Colleges are charging too much for college. The colleges are nothing but a “resort” for the professors who never show up to actually teach. Tenure is no different than the immigration lottery – all play and no work.
How Tenure for Professors Has Ruined State Universities
You may have memories of attending a college or university years ago. That hallowed experience allowed you to interact with faculty, openly discuss ideas, and gain the knowledge that created opportunities for you. Even today, years later, you probably remember the name of a professor or two who made a difference as you returned to the “real” world.
Unfortunately, the landscape of public higher education has changed since then, and not in good ways. Students at many taxpayer-funded public institutions rarely see a regular faculty member in their classroom for one of five reasons:
1. Their course is taught by a graduate assistant instead of a professor.
2. An adjunct teacher runs the class.
3. Their interactions with the professor are online and their time with their teacher is on a keyboard.
4. The faculty’s union contact permits professors to teach fewer classes and go to more conferences.
5. The regular faculty member is getting a taxpayer-funded vacation, called a sabbatical.
Much of this mess is the result of one of higher education’s biggest scams: Tenure.
On the surface, tenure may seem to be a good idea. The higher-ed mouthpieces claim it is necessary to allow freedom of teaching and to address controversial ideas. They add that tenure is only offered to successful candidates after a rigorous review process of years of teaching and research.
These are half-truths, at best. In many disciplines, the supposed “freedom” to teach and discuss ideas now only exists on a very narrow spectrum on the liberal left. Plan to confront this never-ending repressive liberal bias? Good luck getting tenure! What about the “rigorous review”? In many cases new faculty hires are “groomed” by their professors in graduate school to learn the “party-line,” then the professor recommends them to a colleague at another institution. Yes, they have to write, publish, and teach; but the peers that judge them are almost always faculty with the same liberal biases.
It gets worse. In many cases, full-time faculty who often earn high-five figure paychecks in public universities may teach fewer than 5 classes per year, and almost always get summers off. This schedule requires them to be on campus very little, while collecting generous benefits rarely given to the industry experts and real-world teachers known as adjuncts who teach a far larger percentage of the classes.
If your child or grandchild is in a public university, there is a high probability that most of their classes are taught by adjuncts who make a pittance and rarely get any benefits. The good news for your students is that these adjuncts almost always have more real-world knowledge and experience than tenured professors. The bad news for our pocketbooks is that the tenured faculty spend too little time in the classroom, too much time on taxpayer funded junkets (attending conferences and getting sabbaticals to do little if anything but socialize and bloviate), and frequently teach irrelevant or boutique courses rather than the core curriculum that forms the foundation of a student’s education.
Outside of becoming a Supreme Court justice, getting tenure is as close as any job becomes to offering years of guaranteed employment with little opportunity for removal. Another dirty little secret is that many universities that want to hire a particular faculty member also will find a job for the tag-along academic spouse. We get to pay for two tenured teachers. What a deal!
So…who pays for this mess?
At public institutions, in many cases you do. Yes, students pay fees for their dorms, athletic programs, and rock-climbing walls in the student union, but it is the rest of us whose taxes fund much of their instructional budget not covered by tuition. While student debt increases as students take fewer classes taught by fulltime faculty and more by adjuncts, those tenured professors get paid more to do less. This is insane.
With all of this in mind, you’re probably asking yourself what you can do to make sure your children are properly educated.
First and foremost: Demand accountability. Contact your lawmakers to make sure that tenured faculty spend most of their time teaching. If they want to network at a conference, they should pay for it themselves or use social media instead of us funding their travel. Finally, the areas of the university your tax dollars fund should be available to you. If public dollars fund the campus library, you should have as much access to the books and databases as the tenured professors. They work for you.
Make sure they are working. When my son was in college – he said – he never saw the professor that was suppose to teach the class until the end of the year.