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Tenure reviewed

Michael Berube and Jennifer Ruth. The Humanities, Higher Education, & Academic Freedom: Three Necessary Arguments. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

I expected not to like this book. I’m skeptical of tenure as a practice and while I like the humanities and the idea of “academic freedom,” I’m skeptical of most of the defenses people offer for them. Berube and Ruth do not completely allay my skepticism. But they have forced me to rethink some of my assumptions, and their book displays a refreshing honesty.

Summary

Berube and Ruth argue that in the US, there’s a “crisis” in the humanities and by extension in the university. But that crisis is not quite what most people think. It’s not declining interest. Berube and Ruth argue that while majors and enrollment in the humanities peaked in 1970 and declined sharply afterward, most of that decline had leveled off by ca. 1980 so that the last 40 years or so have seen continued and consistent interest in the humanities from undergraduates.

The real problem, Berube and Ruth say, is the weakening of tenure and universities’ increasing reliance on contingent faculty. For the last 20 or 30 years, universities and tenure-track professors have hired short-term adjuncts and contingent full-timers, in order to meet teaching needs without devoting the hard work and resources necessary to do national searches and without making the necessary sacrifices to earn new tenure lines for their departments. The result in most humanities departments is a large number, usually a majority, of faculty who are hired outside the open, competitive process used to hire tenure track professors and who can be fired just as easily.

Those developments lead to less dedication to universities and to less academic freedom all around. Contingent employees have few incentives to remain loyal to their institution, which might non-hire them whenever it’s convenient to do so. The smaller number of tenured professors now feel cowed by what they perceive as administrators’ cost-consciousness and neo-liberal prerogatives. The contingent faculty have less (or no) academic freedom, and their lack of academic freedom means they cannot participate in university governance in any meaningful way. True shared governance and true academic freedom can exist only among peers. True peer status comes only with the security of tenure, which is won only after a “through the eye of a needle” vetting process that ensures the tenured will be professional and committed.

So far, you and I have heard this story before. We’ve also heard some version of Berube and Ruth’s end-solution before, too. They want to create more tenure lines and create incentives for teaching.

But Berube and Ruth offer something new, too. The new tenure lines they propose are teaching-only, with no research or publication requirements. Their appendix explains one model to achieve their goal. Quickly–within a year–convert all full-time contingent jobs to tenure-track, teaching-only positions. People who are already full-time contingents will have to apply in competition with others in regional or national searches. The authors would make some exceptions and allowances for contingents who have been employed for a long time.

Something else that is new, or that I don’t see very often, is Berube and Ruth’s refusal to blame it all on “the administrators.” They acknowledge that someone needs to ensure that budgets are balanced and that laws and regulations are complied with. The authors instead place more responsibility on those who now enjoy the privileges of tenure. Those on the tenure track could do more. They could choose the less easy path of teaching more courses, instead of hiring adjuncts, when there is a shortage of instructors. They could request and expect fewer exemptions from teaching. They could expect and demand fewer accommodations for spousal adjunct hires.

Finally, Berube and Ruth are honest. They acknowledge that their plan will hurt many adjuncts and full-time contingents, especially in the short-term. They want to re-professionalize academia, which means preferring PhD’s and other terminal degrees, such as MFA’s, to MA’s. That preference means competent MA-holding instructors won’t be rehired. The authors apologetically but frankly admit their plan means some of the most vulnerable people in academia stand to lose out.

Two small missteps

As pleased as I am with what Berube and Ruth have to offer, I feel compelled to state where I think they fall short. I make these points because they distract from the authors’ argument and because correcting these missteps (or addressing my reservations about them) might gain more public support for their teaching-only tenure lines proposal.

Misstep one: the “we’re not as bad as they say” defense

One chapter, written primarily by Berube, purports to defend the humanities. That chapter doesn’t quite seem to fit in with the rest of the book, which despite its title seems more about university governance and job opportunities and not so much about how the humanities are supposedly under attack.

At any rate, the defense this chapter offers is against the complaint that the humanities are too theory-laden and too concerned with race, class, gender, etc., and not concerned enough with universal values. Instead, Berube refutes that claim. He demonstrates that the questions the humanities asks are good ones. He does a good job here.

But on some level, that defense misses the point. While there truly are philistines and anti-humanities ideologues among us, not all people who question the degree of humanities funding are seeking to defund it wholesale. Berube’s argument doesn’t tell us how far we should want to go or how much we should expend in supporting the humanities. In a world of tight budgets, pension crises, and politicians unwilling or unable to raise taxes, we sometimes have to decide whether to spend that extra dollar on the humanities or some other worthy candidate, like medicaid, infrastructure, or mass transit . False dichotomies? Maybe. There are certainly candidates for that extra dollar that are more obviously less worthy than humanities education (sports stadiums come to mind). But sometimes good things that deserve funding can’t be funded as much as we’d like.

I suppose Berube (and Ruth) would answer that’s besides the point. They’d like to see more funding, but their main argument isn’t about money. It’s that the humanities as an enterprise is worth defending. The key to defending it is healthy universities. The key to healthy universities is academic freedom, which permits professors to offer controversial opinions, to maintain high academic standards for students, and to engage as equals in university self-governance. The key to academic freedom is tenure.

Misstep two: the “we don’t want to be like McDonald’s employees” trope

Berube and Ruth sometimes succumb to making flip and condescending tropes about service workers when describing the precarious conditions facing contingent faculty. For instance, at one point [page 11], they say

…the profession of college teaching has been hollowed out as full-time, tenure-track positions have been converted to highly precarious positions (both full-time and part-time) that offer no possibility of tenure–which means, basically, all the job security of Wal-Mart or McDonald’s.

Not quite. Even semester-only adjunct jobs–with their low pay, with the possibility the course may be cancelled the day before class, and without a guarantee of future assignments–even those jobs are contract jobs for which termination, during the time of service, must be for some cause or reason. Even more so with full-time contingent jobs, in which I understand the contract usually lasts at least for one academic year or calendar year. That’s not quite the “at whim” situation McDonald’s and Walmart employees face.

I don’t know exactly how often the “appeal to McDonald’s” trope is used on behalf of academic workers, but I’d like to see a study on it. That trope suggests a grievance that someone with such an undeserving job might be worth as much as or more than someone with an advanced degree. I believe that most–perhaps in some cases all–people who use that trope sincerely care about the well-being of such workers. No one at any rate would probably cop to having contemptuous feelings even if they do. But I believe that the language conveys a message of contempt for such workers even though that’s not the intention.

Maybe you interpret such language differently. And there are more important, and more pervasive, reasons that populist appeals against “tenured professors” gain the traction they do. But this “McDonald’s”-style trope doesn’t help. It’s an unforced error that advocates for tenure and the humanities make too often.

Guild tripping and patronage baiting

The “McDonald’s appeal” is an exception, though. The gist of Berube and Ruth’s argument is to eschew the “workers of the (academic) world unite” framing. They want to save academicians as professionals and not as workers. While the authors support (some) faculty unions and are sympathetic to adjuncts and full-time contingents, they nevertheless argue that as far as academia is concerned, salvation comes primarily from strengthening the profession and not from labor organizing.

Berube and Ruth want a guild, in which members of the profession limit entry to those whom they deem qualified. They equivocate on the point. They don’t use the word “guild.” They eschew the term “elitism,” saying their proposal “is not elitism; it is professionalism” [page 134, italics in original]. But it’s clear they want to guard the special privileges that tenure offers and retain their prerogative to decide who gets those privileges.

True, they wish to expand the number of tenure lines. They want to rejigger those lines to promote teaching priorities and therefore be available to a larger number of scholars. And they are willing to grandmother and grandfather actually existing full-time contingents into the system. All that suggests that the guild, for now, is taking applications. But what will happen if–contrary to the authors’ claims–it turns out there really is an oversupply of PhD’s?

“Guild,” like “elitism,” is a loaded word. So is “patronage system,” the term they use to describe the emergent contingent “tier” in academia. However, there’s a similarity among what those three terms suggest. Becoming a member of the academic guild requires–or at least is made much easier by–getting admitted to the right schools, securing the better advisors, and tapping into the professional networks that can eventually help you land the interview for that tenure track job. It’s not the same as patronage, but it’s not so wholly different.

The “patronage system,” meanwhile, can be considered an alternate route for the opportunities that the standard tenure-track vetting process forecloses to those with fewer connections. I say this with a little taste of crow in my mouth because I have in the past criticized political patronage systems and yet the rationale for those is similar to what I’m positing here.

More to the point, one defense we can bring to the “patronage system” is similar to a defense that tenured professors bring to the tenure system. That defense is, the participants still have a devotion to the goals of the profession. Anti-tenure people like to talk about lazy professors who abuse their privileges, and the counterpoint is, “you don’t understand–these people are dedicated to scholarship and teaching, and they work hard, much more than the ten hours or so you’d think from their teaching schedule.”

Now, Berube and Ruth, with their use of the word “patronage system,” suggest (to put it less than charitably to them but consistent with their overall point) that what’s being created with the contingent tier of academia is a bunch of yes-persons who profess loyalty to the lords (chairs, assistant chairs, and well-connected faculty) of the local academic department/fiefdom. And my counterpoint is that the employers care less about building patronage empires and the contingents care less about pleasing sponsors than they all do about delivering quality education and maintaining standards, they should all read multiple reviews on education.

There are exceptions, to be sure, just like there are tenured professors who abuse tenure. And in both cases those exceptions are predicted and made possible by the incentives in the system. In the case of tenured faculty, the incentive is the supposed job security that tenure offers. In the case of contingent labor, the incentive is indeed the lack of freedom and the quasi-patronage relationships Berube and Ruth identify.

Berube and Ruth’s argument is at its strongest, in my opinion, when they talk about instructors’ commitment to their institutions. Full-time contingents and, especially, semester-by-semester adjuncts have few incentives to be loyal and committed to the university that might non-hire them next semester or next year. Their proposal to strengthen and expand their guild is one way, and to my mind an arguably good one, to re-instill a sense of commitment. It’s at least a discussion worth having. It´s very good to have an open mind, there are many techniques to learn how to use your subconscious mind. Many people have used them and they have achieved great things.

Alternate visions still possible?

I’m not on board yet. The guild just seems too closed off to people without the right connections, and I fear Berube and Ruth’s proposal won’t liberalize access enough.

I also wonder, without knowing, how the authors’ arguments might scale among the different types of colleges and universities. R1 schools, teaching colleges, small liberal arts colleges, and private universities might all have different constraints. This objection Berube and Ruth anticipate, allowing that each institution needs to decide how and in what way to adopt their proposal. I just suspect that sometimes contingent labor is a more justified way to go, and I’m not quite as dedicated to the humanities as a profession.

I see professionalization as an (imperfect) tool, not as an end goal. If humanistic inquiry is something that must be fostered and strengthening the professions tends to that end, then we should consider strengthening the professions. But we should keep our eyes on the prize. We–or I–don’t want to limit or overly privilege access to that inquiry to the professions. If the humanities mean anything, it’s that they represent something we all could, theoretically, engage. There are probably many explanations for the continued interest in humanities courses that Berube and Ruth document, and one of them surely is that you don’t have to be a professor to participate.

I’m more inclined to flirt with alternative visions. I’d consider multi-year contracts or “clinical faculty” tracks. The latter don’t offer tenure, but do offer a bit more job security than contingent jobs. One advantage to multi-year contracts and clinical tracks is that they open up more opportunities for those who might not otherwise be eligible for tenure track jobs. That outcome, as Berube and Ruth argues, threatens to “de-professionalize” academia. But I’m not convinced that the extra hurdle of a 6-year or longer PhD program necessarily makes one a “more professional” instructor. Another advantage is that without having to commit to tenure, departments no longer have to make that ONE MOMENTOUS CHOICE between granting someone a job for life or firing that person and prejudicing his or her chances against getting a like job elsewhere.

Needless to say, there are disadvantages, too. My alternate vision would undoubtedly lead to less job security and less academic freedom than tenure-lines would. “Clinical” faculty can still be let go, and if a university decides to violate the terms of a multi-year contract, the contractee will probably have few resources to challenge the violation.

Contracts and “clinical” positions would also tilt university governance to the prerogatives of administrators. While I, along with Berube and Ruth, refuse to caricature administrators as evil, narrow-minded, and venal bureaucrats, administrators do have different incentives and priorities from those of instructors. Those priorities, while not bad in themselves, need a counterbalance.

To be clear, I’m not fully decided for these alternate visions. Berube and Ruth give me a lot to think about, and their argument about tenure lines creating loyalty to an institution particularly resonates with me.

Send off

As with all reviews, mine distorts the authors’ argument. Berube and Ruth spend more time than I did above distinguishing between semester-by-semester adjuncts and full-time contingents. They express much more sympathy for the plight of contingents than I acknowledge above. They acknowledge contingents’ professionalism more than you might think by reading my review. And despite their criticism of the choices made by academic departments, the authors say that one reason departments keep adjunct positions open is because they sympathize with adjuncts’ difficulties. No one really likes to see people they work with get canned.

I should acknowledge where I’m coming from. I’m a full-time contingent who wasn’t hired by an open competitive process, and my university is facing some pretty severe budget cuts and layoffs. While I have a terminal degree, it’s not the same degree generally required in the profession where I’ve landed. All of that means I have an economic and personal interest in opposing Berube and Ruth’s proposal.

I find my workplace much more professional than the stereotypical “patronage system.” While I don’t believe I have meaningful academic freedom, I find that my employers and supervisors treat me more than fairly and expect honest, competent work, not obsequious loyalty. (For what it’s worth, my department is not centered primarily on teaching or research. Its job is to support students and scholars and sometimes cultivate relationships with members of the public. It’s legitimately debatable whether and in what ways my position even should require academic freedom.)

Finally, I’m skeptical that tenure is a good thing. While I have good reasons for my skepticism, some of it is visceral rather than rational. As an undergrad and grad student, I saw too many examples of the professorial swagger, contempt for students, and outright abuse of tenure privileges. It’s true that those examples can be explained either as simply the fleeting displays of human weakness we all show from time to time, or or as the actions and attitudes of only a small handful of persons such as you’d see in any workplace. But those examples–along with the “profession’s” and the home departments’ apparent refusal or inability to correct or address the even most egregious cases–make me reluctant to man the front lines in defense of tenure.

Even so, I find my current tenured coworkers to be especially hard-working and dedicated professionals, and they all deserve the privileges that come with their positions. My unequivocally positive view of them suggests that if I had worked more closely with some of the bad examples I mentioned in my last paragraph, I might very well have found more to praise and less to fault.

With those admissions out of the way, I’d like to say I appreciate an honest look at alternatives from academia’s current problems, and that’s what Berube and Ruth offer. Their argument certainly needs to be at the table. And I suggest you read their book.

Photo credit: “University Day, 1911,” by Jeff Osvold.Creative Commons license: Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).


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Gabriel Conroy [pseudonym] is an ex-graduate student. He is happily married with no children and has about a million nieces and nephews. The views expressed by Gabriel are his alone and do not necessarily reflect those of his spouse or employer. ...more →

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226 thoughts on “Tenure reviewed

  1. What would be the point of tenure for dedicated lecturers? Isn’t the point of tenure to protect academics researching or developing controversial ideas from political persecution? For lecturers not doing research, it seems like it would just be job security as a perquisite.

