Category Archives: Academic Labor

>Twilight of Academic Freedom

>An Interview with Cary Nelson, by Marc Bousquet, author of How the University Works


>CSU may cut future enrollment by 10,000

>For the first time, the system might turn away qualified students. Minority and low-income groups would probably be hardest hit by the cuts, which could amount to a 10% drop in freshman enrollment.

Los Angeles Times
By Gale Holland
November 18, 2008

The California State University system for the first time in its history is proposing to turn away qualified students due to a worsening state budget crisis.

As part of a plan to slash its 450,000 enrollment by 10,000 students for the 2009-2010 academic year, the 23-campus system, the nation’s largest, will push up application deadlines and raise the academic bar for freshmen at its most popular campuses, Chancellor Charles B. Reed said Monday.

The university has never tried this type of enrollment cap, and Cal State officials said they cannot be sure how it will work. While sophomore transfers and out-of-state and international students will be squeezed, California high school graduates probably will bear the brunt of the downsizing, officials said. The university typically admits 45,000 to 50,000 freshmen each year; if even half the reductions land on them, it would mean a 10% drop in first-year admissions.

“These are going to be kids who have done everything they’re supposed to do, and told year after year they’ll have this opportunity,” said Kathy Rapkin, chair of the counseling department at Arcadia High School and past president and Southern California regional representative for the California Assn. of School Counselors. “These kids are not going to get a place.”

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger convened a special session of the Legislature this month to deal with a budget shortfall that could swell to $24 billion by mid-2010.

Reed said the Cal State system anticipates $66 million in midyear budget cuts, and further reductions for 2009-2010. He refused to discuss whether a fee hike is in store for next year. His enrollment plan comes as demand for Cal State admission soars; applications are up 10% from the same time a year ago, officials said.

Reed said he would consult with Cal State’s Board of Trustees at their meeting Wednesday, but he already has the authority to impose enrollment restrictions and is planning to act soon.

“This is something California State University has never done,” he said in a conference call with reporters.

Cal State is not the only higher education institution reporting financially driven enrollment issues. The University of California said it might have to limit admission to its most popular campuses and send more students to those with extra space, typically Riverside and Merced. At the state’s community colleges, actual enrollment probably won’t be limited but students’ access to classes may be, officials said.

“We won’t be able to offer them the classes they need,” said Diane Woodruff, chancellor of the California Community Colleges.

She predicted that the lack of classes could drive away 250,000 full- or part-time students; 2.7 million are now enrolled in that system.

The basic requirements for admission to Cal State are high school graduation, completion of college prep course work and a B average. Students with a C average or above can get in with good SAT or ACT test scores.

A number of Cal State’s sought-after campuses have for several years cut off some or all applications in the fall, but the official deadline was in the spring and some colleges accepted eligible applicants up to and including the first day of classes.

This year the cutoff for many campuses is Nov. 30, and all colleges will stop taking applications by March 1. San Francisco State has set a Dec. 10 deadline.

Some campuses, including Sonoma, Channel Islands, Northridge, Chico, San Jose, San Marcos and San Francisco, will continue to take all fully qualified students from their own communities. But students from other parts of California may have to show higher grade-point averages and test scores to make the cut at these and other campuses, officials said.

San Diego State, Cal State Long Beach, Cal State Fullerton, Cal Poly Pomona and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, the most popular campuses, have imposed similar academic restrictions for several years.

Reed said the enrollment cutback will be felt most deeply by students of color already underrepresented in the four-year college system.

“Many students from under-served groups and families of color . . . are unsure about financial aid, when and how to apply . . . and do not make up their minds until spring,” he said. They are “who I worry about most.”

Lourdes Garcia-Meza, a counselor at John F. Kennedy High School in Granada Hills, said low- and middle-income minority students at her school could be hit hard.

“These are good students and they worked really hard to make it at Cal State Northridge and Cal State L.A.,” she said. “It’s going to be heartbreaking.”

Cal State officials said the cap is a better option than increasing class size or dropping course sections, as they did during a previous economic downturn in the early 1990s. Many students could not enroll in the classes they wanted and dropped out, bringing enrollment figures down.

