Spring really is coming. My crocus says so!
News about budget stuff just gets worse and worse. In a nearby state, there's talk about having state employees pay more towards their health insurance benefit. We're looking likely to do furloughs here. One of my colleagues says they should just admit they're making pay cuts. I'm wondering if calling it a pay cut means it never comes back, while calling it a furlough means we go back to the regular pay eventually?
I have a contract letter that says how much I'm supposed to be paid for the year. Can they force me to take a furlough and earn less? How does that work as a contract?
NWU has been doing a big budget study project; the project is supposed to help the administrators decide in a reasonable, informed way, what goes, because some things are going to go. I have no idea what those will be, however.
All the departments and such did comparison studies with data about campuses similar to ours, and by and large we found that we get paid less and teach more students AND produce more research than those schools. In my department, that means we teach way more students in comp classes than our similar campuses do. It doesn't mean we do as good a job teaching as they do, however.
So, with the budget crisis, we're looking at adding more students to each class. Add a couple students to each comp class over the semester, and drop a whole comp section (one taught by an adjuct, of course) and save money on that adjunct's salary. That sucks for the adjunct in major ways, and for instructors across the board, and for our students.
There's the rock.
Educational assessment is always aimed at saying that we're doing a good job; there's never any benefit to saying we aren't. So, we assess writing and say that yes, students are improving, though not as much as we'd like. We have no way to compare how well we're teaching with comparable campuses.
And that's the hard place.
We can't get at how much better we might do if we taught smaller classes, nor is there money to pay for instructors enough to teach smaller classes. Instead, we'll get more students, and then that new number will become the new standard, and that will never go down. Even if I could prove that teaching 16 students instead of 28 meant that each student learned 20% more, it wouldn't matter because no one with real power really cares about our students enough to vote to pay for it.
The dean and chairs are talking about ways to mitigate the added load of additional students in our classes. In some classes, profs will start using bubble tests, but it's hard to imagine how to teach writing without actually having to grade writing, and that goes not only for composition classes specifically, but for philosophy classes, history classes, and so forth, all of which are writing intensive fields.
I'm looking at the rest of my career and figuring things will never get better.
I used to think it might, but the more I hear people complain about paying taxes, the more certain I am that things won't change for the better in public education.
So as I look at the rest of my career, another 15-20 years, I'm wondering if it's worth it? Or what the alternatives are.