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    • I have to speed away to work, but according to Ruth and Berube, the purpose for instructors would be to protect them in two circumstances: 1. when they have to enforce academic standards (i.e., give students poor grades for doing poor work, even though they or their parents might complain); and 2. enable instructors to criticize the university/college or to offer ideas for instruction that may not be popular with administrators and still not have to fear for their jobs.

      I’m not sure I believe those reasons are enough to say tenure for instructors is a good thing. But I think they are good-ish reasons and at least deserve discussion. Again, though, maybe at the end of the discussion, we (or you and I) can decide that those reasons still don’t justify tenure.

      (Finally, one thing the authors aren’t clear on is what should constitute tenure. Should it be only a “for cause” employment condition, or should it be what it is in many (most?) higher ed institutions: an almost iron-clad guarantee of job security unless the professor REALLY messes up or the university must close. There’s probably some points in between, too.)

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  2. I’m in STEM, so my experience may be slightly different, and my attitudes may be slightly different.

    I generally support the concept of tenure. However, I do not support the popular vision of tenure-as-sinecure (which it may have used to have been, I don’t know). Where I am, we have an every-three-years “post-tenure review” where we make up a packet demonstrating our various productivity (have we taught new courses/updated existing ones, what publications/grants you’ve had, what service you’ve done). A group of your peers evaluates it and passes a recommendation to the chair. You get an official letter that indicates what you’ve done well and what needs improvement. Previous to this process, we had an annual review with our chairs where we were told if we were doing OK or not, and the presumption was, if the answer ever was “not,” you had to pull up your socks or risk revocation of tenure.Some people don’t have as good a chair as my department does, which is why we now do the “jury of our peers” thing.

    Presumably, someone who consistently needs improvement in more than one area, and who does not take steps to improve, could be let go. This is a fairly new process so I have not heard of anyone actually being let go.

    It’s a pain in the butt (and it hurt, a lot, to learn that the service I had been doing outside the university apparently didn’t “count” so I have to scale that back to make time for more on-campus committeework), but it seems important.

    However, I am not sure, given our budgetary constraints, how likely it would be that an underperforming person would be let go: I know it’s been VERY hard to get permission to initiate searches for full-time positions, even to replace retiring faculty. The trend now, even here, is “can’t we get an adjunct to do that.”

    There are problems on both ends with adjuncting. It’s cheap for the university because here, adjuncts don’t really make a wage that they could live on – it really is a “second career for someone in retirement” or “way for someone with a well-employed spouse to use their skills.” They also don’t offer benefits – we have to keep people just below that 29 hour a week cap, which feels kind of devious (the ACA was to try to GET health coverage for lower-employed people).

    (I was paid adjunct wages for teaching last summer because of a variety of clusterfish events. It was eye opening. And no, I could not live on adjunct wages, not without some other source of income)

    On the other hand, at least in my field, if you have some level of expertise, you’re NOT gonna adjunct, because you can find better-compensated work elsewhere. Yeah, maybe if your spouse earns a good salary and you just want to teach one or two classes for the fun of teaching instead of the pay….but there aren’t that many people like that here. (We had one adjunct who just stopped showing up; in fact, there was some concern that they might not enter final grades).

    And yes, what Gabriel said about academic standards: if my job was contingent on always getting high student evaluations, I would be less willing to take risks, or put “hard” stuff in my classes (a regular complaint I get in Ecology is “there’s too much math”), or teach classes that historically have lower evaluations (a lot of the non-majors service classes). It also protects against that one really angry student with big donor parents making your job go poof – that’s unlikely, true, but I’ve seen all kinds of crazy stuff go down on college campuses.

    I admit I’m already kinda chicken livered about standing up to administrators who are in the wrong because I’ve seen cases where if you tick off an admin enough, they can make your life Hell.

    There’s also the thought, in some circles, that having tenured faculty allows for more balance of specialty; I know of at least one individual, highly-placed in a university (not the one I am at) who questioned, “Why do we even keep on the botanists and zoologists? The future of biology is cells! If we could just clean house and hire a dozen more people doing cellular work….” I don’t know if that ever would have flown, but with tenure in place it COULDN’T.

    I think the system at my university, though imperfect, is maybe a decent compromise: tenure so you don’t have to fret about being fired after one bad semester, but regular reviews so you don’t get Dr. Mumblepants teaching off of crumbling 25-year-old notes or that guy who refuses to hold office hours or advise students…

    The other thing: in some fields, at least, we’re giving up some income in return for job security. Most geneticists and the like can make much better money in pharma companies…we had difficulty for a while keeping geneticists until we got someone who really wanted to teach. That’s not so true of me (not a big market for ecologists in the private sector). But if my job became contingent, where I didn’t know from year to year if I’d have a job? I’d probably look into some other way of earning my bread.

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    • Your situation sounds a lot like a version of Gabriel’s multi-year contract scenario, and less like Tenure.

      I could see meaningful reform that moves to a 3-, 5-, 10-yr program where everyone is on a multi-year contract with incentives to perform well and secure better contracts that in turn grant greater security to take on longer term projects and invest in the institution. It would end the Tenure lottery system, but it would still allow for top performers to secure strong contracts and would likely add more liquidity to the hiring system.

      You could even make all “adjunct” positions a minimum of 3-yrs, with a formula to allow for backfill adjuncts on temp contracts to account for illness, leave, spikes in students, etc. Ideally those folks are auditioning for the next 3-yr contract or burnishing their resume for a 3-yr gig at another University.

      I doubt you kill Tenure with one blow, I expect you’d have to grandfather a certain number of folks… but you could let it die of age, and implement a hybrid system that is better than at will employment, but something less than a lifetime hire.

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      • I think the difference is, when I hear “5 or 10 year contracts” it feels to me like the onus is on the professor to “prove” they are “good enough” to be kept on, whereas with tenure, it feels like the onus is on the university to “prove” they need to let the person go.

        I think tenure probably is dying of age. I think my generation (hired 1999) is the last one that had a lot of tenure positions still available. Oh, there probably always WILL be tenure for the “superstars” – and maybe I have some problems with that, that there may be no middle ground between the Big Famous Somebodies who have tenure and teach one class a year, and then the remaining rabble who teach eight classes and have to buy their own health insurance and are essentially one paycheck away from destitution. But I guess that’s the trend in the US now, so maybe why should colleges be any different?

        I dunno. More and more I feel like the days of the average person in the US being able to have a decent career that doesn’t work them to death and allows them some security is over.

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        • I understand the concern; it is valid.

          But what you say about tenure fading makes me think that replacing it with a hybrid system would be better than replacing it with an at-will system. The University admins prefer at-will. I’d think long and hard about getting in front of this a collectively bargaining for a better “new” system than where colleges are trending.

          I guess there’s something curious to my eyes that Universities with a strong Left/Liberal constituency of workers and administrators can’t or won’t put in place a new collective agreement (maybe even like a sports contract) that provides a model that is more egalitarian and more distributively fair than the current system… which, as you note, is slowly eating its own on a march to a free-market at-will labor model.

          I’d like to see Leftist institutions experiment with better (or at least different) labor practices rather than follow the open market into labor arbitrage. Maybe Privilege is what the game is all about though.

          {the comment is not leveled at you or your comment directly, more of a jumping off elaboration on my previous comment}

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        • it feels like the onus is on the university to “prove” they need to let the person go.

          That all depends on how the contract is structured, which is something collective bargaining could have a hand in. A contract can have an automatic renewal clause that stands unless the administration can satisfy the conditions to void it out.

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          • TBH, from what I’ve seen of “collective bargaining” or “shared governance” on uni campuses, I would not trust it to come up with a contract like that that actually had teeth in it.

            Maybe I’m a cynic, I don’t know. There’s a reason I’ve never gone out for Faculty Senate, and it’s not just that I perpetually have labs the afternoon that it meets.

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            • Dear goodness… no one is suggesting the faculty senate negotiate with the administration. That would be a bloodbath. We’re talking professionals and labor lawyers.

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                • For what it’s worth, mine is a unionized workplace (and I’m in the bargaining unit) and I have very mixed feelings about it. I have personally benefited enormously. My (in my opinion) already generous salary has increased by about 30% and I have the intangible benefit of (slightly) more job security than I otherwise would have.

                  However, I’m very concerned that the union is overpricing us, and making it hard for the university to keep people on, so that if budget troubles get severe enough, people would have to be let go. Maybe it’s naive to think that in an alternate world, where people’s labor cost less, that we’d have fewer layoffs. But I still am inclined to believe that. At any rate, I fear that I’ll become too expensive to keep on. (My position is a weird one that’s more subject to discontinuation than other positions.)

                  I also worry about access to work at my institution. I believe our contract closes off opportunities to people who can’t get in on the front door, so to speak. I suppose that’s part of the “patronage system” Ruth and Berube talk about. But it’s vexing to know that the opportunities available to me won’t be available to others.

                  (I also have some the ideological concerns that people who question public employee unions have. But that’s another issue.)

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        • I get the point about shifting the burden of proof. But what about a multi-year contract with 1) a presumption of rehiring and 2) a strong incentive to rehire? By “strong incentive” I mean something like a guaranteed year’s salary if the person is not rehired.

          Maybe that defeats whatever purpose a multiyear contract is supposed to serve.

          ETA: ETA: If I had read Oscar’s comment, I’d have seen he beat me to the punch.

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        • The administrations, obviously. However, this language is not as problematic as you suggest it is, given that such systems exist in the corporate world (and the military, believe it or not) and operate relatively well, to the point that unless you are an idiot, it is quite easy to game such systems to the employee’s benefit. They key is to make sure that what constitutes retention worthy performance is clearly documented and spelled out prior to the beginning of the contract, so the employee is fully aware of what is expected, and management can’t slip in extra expectations, or weasel word the requirements.

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        • To take Oscar’s point in another direction, we could say that peers (fellow tenured’s) also believe the language isn’t as problematic as you find it to be….as long as the peers get the final say so. As Berube and Ruth argue peers are more likely to have professionalism and the purposes of their jobs in mind. But it’s hard to avoid the notion that “I should protect this guy/gal because if I set a precedent, my own performance might be questioned.”

          That’s probably unfair of me. But I think the incentive, at least is there. Whether it’s worse, better, or “neutral, but in a different way” from what administrators can come up with….I’m not sure.

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    • Fillyjonk:

      Thanks so much for this comment. I was curious to know your thoughts while I was writing this review. The one place where I think STEM fields are potentially very different from humanities fields is because, as you mention, at least some specialties can command a good salary in the pro-profit sector.

      While I’d heard of post-tenure review (some of that from other comments you had made elsewhere), I’ve never had a clear idea of how it would work in practice. Thanks for relating your experience. And for the record, I believe Berube and Ruth are open to a system of post-tenure review. To my knowledge, the institutions I’ve been at had no such process, unless you count the “review” necessary for promotion from associate to full professor a “post-tenure” review. I’d like the idea of meaningful peer review. It seems to me that from your description, where you work probably approaches that idea more than the peer review processes I’ve seen, where one professor sits in on one session of another professor’s class, and then writes a review of that person’s teaching. It seems to be rather pro forma to me. (Perhaps that peer congeniality, along with budget pressures in your own situation, can be one factor keeping post-tenure review from being as much of a check as some hope it would be.)

      All that said….I should note that I’ve never been on the inside of the process. I don’t know what kinds of internal pressures are brought to bear on people who to my view (as a student) seemed to drop the ball. Maybe there were real consequences those people faced and I simply wasn’t privy to them.

      Berube and Ruth seem to agree with your observations about adjuncts. They devote a lot of sentences to professors’ spouses securing adjunct jobs as favors to those professors and thereby unnecessarily swelling the number of adjuncts. They don’t, however, mention a phenomenon I’ve seen (and I would have written about it except my review was too long already) where a high-powered professor is hired and his or her spouse is, ‘lo and behold, hired on the tenure track as well. In every case I can think of, the spouse worked just as hard and contributed just as much as the superstar spouse/partner. But it’s hard for me to believe that their partner’s status didn’t give them an edge in the hiring process.

      Thanks, again, for your comment on this.

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      • Well, I tend to get prickly when I hear people say stuff like “We need to just get rid of tenure. The people who are Good Enough will keep their jobs, and we’ll cut out the deadwood, and we need to do it without grandfathering in the originally-tenured” because they often say it speaking as someone whose experience with academia is limited.

        (I also hate to say it, but I suspect we’re headed for a Big Sort where a certain percentage of schools will close – probably mostly smaller schools like mine. I hope and pray I can make it to retirement age before that happens)

        One of the things about academia is that it really can chew you up. I’ve had times when I considered quitting, because there was such a clusterfish of bad things (a difficult student, an admin who seemed to enjoy making the profs’ lives miserable, budget cuts) but I stay on because at the good times, I do enjoy the work (And I’m not sure what else I’d be qualified to do). And having tenure is a big part of staying my hand when I want to just say “screw it, I’ll take the Civil Service exam instead.” I think for people who are dedicated to the work – and not to brag, but I think I am, sometimes to my detriment – tenure is maybe a reward for giving as much of your life to it as you do.

        I do think “deadwood” is a problem – perhaps less now than it once was, but it still can be a problem. Post-tenure review does address this; if a person has consistently lousy student and peer evaluations here, they would be gone – though there’s a pretty strong mechanism for encouraging them to shape up (We get that letter, and then have the next 3-year period to change whatever.) But yeah, I’ve heard some hair-curling stories about people in other departments. (I am part of a remarkably good department, which is a big reason why I stay on, despite the budget problems and the occasional problematic admin)

        The following-spouse issue is a consistent problem in academia, so much so that lots of folks call it “the Two-Body Problem.” I’ve long said academics should probably have a spouse who isn’t an academic, both for practical reasons (if you are in a career where taking a day off is easier, it’s a lot simpler, for example, to arrange to get a plumber in) and for emotional reasons (I feel much better after talking with friends in other fields; it is very, very easy to get my head stuck in the one-inch picture frame of my work, and when things are difficult at work, it feels like my whole life is bad).

        I don’t know what the solution to the problems of academia are. I think the problems there have been problems for a while and I think we need to be careful not to come up with quick-fixes that lead to worse problems. (Academia lately seems beset by fads – most of them technological in nature, like clickers or flipped classrooms where students watch videos of lectures on their own time. I tend to be a Luddite about these because I know what I’m good at and I’m good at it, and also, I’ve seen enough things that were sold as being great, but were poorly-applied 85% of the time, and so wound up not being a solution at all).

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        • Despite some of the things I said in my OP, “deadwood” professors (a category in which I’d include perfectly high performing professors who are contemptuous of students) aren’t my primary concern. My main concern is liberalizing access to jobs in academia. I think my “alternate visions” *might* do that. But there would be bad consequences.

          The “two-body” problem is a real one. I suspect it’s more universalizable than academia, although perhaps academia is the most serious and conspicuous example. Each spouse is a member of a profession when the supply of jobs in that profession is very low and competition is high. When those situations obtain, they’re always going find difficulty finding work comparable to their professional training in the same market, and one spouse’s job will usually have to be given priority. While it’s a problem, I’m not sure exactly what universities can or should do to resolve it, or if they should do anything.