Cal State currently receives $2.97 billion of its budget from the state’s general fund and $1.5 billion from student fees. The system has raised fees six times in seven years. The cost of attending a Cal State college, not including housing, books and other living expenses, is about $3,800 a year.

State Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell urged the state Legislature to raise enough revenue to provide higher education to all eligible students.

“Providing access to higher education for all qualified students is key to strengthening our economy in the future,” O’Connell said in a written statement.

>Coach’s dismissal with two years left on contract comes courtesy of deep-pocket donors

>As the CSU system prepares to cut student enrollment by 10,000 students, San Diego State University President raises money to throw into money-pit football program.

By Brent Schrotenboer and Mick McGrane

7:04 p.m. November 23, 2008

Frustrated donors with deep pockets finally decided to do something about the sorry state of the football program at San Diego State.

Fed up with a disastrous season, they agreed to pool their money together to buy out the final two years of Chuck Long’s five-year contract. His dismissal marks the third firing of an Aztecs head football coach since December 2001.

SDSU officials cited Long’s poor on-field record as the main reason for the move. Long finished with a 9-27 record in three seasons, including 2-10 this year, SDSU’s worst record in 25 years.

“We raised some private money to enable us to do it,” SDSU President Stephen Weber said Sunday. “I spent much of the last week making those phone calls.”

The final decision was made by the same man who hired Long in December 2005, Athletic Director Jeff Schemmel, who informed Long of his firing Saturday morning, hours before the Aztecs beat UNLV 42-21.

But because Long had two years remaining on his contract, donations were necessary to pay for what he’s owed: more than $1.4 million over two years unless Long finds employment elsewhere before then. Weber said just over $1 million had been raised as of Sunday to pay for Long’s buyout and other transition costs, including the hiring of a search firm to help SDSU conduct a national search for a new head coach. Weber said Chuck Neinas, the search consultant who helped SDSU hire Long and Schemmel, is not involved this time.

Neither Long nor Schemmel attended a campus news conference Sunday. Reached later, Long declined comment. Schemmel was undergoing surgery for a hip infection, according to the school.

Booster and fan disgust had been growing in recent weeks, especially after a 70-7 loss Oct. 18 at New Mexico. After that game, Schemmel told reporters that Long would remain coach through 2009.

“He has done everything as well as any football coach I’ve seen in my 20 years (of collegiate athletics), except put wins on the scoreboard,” Schemmel said then. “And I believe he’ll do that.”

This vote of confidence seemed to relieve Long, who said afterward that he could have taken “short cuts” to make SDSU better sooner but that would have hurt SDSU in the long run. For example, Long tried to build with high school recruits instead of junior college players who are more experienced but often have risky academic backgrounds.

Asked about reneging on Schemmel’s vote of confidence, Weber said, “Well, things change. That was at a time when the season still had some potential bright spots in it. We’re now at 2-10. At that time, it was still possible that we would see improvement over last year. Obviously, that’s not where we ended up.”

The Aztecs lost four of their last five games, three of them by 25 or more points, as support for Long plummeted. Former Alumni Association President Art Flaming said in the Union-Tribune on Oct. 24 that “we need a new coach, and we need a new athletic director.”

Flaming, who recently donated $500,000 for the new SDSU Alumni Center, said he received more than 40 calls after his quote was published. “And they all agreed,” he said. “The only one that didn’t agree was my wife.

“They did the right thing,” Flaming said. “He’s a nice a guy and all that, but he just doesn’t win ballgames.”

Flaming said he did not donate to buy out Long. Weber declined to identify the donors or give a range of how many donors there were for this cause. Many had been e-mailing him with their displeasure.

“This has been in the works roughly for about two weeks,” Weber said. “Jeff came to me about two weeks ago saying, ‘You know, I think we’re going to need to make a change.’ Then the next question was, ‘Do we have the financial option to make a change?’ . . . Once we found out that was real a option, then Jeff proceeded to make the decision.”

