaller in scale. For American readers, you should increase the numbers given by around 40% to get an idea of what even a tiny college is raking in from the taxpayers.

In 2011, David Johnston, president of the University of Waterloo, made $1,041,881. [40] Indira Samarasekera of the University of Alberta had a total compensation package of over $1.1 million in the final year of her contract. [41]Elizabeth Cannon of the University of Calgary and David Turpin of the University of Alberta banked $897,000 and $824,000 respectively during the 2016–’17 academic year. [42] Even presidents at small- and medium-sized universities now routinely receive between $300,000 and $500,000 in compensation, this not including additional forms of remuneration that combined can reach as high as $200,000 per year. [43]

      The author paints in well-documented but broad strokes, so allow me to fill in an important missing detail:

      Administrators greatly outnumber faculty, and the latter have seen their salaries actually shrink over the years, especially as more and more faculty positions become “part time” jobs, or at least are paid as much.

      Yes, the person at the top is making sickening amounts of money, and it’s even more repugnant when you consider these guys gets perks like free cars, free jets, a free mansion, a personal restaurant, an expense account greater all by itself more than faculty pay, and all the other insane benefits that simply did not exist before the student loan scam drowned our campuses in money.

      But compounding this putrescent pay is the legion, and I do mean legion, of under-administrators infesting our campuses. Yes, I’ve seen a couple of classrooms-buildings erected in my 30 years of teaching in higher ed…but I’ve seen more administrative palaces built in the last 2 years than all the classrooms-buildings of my career put together.

      These palaces are built from the ground up with luxury and beauty in mind, great glittering chateaus built for the royal caste sucking up all that student loan money. Our campuses are covered in these things, and each one is filled with functionaries, from deanlings to vice-presidents of Diversity (oh so many of those!), and they, too are paid handsomely, often with royal perks which, all by themselves, any faculty would feel privileged to take in lieu of their usual adjunct pay.

      Every year, the statistics on salary are compiled…and every year, these guys see a 10% or more pay raises. Anyone who feels like it can see with his own eyes that making less than $100,000 a year as a college administrator, no matter how irrelevant the position, is difficult to do. Meanwhile, your typical college teacher qualifies for food stamps (no money in the budget, you see. Too bad.).

       After a lifetime of teaching, my retirement package beyond money I was forced to invest (at ridiculously poor returns) is typical: zero. It’s different for admin:

Peter George netted $1.4 million after leaving his position at McMaster University, $99,999 annually, or one dollar less than the salary limit prescribed by the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act (PSDA) so McMaster wouldn’t have to reveal the amount publicly. [45] And this doesn’t include the tens of thousands of dollars George received in additional compensation for insurance, health care, car allowance, and travel — all after he’d resigned!

--emphasis added. Do note that even when these people quit, they still get huge rewards.

      I’ve mentioned before the insane golden parachutes these guys get, which are only a fraction of what the author sees in Canada. Isn’t it completely ridiculous that you can quit your job as a university admin and still rake in the loot? I emphasize we see this in the US on a regular basis as well.

     In case the gentle reader is wondering how a system could be so broken that saying “I quit this job,” even quitting under a cloud of criminal accusations and obvious fraud, could still merit a million dollars or more of bonus payments, the underlying concept is called “best practices.” Honest, they justify the looting because of prior looting…it’s just that simple.

…these packages don’t compare to the one received by Harvey Weingarten, former president of the University of Calgary, who stands to collect as much as $4.75 million in pension monies after serving as president for only eight years. [46] The discovery of Weingarten’s remuneration package came to light just as he was warning the University of Calgary community that up to 200 jobs would have to be cut in an effort to address a budget shortfall of $14 million.

     The ostentatious arrogance of the Poo Bah does nothing for my temper. The above is little different than being told the school just doesn’t have the budget for the $10,000 it would take to light up the parking lot so the students could feel safe…then watching the $500,000 a year Poo Bah get into his $80,000 “perk” car and go to his $1,000,000 home (mostly paid for by his annual $300,000 year bonus for good growth), while the $100,000 a year dean and her $80,000 a year assistant tells us all dozen faculty at the school have been denied our 1% pay raises because no money, you see; and all five $100,000 a year HR people and the $150,000 a year Vice President of Finance confirm the Dean is telling the truth. Afterwards, the $250,000 Vice-Provost and his $80,000 secretary also come in to confirm it. After the 3 pm meeting, we bump into the $120,000 Registrar and four of her co-workers whose titles we can’t guess coming back from lunch at a place we all know about, but could never dream of having enough money to eat there just because it's lunch time.