          I too get a little prickly, but probably less than you do, when I hear some anti-tenure diatribes such as you describe. I do think that people who already have tenure should be able to keep it on whatever terms under which they were granted it, so that any reforms should affect future tenured workers, and not current ones.

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  3. A datum regarding the benefits of tenure: My brother was an academic chemist working in a specialty where he could have doubled his salary with a phone call. He fended off various bids to recruit him. One of the executives trying to hire him asked what it would take to get him. His answer was “tenure.” He was more than willing to trade income for tenure. to his school’s benefit.

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      • He doesn’t… the open market offer didn’t clear the economic value of tenure. 2x Salary was just one offer. 3x? 4x? 3x with a 5-yr contract? 2x with Equity? Presumably at some point the offer would have exceeded the value of Tenure.

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        • This. In his case, the value of tenure was the freedom to follow his interests rather than someone else’s economic agenda. That and the absence of some random idiot with the power to fire him. How much money would it take to be worth more than this? I have no idea. Given that his salary as a professor was sufficient for his material needs and desires, I’m not sure that there would have been a price. Not everyone is motivated by money, at least once a baseline is met. Your shit smells the same whether the toilet is porcelain or gold.

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          • this is similar to why I am at a small teaching-oriented university rather than an R1. Constantly chasing grants and having to tailor my research to fit the “flavor of the month” – no thanks.

            Supposedly our full-prof salaries are in the 6th percentile for comparable institutions, which is bad, but there are intangibles that compensate for that…most of my colleagues are pretty sane (that’s unusual in a department these days), I genuinely like most of my students, and the cost of living here is low enough that I can own a small, older house without having to have roommates.

            I’m not rich, at least not in a US East or West Coast sense, but I’m comfortable. (And in a global sense, I’m incredibly wealthy – the mere fact that I have indoor plumbing and a washer AND dryer in my house…) And I can afford everything I need, and many of the things I want. (I think it is perhaps not good for a person to have EVERYTHING they want)

            And going on the job market now, based on all I’ve read? Oh hells to the no.

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  4. interesting review. i dunno if it’s good for my blood pressure to read it (wife is a year and change away from tenure).

    most of the defenses of the humanities tend to rest on a presumption of “of course it’s valuable”, which is not very persuasive. (even though i share this view)

    that said, “…most of that decline had leveled off by ca. 1980 so that the last 40 years or so have seen continued and consistent interest in the humanities from undergraduates.” is not accurate, at least since 2008.

    https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/03/14/study-shows-87-decline-humanities-bachelors-degrees-2-years

    english and comp in particular have been fairly hard hit, despite the flexibility the former can allow. not a lot of parents hugely interested in paying for “flexibility”. an error, perhaps, but an understandable one.

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    • I didn’t read the link, but I’ll stipulate to it. One part of the book that raised my suspicion, but that I didn’t go over in the review, was the way they used numbers to prove that interest in the humanities hasn’t declined. They would cite one study that says (I paraphrase) “the number humanities majors has increased” and another study that says (I paraphrase) “the percentage of humanities majors has stayed the same.” Those types of statements are theoretically consistent with each other, but I do really wonder whether there’s some unacknowledged apples/oranges comparisons going on.

      For the record, I do kind of believe humanities are self-justifying. I also believe that that’s a poor defense for skeptics. I also really hate it when people fail to get tenure, even when their performance probably suggest that they supposedly “deserved” not to get it (although they created value for their institutions). I don’t like to see careers ruined or stalled. That’s one reason I like the “alternate visions” I mentioned above. Maybe we can loosen the stakes and thereby open opportunities for those who can contribute but who might not be tenurable.

      Finally, I really do wish good luck for you and your wife!

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  5. The complaints I hear from adjuncts (online; I don’t know any personally) are

    1.That the pay sucks
    2.That an adjunct contract is for a single class, which is a very part-time job. Earning a living means getting 3 or 4 contracts at different colleges and thus having to commute between them.

    The notion of full-time tenure-track teaching-only positions seems designed to address these. Sort of like taxi medallions, it’s intended to result in fewer, better-off workers.

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    • Lecturer positions. We have a level here called “temporary full-time” (which is more often than not, permanent) – it is less-well-paid than a professorship but does carry some benefits, which would make it far more attractive than adjuncting would be. (I still do not think you could support a family on it very comfortably; our one TFT person has a spouse who does reasonably well in his work)

      but yes. I have too many friends who are “freeway flyers” or “academic Gypsies” and it seems like a rough way to make a living.

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    • That’s a good way of looking at it. I was briefly an adjunct and yes, the pay is almost always very poor, though one institution I adjuncted at paid about $5,000 per class. That was VERY far from the norm.

      Part of the issue is the distinction between kinds of contingents. Some–probably the large majority–are adjuncts such as you describe. A smaller number a luckier full-time contingent positions, such as fillyjonk describes. Ruth and Berube call this a “3-tier system” (with tenured track faculty being the 3d tier).

      That’s not really a comment on your comment. Just a riff on it.

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      • I’ll add that one point that bothers me about teaching-only tenure lines is that if that proposal is widely adopted, it would decrease the number of adjunct positions, which would as a result make it difficult for younger would-be instructors to get the experience necessary to qualify for those lines.

        We’re nowhere near there yet, and probably never will be, even if more and more institutions adopt Berube and Ruth’s proposal.

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  6. In my experience the problem with adjuncts isn’t a lack of “tenure”. Being fired is part of the real word experience and that’s going to happen if the boss is unhappy with you.

    The problem is a lack of hours (meaning they’re not allowed to teach full time) and a lack of pay.

    Similarly the idea that high level Professors should be teaching low level college courses seems weird. If you’re trying to rewrite the law of gravity then teaching the basics of Physics to students is a waste of your time.

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    • Some adjuncts and many, many who oppose the “adjunctifiation of higher ed” would say that it’s not just a question of firing, but of incentives to fire for the wrong reasons. The complaint is that low student evaluations mean an adjunct has to play to the crowd/students instead of holding them to rigorous academic standards.

      In my own (albeit VERY limited) observation, that complaint hasn’t much merit. The evaluations, with their “strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, strongly disagree” type questions seem almost primed to guarantee adequate or high evaluations. And the department chairs seemed really concerned about enforcing standards and standing by their adjuncts. Again, those are only my observations and opinions–from only two institutions–so maybe the complaint has more merit than my experience suggests.

      For the problems you identify–paucity of hours and low pay–supposedly teaching only tenure lines would resolve that, if only because the new lines would hire people full-time, with the benefits and teaching hours pertaining thereto. I think there are other ways to resolve that particular problem, and agree with what I think (correct me if I’m wrong) is your view that teaching-only tenure lines wouldn’t be the best idea.

      Similarly the idea that high level Professors should be teaching low level college courses seems weird. If you’re trying to rewrite the law of gravity then teaching the basics of Physics to students is a waste of your time.

      To me that depends. If there is a high-level professor who really is rewriting the law of gravity and who stands a chance to get that law enacted by whatever professional congress declares things to be laws–then she or he would probably be able to demand and receive a “I’ll teach only 1 course a year of my choosing and it will be limited to 10 students” position, or a “I won’t have to teach” position.

      Most researchers aren’t that guy or gal. At least I presume, not being in STEM. For the humanities, there are superstars who one would think would want to get out of teaching the freshman-level surveys because they’re reinventing whatever paradigm or reinvigorating a heretofore neglected field of study (or whatever). Some of them can demand laxer positions. But I have less of a problem compelling them to do more yeoman’s work than I might for the physics person who’s reinventing the law of gravity. (Perhaps this is because not being STEM, I’m more sympathetic than I am to my fellow humanists about STEM’ers needing to get out doing their work.)

      For the record, Ruth and Berube’s proposal would still compel such professors to teach, although they’d teach fewer classes (and perhaps fewer introductory classes).

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      • I tend to think there’s value in teaching the lower-level classes in one’s discipline. I know I’ve been forced to keep up with some of the recent innovations in genetic understanding so I can teach the intro-levels major class I teach. Also, in our department, we try to put the people who are good at teaching (who may or may not be very active researchers – I am fairly active but nothing I research is world-shaking) into the classes that prospective majors may take.

        You do NOT want an arrogant jerk in an intro class, especially not someone who is resistant to being there, if you want to keep growing your major. And in this day and age: if you don’t hold numbers of students majoring/graduating at least steady, kiss your department goodbye, it will be attritioned out or will be merged with another department. (NO ONE wants to merge with another department, in my experience)

        Again, my perspective may be different because I’m at a teaching-heavy school where you HAVE to want to interact with undergrads to stay here. (And I take a little pride in, as one of my intro students told me, “you explain stuff good.”)

        There’s a big difference between R1s and the like where there might be someone with a research-only appointment (or who only works with post-docs) and a more-teaching-oriented school.

        In fact: it’s probably still easier to break into academia in a teaching-heavy school. I got hired in 1999 without a post-doc….even back then it was kind of expected you did one if you wanted to go to a high-powered research school. I was ready to be done with the grad student life so I jumped at this position when I was offered it….

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        • The fact that my grad experience and (now) current employment experience have been at R1 schools probably colors my perspective quite a bit. (My undergrad school was probably whatever is just below R1. It was a state state school, but not the flagship. More devoted to agriculture and engineering than to whatever flagships are devoted to.)

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  7. Why is anyone still teaching the humanities? They change quite slowly, so all that’s needed is some Youtube videos of great lecture programs, (such as MIT’s open course ware). I took the whole course on the Jewish Intellectual History, 16th to 20th century, twice. My conclusion? It’s just as boring the second time as the first.

    But anyway, just record the greatest lecturers and let the students watch on their iPhones, use automated, multiple choice tests entirely graded by computer, and outsource the grading of actual written papers to India.

    The whole program should only cost a couple hundred dollars per undergraduate degree, not the 50 to 150K of the current system.

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    • Unsurprisingly perhaps, I see it differently. I’m not in principle against expanding access to the “greatest lecturers” and while I prefer the traditional classroom, if some people learn better through the cheaper, non-traditional online formats, the more power to them. I suspect also that those of us who prefer the more traditional approaches could learn a thing or two by watching such lectures or experimenting with online classes.

      I do think it’s harder to outsource certain things learned in college, though. Learning to write, at least in my experience, is a lifelong process and speaking for myself, it would have been very hard to learn it from distant, anonymous graders. (My writing may not be great as it is, but believe me, it’s a big improvement over what it was before I went to college.) And while I’ve indeed experimented with autodidaction (is that a word?) I find that interacting with an expert has challenged me and educated me in ways that simply reading on my own or watching lectures would have.

      Is that worth the 50k to 150k per instructor that we currently see (when we’re discussing full-timers and not adjuncts)? I’m not sure. I’m more inclined to think it’s worth paying someone closer to 50k than I am to think it’s worth paying someone closer to 150k.

      You could of course legitimately say that large lecture classes or classes taught primarily by TA’s and adjuncts don’t match up well with the type of experiences I’m claiming have done so much to help me. I suppose you could, from that, legitimately put into play the type of online courses and remote grading you mention in your comment with little loss to the students. Maybe after all it’s not a question of whether it’s worth paying 50k to 150k per instructor, but whether a given department of large-ish size needs to have 20 such instructors, or only 19, or only 10.

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      • …it would have been very hard to learn it from distant, anonymous graders.

        A large chunk of my professional technical career was concerned in various ways with trying to make distant graders/tutors/etc as non-anonymous as possible. Even now, 25 years after I got started in that line of study, the limiting factor IMO is still the missing I/O device that lets a computer be a smart replacement for a pad of paper. Displays that allow pen-and-paper style writing including the visual feedback loop at reasonable resolutions exist but are ridiculously expensive. We can do multi-way low-latency audio and video, and we can display fine details, but for writing out a calculus problem or marking up a paper we’re stuck at the crayon stage.

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        • I don’t understand most of the technical words you use (I blame my humanities’ degrees), but I think I agree with what you’re saying. If we’re talking just about grading papers and marking them up, I suppose written essays are more amendable to distant grading than, say, grading math problems. (I do believe, however, that face to face interaction is very important for learning how to write.)

          If I completely misunderstood the point you were trying to make, my apologies!

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          • I don’t understand most of the technical words you use (I blame my humanities’ degrees)…

            I blame my old habits and dropping into jargon whenever certain subjects come up.

            I do believe, however, that face to face interaction is very important for learning how to write.

            The goal was to see how close we could come to face-to-face using a standard computer and the internet. For audio, the most important thing was the delay: if the delays were too long, you couldn’t carry on a conversation [1]. For video, the important things were a frame rate high enough that users could tell if the audio and video were in sync, and maintaining synchronization [2]. In situations where there was some sort of “smart paper” medium in use, video could be pretty crappy other than the factors I mentioned because people used it only for body language [3]. Having the smart paper up on the screen was important while you were listening; writing with a mouse, or even a graphics tablet, is miserable. What was needed was a pad on the table in front of you where you could see the smart paper and write on it at very high resolution with a stylus. That tech still isn’t readily available.

            [1] Back in the day, before cell phones had trained people to accept really crappy audio, a quarter-second delay in each direction was a problem. People, and business people in particular, gave emotional meanings to the perceived pause before the person on the other end answered a question. “Why are they pausing? What are they trying to hide from me?” Bell Labs hired psychologists to study stuff like that.

            [2] Once upon a time there was a thing called MikeVision, whose video images consisted of black and white dots. No color, not even shades of gray. It’s only claim to fame was that it took almost no processing power to handle, and the frame rate was high enough to recognize lip-sync (13 frames per second is a critical value). For a while there was a cheap MIkeVision demo in our building’s lobby along side a demo of a very expensive video-conferencing service that marketing was pushing. I got an amusing phone call from the CEO one day who said that he loved the home-grown MikeVision demo, but would I please take it away because the marketing folks were pissed off that everyone preferred MikeVision to the expensive service.

            [3] MikeVision might or might not have been the world’s ugliest video, but at least it was video instead a sequence of snapshots. It demonstrated that just how bad the video could be and still have everyone “get” the human signaling in facial expressions and body language. The user experience folks were astounded at how quickly test subjects got used to MikeVision. Vision processing in the human brain is quite flexible, and people learn to see what they want to see.

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      • In my experience, many high-school graduates either don’t have the self-education skills, or the ability to work without the accountability of regular testing/being present for discussion that online education requires. I wouldn’t have had, at 18.

        Online education is probably good for some things, like CEUs (for a few years, my dad evaluated proposed CEU courses for professional geologists, to make sure they were sufficiently rigorous), but for a student who, say, needs expertise in lab technique or writing or research….you need person-to-person contact.

        And doing remote grading is hard – at least, if you’re doing anything more complex than multiple choice or other highly-objective things. I had a TA one semester whose duty was to grade my lab reports in ecology and I found it took almost more time to come up with a complete key that would cover all the bases than it would to grade the 25 reports myself. (Granted, our class size is small)

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        • In my experience, many high-school graduates either don’t have the self-education skills, or the ability to work without the accountability of regular testing/being present for discussion that online education requires.

          I agree. I used to teach frosh/soph courses at the college level as I think you also currently do, and the intellectual capacities of those kids – or lack – was shocking. I think this is primarily a function of either a) false expectations or b) the education system which kids (you and I included!) were acculturated to. If a), then lots of kids going to college simply shouldn’t be and it’s a failure of us – as a society – to hold those expectations. If b), then I think we (again, as a society) really need to figure out why our K-12 system encourages kids to be so intellectually incurious that they don’t want to read with comprehension; don’t want to write coherently and intelligibly; have no desire to figure things out on their own; etc. It strikes me as a complicated issue.

