Sunday, September 12, 2010

Want a job that pays $463 an hour plus excellent benefits

The average tenured professor, reports Prof. X, teaches now at this Texas university just “two three-hour classes, or six hours per week, per semester in classes with small enrollment numbers.”

Now for the bombshell: These professors make around $100,000, plus one-third more in fringe benefits for a two-semester, nine-month teaching load. This amounts to approximately $33,250 per class. No wonder they do not want the public to know about this and claim nebulous duty to research.

Though it is a bit apples to oranges, I make $1,814 per semester, with no fringe benefits, at Lone Star community college for my one comp class with 24 students. Hence, it’s $33,250 v. $1,814 per class. There is something wrong with this picture. Are the big dogs some 30 times more valuable to students than the unheralded dogs in the trenches?

Well, of course, the defense is—the research, the research. So let’s look at that. I worked as an instructor at the University of Michigan, then as a tenured professor at Eastern Michigan University—for a total of 18 years. I know how sausage is made.

To be sure, much research is valuable to society, but much is not. Harry Lewis, former Dean of Harvard College, reveals in Excellence Without a Soul, that “professors have become specialized in their interests, which are ever more distant from what ordinary citizens understand or care about.” This leads, he reports, “to the production of much more nonsense.” Do we need the 500th essay on Hamlet?

Nor do professors publish as much as they let on. Former Harvard president Derek Bok reveals in Our Underachieving Colleges that “fewer than half of all professors publish as much as one article per year.”

The American public should be outraged by these findings, especially given the staggering increase in college costs. Do not write university administrators: they will defend the status quo, lest they are scathingly attacked by professors. Write, instead, trustees. Often they are, as Harry Lewis reported, only “cheerleaders.” But some will take their fiduciary responsibilities seriously and do the right thing.

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