     In a school with only a couple thousand students on campus, by the way.

I’d like to conclude by addressing our university administrators directly. So far I’ve written about you; now I want to talk to you.

     For laughs, the author actually addresses the admin…you’ve got to be kidding me. Please understand the numbers being quoted here are not pulled out of a hat…they’re documented—these schools take government money, you see, and one of the many government strings attached to that money is documentation of how it’s spent.

The first thing faculty expect from you is some honesty about the situation. The data is in and all credible sources agree that our students are in trouble and so too is our curriculum. We can’t get anywhere if you continue to deny what’s actually happening. The university in this regard increasing feels like a government in permanent damage control, where nary a word against anything can be spoken and no admission of failure is permitted. If you’d simply drop the facade we might be able to get somewhere.

     Wow, asking for honesty? Good luck with that. The primary reason these guys lie so blatantly is because there’s nothing to stop them now. Addressing admin and asking them to play nice accomplishes nothing.

      On the other hand, simply starving them out, by shutting down that student loan scam, will get their attention far more effectively than polite requests to stop looting so much.

     I grant my solution is as likely to occur as polite requests are as likely to be heeded, at least in the near term. However, at some point, the money will stop flowing.

Finally, you must drop the childish and short-sighted sidelining of sciences and humanities not obviously related to your commercial interests…

     The author then goes on to ask for quite a few other things from admin, but this is just extended idiocy. Admin holds all the cards, and these appeals are as pathetic as those from the high school nerd begging for mercy as a bully pummels him again and again…It’s not gonna happen, and so not worth further comment on my part.

     The comments are, of course, quite supportive, but all neglect to point out the simple fact that the solutions and appeals the author provides have zero chance of changing anything on campus.

     I assure the reader: stop the flow of billions of dollars via the student loan scam, and campuses will change very, very, quickly.


Monday, April 9, 2018

Take Down the Administrative University, Part 2

By Professor Doom

      I’m continuing to look at a thorough discussion of the main reasons higher education is such a mess today. The author cites four key problem areas, but as always I have some things to add.


    By all available metrics, student intellectual performance has declined precipitously as the university administration has ballooned…the takeaway numbers regarding the university’s role in the decline are shocking: 45 percent of students “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” during the first two years of college…

     While the above is certainly correct, and I’ve already noted college graduate IQ is in freefall right now, to the point that it’s reasonable to consider today’s college graduates of below average intelligence. The author fails to identify why this is the case. Again I emphasize the twin issues of corrupted (by administration) accreditation and fraudulent student loans.

     Back when accreditation was legitimate, accredited schools were forced to have “respectable entrance requirements.” Honest, if universities restricted admissions to only students who displayed some interest in education, the author would not be able to blame the students for what’s happening in higher education today.

     The student loan scam provides money to anyone who wants to set foot on campus, and that includes people who have no interest in learning anything. And…this is where admin come in. They took over accreditation so that “restricted admissions” was removed, and campuses flooded with students (and those sweet student loan checks!).

      Then admin told faculty to keep on passing even the fake students, instead of flunking them off campus after one semester. And so faculty no longer asked students to read, to write, to learn anything at all which couldn’t be picked up in a few minutes’ effort at most. We now have social promotion in college because it’s so important to keep those student loan checks flowing.

     The author goes into more detail why students are a problem, but…no. Administration, through corrupted accreditation and the broken student loan system, are far more a problem than the students, and the many fake students on campus today will vanish overnight if we remove student loans so they’d have nothing to gain by coming to campus, or alternatively (by some miracle) make accreditation force entrance requirements on schools.

Where is all the money going? In 1970 in the United States, 268,952 administrators and staffers supported the work of 446,830 full-time professors. Today, the proportions have almost flipped. Now we have 675,000 professors being “supported” by 756,595 administrators and staffers. [16]

      The above is documented, but it should also be pointed out that we’ve tripled our student base in that time, and tripled our administrators…while the number of professors has increased only 50%. It’s actually worse than this, as many administrative positions have been “reclassified” as faculty positions (for example, the library staff), even if these supposed faculty teach nobody and perform no research. The reason for doing so is it make the “student/faculty” ratio look better. Supposedly, this ratio is around 17 on many campuses, even if every classroom has at least 50 students and every faculty teaches at least 5 classes…it’s curious how no administrator understands how these numbers can’t possibly be accurate, though I certainly forgive the author for not realizing this part of the fraud of higher education (so many frauds to follow, after all).