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        • This example is maybe relevant, maybe not. When I took a constitutional law class (this was an undergraduate class, not a *real* law class), I had already developed a lot of misconceptions about the constitution and what lessons to take from important cases like M’Cullough v. Maryland. It was only by taking that class that I learned what the (as my professor called it) the McCollough test was. Before that, my only knowledge of the case was the “power to tax is the power to destroy” statement.

          I don’t think I therefore know all that is to be known about that case. But I did learn–at the very least–that what I thought I knew wasn’t the whole of what I would have learned sans class experience.

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          • It is far harder to teach someone who “knows” something but knows it wrong, than to teach someone who simply does not know. It says something good about you that you were flexible enough not to dig in your heels. (I have had my share of “I know what I know and I think you’re wrong despite all the evidence” people down through the years)

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  8. I think Berube’s got the cause and effect reversed here. The crisis of the humanities didn’t emerge from dismantling intra-institutional power structures like tenure, but – largely – from the utility and content certain sub-disciplines convey. I agree with him that the humanities, broadly speaking, is worth defending, but not all sub-disciplines are, and issues about tenure are tangential at best. As the content of a degree materially matters then tenure will matter too. As one goes, so goes the other. And the humanities are on the outside looking in on that score.

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    • Or for a shorter, Berube’s argument is no different than, or worse a glorification of, the Institutional Art thesis: art is whatever people employed in Art positions say it is. Which is cocked up.

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      • It’s possible I misconstrued Berube and Ruth’s argument. Or perhaps I related it poorly? I *think* Berube and Ruth mean that the worth of the defensibility of the humanities is besides the point.

        Maybe?

        As I hinted in my review, I’m not sure their defense oft he humanities really meshes with the rest of their book, which is about tenure.

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    • Someone who can get a degree in a subject that has multiple weed-out courses will benefit hugely from the humanities.

      Someone who is only capable of getting a degree in a subject that does not have weed-out courses will benefit less from the humanities.

      The humanities are *HUGELY* important. Vital. Degrees in humanities seem to be less so. I suppose they’re important as a class signal…

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      • Yeah, that seems to be the problem. It’s easy to imagine a situation where kids went to college for specialty training *because* they were well read in natural science and philosophy and anthropology and political history. Nowadays, we think they should get their highly prized specialty degree despite not having any understanding of those things. We’ve managed to not only dummy down what a degree means, we’ve dummied down what being intelligent* means. For example, it doesn’t mean “having a degree”.

        *I’m continually amazed at how stoopid the average US citizen is about anything with intellectual content. They’re not dumb people, of course. Just incredibly ignorant and incurious. Why? (Not an easy Q to answer, seems to me.)

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      • The humanities are *HUGELY* important. Vital. Degrees in humanities seem to be less so. I suppose they’re important as a class signal…

        I’m not sure if this is the direction you’re going, Jaybird, but I think that one function of the humanities, as a major, is to serve as a major of second-resort. The person who went to college intending to major in engineering or intending to go to med school finds they can’t cut it in the harder science or math classes–they find that the humanities majors are easier, at least in the sense that it’s easier for a non-humanities person to get a B in an upper-level history class than it is for a history major to get a C in an upper-level math or science class.

        i don’t say that to denigrate the humanities. I believe that the humanities can require serious, hand-wringingly-difficult engagement. I’m just saying that it’s easier to get a B in an actual humanities class and easier to get a BA in a humanities curriculum than it is in other fields. Perhaps some of the continued interest that Berube and Ruth find in the humanities has at least something to do with “they’re an easy(ier) A than the harder courses.”

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        • I wouldn’t have used “history” as my example as much as “critical theory”.

          It seems trivially obvious that it’d be a lot easier for a physics major to get an “B” in a Humanities course explaining that Mercutio was gay and Tybalt was trans than… I can’t even come up with the equivalent of an example.

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          • A literature major proving that the square root of two is irrational? That the Weierstrass function is continuous everywhere and differentiable nowhere? The physics major lives the same sort of human condition that the fictional Mercutio and Tybalt are assumed to inhabit. Math is an abstract thing you build in your head, not something that everyone experiences.

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              • I bear as much responsibility as anyone here for bringing up the topic, but I’ll say I believe that the question shouldn’t be “what’s more difficult.”

                It’s not, or shouldn’t be, a contest. Some subjects and areas of study are more difficult to tackle than others are, just as some jobs are more difficult and more taxing than others.

                Again, I was mostly the one to take the discussion in this direction, so I’m not blaming anyone. I’m not even saying the points made in this subthread are bad (they’re not even for the most part actually focusing on which is harder). I’ll also concede that sometimes relative difficulty can be relevant to certain discussions, although I won’t venture here to suggest when that might be.

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                • I bear as much responsibility as anyone here for bringing up the topic, but I’ll say I believe that the question shouldn’t be “what’s more difficult.”

                  It’s not, or shouldn’t be, a contest.

                  No, you’re right about that. It’s not a contest. It’s about justification, and the fact that a bunch of people think “the quantumm theory of love as a force of attraction” is a legitimate area of inquiry says all you need to now about why it’s actually not a real competition.

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                  • I guess I should have directed the comment more at myself. There’s a tendency on my part to frame the justification in a zero-sum way, as a claim of relative difficulty. To the extent I do that, I’m wrong. Even so, I think STEM fields are harder, generally speaking, than humanities, especially if we’re talking about how relatively easier it is to get a good grade.

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            • There is also a lot of foundational work that math & science require that some humanities classes do not, or at least do not to the same degree.

              If I’m taking an upper level examination of literature, I can largely get up to speed with some Cliff’s Notes and by being a good student.

              Upper level philosophy classes would probably be tough to squeak through, since they too often assume knowledge on the part of the student. If the class is going to examine the work of philosophers J, K, & L, who were heavily influenced by earlier philosophers E, F, & G, and you don’t know who E, F, & G are, you got a lot of groundwork to cover.

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  9. they find that the humanities majors are easier, at least in the sense that it’s easier for a non-humanities person to get a B in an upper-level history class than it is for a history major to get a C in an upper-level math or science class.

    That’s a heck of a admission from someone on Humanities side – that Humanties courses are in fact easier than STEM courses.

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    • I had thought it was more common knowledge than an “admission.” I will say that I believe many, many people underestimate how difficult it can be to do humanities, for lack of a better term, “well.” The ideas involved and conveying those ideas can be harder than people think. That’s a little different from getting passing (or better than passing, or A’s) in a humanities course. (That’s not different from what you said or what I said originally. I just wanted to reiterate my point.)

      I suspect humanities people tend to underestimate the difficulty of some non-humanities courses, too. I don’t know what business classes are like, but to hear some humanities people, those classes are simple brain candy. (Maybe they are, or some are and some aren’t. But I just don’t know, and I don’t believe a lot of them know, either.)

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  10. I’ve been thinking about this all weekend and I think that the problem with Tenure is that it’s a problem that solves a problem that has nothing to do with what a University is *FOR*.

    I mean, if we ask the question “what is a University *FOR*?”, we can come up with a list of answers. Rattle some of these off in your head right now.

    Young Adult Day Care To Help Them Transition From Living At Home To Living On Their Own
    Make Students Employable At Big Companies Right Out Of The Gate
    Exciting Amateur Football and Basketball (and, to a lesser extent, other sports… but mostly those two)
    Maintaining An Endowment

    Might want to add something like “Make Students Well-Rounded Adults” in there but those things seem to be what University (in 2017, anyway) is mostly for.

    Which of those are things that would be enhanced by offering professors tenure?

    If tenure doesn’t help with what a University is *FOR*, it’ll look vestigial.

    I can see tenure being important at one of the remaining Universities that actually does research but… how many of those are left?

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    • Huh??? Your last sentence…i mean huh??? American uni’s are world wide leaders in research. There is a reason researcher/scientists from all over the world come to study here or try to attend grad school here. Advanced research is like one of the shining stars of the American uni system.

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        • I get the comfort you feel by saying “people disagree about this!”Jaybird. Cynically speaking, it’s a nice perch to view the squabbling from. All those losers expressing views which aren’t going to be realized in policy and all. But what’s your view on this topic other than “OMG!, losers have a view with which people can disagree with!”

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          • How’s this? Research Universities probably have research that benefits from tenure.

            Universities that do not do any appreciable research (or primarily do research in the Humanities) does not have research that benefits from tenure and their answers to the question “What is a University *FOR*?” has answers that involves a consumer relationship with students/advertisers rather than one that involves research.

            And the number of Universities that do research? Like, *FOR REAL* research? Is significantly smaller than the number of Universities.

            As such, “tenure” is a solution to a problem that a lot (most?) Universities don’t have in the first place.

            It’s cargo cultism that worships the Universities that exist for more reasons than just those that involve customer relationships.

            And arguing against this position by pointing out that there are some Universities that do a *LOT* of research (even to the point where our research is the best research, the greatest, you’re not going to believe it) is to argue against a position that no one has made.

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            • I think the problem I’m identifying (insofar as it’s real) is that you argue against people on an ideoligical line even tho you don’t have a real solution to the putative – the Important! – topic. Which is fine, of course. People gonna rebel and all. It’s just that you object to people objecting on exactly the same lines that the people you object to expressing their objections.

              It’s all meta for you. And therefore useless.

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              • Oh, we’re just talking about me. Pity. Okay. Yeah, I’m bad.

                Anyway, the problem with tenure is the number of universities in which tenure is cargo cultism trying to capture the magic of what the Universities that actually benefit from tenure are capturing with tenure.

                But since these Cargo Cult Universities have a different thing that they’re doing or trying to do, trying to fix tenure will not really fix anything but add job security to a handful of Upper Middle Class jobs.

                (Oh, maybe that should also go on the list of things that Universities are for: Upper Middle Class Jobs.)

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                • Oh, we’re just talking about me.

                  Yes, we are. Why is that a surprise to you? When I make a comment on this board I fully expect any challenges or agreements to be about the view I’m advancing. Why should it be any different for you?

                  Well, thinking about that, one reason is that you don’t think you’re offering you’re own view. Just a, well, view from nowhere, so to speak. An above the fray analyis, detached from outcome, purely academic, and so on.

                  Bullshit.

                  Say what you mean, own it, and move on to discussion, Jaybird. Rise above your cynical cowardice.

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                  • When I make a comment on this board I fully expect any challenges or agreements to be about the view I’m advancing. Why should it be any different for you?

                    Because I wasn’t complaining about someone challenging or agreeing with my view but complaining about someone talking about me personally?

                    Well, thinking about that, one reason is that you don’t think you’re offering you’re own view. Just a, well, view from nowhere, so to speak. An above the fray analyis, detached from outcome, purely academic, and so on.

                    Okay, so I’m now offering my own view. Tah-dah! There it is. I wrote about it.

                    Can we talk about it now and “move on to discussion”?

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              • I’d love to see how tenure impacts the following:

                Young Adult Day Care To Help Them Transition From Living At Home To Living On Their Own
                Make Students Employable At Big Companies Right Out Of The Gate
                Exciting Amateur Football and Basketball (and, to a lesser extent, other sports… but mostly those two)
                Maintaining An Endowment

                Okay.
                I guess I can see how tenure might send a signal that would help with stuff like the Endowment.

                But tenure strikes me as orthogonal to the rest.

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                • Nope. You staked a claim. All on your own… you weren’t responding to anyone but rather putting forth your own argument.

                  Now defend it. Just because it “strikes” you a certain way doesn’t mean its true. Demonstrate the role of tenure on universities meeting those goals.

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                  • Okay, fine.

                    For the sake of ease, we’ll use the definition of tenure found on the wiki:

                    A tenured appointment is an indefinite appointment that can be terminated only for cause or under extraordinary circumstances such as financial exigency or program discontinuation. Tenure defends the principle of academic freedom, which holds that it is beneficial for society in the long run if scholars are free to hold and examine a variety of views.

                    So the basic question is whether tenure benefits the goals of a University.

                    Whether indefinite appointments that can be terminated only for cause or under extraordinary circumstances such as financial exigency or program discontinuation benefit the goals of a University.

                    (Already I see “for cause” as being a weasel term in there. But given that it was possible to pull an Al Capone on Ward Churchill and get him for the equivalent of tax evasion when they couldn’t get him for the equivalent of bootlegging, I figure we’ll just put a lampshade on “for cause” and not lean on that one too much.)

                    So we have our four goals. Let’s go through them one at a time, shall we?

                    Goal the First:
                    Young Adult Day Care To Help Them Transition From Living At Home To Living On Their Own

                    This is a goal that does not require academic freedom on the part of the day care workers. If my college days are any indication, the day care workers would be better served by receiving training on how to deal with alcohol poisoning. On top of that, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the debate on whether professors should be allowed to date students but, seriously, there is a debate on whether professors should be allowed to date students. (Assuming the students are 18, of course. Let’s just assume that everybody is 18 or older and avoid any unpleasantness.) A policy that says that these indefinite appointments can be terminated only for cause or under extraordinary circumstances such as financial exigency or program discontinuation seems to completely miss the point of what a young adult day care transition trainer would need to most effectively do zher job which would be a rule that says “don’t date your wards”.

                    I do not see how tenure benefits this goal of the University.

                    Goal the Second:
                    Make Students Employable At Big Companies Right Out Of The Gate

                    If anything, the idea that such a thing could possibly be taught by people who have an indefinite appointment that can be terminated only for cause or under extraordinary circumstances such as financial exigency or program discontinuation is downright *MALPRACTICE*.

                    Hey, kids: when you get out into the real world, they expect results and you will not have an indefinite appointment that can be terminated only for cause or under extraordinary circumstances such as financial exigency or program discontinuation and, as such, you will be taught by people who can be fired for doing their job poorly, shepherd students poorly, or otherwise teach crazy nutty things that, if repeated in a “for real” workplace would result in the worker being reprimanded or fired.

                    I do not see how tenure benefits this goal of the University.

                    Goal the Third:
                    Exciting Amateur Football and Basketball (and, to a lesser extent, other sports… but mostly those two)

                    Tenure for Coaches? Let’s say you bring in a new coach and you want him to turn a program around, you tell him that you don’t care about his first season, you don’t care about his second season so long as he wins more than 25% of his games, but you want a 50-50 third season or s/he is outta there.

                    That can be addressed by a three year contract with a sweet contract extension possibility rather than by an indefinite appointment that can be terminated only for cause or under extraordinary circumstances such as financial exigency or program discontinuation.

                    I do not see how tenure benefits this goal of the University.

                    Goal the Fourth:
                    Maintaining An Endowment

                    I concede: I can see how bragging how their University has tenure would help a University get people to donate, donate more, and maybe do the “leave them a little something in the will” kinda thing because people like the idea of philanthropy to a Real University and Real Universities have Tenure.

                    Indefinite appointments that blah blah blah are incidental to that, though.

                    As such, it seems clear to me that Tenure does not benefit the goals of a University outside of a University’s ability to maintain an endowment.

