I feel the need to once again point out how little tenure is worth in higher education today. Faculty, even the few remaining with tenure, generally know better than to speak out, especially if they believe the Poo Bah is wrong. To disagree with the Poo Bah is fatal.
Another tenured faculty was fired for daring to disagree with the Poo Bah recently. Funny thing is, I think the Poo Bah is correct in some sense (stopped clocks and all that)…but still believe tenured faculty should be allowed to disagree without fear of retaliation.
Ok, so let’s hear what the Poo Bah said that caused disagreement:
“This is hard for you because you think of the students as cuddly bunnies,” he told Gregory W. Murry, an assistant professor of history, according to the student newspaper. “But you can’t. You just have to drown the bunnies.”
The president’s plan was to identify students who had been pegged as less likely to succeed and to keep tabs on them for the first month of the academic year. If they didn’t seem to be on the right path by late September, the college would encourage them to drop out.
After years of being told by Poo Bahs that growth is everything, that all integrity must be sacrificed at the altar of growth, that cheaters should be tolerated because it helps with growth, that Pell Runners should be tolerated because it helps with growth, this…is a complete reversal. A stunning reversal.
To actually encourage failing students to drop out, rather than destroy themselves with student loans? That smacks of integrity, Mr. Poo Bah. What’s up with that?
I grant he could have been more polite about describing the situation, and perhaps “drown the bunnies” isn’t the sweetest way to express this pro-decency strategy. There’s been an uproar over this analogy, but the Poo Bah is in no danger; unlike faculty, who can have their careers utterly destroyed by uttering the wrong word, Poo Bahs are quite insulated from the culture of fear on campus today.
Still, I’m shocked that a Poo Bah would advance an idea that looks like integrity. What, pray tell, could cause a Poo Bah to have integrity?
“…Mr. Newman’s plan to use a freshman survey to help weed out students who, by leaving in late September, could improve the Roman Catholic institution’s retention numbers. Mr. Newman has said he wanted to prevent at-risk students from making an expensive mistake…”
“Retention” is one of those administrative words, like “leadership,” which administrators grunt all the time. Because admin is basically untouchable today, words mean whatever they want them to mean.
For faculty, “retention” means keeping students in class no matter what. More accurately, it means keeping students on the roster no matter what. Failing a student is tolerable…just don’t let them drop the course. It’s why 25% or more of the student base of community college campuses are fake students, Pell Runners who are just drifting from campus to campus to pick up checks. Admin wants those Pell Runners, for growth…and if faculty try to report the fraudsters, then admin comes down hard on the faculty because the honest faculty member who punts fraudsters will have low retention numbers. Like I’ve said before, admin might have the lion’s share of the blame of the fraud in higher education today, but faculty aren’t blameless here.
Anyway, this is a new Poo Bah, and they always have big plans, usually stupid plans as well. This plan is good, but there are problems with it, from an administration point of view. Taking the burden of retention off of faculty would shift it to administration–not something administrators would like (hence why I’ve never seen this integrity-based plan before).Moreover, a plan that doesn’t promote growth has a problem: you need all those students to help support the bloated and highly paid administrative caste.
Thus, another administrator, the provost, spoke out against a plan that would create less victims of higher education. This was foolish; you cannot argue with the Poo Bah. He was, of course, removed from his position as provost in short order.
Two faculty also had a problem with the plan, or at least with referring to weak students as “bunnies” to be drowned. They, too, were fired. This is hardly news to anyone in higher ed; I’ve seen new administrators come in and destroy everyone who would oppose their plans in short order enough times before.
Administration really favors brute force for getting its way now. One of the fired faculty wasn’t disagreeing so much as simply being honest. Thus, he made sure the student newspapers knew the details. Retaliation was swift and sure:
Ed Egan, director of the university’s prelaw program and adviser to the campus newspaper, The Mountain Echo, was [fired]. The newspaper broke the story about the opposition to the president’s retention plan.
I’ve mentioned before how admin controls the student newspapers now. Two new sycophant advisors were quickly appointed to “help” run the paper so it doesn’t reveal any more inconvenient truths. Again, this is standard administrative procedure.
The other professor to be fired was a tenured philosophy professor. Please understand, tenured philosophy professors are not fly-off-the-handle hotheads, this guy simply…disagreed with the Poo Bah.
The tenured professor wasn’t fired for breach of academics, and the Poo Bah doesn’t even bother to justify the firing as anything but retaliation:
Mr. Naberhaus, who has publicly criticized the administration but doesn’t consider himself a “rabble rouser,” said in an interview on Monday night that a campus security officer had delivered a letter signed by the president, confiscated his computer, and escorted him to his car.
The letter, a copy of which The Chronicle obtained, said that Mr. Naberhaus owed “a duty of loyalty” to the university and that his recent, unspecified actions violated that duty and justified his firing.
–you can see the letter here.
The gentle reader really needs to understand how warped higher education is today. We’re all supposed to have unquestioning loyalty to whatever ruthlessly destructive scheme the Poo Bah and his sycophant cronies come up with. Poo Bahs are not immortal, however, and these guys often leave once they’ve finished plundering the school well enough to feather their nests. The old Poo Bah leaves, then a new Poo Bah arrives.
And as soon as a new Poo Bah comes in, we’re supposed to all be perfectly and unquestioningly loyal to him and his new plans, even if the new plans are the exact opposite of the previous Poo Bah’s, or even the previous week’s, plan.
This is why spineless sycophancy is now the primary trait for success in higher education in today. Again, I recall my time in a community college where we’d hear a plan from one administrator, and sycophant faculty would choke on drool with their praise and approval of the administrator’s plan. Then, an hour later, a different administrator would come in and present a diametrically opposed plan, and those same faculty would nigh break their hands applauding the wisdom of the new plan.
It’s demented, and any faculty who dared try to point out a flaw or even a blatant contradiction in the plans would only find himself the object of scorn and backstabbed by the sycophantic majority. Again, this is the voice of experience telling the gentle reader this.
Back to the point: tenure is often sneered at as an unfair “job for life.” This guy was a philosophy professor…philosophers argue about everything. But, even a tenured philosophy professor can find tenure is worthless if he dares to argue with the Poo Bah.
We’ll look at this some more next time.