One exception to this grim story is how elites educate their own children. The Waldorf School of the Peninsula, which teaches the kids of many who work for Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo, and Hewlett-Packard, doesn’t allow computers or cell phones or iPads in its K-12 classrooms. There it is all about real human contact, free conversation, and tactile, intellectual, and emotional engagement. [20] And when it comes to elite universities, things are similarly oriented. The children of the wealthy and powerful are not reading half-page op-eds for their weekly course content and then pressing a clicker to indicate whether they like it or not

     While the above isn’t directly related to the rest of the article here, I include it because it’s really, really, important for the gentle reader to know. The education commoners get is nothing like the education the elite get—John Taylor Gatto discusses this in detail (I strongly encourage the gentle reader to consider what this multiple teacher-of-the-year winner has to say, and to read his other works as well).

      Similarly, the elite don’t send their kids to the mostly bogus higher education system the commoners go to. In particular, their kids don’t go to community college, hence why the frauds there are generally so huge.

      The author returns to discussing the problems of our current higher education system.

The University Curriculum

…one cause of the decline is “lack of rigor.” Students can’t do things they used to be able to do for the simple reason that we no longer insist that they do them. And why is that? …If students cannot think, read, or write any longer, it’s because administrators don’t care if they can or can’t.

     The above is certainly correct, and again highlights the failure of accreditation, which is supposed to certify the legitimacy of the education at an institution. My first decade in higher education, I believed my universities were systematically defrauding accreditation. It was only when I went to an unaccredited school, and went through all the forms necessary to get accreditation that I realized the truth:

       You can’t defraud accreditation regarding the education at a university. Accreditors DO NOT CARE about education. I’ve gone line by line over how a school gets accredited, at no point is education relevant to the process. As UNC demonstrated, you can literally run fraudulent courses for thousands of students, actively work to cover up the fraud, destroy the careers and livelihood of any faculty who tried to fix the fraud, maintain the fraud for a couple decades…and the accreditor does not care, and at no point will the accreditor threaten to remove accreditation and the flow of those sweet, sweet, student loan checks.

     And so again I point out that if we fix accreditation, or get rid of the student loan checks, this problem will likely dramatically reduce in severity. The author discusses the problems in more detail but I feel it’s better simply to identify how to start fixing the problems.

       The next issue identified is:

University Governance

…that was how the university used to function. Administrators arose from the general faculty, served their terms in office, and then returned to their home departments.

     As I’ve mentioned before, the university used to be run by scholars, each taking over the many part-time administrative positions for a while before fully returning to faculty. Please understand, this made sense, as most administrative positions really aren’t necessary for 8 hours a day, particularly when classes aren’t in session.

      Now our campuses are run by full-time administrators, filling their time doing things no faculty could even guess. I’m inclined to blame faculty for ceding the reins of power to the wandering plunderers who run campuses today. The student loan scam poured so much money on campus it seemed like a good idea at the time to just hire a full time Dean or whatever to deal with issues, little realizing what non-scholars would do in these positions…faculty gave loaded guns to these chimpanzees.

      That’s my opinion based on direct observation. The author offers a different reason for the appearance of the plunderers:

Once the mandate changed to supplying the economy not with “skilled” labor — universities have always done that — but with a certain technically minded human being, scholars were deemed not merely unqualified to execute the mandate, but antithetical to it. And they were, stated in this way, which is why they were removed from university governance and academic decision-making.

      I disagree here. Who removed faculty from university governance? Obviously, faculty did, at least initially, as they were the only ones who could do so. Who set the new agenda for what higher education was supposed to be about, leading to the mess we have today? The people faculty foolishly hired to replace them.


     Once we let them in, they used their power to hire more of their kind, which in turn hired more. It’s been a very destructive parasitic infestation:

A first step in the process was to hire senior managers from outside the local university so boards of governors could vet them for agreement with the new corporate ethos. These managers were in turn empowered to duplicate themselves within the institution through the appointment of like-minded colleagues and staff. This cohort of the corporate-minded has grown at a rate such that it has outpaced all other university appointments — in the United States a 240 percent increase from 1985 to 2005 compared to a mere 50 percent for faculty. [34] 

     I see only the drastic solution of cutting off the money paying for these guys: kill the student loan scam, and schools will either quickly go bankrupt (and most will), or fire the vast bulk of their useless administrative staff. I can’t fathom a guess at how many will take the latter option. 1%? 5%? Not many. However, the bankrupted schools will create an educational vacuum which allow new schools to be built from the ground up.

     With luck, the new schools will adopt the methods which allowed us to have the best system of universities in the world. It sure won’t be pretty for the first few years after the student loans are finally shut off, however.

