Over at the Academe blog, John Hinshaw imagines a future where we ran universities like a business. Actually, one particular business, namely the airline industry:
I am going to start on the first day of class. Many professors know the keen attention that students pay to their syllabus: will this be on the test? Imagine how much more attentive students will be when the syllabus is only available for a small additional charge. It will help get them used to paying for legroom later, when they are out in the real world. No doubt there may be some confusion. Perhaps someone wants to drop the class. Of course I’ll sign the form. But since you are changing your itinerary, you have to pay a reasonable handling fee for the paperwork…
Of course, we know this is never going to happen. For one thing, faculty wouldn’t be the ones who get to keep the money therefore nobody would ever collect the fees. But it’s still funny because we know that the average higher education administrator is totally capable of doing something this craven.
Consider what they already do with respect to academic labor. Universities will pay the absolute lowest rate possible to the adjunct faculty member standing up in front of the classroom solely because they can. Who cares if those people are so stressed out trying to make a living that they can’t devote their full attention to the class? Despite the abuse he’s taking in the comments, I think this guy is right. Hiring contingent faculty is like Moneyball, except he fails to point out that thinking about the livelihood of other human beings in this manner is morally repulsive whether it’s a teacher or a baseball palyer. [Where is the adjunct Curt Flood when we need them?]
Yet they soldier on. Seriously, I am absolutely in awe of any human being who devotes their life to teaching despite the fact that they could make much more money doing any number of jobs that require a lot less training. Describing teaching as a higher calling is an excuse to exploit people, but ours is a noble profession. To do it while being continually exploited demands our respect because contingent faculty do what they do for their students.
Unfortunately, administrators know this too. Therefore, we all accept situations that we would otherwise find untenable like appalling contingent faculty contracts or online courses because lower costs are supposed to benefit our students whether they actually do so or not. We’ll give up our demands because they’re holding our students hostage. Yet somehow Joe Biden thinks faculty salaries are the reason that tuition is so high?
Maybe that fee-for-service model in higher ed isn’t so crazy after all.