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                    • I think I see ‘s point, in that there is an ideal University, and the University as it exists today. Or perhaps we can think of it as the University of faculty, and the University of adminstration.

                      Tenure benefits the University of faculty, it doesn’t benefit the University of adminstration, and as it stands, the administration has their hands firmly on the levers of power (thanks to the desires of parents, donors, and faculty abdication of control, etc.).

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                      • I’ll admit i’d tend to side with the faculty over the admin. I also tend to side with players of pro sports over the owners and leagues. In fact in most cases i’d side with labor over admin. Not in every case but that is my bias. The laborers ( prof’s, ditch diggers, starting NFL center, telephone sanitizer, etc) are the more valuable peeps, they are the ones you go to a place for, not the admin even though admin is necessary.

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                        • Nothing wrong with standing with the labor, but labor doesn’t have any power right now. So short of labor getting off their collective asses and taking power back, can you make an argument for tenure that would appeal to the administration?

                          You kind of started one, that faculty is one of the draws to a University, but the who’s who only really appeals to thesis masters & PhD candidates. Undergrads don’t give a hoot in most cases.

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                          • jaybird’s incoherencies aside, ya know tenured faculty is one of those areas where “labor” actually does have power (depending on a number of factors, mind you) and much of the staff (referred to as “admins” here) often has much less. or none at all. i’ve watched tenured faculty yank staff and admins around because, well, they’re unkillable, and giving someone tenure doesn’t act as a moral improvement factor, anymore than giving someone lots of money or power does in any other situation.

                            that said, if you want to be concerned about how power works in many institutions, it’s the boards at middle and smaller schools who are ultimately pulling every lever. (it happens at big schools too, but they tend to be so large it’s hard for a single body to exert too much power in any one direction very quickly) and most of them have no higher ed experience and understanding. and they often lead with that most deadly of questions – “how hard could it be?”

                            dhex’s law of mistake-making: if you don’t fully and personally know the answer to the question “how hard could it be?”, you will invariably find out.

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                            • I know they have power in theory, but from the outside, it doesn’t look like the faculty are exercising that power to secure tenure. The appearance, for all intents & purposes, is that tenured faculty are content with their benefit, and not terribly interested in making certain up & coming faculty are provided the same benefit.

                              A nasty case of FYIGM, as it were.

                              And of course administration has no interest in perpetuating tenure, because it can be expensive and it chips away at their power.

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                        • My biases shift when it comes to academia. To me, the admins are also the laborers. Moreso the people who are sometimes lumped in with the admin’s because they perform “administrative” duties. I’m referring to staff who run the offices, to admissions and financial aid staffers, and to advisors.

                          These people do hard work and perform functions tenured professors often wouldn’t want to do.* That’s not to say tenured professors aren’t hard workers. They are.

                          You’re not saying any different. But I wanted to point that out.

                          *At Cibolia State University, faculty did the formal advising for undergrads when I went.there (1992-1996). I don’t know how it is now, but I’d be surprised if they haven’t been replaced by people dedicated to “advising.” I don’t think it’s necessarily bad to have people dedicated to advising, but they cost money for work that a faculty member might be able to do.

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                          • Admin and bueracracy is a necessary function. I certainly don’t’ have a problem with the people down the food chain doing the work. One thing noted by many over the last couple decades is the growth of upper level admin as one reason for the rising costs of Uni. While some of those positions might be useful i’m sort of skeptical when org charts gets a lot thicker at the top with worse treatment for those down the chart. That is a bad sign.

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                            • I hear that a lot, too, as a cause for increasing costs. For all I know there’s some, or even much, truth to it.

                              I’m skeptical that it’s as true as some say, but I confess that I haven’t done even the most basic research to see if it’s true.

                              I’m also skeptical of the more tenuous claim (which, to be clear, I know is NOT the claim you’re making) that all we need to do is end the employment of some of those high-level people and lower the others’ salaries, and all will be well in time to give faculty a raise. But here I’m probably guilty of reading that attitude into casual snippets I hear from others. I can’t think of anyone offhand who makes that argument as more seriously than just water-cooler talk. And we all need to vent.

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            • So after your explanation my “huh” response is same. That US uni’s are leaders in research in many areas doesn’t seem to be controversial but if you have an actual argument against feel free to make it. Well other than Missouri.

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              • And arguing against this position by pointing out that there are some Universities that do a *LOT* of research (even to the point where our research is the best research, the greatest, you’re not going to believe it) is to argue against a position that no one has made.

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                • You’re getting there. The large land grant Uni’s around the country usually have a lot of research. Plus lots of others in fact. The medical innovation that people love occurs very often in big uni’s and affiliated teaching hospitals. The facts, assuming in some world they actually exist, don’t really support your contention. But please go on.

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                  • This. I’d add that’s also the case of flagship U’s [sometimes, but not always the same as the land grant U in a given state], and even a lot of the so-called teaching U’s require enough research to make the professors sweat a little before they can finally earn tenure.

                    Maybe my “a lot” is too vague. I really don’t know how the number of so-called “R1” U’s and U’s that require a lot of research even though they’re not R1’s compare with the number of U’s that require almost no research.

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                    • Publish or perish isn’t exactly some unknown phenomenon. To get the precious tenure prof’s have to churn out papers. If anything it should be possible to have a teaching track tenure line for peeps who are talented teachers but not that invested in research. That might cut down on less important or uninspired research. But the system as it is now is very invested in cranking out papers. The basic science that Big Pharma relies on to create all their wonder drugs and cutting edge tv commercials comes from Uni’s.

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                  • So we can have parts of the University with Tenure.

                    No problem. The parts that do medical innovation as part of an affiliated teaching hospital. The parts that do research.

                    But teaching English Lit? Why in the hell would you need tenure for English Lit?

                    And colleges (let alone community colleges) that don’t do research won’t require tenure at all.

                    Here’s a list of colleges in Michigan alone. (I counted 99.) There are a lot more that aren’t large land grant Uni’s than that are. We can sweep away half of those by saying that Bible colleges aren’t really colleges and community colleges aren’t really colleges and we’re left with 50 colleges.

                    How many of those do enough research to require tenure, do you think?

                    U of M, fine. We already conceded that we can keep that one.

                    But when we’re defending tenure in the University, we’re not just defending it for the U of M. We’re also defending it for Baccalaureate Colleges. Are we defending the concept for Associates Colleges and arguing that, hey, we need Tenure for Associates Colleges because there are a lot of Large Land Grant Research Universities in this country?

                    Because if you’re saying “hey, only Tenure for Large Land Grant Research Universities”, maybe we have more common ground than I thought we had.

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                    • I’m assuming all the Good hard sciences would be fine to have tenure also. It’s those Bad disciplines that don’t deserve it are screwed. Ok, it’s just your value judgment that some disciplines are more worthwhile. At least we are getting somewhere.

                      Of course, as noted, tenure doesn’t mean prof’s can’t be fired but whatever. But what this comes down to is you are fine with administrators, maybe even technocrats ( shudder), to fire anyone for expressing non-PC view. I’m not really seeing the upside of that. And i’m not really going to get into that i dont’ really see your 4 reasons for uni as the complete and only reasons.

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                      • I’m assuming all the Good hard sciences would be fine to have tenure also.

                        If they do research as part of the University, of course.

                        It’s those Bad disciplines that don’t deserve it are screwed.

                        “Deserve” has nothing to do with it.
                        I’m talking about giving it to the discipline due to how it will benefit the mission of the University.

                        If you want to argue that the mission of the University is served by giving a researcher tenure, I’d be down with that. Okay, researchers with tenure benefit the mission of the University.

                        But when we’re defending tenure in the University, we’re not just defending it for the U of M. We’re also defending it for Baccalaureate Colleges. Are we defending the concept for Associates Colleges and arguing that, hey, we need Tenure for Associates Colleges because there are a lot of Large Land Grant Research Universities in this country?

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                        • But teaching English Lit? Why in the hell would you need tenure for English Lit?

                          can you think of a department that, on average, attracts more outside attention and controversy? i can think of a few, but as a general umbrella lit tends to attract quite a bit of heat and light.

                          i mean, you can start with f them and all that, but in terms of having job protections, starting with a discipline understood to be useless and inflammatory by outsiders seems to be a good candidate for said protections.

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                          • can you think of a department that, on average, attracts more outside attention and controversy? i can think of a few, but as a general umbrella lit tends to attract quite a bit of heat and light.

                            “(adjective) Studies” courses.

                            But “English Lit” seems to me to be one of the core courses without which an American College Graduate cannot truly consider him or herself educated.

                            i mean, you can start with f them and all that

                            I’m not starting with “f them”. I’m starting with “what is the Mission of the University” and asking how Tenure helps the University accomplish its Mission.

                            starting with a discipline understood to be useless and inflammatory by outsiders seems to be a good candidate for said protections.

                            I don’t see it as useless and inflammatory. I see it as essential to a modern college education.

                            I just don’t see how Tenure makes English Lit better.

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                            • I just don’t see how Tenure makes English Lit better.

                              without tenure you have several issues:

                              a) hot controversial authors ain’t gonna teach at your school. some overlap with various critical studies components, same concepts tho. they tend to be big student draws, particularly for MA programs.

                              b) who is going to pursue 10+ years of schooling with very, very, very little portability (in and of itself) to any professional fields (it’s actually quite damaging to your professional outlook in other fields, if not fully deadly) without the promise of tenure? very few people want to be adjuncts forever. and there’d be very little to offer beyond “hey get paid less than a HS teacher”. that is not a very compelling offer.

                              c) less protection from local yokels. those yokels can be on or off campus, but there’s very few great works of literary art that don’t offend someone, somewhere. especially with those people who haven’t actually read the work (which in most cases is probably the vast majority of the yokels)

                              d) longer-term instructors have greater experience, and while that doesn’t mean they’ll be better instructors, in most cases it should damn well should make them better. there’s a certain amount of nuance from years of teaching undergrads that helps one teach, for example, “difficult” works to the broadest group of people. and on the composition side, one would hope even more that experience would help create the most effective learning environments.

                              e) the protections of tenure and the benefits that apply to stem or business apply to the humanities equally. if it makes stem instruction better, as you say above, it would generally make any level of instruction better. i know your presumption is that research happens in a lab rather than a library, but that’s about as asinine as presuming that research doesn’t happen at universities and colleges across america. and yes, your presumption is asinine and seemingly random.

                              along these lines, even at small private colleges professors engaged in research – even in the humanities – are going to be able to (potentially, individual results may vary because people, etc etc and so forth standard disclaimer) engage undergraduate students in that research. at a small college that is a huge draw for the undergraduate prospectives and their families, as well as being a big benefit for them. even if your research was reading every wingnut extreme critical theory text until you deleuzoguattarian out yer eyeballs, there is still value in teaching both research methods and synthesis in a way that someone who cannot do research (because they gotta hustle) will be unable to provide.

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                              • dhex,
                                “Excuse me, I’d like some skin samples, and an IQ Test…”

                                (I would totally pay to watch Doumei teaching a college course or two… Yes, inarguably qualified. but Such A Troll!)

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                              • hot controversial authors ain’t gonna teach at your school

                                This argument makes sense, I guess, for the Harvards and the Princetons and the Large Land Grant Universities. It makes less sense for the Baccalaureate Colleges and Associates Colleges.

                                who is going to pursue 10+ years of schooling with very, very, very little portability (in and of itself) to any professional fields (it’s actually quite damaging to your professional outlook in other fields, if not fully deadly) without the promise of tenure?

                                Do we currently have a problem with not enough applicants for empty offices?

                                I was under the impression that there were hundreds, not dozens, of resumes submitted for every full professor position.

                                less protection from local yokels. those yokels can be on or off campus, but there’s very few great works of literary art that don’t offend someone, somewhere. especially with those people who haven’t actually read the work (which in most cases is probably the vast majority of the yokels)

                                I agree wholeheartedly that “People Get Offended” is not a reason to fire someone… but neither is it a reason to create a protected class that prevents people from being fired for anything but “for cause”.

                                longer-term instructors have greater experience, and while that doesn’t mean they’ll be better instructors, in most cases it should damn well should make them better

                                I honestly have no idea why we would need to prevent experienced, skilled, and qualified instructors who do the best job of teaching students from being fired.

                                Those aren’t the instructors who need to be protected from being fired.

                                Those are the ones who get raises.

                                the protections of tenure and the benefits that apply to stem or business apply to the humanities equally. if it makes stem instruction better, as you say above, it would generally make any level of instruction better.

                                I didn’t argue that it makes stem instruction better.

                                I would argue that it makes research better.

                                And, from what I understand, most stem instruction is done by adjuncts and TAs anyway until you get to the upper level stuff.

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                                • a few points i’ll make, as we’re on different things.

                                  This argument makes sense, I guess, for the Harvards and the Princetons and the Large Land Grant Universities. It makes less sense for the Baccalaureate Colleges and Associates Colleges.

                                  so this is objectively wrong for a number of reasons, but first and foremost is that big name schools can attract dozens of big name folk; for a smaller school, being able to do so is a competitive advantage. it’s obviously valuable to them on very many levels.

                                  Do we currently have a problem with not enough applicants for empty offices?

                                  I was under the impression that there were hundreds, not dozens, of resumes submitted for every full professor position.

                                  it’s not a we question, but a they question, however…how many hundreds of resumes do you think they’d get for permanent adjunctcy? same as now, which is not a ton, particularly in rural and suburban areas (for rural schools, vaps are easier to hire, and often more economical in the mid-term).

                                  tenure/job security is the main reason these positions are so sought after. the MAIN REASON yo. i mean, c’mon.

                                  what you’re describing is almost exactly akin to an advocate for single payer systems saying that there will absolutely not be any changes in physician reimbursements/accommodations/amenities and certainly r+d on the pharma side will not be affected. the trade-offs may be worth it, but to say a radical reimagining of the landscape will not change the results of said landscape is absurd.

                                  I honestly have no idea why we would need to prevent experienced, skilled, and qualified instructors who do the best job of teaching students from being fired.

                                  Those aren’t the instructors who need to be protected from being fired.

                                  Those are the ones who get raises.

                                  you could have written “i have no experience with the academic culture, process, or bureaucracy” and saved a few hundred words.

                                  I didn’t argue that it makes stem instruction better.

                                  I would argue that it makes research better.

                                  pardon my mis-typing.

                                  but if it makes research better, why wouldn’t it make research better for the humanities?

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                                  • “you could have written “i have no experience with the academic culture, process, or bureaucracy” and saved a few hundred words.”

                                    But he’s got FEELZ!

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                                  • first and foremost is that big name schools can attract dozens of big name folk; for a smaller school, being able to do so is a competitive advantage. it’s obviously valuable to them on very many levels

                                    If this is the case, then why are so very many schools culling tenured professor jobs and having classes taught by adjuncts and TAs?

                                    This is something happening *RIGHT NOW*, by the way. Well, it’s summer. But you know what I mean.

                                    it’s not a we question, but a they question, however…how many hundreds of resumes do you think they’d get for permanent adjunctcy?

                                    From what I understand, it’s in the dozens rather than in the hundreds.

                                    tenure/job security is the main reason these positions are so sought after. the MAIN REASON yo. i mean, c’mon.

                                    The professorships? Of course. And adjuncthood is seen as a stepping stone to professorships, I suppose. The brass ring that you have to be riding the adjunct horse to be in a position to grab.

