Friday, October 02, 2009

The Shame Gene

Sometimes I think what separates the elites from others is the shame gene. Maybe through some Darwinian process they simply excluded it. Those people who were capable of feeling shame were stampeded by those unable to feel it themselves. For example how else do you explain:

1. Insisting on teaching a 4 credit hour non skills course in two two hour blocks when there is amble support that it is a dismal thing to do as a pedagogical matter.

2. Sponsoring an professor exchange with a University in a foreign city in a foreign country in which your own school and state has little connection or interest and where you happen -- by coincidence, I guess -- to own apartments, have friends and would like to live.

3. Giving an all multiple choice, machine graded exam when you claim to be teaching the students analysis.

4. Canceling class for any reason or no reason or to accommodate your overseas adventures.

5. Insisting on a cap on the number of students in your class when it is not a skills class (or even when it is and you could just teach two sections).

6. Implying strongly that if the students buy study materials you have authored they will get a better grade in the class.

7. Insisting that your office be repainted in a more soothing hue even though you spend about 8 hours there a week.

8. Play "I am a friend of the students" game to the tune of several thousand dollars a year for free beer.

9. If you are tenured, going to the office of an untenured professor and making sure he knows how he should vote on an issue dear to you.

10. Claiming that applicant for a faculty position is a brilliant scholar when in fact you like his or her gender, politics, race or sexual preference or you know his or her mom, dad, or spouse.

11. Getting the School to pay for a trip to a conference where you plan mainly to hang with your buds.

Sometimes it seems very clear that if they did not get to make the law many elites would be doing time because much of what goes on is just white collar shoplifting.


Anonymous said...

Professor Harrison, for the most part I agree with you, [this may not be the true motivation of the 'professor elite,'], however, if teachers teach 2 hour blocks, that can be a nice scheduling advantage to the non-self entitled student since she probably has a job. If she can get all her classes crammed into 3 days, then she can free up entire days to her part time employer and be a more attractive employee as she has few scheduling conflicts. No random blocks of time in the middle of the day or at the end that just doesn't fit the jobs schedule easily.

Jeffrey Harrison said...

You make a very good point and I have a couple of responses. First studies show that after about an hour an a half the intellectual energy of the students drops. So, just from the point of view of teaching it's a bad idea. On the other hand, student convenience is hardly irrelevant and could pull me in the other direction. That being said I can assure you that impact -- positive or negative -- on students is viewed as irrelevant when these decisions are made. So in a system I would feel comfortable with, all these factors would be examined.

Different Anonymous said...

The balancing of pros and cons Anonymous describes is accurate. However, I think the point the post (and the "Dean Everydean" posts) makes is that once those interests have been weight and the determination made which approach is in the students' and school's best interest, elites have no trouble disregarding this determination in favor of their own self-interest.

Jeffrey Harrison said...

Different: Thanks for the clarification. It's not that those factors are irrelevant but that they are treated as irrelevant by the decision makers. So if you get a two hour block and like it would would be incorrect that anything happened other than the elite found it convenient for him or herself.

Blake said...

Number 8 seems a little silly.

I don't think any professors value their time so little that they think it is worthwhile to hang with some 20 year olds on loans to score a few free bar tabs.

Unfortunately, (or fortunately) in Gainesville aside from the library there is not a much better place to find law students then midtown. The professors willing to take an interest in student's interest should not be thought to have ulterior motives when they are genuinely trying to befriend the students.

Jeffrey Harrison said...

Thanks for the comment. I think you have way underestimated the power the students have and how much effort a few faculty make to curry favor. I am not sure there are many 20 year olds in Law School but if they are and 40 some year olds are buying them beer, it's more than just currying favor.

Blake said...

I may have misunderstood your original statement.

In your response you seem to be claiming that some professors buy the friendship of students through giving them free drinks.

It seems to me a professor who uses their own resources to get students to have a more favorable attitude about the faculty and their law school should be commended not condoned.

Jeffrey Harrison said...

Blake: Here is my statement:8. Play "I am a friend of the students" game to the tune of several thousand dollars a year for free beer.

To the extent a professor buys a few drinks for students who are actually friends or with whom he or she has worked closely,I have no complaints. It's natural.

The actual buying drinks in order to get students to like you and hopefully raise teaching evaluations is another matter. The question is when do students fall into the first category or the second. In the second, they are just being used as a lobbyist might wine and dine a legislator whose vote is needed.

I sense in you a need to believe that there are no cases that fall into the second category but I can assure you it is manifested in many ways at the law school and not just in buying drinks.

A few faculty are craven about their desire for popularity and higher evaluations and that is the motivation.

Again, I am not sure we disagree except that you seem to want to believe it is all sincere. Unfortunately, I am more of a cynic and a realist.

For all I know, any drinks that have come your way have been the result of sincere kindness. If so, great.