Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A Whole New World

It feels like a strange new world here.  I was in three meetings today, all of which had to do with some aspect of self-governance.  In two of the three, we talked about their being no tenure any more. 

I know in the business world people can be fired for pretty much any reason.  And are.  But that doesn't seem good.  And it seems like people in business get compensated for that risk to some extent, at least at the management level.

The way it feels on the ground here is weird.  I have a sense that we're soldiering on for now, but that things feel shaky, more shaky to some than to others.

If there's no tenure under state law, then does a committee which has a membership of "tenured members of the department" have a mandate to exist or do work?

If we no longer control the curriculum, then do we have a mandate to make curricular decisions?

In practice, I think any headmaster out there would be crazy to do anything other than tell the faculty/staff at any university that they'll continue to act as they have on faculty recommendations for faculty renewals, tenures, promotions, and so forth, and that they'll continue to act as they have on faculty recommendations for curricular matters.  At least for now.

And as long as you have a reasonably sane administration, you can feel that reasonable decisions will be made.

The problem is, our bosses are really the legislature, and I don't think any of our faculty folks are feeling that they're especially sane these days.  It's not inconceivable to most of us that the legislature could say (or the Regents, as political appointees), we're going to consolidate and have only two schools in the system with English majors.  All the other English programs will be drastically reduced to teaching intro writing (if they do so already) and a few big lecture general education type courses (but only until they can eliminate general education).  So maybe this doesn't happen to English, but how about American Indian Studies?  Women's Studies?  Philosophy?  I think there are a lot of programs that the people in charge don't think are at all important, and in fact probably think are just irritating.

The problem seems so overwhelmingly huge, so dependent on the good will of the electorate, good will that feels completely absent, that I'm pretty despondent.

I went to campus at 7:45 this morning, and didn't leave until 8 this evening.  Hashtag lazy faculty.


  1. Christ, what a nightmare. I'm so astonished at the attack on the state system. It just doesn't make a damn bit of sense. It's cannibalism, pure and simple.

  2. It does feel like our (state) government has lost the wheel.

    Here, they're tearing down English building -- which is a good thing, because it's ancient and falling to pieces -- but refusing to commit to building a new one. Starting in Fall 2016, English faculty will have no -- ZERO -- dedicated classrooms.

    This despite the fact that (as I am sure all y'all know) every student in the university is required to take at least 3 English classes to graduate: two comp classes, and one other class of some sort.

    Where will these classes be held?

    Apparently our state legislature thinks we can hold them ALL ONLINE. Or at night, when other faculty aren't using their classrooms.

    I mean, holy hell.

    This is utter contempt for the humanities, and for English professors in general. It's not like we teach anything that's worth something, like, you know, accounting or IT.

    Plus the caps in our Comp I and Comp II classes just got raised to 28. Twenty-eight students in a freshman writing class.

  3. Ugh. This sounds familiar in some ways, because I'm part of the ever-growing portion of the faculty that is full-time but non-tenure-track (in a state where tenure still officially exists, though it's available to fewer and fewer faculty). My university is basically making up the systems which shape the professional lives of my whole quite-large-and-growing cohort of faculty as they go along, with many uncertainties and reversals of course and similar frustrations along the way, and an apparent preference to ignore the fact that we exist at all (even when paying attention to the "adjunct issue" -- which means part-timers).

    It's disorienting and frustrating at times. But at least I know where I stand; the job I have is actually a bit better than the one I originally signed up for. And, although I'm skeptical of the idea that the tenured faculty, and their access to faculty governance, can somehow protect the contingent faculty (I suspect it's more that our growing numbers undermine the power of the tenured faculty), we still have at least the option of arguing for measures that would improve our lot and strengthen the traditional faculty-governance system (e.g. a teaching tenure track).

    It would be far more disorienting, frustrating, and downright frightening, I think, to become used to operating within the tenure system, then wake up one morning (fall) to find all the landmarks gone, and half of the rules and regulations to which one is used to referring when in difficulty reduced to nonsense.

  4. Ugh, that is nasty, messy and disheartening, Bardiac. And, yes, "lazy faculty" spending far more than 12 hours a day at work!

    Delagar, I'm surprised to hear of dedicated classrooms. Our university runs the scheduling and we have no choice. Things are dicey this year with one building being renovated. Pretty much all of our department's classes that are 40 students or less are meeting in the portables beside the administrative tower. I am going to be pretty miserable for those classes, believe you me. But at least I have a classroom, so there's something!