                                    what you’re describing is almost exactly akin to an advocate for single payer systems saying that there will absolutely not be any changes in physician reimbursements/accommodations/amenities and certainly r+d on the pharma side will not be affected.

                                    What I’m describing is what is happening.

                                    you could have written “i have no experience with the academic culture, process, or bureaucracy” and saved a few hundred words.

                                    Perhaps the academic culture, process, or bureaucracy is an essay in itself. We could explore why experienced, skilled, and qualified instructors who do the best job of teaching students are not protected by the system.

                                    But, to be honest, if they’re not protected by the system, they’ll never make it through the tenure track in the first place.

                                    but if it makes research better, why wouldn’t it make research better for the humanities

                                    What notable humanities research has been accomplished in the last decade or so? What great advancements in Art History? Philosophy of Religion? English Lit?

                                    Without what would we be languishing today had we not tenured professors in the Humanities Research Universities providing their work and giving an umbrella to the Humanities profs in Baccalaureate Colleges and Associates Colleges?

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                                    • So now you are an expert on the research in all the humanities so that you can say nothing of note has been done??? I know i don’t know if important things have been done in those bad bad subjects, but i’m pretty damn sure you have no clue either.

                                      Yeah admin is culling prof’s. So good for you. More money to the admin and fewer tenured profs. That seems like more power/money to admin/bueracrats and less for labor. I can see why this appeals to you.

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                                      • I know i don’t know if important things have been done in those bad bad subjects, but i’m pretty damn sure you have no clue either.

                                        Just because we don’t know about it, doesn’t mean that they haven’t been done. Sure.

                                        I’m not sure that the burden of proof ought to be on the skeptic in this case, though.

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                                        • Well of course the burden isn’t on you. It shouldn’t take any more then a few tens of thousands of words and a comprehensive lit search of all the humanities to answer the question. So i guess unless i do that your unproven assertion must stand. Fair enough.

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                                          • We’re debating the importance of Tenure when it comes to Humanities Research.

                                            If we’re going to count all of the towering achievements that Humanities Research has unearthed as a reason to keep Tenure in the Humanities, it shouldn’t be *THAT* difficult to rely on examples rather than on the argument that nobody knows that there haven’t been any.

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                                            • But it has already been decided, apparently, that the humanities aren’t worth much. So any “good” research doesn’t matter. And even if it is good it’s not good enough because it is in a non PC field or on something not really important to enough people.

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                                                • Well, I googled “breakthrough in humanities research” and got bupkis. Some hits have “humanities research” and some have “breakthrough”. Typical is “Breakthrough in Inflammatory Bowel Disease Research”

                                                  Apparently it’s not a field that generates what people term a “breakthrough”.

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                                                  • so that i understand the argument being made:

                                                    anthropology
                                                    archaeology
                                                    history
                                                    sociology
                                                    art and art history
                                                    philosophy
                                                    literature
                                                    composition
                                                    poetry
                                                    music
                                                    languages
                                                    linguistics

                                                    no worthwhile research? ever? i mean, dang, dude, that’s an awful lot of the human experience not worth researching, studying, or writing about.

                                                    like, most of it.

                                                    hey i’ll throw you a bone: was bloodlands by timothy snyder worthwhile research? i mean, it’s fairly anti communist to putit mildly so, like, that should be good, right?

                                                    i’d point to a bunch of anthro and archaeology stuff but like, you’d just say nah not worthwhile. except maybe the saving stuff from isis?

                                                    a whole ton of literary research and studies are produced every year, but none of that will past muster. obviously. people who do primary research in the field, meaning digging through libraries and manuscripts, birth and death records, tax records, other legal documents…but not worthwhile.

                                                    anyway, this has been fun.

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                                                    • Well let’s look at your list.

                                                      anthropology – it got lost in the weeds with cultural relativism and multiculturalism. .

                                                      archaeology – They seem to have finally recovered from the post WW-II nonsense that primitive peoples were peaceful, leading them to go to elaborate lengths to say things like stone and bronze age Europeans used all those weapons as ceremonial objects, and that German kings were selected based on their skill at woodcutting because they were all buried with big axes. Lawrence Keeley played a major role in the field’s turn-around. War Before Civilization – 15 years on (PDF). Sometimes academia has to be hit over the head so they regain their sanity.

                                                      history – Keith Windshuttle The Killing of History (pdf)How a Discipline is Being Murdered by Literary Theorists and Social Critics.

                                                      It’s a great book about how history went from things that can be proved with primary source material to a liberal narrative where facts don’t matter. See Cosmos for an example.

                                                      sociology – A field where only 2.5% of professors are right of center, and far left (1 on a scale of 1 to 11) outnumbers the moderate leftists, centrists, and right wing (who score 5 to 11).

                                                      art and art history The biggest news there is the invention of a new blue color, the first in 200 years, based on yttrium, indium, and manganese oxides. It’s now a Crayola crayon. And it was discovered by chemists, who work in a STEM field, not anyone in the humanities.

                                                      philosophy Are you kidding? A philosophical breakthrough?

                                                      literature – That field has been nonsense since the 60’s, and now mainly serves as a platform for physicists to mock literary journals with hoax articles. The language of literary theory diverged so far from clearly written English that authors can’t understand each other’s papers, instead pretending insider knowledge that doesn’t even exist.

                                                      composition All the advances in composition are coming from 14 year-olds on the Internet.

                                                      poetry A field still waiting for someone to beat Homer or Shakespeare.

                                                      music Steve Reich is probably the only academic musician of any relevance and influence, and the serious musical advances are left to Katy Perry, Beyonce, and Tokio Myers.

                                                      languages It’s been a while since they discovered a new one. Mostly such departments just teach Spanish to people who will never get a good job by speaking Spanish because a Guatemalan can speak Spanish cheaper than they can.

                                                      linguistics A field still recovering from Noam Chomsky’s natural language BS, which stifled progress for many decades because he was so far to the left politically that nobody dared to seriously question him until Steven Pinker came along.

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                                                    • so that i understand the argument being made:

                                                      (misstatement of argument)

                                                      I am saying that the argument is about whether Tenure serves the Mission of the University. When it comes to Science! and whatnot, I’m willing to agree that Tenure is a direct benefit when it comes to Large Land Grant Research Universities but I’m not sure that the Humanities can make similar claims.

                                                      “Of course they can!”, comes the counter-argument.

                                                      “Can you point to the a breakthrough won by Humanities Research from the last 10 years or so?” is my question.

                                                      At which point the argument seems to be “I know i don’t know if important things have been done in those bad bad subjects, but i’m pretty damn sure you have no clue either”. (And that’s a direct quote. Not a paraphrase.)

                                                      So if we are arguing that we need Tenure to protect the Research being done in the Humanities, I’m asking for an example of the benefits given us, as a society, by Research being done in the Humanities.

                                                      That’s the argument.

                                                      And you’ve provided an example of research in response!

                                                      Bloodlands! By Yale Historian Timothy Snyder!

                                                      An excellent example of recent research in the Humanities!

                                                      So we have an example of how research in the Humanities has created something good, which means that Tenure in the Humanities protected something good.

                                                      At Yale. So if I concede that Tenure at Large Land Grant Research Universities has demonstrated to be a good thing, do I need to then come to the same conclusion about Tenure at Baccalaureate Colleges and Associates Colleges?

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                                                      • yeah, this has been an delightfully pointless exercise.

                                                        let me restate you and george more clearly.

                                                        “what have the humanities done to impress me lately?”

                                                        that’s a much, much shorter conversation.

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                                                        • Flowcharts for the flowcharts, and an automated Personal Assistant to explain the simplified flowchart.

                                                          *Yes, this level of complexity in storytelling impresses me. (The PA was for explaining to the rest of the writers).

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                                                        • I understand why you want to argue against that particular position.

                                                          But look at the academy as it exists right now. Look at the Adjunctification. Look at what’s going on with Tenure *RIGHT FREAKING NOW*.

                                                          You really think that demonizing the people who ask questions about what benefits Tenure provides to the Mission of the University will be an effective defense of Tenure in the Humanities?

                                                          Good luck with that.

                                                          Tenure will go away via attrition at most institutions, held by a handful of greybeards at the not-particularly prestigious colleges and offered to no one but rockstars at the prestigious ones.

                                                          And your grandkids will have more college professors without tenure than with it.

                                                          And the ones with tenure? Probably won’t be in the humanities.

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                                                            • It’s more that I think that Tenure is vestigial. Its usefulness is related to the way the University used to be. It’s not related to the way the University is now.

                                                              Me talking about how much more awesome the University used to be would just turn into an argument about Oberlin or something.

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                                                            • I’m not sure if devil advocate is the thing here. Is the budget going to tolerate tenure dollars/positions for fields that are possibly stagnant?

                                                              Not that I agree all the above listed are marketable or have gone stagnant. I think cases can be made in several that they rise to the level of being useful and innovating in our time.

                                                              I’m not informed of all the ins and outs of tenure, but would predict that the application of value will probably begin to fit a model in what Jay is describing.(assuming it hasn’t already been established) Tenure will have a lot included for the ‘Rockstars’ but the acoustic barista singers will have a different package.

                                                              Not that I’m saying it is right or wrong, just a observation of value modeling and budget pressure.

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                                                          • demonizing?

                                                            there are approximately 2,500 4 year degree granting institutions in the us. bls says there were 157,540 professors of the humanities (as of 2015) at all colleges.

                                                            your starting position was to assume that none of these people were doing research that was worth any kinds of protections that would be extended to stem fields, because…you wanted me to tell you why. i gave you an example and for some reason now tenure at yale is good but everyone else has to show you the money.

                                                            if you have ever read any of my previous comments on this topic, i am deeply aware of the future of tenure. and quite dubious on it in general, frankly. i want it for my wife, obviously, because i destroyed my old life to make this possible.

                                                            i’ve also spent many a ‘graf talking about the lousy job people in certain fields have done in defending their work in public. and in a way that suggests (i hope!) some familiarity with the subject.

                                                            i don’t remember you being this obtuse. perhaps i’ve not paid much attention. regardless, it will not happen again.

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                                                            • your starting position was to assume that none of these people were doing research that was worth any kinds of protections that would be extended to stem fields, because…you wanted me to tell you why.

                                                              “any kinds of protections”

                                                              No. My assumption was that Tenure protection didn’t serve the Mission of the University.

                                                              Greg made a similar misstatement of my argument. “You’re saying these people don’t *DESERVE* Tenure!”

                                                              As if “deserve” has anything to do with the topic.

                                                              As for the research being worth protections, if we want to argue what a thing is worth, we should be able to quantify it. We should be able to point and say “look! See!”

                                                              It’s easy, even trivially easy, to do this with STEM. We can even assign a dollar amount.

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                                                • Right neither of us know what may be going on in the varied humanities or what might be good stuff. Neither you nor i nor George know. You guys are just using your tastes as factual assertions.

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                                                    • sorry for messing with the thread. every six months or so i find some higher ed stuff and can’t let it go. usually it’s “admins caused 9/11” stuff, but diversity nazis was novel enough to fruitlessly engage with.

                                                      see you guys in december!

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                                                  • Right neither of us know what may be going on in the varied humanities or what might be good stuff. Neither you nor i nor George know. You guys are just using your tastes as factual assertions.

                                                    But if I wanted to talk about breakthroughs in STEM in the last decade, I could.

                                                    Here: A breakthrough in engineered arteries. This will help with heart disease. Golly! That’s a big deal!
                                                    And digging in gives me information on advancements in biofuels, cancer research, and photosynthesis.

                                                    If someone asked me “What STEM breakthroughs have been provided by large research Universities?”, I’d have about 50 examples in less than 30 seconds and I’d feel my point would have been made after giving a mere four examples.

                                                    I know that in my day-to-day life, I hear about a breakthrough of one kind or another in STEM every other week or so (with exceptions made for the Christmas break). I mean, without even having to look for it.

                                                    But, as you say, “neither of us know what may be going on in the varied humanities or what might be good stuff”.

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                                    • What notable humanities research has been accomplished in the last decade or so?

                                      If there has not been considerable important research at least informed by religious, philosophical, and historical aspects of Islam and its relationships to the contemporary world, I am sorely disappointed.

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                                    • “Perhaps the academic culture, process, or bureaucracy is an essay in itself. We could explore why experienced, skilled, and qualified instructors who do the best job of teaching students are not protected by the system.

                                      But, to be honest, if they’re not protected by the system, they’ll never make it through the tenure track in the first place.”

                                      At what point do you stop talking out of your ass and actually listen to people who really do know what they’re talking about?

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                                      • When they make arguments rather than telling me that, no, the onus is on me to make the arguments.

                                        But let’s restate this and perhaps you can tell me how things *REALLY* work.

                                        My assumption is this (let me cut and paste it):

                                        I honestly have no idea why we would need to prevent experienced, skilled, and qualified instructors who do the best job of teaching students from being fired.

                                        The counter-argument is, paraphrased, “you have no idea how the system works, it is toxic and perverse and does not reward being experienced, skilled, or qualified”.

                                        So if experienced, skilled, and qualified instructors who do the best job of teaching students require Tenure to be protected from being fired because the system is toxic and perverse, I’d like to ask “is the system toxic and perverse to the point where experienced, skilled, and qualified instructors who do the best job of teaching students can make it through the Tenure process in the first place?”

                                        Because that’d be a hell of a thing.

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  11. “it’s clear they want to guard the special privileges that tenure offers and retain their prerogative to decide who gets those privileges.” That’s the truth for sure. Michael Berube is a stooge for the status quo. The argument in this book serves people like just him. He’s an elitist but can’t seem to see that in the mirror. Don’t know much about Ruth, but at least she wasn’t a jerk to people who criticized the book, like he was. In the comments of the Inside Higher Ed article about this book, he comes off as a real ass.

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    • I haven’t read those comments (or the article). Do you by chance have a link? (I’ll try looking it up, but my Google-fu isn’t what it should be.)

      I should stress that whatever feelings I may or may not have for the author(s) I’m going to keep to myself.

      I do agree that what they advocate for is a form of elitism and they should own that. Despite their denials, they almost do. But they don’t quite get there.

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      • There are two articles in IHE and one in Chronicle of Higher Ed. The comments have a similar take as you do. It’s hard to take the two tracks seriously, given that it would involve cutting research out of the professional vocation of the majority of college teachers. As Berube et. al. who are on the upper end were blessed with charmed genes and a natural status above all others that endows them with “research” abilities. They seem to believe this – or argue for it at any rate. Meanwhile Berube comes off as a snotty professor caricature until he starts trolling people who aren’t his peers. Then he’s just an ass and a bully.

        https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/05/15/new-book-proposes-teaching-intensive-tenure-track-model-address-real-crisis

        https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2015/03/10/essay-calling-new-teaching-oriented-model-tenure

        http://www.chronicle.com/article/Time-for-a-Teaching-Intensive/230605

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          • I’ve briefly (very briefly) skimmed the comments from the first quoted article. I didn’t find Berube’s engagement as bullyish or trollish as you did, at least from the cursory glance I gave. So I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on that.

            I do agree with this, though, from your comment here:

            It’s hard to take the two tracks seriously, given that it would involve cutting research out of the professional vocation of the majority of college teachers.

