Friday, July 27, 2007

Nothing Like a Good Budget Crunch to Clean the Sinuses and Assess Management

Most law schools go through it from time to time – budget cuts, call backs, etc. The truly unfortunate part is that they are likely to hit untenured people hardest. Staff people can be fired unlike the privileged professors they work along side.

There is an upside. If a faculty is bloated with special interest and boutique courses, a freeze can mean trimming some of the fat and requiring the privileged ones teach what they promised to teach, indeed what the craved to teach, when they were hired. You remember those interview -- "I just love to teach," "Of course, I would teach torts."

And there are the programs. We all know law school administrator do not like to say “no” to the faculty regardless of how wacko the program. After all, faculty approval, not doing what is best for stakeholders is the principal decanal focus. So what if there is a $50K program that is largely a subsidy for summer vacations? (Put up your hand if you took at least one summer vacation trip largely on the dime of your law school. Whoa. Keep’m up -- it will take some time to count all those.) If you have the money to spend -- after all it’s always about spending someone else’s money -- terminating anything what would lead to faculty outcries is a bad idea. Funny how spending the money of others always leads to a skewed cost/benefit analysis.

Yes, a budget squeeze is just the ticket to test the pulse of an administration. Is it willing to require the hiring committees focus only on high need areas? Is it willing to cut programs based on benefit to those who pay the bills or will the old favorites favored by members of the administration or its closest friend be the ones that go?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Watching Classist Behavior

Just watch and you see class bias/privileged behavior everyday. I keep wondering, "who teaches these people that the world was created to serve them."

Case one: The Barber Shop

So I am in the barber shop and in comes -- let's call her Mitzy -- and says, "My husband just called from Chicago. He will be back in town on Wednesday and will go to Munich on Sunday for a week. Can he get a hair cut on Friday?"

Greg the Barber: "I am not going to be open this Thursday or Friday."

Mitzy: (Standing there) "But he will be going to Munich for a week on Sunday."

Greg: (long pause) "So, he will only be here on Thursday and Friday? . . . . And I will be out of town then."

Mitzy: (stands there and no one is saying anything and I am thinking "What the fuck does it matter that he is going to Munich? Is there a fresh haircut requirement.") "Yes I understand but he cannot come here on before Thursday and he is going to Munich for a week."

Greg: "I am not going to be here."

Mitzy: (after another long pause) So, you cannot give him a haircut. . ?"

Greg: "That's right."

Mitzy: (Yet another long pause.) Oh. (she leaves)

Case two: The Casebook

Law professor goes to teach in an overseas summer program knowing what he will teach in the fall. Toward the end of the stay at the overseas site an emergency call to the secretarial pool. "Could you go into my office and mail me my casebook for the fall. Oh yea, make that an overnight delivery" (yes for the 10 pound book) so I can begin preparing my syllabus for the Fall."

Huh!!?? Anything outrageous about this? If you do not see it, it can only because you have the same sense of entitlement.

Moreover, think about the climate set by an administration that looks the other way.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

No More Hiding

Higher education has long been the principal hiding place of shirkers. Not everyone, but there are layers and layers of children of privilege working half speed and taking up positions that could well be occupied by those with a work ethic.

But don't rely on me for this. Rely on higher education itself and the trend with respect to summer research grants. Under the old style, professors taught 8 months and then got "research grants" to help them with their vacations trip to all parts of the world to attend conferences where very little took place.

More recently schools are saying no pay with out actually physically producing an article or a book. The only possible underlying premise for the change is that professors are goofing off in the summer. Otherwise why change now? Is it only the current generation of professors who shirk? That is hard to believe. Instead with various high profile ranking systems around, the pressure may be on. University Presidents and College deans may find themselves job shopping if their schools dip in the rankings. So finally they are will to press for real life results. And we are clearly into the age of piece work higher education. Keep in mind it is only the threat of outside scrutiny that made this possible. Without that, administrators were perfectly willing to allow the party to continue.

The problem is this: While new pay structures for research are based on shirking, there appear to be no similar efforts to address shirking on other aspects of the job . Teaching tiny classes that are of limited benefit to students. Teaching only a handful of hours a year. Even being around only a few days a week. These privileged job practices continue even though the same privileged mentality that leads to shirking in research carries over to every other aspect of the job.

Looks like even more outside scrutiny is needed.