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View Diary: Florida Governor Rick Scott Takes Aim at University Tenure (205 comments)

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  •  As an academic (36+ / 0-)

    I find that I regularly have to explain myself to people outside of academia. I told a student the other day that a 70 hour week is a short week for me. His jaw dropped, and for the next few days it's all he could bring up.

    Other people work hard too. Other professions are difficult, and their adherents for the most part are, well, professional. But the entire concept of the "profession" seems to be under attack. Ideally, a profession is something that is self-regulating, and specialized enough that only those with a certain kind of training are assumed to be able to set the standards for behaviours, apart from fairly general guidelines and, of course, the law of the land.

    But that idea, in an anti-intellectual America, is taking a lot of hits. In the mind of this governor, and others, it should be "the people", by which he means, the market, that regulates things, not people who actually know something. So, medicine should be market-driven, law should, and now, so should academia.

    I'm always both amused and depressed when I see some (usually conservative) writer get a case of the vapours over a strange title at the MLA conference, or a strange topic of study that was funded by a federal agency. It's always directed at the humanities and social sciences, and it's almost always BS.

    At my university, we've just been told to expect a whole new heap of paperwork from the state and accrediting agencies this year. We were once expected to teach and research. Now we're expected to spend a great deal of our time filling out forms, measuring our measurements and having committees about committees. Regulation is fine (I'm ok with it elsewhere, and also in academia), but it's clear that in a radically conservative environment, this is meant to strangle all activity and intimidate anyone who doesn't think of their area as vocational training.

    The points about tenure are well taken here, and a lot more could be said about it. I just have to go and fill out some forms now instead.

    As American as apple pie. As Canadian as possible, under the circumstances.

    by mitumba on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 11:01:05 AM PDT

    •  My day usually starts about 4 am (17+ / 0-)

      catching up on global events and national news of selected states.  As a political economist, both state and market events as well as academic developments in economics and political science have to be covered to stay on top of my fields of study, research and teaching.  Pile on consultative and academic research, writing, teaching, and the usual administrative stuff, and the average day ends about 7 pm.  On weekends, I only "work" about 8 to 10 hours, unless a paper or conference or research report deadline looms, then it's right through.  Some months, there are no "weekends".  I usually pass the 40 hour mark for time at work sometime Wednesday.  I also work in China (Hong Kong).  If it weren't for tenure, I would have been run out long ago by those who are so-called pro-China or right wing anti-regulatory "free" market zealots (and often these folks claim to be both pro-communist party and pro-unregulated exploitation of anybody and anything).  Academic freedom is constantly under threat in every country, from many directions.  Tenure is no guarantee of a lazy life--it is a license to work 80 to 100 hours a week for very little money, doing things one loves to do but most people don't even realize has value until, often, long after the professor doing it is dead.  The big costs at universities are not the professors, tenured or not.  Just take a look at the all the sports programs, industry or defense driven science lab equipment, and layers of measurers, bean counters and pillow fluffers (student amenities and regulatory compliance provision and reporting is enormously costly).  Tenure, like collective bargaining, is a target simply because it gives a little, very little, protection from complete and utter exploitation and intimidation.

      America needs a UNION NEWS channel. We (unions) have the money, we have the talent. Don't buy 30 second time slots on corporate media, union leaders; fund your own cable news channel and tell the real story 24/7/365

      by monkeybrainpolitics on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 03:13:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You said it. (5+ / 0-)

        Markets are lovely things, very good at setting prices in some areas - but horrible at it in other areas. There is no way it can capture the value of the kind of effort you're talking about, until a long way down the road. I suppose academia is a kind of futures market, but even that is not long-term enough to capture how knowledge is produced, and why it couldn't be produced in any other way.

        I'm always amazed by the research someone does, in some cases decades ago, that they didn't even realize could be used in a new way, but someone later on recognizes the significance of what they did to some new thing. I don't think a single one of our disciplines would be what they are now, without that kind of long-term investment in knowledge.

        And, your comment on the real costs at a university is also dead on.

        "Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter." (Homer Simpson)

        by mitumba on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 03:22:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  your sig is wonderful, in case I haven't (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        monkeybrainpolitics, Eric Blair

        told you that yet.

        from your keyboard to Trumka's ear.

        Nowhere do I understand that national security is a substitute for the law.---Thomas Drake You cannot tell from appearances how things will go.--Winston Churchill

        by SouthernLiberalinMD on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 07:27:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I tried teaching after taking early (0+ / 0-)

        retirement from a career in Children's Protective Services , no doubt among the most demanding, difficult, draining burn-out causing fields - especially in a "free-market", low tax, every man/woman for himself/herself  nation like ours (frayed if non-existent social safety net).

        I taught one course at the college level.  It was one of the most difficult things I ever attempted.  I really did not make it 100% through two semesters.  There were mitigating factors including the fact that I was teaching HS seniors taking "Dual enrollment" (their first college course) classes in Constitutional Law and Criminal Law.  I met some magnificient young women and men who worked hard at learning.  I also met some lost souls who did not attemtp to understand anything I was teaching and who cared only about their shoes or blouses or cars.

    •  People don't understand the nature of what we do (9+ / 0-)

      particularly at state institutions.

      I am my own secretary. I do everything for myself. I have no office phone. I am expected to provide my own telephone if I wish to use one at the workplace.

      I have to also do bureaucratic work that staff and other non-teaching people used to do. I have to be an expert in budgets. I have to be an expert at paperwork. I have to be an expert in curricular accreditation. I have to run meetings and write memos and do the things that executives are expected to do (via support staff).

      I also need to remain an expert in my field, produce research in my field, and be able to share my expertise effectively with students, grade all their work, supervise their internships, push them off into the world of work or graduate school or whatever comes next.

      I work 7 days a week. I work during the summer although I am off-contract. I am available pretty much 24/7 for my colleagues, my students and my administrators. I don't calculate my hourly wage because it is too damned depressing.

    •  I'm an academic as well (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MarkC
      I'm always both amused and depressed when I see some (usually conservative) writer get a case of the vapours over a strange title at the MLA conference, or a strange topic of study that was funded by a federal agency. It's always directed at the humanities and social sciences, and it's almost always BS.

      And I agree with a lot of what you say.  However, I do think we have to expect, and to some extent justifiably so, that the public is going to take an interest in whatever we are doing using tax payer dollars.  That's just how it works in a transparent democracy.

      I'm not saying that some of the public complaints about certain kind of studies are not based on ignorance (they are), but since it is public money being spent, someone along the line there is some accountability to the taxpayer.

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