      Please understand, this drastic action is both necessary, and inevitable:

Why do calls for austerity and downsizing apply to everyone except these people? Isn’t the point of good administration that it’s done efficiently and cheaply? In Canadian universities, part-time faculty now do 60 percent to 70 percent of the teaching because full-time faculty have been cut so dramatically. [35]

     The parasitic administrative class has grown so large that it’s destroying the host. Already, many schools cannot afford to have teachers because they spend so much on endless ranks of administrators, who mostly spend their time scrambling to find the cheapest teachers they can get…even as tuition climbs and climbs and climbs.

…as David Layzell, fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, said to the National Observer when asked about the administrative culture at the University of Calgary: “‘I really don’t feel that I can talk with you about this.’ He added: ‘Maybe that says more than us actually talking’.” [39]

      The culture of fear of higher education really has what faculty as remain terrified. Again, I point at the money. During Prohibition, mobsters controlled alcohol, because there was so much money in doing so. Everyone still drank…but you were afraid to talk about it openly.

     However, once Prohibition ended…the fear factor in getting a beer vanished overnight. And the mobsters no longer controlled the alcohol.

      In a similar vein, even though 80% of the citizens of this country go to college in some form, there’s a culture of fear here due to higher education’s control by the thugs running the institutions. Kill the student loan scam, and I very much suspect that culture of fear will disappear quickly.

      Next we’ll look at the final issue in this article.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Takedown of the All-Administration University

by Professor Doom

     It's no secret we have a huge, huge, problem in higher education today. Between the riots, the proven lack of education, and the soaring tuition we're seeing a system of such high cost, minimal stability, and low usefulness it'll be surprising if higher education 20 years from now looks anything like the mess of today.

     A recent thorough and well documented article touches on many of the reasons higher education has fallen to this state. While it's a good article, it gets a few things wrong, at least a little, and fails to offer plausible solutions, even ones with little chance of succeeding. Allow me to address some of these issues, although the gentle reader is encouraged to read the article in detail for additional insight:

Administrators control the modern university. The faculty have “fallen,” to use Benjamin Ginsberg’s term. It’s an “all-administrative” institution now. [1] Spending on administrators and administration exceeds spending on faculty, administrators out-number faculty by a long shot, and administrative salaries and benefit packages, particularly those of presidents and other senior managers, have skyrocketed over the last 10 years.

     Much as I identified years ago, key to the problem is educators no longer have any influence over higher education. Admin, from mightiest Poo Bah to lowliest Deanling, run the show, and faculty count for nothing. I've seen faculty terminated for the pifflingest of reasons. I've been on a campus where if the Dean decided her 15 year old high school dropout daughter is to be a mathematics professor, I could not only be fired without appeal and replaced by that daughter in a week, the Dean would get a bonus for having more female STEM faculty under her.

    It's a crazy system, and faculty have no recourse against any of it. Then the author makes a claim which isn’t thorough enough:

...students themselves increasingly resemble administrators more than professors in their ambitions and needs. Safety, comfort, security, quality services, first-class accommodations, guaranteed high grades, institutional brand,

     While there is some truth in the above, I'd further add that many students on campus resemble administrators in the sense that they have no interest in, or respect for, education. Additionally, many students on campus are fraudsters. Again, I've been on a community college campus where at least 40% of the student base was pure fraud--once the students got their student loan/grant checks (on "check day"), the campus cleared out. Admin would claim the school had four thousand or more students, even though the parking lot couldn't possibly hold more than 400 cars at any given time even before check day, and after check day it would be nearly vacant even at peak times. What other business uses a model where so many of the customers are fraudsters? Prisons, I suppose.

     Of course, saying we have students who are total frauds is another fair comparison to administrators...

The revolution is over and the administrators have won. But the persistence of traditional structures and language has led some to think that the fight over the institution is now just beginning. This is a mistake. As with most revolutions, open conflict occurs only after real power has already changed hands.

     The author is correct here, the administrative takeover of most campuses is complete, and education is doomed on those campuses until...and here is where the author fails. Why not suggest a solution?

     Allow me to quickly address some means to curing this ill. I recall my days bringing a school through accreditation. Without accreditation, a school cannot receive all the free government money. So, my unaccredited school only had one type of student: a student willing to pay his own money for an education. I can't emphasize strongly enough how much this changes the picture. Students paying their own money aren't satisfied with bogus classes...they want real education. Administrators at that time allowed me to provide such an education, because that was the only way for a school to succeed. Yes, I only had 5 students in my 2000 level statistics class, but they were all legitimate students, and I taught a legitimate 2000 level statistics class.

