Many times I’ve given some indication how faculty feel about administrators, but perhaps it’s time to hear from a chief administrator how he views faculty. A former Poo-Bah of a major university is teaching an 8000-level graduate administration course, and has generously allowed much of the material online. As is so often the case in administration graduate work, the requirements are minimal (the student need do as much writing in over three months as I do for my blog in less than two weeks, and there are no exams or quizzes to verify any knowledge). Still, there is plenty of reading the student is invited to do, not that he’ll have to demonstrate he read or understood any of it.
Faculty are well-advised to read much of what’s in this course, as I’m certain what is said, is said with all sincerity. Some highlights and commentary:
“Faculty represent the capital stock of the university.”
It’s good to understand that faculty are not human beings…we’re like little buildings, to be knocked over if we get in the administration’s way.
“Moreover, faculty drive the largest part of the cost of any institution of higher education.”
This is, of course, a non-fact. There are more administrators than faculty, and administrators are paid far more than faculty. I can’t even begin to understand how a chief administrator could not know this.
Faculty, in this business view, simply represent some form of knowledge worker, and in response to economic difficulties many faculty take advantage of this misconception to construct labor unions and other structures that reinforce this mistaken notion.
I simply love the matter-of-fact speaking here. Seriously, unions are the result of a “mistaken notion.” I’ve detailed abuse after abuse of faculty by administration on this blog…it’s not a mistaken notion to construct a labor union, it’s an act of desperation. The American Association of University Professors, the most successful such union, has been in existence for 99 years, and is still going. This makes the AAUP one of the longer lived misconceptions; curiously, the administrator knows the AAUP exists (he mentions it elsewhere in this course). Unfortunately, institutions aren’t obligated to honor unions, and with the glut of academics far too desperate for work to quibble about working conditions, it’s been pretty hard for the AAUP or other unions to gain much traction.
The reason capital is the best way to regard faculty is that tenured faculty represent a long term investment not easily transferred, sold, or otherwise liquidated.
I’m not sure faculty like the idea of being transferred, sold, or, jeez, “liquidated.” But we often feel like chattel. As per those “it’s not complicated” commercials, the reason we feel like chattel is because we’re treated like chattel, but I digress. There’s a tremendous hypocrisy here—admin drives up the cost of higher education to stratospheric levels, justifying it because “knowledge is valuable”…but knowledge workers are worth nothing.
faculty who no longer serve an economic purpose can only be reconstructed at such a high cost that it is often more efficient to buy a new faculty member rather than reconstruct an old one.
I’ve added the boldface. At the risk of being patronizing, it occurs to me that “chattel” is something of an obscure word. Here’s the definition:
Chattel: something (such as a slave, piece of furniture, tool, etc.) that a person owns other than land or buildings.
So, go ahead and read that line again about buying new faculty members…faculty really are regarded as slaves here. I again point out, I’m not making this up. The only reason anyone knows the truth now is I bothered to see with my own eyes, but anyone who looked can see this.
Imagine if, instead of being appointed by other administrators, administrators were drawn from faculty, chosen by faculty, and had to return to faculty after only a few years of administration. How likely would it be that administrators would pontificate about how faculty should be treated no differently than the garbage cans on campus, to be taken away once they serve no purpose?
I will cover this in more detail next time, but consider how well this course demonstrates what’s happening in higher education: the rulers at the top care nothing for education, and consider educators simply chattel, to be liquidated when they no longer serve administration’s foul purposes.