            It’s not so much that I don’t take their two-tracks option seriously. But it’s that adopting that option seems to countermand their “defense” of the humanities, or at least the part of that defense that depends on more people engaging in research. To me, though, that undermines their “defense” and not so much their two-track proposal.

            Again, thanks for offering these links. I might look more closely at them later.

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            • It’s hard to see in the way the comments are listed, but Berube stopped responding to Jemina. But then he answers the exact same questions when posed by someone else. That’s on purpose, and the purpose is to demean Jemina. And he will discuss working conditions for adjuncts but can clam up when asked about his own labor status? Nope. He doesn’t get that much privilege allotment from me. openinhibiscus says,

              “It’s ok to discuss working conditions of some but not all scholars. Some questions may be asked, others cannot. Some may opine, but questions from others go unanswered, or are answered partially.

              Jemina is so obviously right to ask questions, in any tone she wants. The dismissive and condescending way her questions are being treated is downright ugly.”

              Aside that, comparing people’s serious concerns about their profession to Nigerian email scams is asshole territory, especially from endowed super prof man status. He trolls anonymous commenters, dismissing them as “random people on the internet” who are “hostile and accusatory” which is clearly untrue. Because a commenter is anonymous, or critical of one’s work, their questions don’t matter? People post anonymously precisely because of the professional structural exclusion that his book was supposed to address. Berube should be angry that such a situation could exist, instead of pompous, dismissive, and inflammatory (troll-y) toward the concerns of others.

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  12. The Wages of Campus Revolts

    Among Republicans, 58% say colleges have a negative effect on society, while only 36% say they have a positive effect. In 2015 those views were largely the reverse.

    As the problem gets worse, expect universities to get defunded, dismantled, and shut down. They are not fit for purpose.

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              • And ethnic diversity matter because? Well, obviously because different races must think differently, because worldview and intellectual capacity is a function of race – or something.

                Now a smart, non-racist person might think that the only diversity that mattered in academia was diversity of thought, of viewpoint, of experience and worldview. That would be wrong. It’s all about race and gender. Everything is about race and gender, and anyone who disagrees with the group on any point is cast out. There must be no free thought. There must be no other views.

                And that’s why academia is rotting from the inside.

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                • jesus christmas brah what? you said the protests “convinced white parents to avoid them at all costs” and i posted some stuff proving that what you said was incorrect, and you’re all talking about whatever the fridge it is you’re talking about.

                  it’s a place where the acceptance rate has been in the high 70s for a while…it’s a safety school.

                  seriously, this is exactly like the 300 drips in a hotel room pretending to be nazis being two steps away from killing every minority because something something everyone loves having a boogeyman.

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                  • “See, white students aren’t fleeing! We’re more diverse than ever!”

                    Mizzou closed seven dorms and laid off 400 staff. That’s because their freshmen enrollment plummeted by 30%. Since blacks only made up 8% of Mizzou’s enrollment, their absence couldn’t explain the decline. Only whites eschewing the school could explain it.

                    The school did this to itself.

                    Meanwhile, San Jose state decided to fleece incoming freshman by charging them $250 a head for mandatory diversity and inclusion training, including videos on micro-aggressions and other absolute nonsense. The “diversity” Nazis will rake in about $1.6 million for brow beating kids into submission and teaching them to fear stepping out of line or having an unapproved thought.

                    Someone’s got to keep those fires of racial resentment stoked because the grievance industry needs a constant influx of money. Liberal jobs depend on it!

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                    • ahem

                      http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/enrollment-is-in-fact-down-at-mizzou/article_e7e46947-b8f1-5d78-a166-39ca0446ccea.html

                      Preliminary data show a 12 percent decline in out-of-state undergraduate students, and a 6 percent decline of in-state undergraduate students compared to fall 2015.

                      Graduate student enrollment also took a hit of about 7 percent.

                      meanwhile, in the same state:

                      Missouri State gains
                      Missouri State University showed only a slightly smaller incoming freshman group at the start of classes Monday.

                      The university, which is in the middle of a $123 million construction boom on its Springfield campus, had 35 fewer incoming freshmen from fall 2015.

                      Total enrollment, however, is up by 773 students. The university identified transfer students and incoming freshmen as the largest areas of success.

                      you are likely not familiar with graduation demographics in high schools across the country, so enjoy this link:

                      http://knocking.wiche.edu/nation-region-profile/

                      this is the single most important factor for college admissions for the next twenty years. the most important. period. it’s changing the game on so many levels.

                      this stuff pays my mortgage, brah. i gotta play the game wit the data that exists. i would suggest, very gently, that perhaps you don’t have access to the entire picture?

                      meanwhile, berzerkley continues to thrive even within the crowded CA marketplace. maaaaybe there’s more at play here than what your slice of the grievance industry is telling you?

                      e.g.

                      http://www.middlebury.edu/newsroom/archive/2017-news/node/547587

                      and that involved an actual violent mob! its almost like a #4 ranking in usnews is more compelling than #111, even at a sticker price of 61k.

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                      • ahem

                        Preliminary data show a 12 percent decline in out-of-state undergraduate students, and a 6 percent decline of in-state undergraduate students compared to fall 2015.

                        Graduate student enrollment also took a hit of about 7 percent.

                        See, that’s the problem with colleges. They don’t look at the numbers if they don’t support the narrative. The key part is this:

                        As of the first day of classes, Mizzou enrolled 4,799 freshmen — the smallest class in almost a decade. That number is down more than 1,600 incoming freshmen from fall 2015.

                        There’s the freshman numbers, uncontaminated by all the sophomores, juniors and seniors. The incoming 2016 incoming class was only 75% the size of the 2015 incoming class.

                        And why would Missouri State enrollment be gaining? Because white parents were avoiding Mizzou like the plague. One campus wins, one campus loses.

                        this is the single most important factor for college admissions for the next twenty years. the most important. period. it’s changing the game on so many levels.

                        It shows that enrollment at Mizzou shouldn’t have plummeted. And in 20 years everybody who doesn’t need a lab will just use the Internet for higher education, which will go the way of the buggy whip.

                        And I see they continue to refuse to classify Hispanics as white, even if they’re full blooded German or French. That’s because universities are the last bastion of unabashed racism, where segregation is even becoming mandatory. And why don’t they have a racial category for Brazilians if they’ve got one for Hispanics? Someone call the diversity police.

                        And Middlebury College is bragging that 28% of their incoming class is non-white, in a state that’s 95% white. I imagine they’re getting a new army of race-baiting social justice warriors because the ethnic students probably aren’t from Vermont.

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                        • [having reply issues – apologies for weird formatting]

                          George Turner: And Middlebury College is bragging that 28% of their incoming class is non-white, in a state that’s 95% white. I imagine they’re getting a new army of race-baiting social justice warriors because the ethnic students probably aren’t from Vermont.

                          uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh ok. i’ll take that as “point conceded” and back away.

                          what i’m saying is antifa < rankings. literally. as in it literally doesn't matter as much. riots don't matter as much as rankings and location. which i guess seems insane but people make choices.

                          read the times piece from yesterday (if it is not too offensive) because this graf is instructive:

                          https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/09/us/university-of-missouri-enrollment-protests-fallout.html

                          Students of all races have shunned Missouri, but the drop in freshman enrollment last fall was strikingly higher among blacks, at 42 percent, than among whites, at 21 percent. (A racial breakdown was not yet available for this fall’s freshman class.)

                          Black students were already a small minority. They made up 10 percent of the freshman class in 2012, a proportion that fell to just 6 percent last fall.

                          why would mizzou be losing students? because they’re a safety school with an acceptance rate nearing 80%. and who have scared off in and out of state students due to a poorly managed crisis.

                          evergreen state college – big losses, right? must be the marxists and diversity or whatever.

                          or it’s because they’re state safety schools with lousy reps who don’t have the ability to bounce back from (quite frankly) poorly managed pr crises. if a school gets into serious financial trouble due to a down year or two, it’s because they’re already in trouble and were papering over the issue with tuition revenue.

                          evergreen has been suffering since the beginning of the decade. too many better in-state options, not enough resources and skills to recruit harder with out of state and international populations.

                          again, if it’s really about the antifa and diversity nazis and whatever else, why doesn’t middlebury or berzerkley see these kinds of losses?

                          and remember this the next time someone else on this board of the admins = death persuasion tries to say that chasing rankings is stupid. it may not be great (and i dislike usnews tremendously) compared to some kind of idealized university of the mind, but, like…how can you not? rankings = life.

                          just ask mizzou.

                          And in 20 years everybody who doesn’t need a lab will just use the Internet for higher education, which will go the way of the buggy whip.

                          i’ll take that bet! besides, why can’t the labs just be 3d printed as part of the online/vr/arg course package? i mean, c’mon. if you’re going to think inside the apocalyptic box, then like…really do so. don’t just do so according to your cultural preferences!

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                            • And why would so many minority students choose to go to Vermont? Because they love being surrounded by white people! It’s like going to Iceland or Norway.

                              But one of the primary reasons enrollment at Middlebury hasn’t fallen off is that they know what’s important. They beat Bowdoin and Amherst in football, finishing with a 6-2 season, and went 27-4 in basketball.

                              In contrast, Mizzou is ranked 95 in football and went 4-8 last year, while their basketball program went 8-24. So why would anyone go there?

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                      • notme,
                        no, the CONSERVATIVE unis learned from that (we have one around here: Carnegie Mellon. They do a lot of robots. You may have heard of them).
                        Who the FUCK do you think pays Sharpton?

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                  • But, if you were looking for a proxy for diversity of thought, would you choose diversity of race? Does the son of black doctors from Massachusetts really shake up the Ivy League with his diverse experience?

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                    • Actually yeah a middle/upper class black college student would likely bring some diversity of thought to largely white school. Not the same as a black kid from a poor/WC neighborhood but people of different ethnicities often have very different takes on things.

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                      • “Not the same as a black kid from a poor/WC neighborhood” pretty much concedes my point that diversity of race isn’t a good proxy for diversity of viewpoint. But let me take it further: given that the average Ivy Leaguer has gone to expensive schools in wealthy zip codes, don’t you think he would have already been exposed to the diversity of opinion that comes from proximity to elite black students? They were in the same Chem lab in high school.

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                        • No. Different races will often have different view points based on their experience due to their race. Middle class or not, race will lead to different views. I’m all for class diversity as well but all middle/upper class people do not have the same experiences and race cannot just be ignored. Class and race both matter.

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                          • That doesn’t answer my question. Don’t you think that the upper-class white kid would have already been exposed to the upper-class black kid’s perspective? Moreso than to that of the lower-class kid?

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                            • If the upper class white kid knew other upper class black kids then yeah they might have that experience. Of course diversity is not just there to help white kids. Not every white kid will have black kids in their classes though. Like i said class and race both matter.

                              Religion: yeah i think that is a valid area to include re: diversity.

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                          • Next question: what about religiosity? Doesn’t diversity in religion contribute to diversity of experience/perspective? Would you favor religious quotas in university enrollment? And does that idea offend the concept of America more than racial quotas?

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                            • I’m not calling for quotas of certain groups. I think affirmative action is just fine though and think it should aimed by more at class at this point. We still do need to attend to biases that might keep certain groups out and having a diverse student body is a good think as far as i’m concerned.

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                              • Let’s remember that the point of AA in college admissions is not diversity of viewpoint, but diversity of opportunity. Diversity of viewpoint is a nice second or third order effect, but if you hang your hat on it, you weaken the argument for AA.

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                                • Oh i was just answering Pinky’s question. Diversity of viewpoint is a good thing but not the reason for AfAm. Opening up opportunities and knocking down various biases is the reason for AfAm.

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                                • Actually I think the reason AA is there is to provide employment for the graduates of the _____ studies department, who otherwise couldn’t find jobs.

                                  In arguments before the Supreme Court, Justice Scalia said “There are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to get them into the University of Texas, where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well. One of the briefs pointed out that most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas. They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them.

                                  Harvard reaches down and grabs black applicants who aren’t really Harvard material, who then fail out of Harvard. Universities lower down the tier do the same, pulling in students who would succeed somewhere else, and having them fail. Who does this benefit? Certainly not all the bright black college students who have their dreams destroyed, leaving them isolated and bitter.

                                  But it does benefit the graduates of the _______ studies department who work in the admissions office, because they can brag about how they’re bringing diversity to the inherently racist whites – by destroying the lives of 19-year old black men.

                                  Oh, and they also make sure Asians stay in their rice paddies, or whatever it is Asians do when they’re not applying to college. Asians don’t deserve to be part of the college’s racial makeup, having no real use to the white-guilt narrative we care about, and they’re not good at football or basketball.

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                              • The difference between affirmative action and quotas is like the difference between the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition and Playboy. Yeah, technically they’re not the same thing, but the intention is the same. One’s just slightly more covered-up but you can still see all the outlines.

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                                • I think there is more of a difference than that. There were many old barriers that prevented POC’s and women from even getting into uni’s among other places. AfAm was aimed at breaking down those barriers. It’s worked pretty well to allow people who would never have gotten into college at all or into an elite institution to gain entrance. People talk about black doc’s in upper class neighborhoods whose kids go on to elite schools. Well most of that is due to AfAm breaking down the old barriers.

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                                  • Well most of that is due to AfAm breaking down the old barriers.

                                    True, but if these “old barriers” have been “broken down”, do we still need AfAm?

                                    Aren’t the benefits of Affirmative action now captured by the black middle class and elites? In the 1970’s, Obama could never have been President and his kids would have needed AA, but what “barriers” do Obama’s children face now?

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                                    • O’s children don’t need it. Lot’s of people, including me above, have said maybe AfAm should focus more on class at this point. That would leave children of presidents out but include poor white kids who wouldn’t get in Uni w/o it. It shouldn’t be there to help rich kids.

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                                      • But they got it anway bc they are black. Get back to me when a significant number of liberals finally get a clue about changing AA. They won’t bc otherwise they’d lose the minority voters they bought with AA.

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                                      • Lot’s of people, including me above, have said maybe AfAm should focus more on class at this point.

                                        Your “lots” is deeply in the minority on this. I can’t think of any Leftish politician who suggest this and any attempt to implement it and the forces of Left-dom organize scorched earth attempts to stop it.

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                                          • notme:
                                            Exactly, I doubt greg could really find these “lots of people” that he claims exist on the left.

                                            The weird part is the number of true believers.

                                            In 2003 Sandra Day O’connor suggested AA should/could only be constitutional for another 25 years.

                                            That’s 2028, and the way we’re going nothing much will have changed, and recent statements from Sandra suggest she’d really really look for reasons to keep it even then.

                                            As far as I can tell the problem is “people want to do something“.

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                                        • Continuing my previous comment.

                                          Politically AA is roughly equiv to the Mortgage Interest Tax Deduction (MITD).

                                          It’s untouchable. It’s currently there because the voters give themselves benefits, not because the policy makes any sense. It’s about power in politics.

                                          I’d say AA (unlike MITD) has true believers backing it, perhaps including Supreme Court Justices. I’d also say AA is ethically worse because it hurts people, maybe much more than it helps, and because the idea that the gov is allowed (forced) to discriminate based on skin color is heinous.