      After the school received accreditation, the students (and vast sums of money) flowed in. I might have had 40 names on the roster for my class, but I still only had 5 students...the rest were only there for the money. I couldn't fail them or even challenge them, because, with all the money coming in, admin no longer needed me to provide a legitimate education, no longer wanted me to push students to strive to become more than what they were. So, what used to be a 2000 level statistics class turned into a very light course on arithmetic with some basic probability thrown in.

     Accreditation, and the huge sums of money from the student loan scam, are the real problems, with the administrative takeover being the primary, fatal, symptom. We can either make accreditation a legitimate process (a difficult challenge), or shut off the student loan scam (politically difficult, but easier in principle), and either would go a long way to getting rid of all the fraud permeating our higher education system.

     Then the author goes off the rails a bit:

A favorite trope among the administrative castes is accountability. People must be held accountable, they tell us, particularly professors. Well, let’s take them at their word and hold them accountable. How have they done with the public trust since having assumed control of the university?

     He's initially absolutely correct: administrators are no longer accountable. Their power is absolute, unchallengeable, unstoppable. While a single student complaint can get me fired, I've seen administrators display breathtaking incompetence, indulge in obscene (sometimes literally obscene) fraud and...get a pay raise, a promotion, a long free vacation, ANYTHING but actually getting fired.

      They're completely unaccountable at this stage, which is why they lie with impunity to the point that faculty simply assume every word out of administrative mouth is a lie. The author knows and writes this, and proposes we "take them at their word and hold them accountable"? What? Such is patently impossible, and is in direct contradiction to his valid claim of them being unaccountable liars.

Faculty members are the ones who are now accountable, but no longer to their peers and students and no longer regarding mastery of their subjects.

      This is true enough, but I must add some clarification. Faculty are still accountable to students in that they must make the students happy; faculty need not, and should not, provide an education. I repeat: a single complaint can end, or absolutely harm, a faculty's career on many campuses. Give a student an "A" and he doesn't complain. So, you best not grade harshly, or at all if you know what’s good for you.

      This “make the student happy” accountability is killing the education in higher education. Bottom line, to get human beings to move ahead, sometimes you have to give them a push. Some people push back, but admin will punish you if any student pushes back. Thus it is that it's well documented that many students complete their college career without reading as much as a single newspaper, or writing anything more comprehensive than a single one of my blog posts.

Robert Buckingham at the University of Saskatchewan knows how it works. He was fired, stripped of tenure, and frog marched off the campus for what, in the real world, should have been an entirely benign and even welcome act — criticizing an administrative restructuring plan. [4] The fall of the faculty indeed. What makes this sort of thuggishness possible in an institution ostensibly devoted to inquiry and free debate?

     I just quote the above for emphasis: the author cites this example, but suggests we hold admin accountable? A silly suggestion, indeed. He provides a few more examples of how completely out of control admin is on campus today:

As to the matter of violations, how egregious must they be? Pretty egregious, as it turns out.. In 2014, Amit Chakma of the University of Western Ontario collected his salary ($479,600) and his administrative leave stipend ($444,400) without UWO’s Board forcing him to resign. [6] (If you are a faculty member, just imagine asking your VP Finance to pay you your salary and your sabbatical stipend in the same year.)...

     Honest, the time for reason with these folk is long past: they have all the power, and are beyond reason. Thus again I mention cutting of the sources of their power, either the funding of the student loan scam, or the legitimacy provided by accreditation...neither of these methods will require even talking to the thugs who have taken over many of our campuses.

If you think I overstate the consequences of this erosion of the university curriculum, consider the 2016 US presidential debates as barometers of the culture. Many people were horrified by the debates, regardless of partisan interests. But if you want to appreciate the full extent of the horror and understand just how far we’ve fallen, watch the first ever televised presidential debate between Kennedy and Nixon in 1960.

     It is indeed very clear to scholars how far we've fallen as a people. The presidential debates of the last election were insulting to the educated on multiple levels (just add some “hoots” from the crowd and they could have been taken from a Jerry Springer show at times), although such a discussion of how many ways the debates were offensive is best addressed on its own. I've mentioned before how a simple reading of books and papers from around 1850, or even 1920, reveals both a grasp of English and cognitive ability of the author (and the presumed reader!) that simply cannot be assumed in the general populace of today, and I'm referencing common newspapers here, not advanced texts or research documents. While our education as a society was relatively stable up until 1980 or so, the blame for the clear descent we have now can absolutely be put on the education, both at the "public" school level and in higher education.

      The article then goes on to discuss in detail four areas of higher education he considers most foul: students, curriculum, governance, and administrative salaries.

     Next time.