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                                          • Umm AA has been touched and modified. It isn’t’ one thing in every place. I guess this is where the discussion will end. It isn’t’ discrimination and the purpose of AA from the start was clear. It was to break down the doors of racism and sexism that kept many people out of schools and jobs. If the purpose wasn’t clear after all the history that led to it, then….well….that is stunning.

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                                            • and the purpose of AA from the start was clear. It was to break down the doors of racism and sexism that kept many people out of schools and jobs. If the purpose wasn’t clear after all the history that led to it, then….well….that is stunning.

                                              AA in the 1960’s and the 70’s was government action in response to gov discrimination and could reasonably be argued to benefit the people directly hurt by that discrimination.

                                              However society has changed so much that being Black is a net positive for things like running for President and it’s absurd to give his children AA based on what happened to their (great?)grandparents generation. Obama’s influence (for good or ill) on his children FAR outweighs the influence of gov policy 50 years gone.

                                              [AA] isn’t’ discrimination…

                                              Taking scarce college slots away from Asians so they can be given to Blacks is very much “discrimination”.

                                              And that discrimination hurts real people based on the color of their skin. That discrimination damages their life plans, and those people are totally innocent of any crimes committed by the gov 50 years ago.

                                              For that matter (and it’s insane to need to point this out) those people’s grandparents were also totally innocent of any crimes committed 50 years ago, and if anything they were the subject of discrimination themselves back then.

                                              The government has no business checking the color of someone’s skin before deciding how they’re going to treat them. That’s true for the police pulling people over and it’s equally true for college admissions.

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                                              • Are you reading anything i wrote? O’s kids don’t need AA.

                                                It’s not just about grandparents though. I’d say there is still discrimination against POC to correct but also that we should focus more on class. That would include POC”s who are poor, as many are, but also give a leg up to poor white kids.

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                                                        • I didn’t say they had received anything that they haven’t earned. I said, “They get to take advantage of AA b/c they are black.” That’s a fact however you try to change the only question that we are discussing.

                                                          But i do believe some people will never learn.

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                                                          • If they didn’t get anything they hadn’t earned then what is the issue. How is being black an advantage if they earned whatever they have gotten? The advantages they have benefited from are from having highly educated, accomplished, successful and famous parents.

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                                                              • Do you have any proof they earned everything they got? You are assuming they earned it. Show your evidence.

                                                                greginak,

                                                                Take the Obama name off the table and notme has a real point. It’s a bad thing when society forces people to wonder if the color of someone’s skin is why he went to Harvard, and whether he actually earned those accomplishments.

                                                                Grades are private, we simply can’t tell if someone “earned” it, and with the way things are structured, it’s not racist to wonder.

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                                                                • I know it was a trick question since he, and you, can’t answer it. You are just slandering them. You very very much have a choice to wonder how they got in. You don’t have to disparage them or think they didn’t earn it. You are responsible. Society isn’t forcing you to behave. That “society made me do it” is weak sauce when dished out by you or other conservatives or SJW’s.

                                                                  What’s even sillier is that it isn’t even new or odd for kids of rich and/or famous folk to get in elite schools but only some have this question about them. It’s like they have to work harder to get the same respect or treated like lesser people.

                                                                  And yes it is.

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                                                                  • What is this trick question? All I can see is you assuming that the Obama kids earned everything they got and didn’t benefit from AA since they are black. You can’t even be honest and admit that they could have benefited from AA even though they don’t need it. That’s really sad.

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                                                                      • I’m not assuming anything. It’s your claim that you can’t support. Can you present any evidence that the Obama kids earned everything they’ve gotten based solely on their own merit? Just try to be honest.

                                                                        For all we know the Obama kids got where they are b/c are black and their schools needed minority females.

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                                                                        • How does any student at an elite school prove they got in? If they got in, they got in. You have no reason to doubt them other then your suspicion of Obama and AA. Both of which are under your control and don’t need to be put on young people who have done nothing to you.

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                                                                          • Yes, I’m the bad person as usual. And you won’t answer the question as usual. Your statement is even more ridiculous considering how liberals ridiculed Bush for getting supposedly only getting into Yale based on his family name and not his own merit. I guess to liberals, if you are black you get into schools on your own merit and if you are white you don’t.

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                                                                  • What’s even sillier is that it isn’t even new or odd for kids of rich and/or famous folk to get in elite schools but only some have this question about them. It’s like they have to work harder to get the same respect or treated like lesser people.

                                                                    Yes, that. Focus on this for a moment.

                                                                    WBush had to face claims that his daddy’s money purchased him an Ivy league seat. That he didn’t earn his seat, that the school bent over backwards to help him… that his degree didn’t mean what it should. That it was a lie.

                                                                    Because of AA, every Black who goes to an Ivy, no matter how deserving, has to face the same thing for much the same reason. That’s abhorrent, but trying to pretend this isn’t the direct result of AA is just silly.

                                                                    If we had race-blind admissions Asia enrollment would shoot up and Black enrollment would massively fall but these questions would be eliminated. Further everyone who currently goes to Harvard would absolutely go somewhere, but they’d be well matched academically and we’d eliminate the problem with Blacks failing out of colleges at rates their entrance scores suggest are appropriate (and also eliminate the problem with Blacks changing from hard majors to soft majors).

                                                                    If we had totally blind admission (i.e. no names so no benefit from parent’s name) as well as race-blind then WBush certainly goes to college but probably not Harvard. As for Obama’s kids, ask me in a decade or two, their test scores and class rankings are apparently secret so we’ve got no info at all other than Harvard’s acceptance.

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                                                                    • You completely have the choice to have abhorrent (your word) views about people. No one is making you do that. You are free to have your own thoughts and beliefs. If you have those abhorrent views, it’s on you.

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                                                                      • You completely have the choice to have abhorrent (your word) views about people. No one is making you do that. You are free to have your own thoughts and beliefs. If you have those abhorrent views, it’s on you.

                                                                        I build my life around math, logic, and not flinching away from what they show. If the world is “abhorrent”, then that’s what I want to see. Show me that I’m wrong in the facts and I’ll change my mind & world view.

                                                                        So what about my world view do you claim is “wrong”? For example if you’re going to claim Asians wouldn’t go to college in higher numbers and Blacks less in a race-blind process, I’ll point out that this has been tested by a State or two.

                                                                        Malia Obama hasn’t ended up in the news for being drunk, high or arrested (unlike other Presents offspring). She was raised by two functional parents with effectively unlimited resources. Those parents apparently care deeply about their children, their children’s education, and they put her into the best schools they could manage (which is to say, the best schools). Malia went to school with the children of other high level, absurdly rich, important people.

                                                                        It is very normal for people like that to go to Harvard.

                                                                        None of that changes that when Malia applied to Harvard, because of AA, she was only evaluated against other Black applicants.

                                                                        All of that is, as you put it, “facts in evidence”.

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                                                • O’s kids don’t need AA.

                                                  First, they’re the ones that have it. When we start talking about “critical mass” of minorities, they count, because the only thing that counts is skin color and these are “collectivist” rights. So Obama’s kids, by the logic of AA, fully deserve special treatment. And yeah, that’s nuts on the face of it which is why they’re a good example of AA in action.

                                                  Which brings us back to my accusation that the Black middle and upper classes benefit strongly from AA (even if they don’t need it) and capture the benefits. What Affirmative Action officer is going to let into Harvard some poor Black kid from the inner city when he can have someone like Malia Obama?

                                                  …we should focus more on class. That would include POC”s who are poor, as many are, but also give a leg up to poor white kids.

                                                  This would at least be Constitutional (and sane).

                                                  My expectation is that the middle/upper Black class would be opposed, label the idea “racist”, and find all sorts of reasons why it’s a bad idea.

                                                  My other expectation is focusing on class leads to “why do certain class values make that class more successful” which is something else the Left probably doesn’t want to have happen because it’d be divisive.

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                            • Pinky,
                              Having Protestant exorcisms on campus is child abuse. Endorsing child abuse in the name of diversity is bad.

                              *Yes, I’m aware that Catholics also have exorcisms. They have rules, and aren’t as batshit about the whole thing (even when you have genuine crazy Catholic priests, which have been documented in books)

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                              • This is another time when you take a bizarre and rare scenario and treat it like it’s the heart of the conversation. If the mention of religion on campus immediately makes you talk about increased exorcisms, either you’re trolling or your frame of reference is way off.

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                                • Pinky,
                                  Alright, I’ll give a serious answer.
                                  Religion is one of the few things that Colleges really do seem to discriminate about.
                                  Carlow’s a catholic uni, others are protestant of various denominations. I’m not sure how much this has to do with the day to day, but there’s certainly something there.

                                  Possibly mostly a historical artifact, but there’s BYU, and if they wanted to say “Mormons only” well, we’d probably be okay with it.

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                                  • “Alright, I’ll give a serious answer.”

                                    Does that mean you realized that your first answer was batty? This is the question I always have with you. Is this all performance art or just incredibly odd thinking?

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                                    • Pinky,
                                      Sometimes it’s one, sometimes it’s another.
                                      Sometimes I’m just being plain obstreperous.

                                      In response to your “that’s not anywhere near the main thrust of my argument”, yes, I can acknowledge that I had sailed cheerfully away on a tangent, and will actually return to the main argument. Eventually.

                                      Kindly remember not to believe anything I say. It’s better that way.

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                                        • Pinky,
                                          I always believe what I say.
                                          The bit about exorcisms has to do with a series of pranks pulled on someone who was a Christian (including Satanic writing with lipstick on mirrors), which eventually led to some horrors perpetrated on her by her parents [The Pranks were not that bad, really. No houses or small dogs were harmed in the pranking.]

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        • George,
          Yeah, Missouri can still burn, right?
          The funny thing about liberal indoctrination centers — science doesn’t lie.

          I believe in American cow colleges, and I believe that a state like Missouri needs farm research just as much as Pennsylvania does.

          Or it’ll burn, and that’ll solve a bunch of problems at once.

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          • They’re liberal indoctrination centers because they don’t do science, they ignore science to support the liberal progress narrative.

            Check the “Purity Spiral” article I linked above. It goes into detail. It even has graphs.

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              • Mann only did a malignant form of science where what matters is shocking and unique results that can get the attention of journals and grab headlines. He unwitting explained that in his Congressional testimony. Judith Curry was there.

                He’s also been savaged by statisticians for not knowing how to use statistics.

                And he was just found to be in contempt of court for refusing access to his materials to the defendants in his lawsuits. My friend Rand Simberg is one of the defendants. Mann’s contempt citation now opens him up to massive and expensive repercussions.

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                • George,
                  Oh, you think Mann is looking for shocking and unique results?
                  Jesus, man.
                  His results are humdrum and ordinary. Basic science.
                  You can find people out there willing to be a touch … “alarmist”.
                  Those are the people who work for the US Military, believe it or not.

                  Mann’s just someone who works at a cow college trying to get the crops into the ground on time.

                  Unless you really think that our growing zones haven’t shifted north a good half-zone in the past fifty years??

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    • hahahahah what

      let’s be serious for just a minute. (george, this is more addressed to the writer of that piece than you, but i’ll include you as well)

      jesus guys i mean, there are literally professors (i know personally) i would pay money to fight – i’d find a way to raise 10k for some of them and donate the proceeds to charity – but articles and ideas like these are the totally bonkers mirror image of the incredible panic you’d see within said universities about how they’re all going to have to teach intelligent design and white protestant american because something something trump.

      funding tinkering at the margins, sure, especially for state schools with direct ties to their legislatures in terms of budgeting or weird rules being introduced by kulturkampfers who don’t want someone teaching about queer latino writers because something something something marxism or whatever idiocy gets blasted from the state house.

      but let’s be serious: does the pull of a better life matter? does having a college degree still matter?

      then guess what. not much gonna change (that’s not already in play), because the amount of people actually upset about no platforming at berkeley are both miniscule and – THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT – are not going to apply to berkeley:

      http://news.berkeley.edu/2016/12/19/85000-students-seek-admission-to-berkeleys-2017-18-freshman-class/

      i mean, that’s staggering (finger on the scale caveats) and it went up 3%.

      all the antifa wankers in the world can descend to no platform jesus and it’ll hold steady or go up again next year. and trump’s off the cuff twitterings about cutting funding are just as fantastical as anything else that comes out of that dingdong’s fingertips.

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      • Male enrollment is in decline. Those that can do math aren’t seeing a return on investment, and young kids I know don’t see the point of going $50,000 in debt to get a job as a receptionist or as a clerk at Best Buy.

        The Atlantic: Where are all the high school grads going?

        The Atlantic’s Gillian White has pointed out that the types of institutions seeing the most significant declines in enrollment tend to offer degrees that provide only marginal improvements in job prospects compared to high-school diplomas. Today, the popularity of a given degree and its return on investment are often “almost inversely related,” said Anthony Carnevale, who directs Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. The high-school graduates who tend to forgo college and make it in the economy, Carnevale added, are also the ones who can land jobs that aren’t traditionally associated with higher-education degrees—blue-collar fields such as manufacturing, mining, and agriculture. Carnevale said there are only a few ways to beat the college wage premium—the income advantage of having a college degree—“and generally the only people who beat this game are boys.”

        The Denver Post: Men saying “no thanks” to college

        “If you don’t want to go to college you can go to a trade school and come away with something and not be on the hook for $150,000,” said 28-year-old Adam Stark, who dropped out of college and now is thriving in the music business in Denver.

        Others say the campus environment has become testy, even hostile, toward men. “You definitely get the sense you are the problem,” said Maxwell. “One woman once told me that she could use statistics to determine how many of my friends were rapists.”

        It goes on to reinforce the Atlantic article.

        Although more people than ever are attending college, the ratio of male to female students is nearly 1:2. Compare that to 1960, when there were 1.6 males for every female graduating from a U.S. four-year college and 1.55 males for every female undergraduate, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.

        The trend will continue, because a lot of people are learning on the Internet. Nolan Bushnell talks about such things all the time. He says our higher education model is completely obsolete, and basically stuck in the early 1900’s.

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        • ok, so i’m calling most of your positions absurdities because i work in the industry and these are absurdities.

          the gender imbalance is going to continue, and it’s something we see as early as the first year in high school. there’s a number of reasons why, but for the most part it’s effect is culturally overstated in some areas (e.g. the type of media you consume) and understated in others. (e.g. the type of media i consume) it raises some issues both on and off campus, but isn’t nearly as debilitating as anyone (including myself) thought it would be 15 years ago.

          i get that “young kids I know don’t see the point of going $50,000 in debt to get a job as a receptionist or as a clerk at Best Buy” is true. i would probably give a lot of them the same advice – go to a cc for two years, and transfer into a 4 year if you have a plan. if you don’t have a plan, see what shakes down. finishing a BA at 25 is less of an issue than they might think.

          (i’d tell them to avoid the debt as much as possible in the first place in any capacity, including buying a big honking truck, but that’s a different topic)

          however, the young kids you don’t know are the ones who are fighting to apply to berkeley. and a bunch of other places. most of them will be mostly ok. it’s the expensive middle/middling ranked private schools – the ones that are still largely white and in rural areas in particular – that are going to have to struggle even harder to keep baseline going. and that has a lot more to do with location and cost than any other factor, particularly the cultural and gender stuff you’re focusing on.

          the only people who care about antifa are the fox news ad sales guys. it’s a meaningless distraction, like the all consuming boogeyman that is the alt-right for their counterparts.

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