In December 2005, Schemmel wanted to make clear that he, not Neinas, was the one who chose Long, a coach with a famous name and good pedigree but with a reputation in the industry as not being particularly intense.

“Chuck (Long) was on my list,” Schemmel wrote in an e-mail then, underlining the word “my.”

During his tenure, as losses mounted, SDSU season-ticket sales dived to their lowest level since at least 2001, at about 10,200. Actual attendance has dropped from about 25,000 per game in 2005 to around 16,000 this season. The apathy became so apparent that the city of San Diego put its foot down, too. The city said it has lost more than $310,000 in 2006 and 2007 to stage Aztecs games at Qualcomm Stadium and no longer wanted to subsidize the program. Negotiations for a new lease have dragged on for a year.

Despite that, and the .250 winning percentage the past three years, Weber insisted hiring Long was not a mistake by Schemmel.

“I think Chuck was a great hire,” Weber said. “He had wonderful credentials. We had every reason to believe he could be successful. It didn’t turn out that he was.”

Weber and Don Oberhelman, SDSU’s senior associate athletic director, said SDSU football is better now than it was when Long took over in 2005 for Tom Craft, who was fired after compiling a four-year record of 19-29. They cited Long’s emphasis on academics and “citizenship.”

“We’re closer to being a winner than we have been in the past,” Oberhelman said. “This football program is better for having Chuck Long serve as our football coach.”

>Does It Matter That Your Professor Is Part Time?

>US News & World Report
By Kim Clark
November 7, 2008

As colleges face increasing costs, the traditional tweed-coated, pipe-smoking, comfortable-job-for-life full-time professor appears to be going the way of the dodo bird. Nowadays, the typical college professor is a part-timer, moonlighting for extra cash or prestige, or “freeway flying”—cobbling together a teaching career with several classes at different colleges.

Some students are benefiting from adjuncts’ lower costs and, often, more practical, up-to-date instruction, of course. But there’s also considerable evidence that the proliferation of adjunct professors—many of whom don’t have Ph.D.’s—is dumbing down many classrooms and contributing to grade inflation.

Despite 20 years of booming enrollment and skyrocketing tuition, colleges have been quietly filling the majority of new openings with part-time or short-contract adjunct professors (also often called “visiting professors,” “instructors,” or “lecturers”) instead of the traditional assistant professors who have a chance to work up to a full tenured job. In fact, the nation’s graduate schools are now pumping out hundreds more Ph.D.’s each year in some disciplines than there are tenure-track openings available. The trend has become so pervasive that about two thirds of America’s college instructors are now adjuncts.

That’s generated tremendous savings for colleges. On average, traditional professors, who have tenure (or lifetime job guarantees), benefits, and campus offices, cost colleges the equivalent of about $8,000 per three-credit class, one recent study found. Adjuncts, the vast majority of whom teach only one or two courses at any particular college, cost their employers an average of about $1,800 per course. Schools not only pay adjuncts less per classroom hour but often don’t offer benefits or support such as offices or secretaries.

Acceleration. A few schools, such as Arizona State University, are responding to current budget shortfalls by laying off adjunct faculty. But looming financial problems are likely, over the long term, to cause many colleges to “accelerate the hiring of adjuncts,” says Jane Wellman, director of the Delta Project on Postsecondary Education Costs, Productivity, and Accountability.

Indeed, many of the fastest-growing schools have eliminated tenure altogether. Western Governors University, a new online community college, has found that non-Ph.D.’s, on average, do a better job of motivating and counseling students through the school’s computerized lessons. And the freedom to release employees whose students fail improves the quality of the education, says Robert Mendenhall, WGU’s president.

Many traditional colleges claim adjunct-taught classes are better for students than, for example, classes taught by graduate students.

Texas Woman’s University Provost Kay Clayton says raising the share of part-time faculty about 4 percentage points to 44 percent in the past five years might be helping her students. For instance, by hiring moonlighting nurses for about $3,000 per course to teach some nursing classes, the school helped keep this year’s tuition at $6,500 a year and, Clayton says, provided better teachers. “That is a real benefit to the students, because they are practitioners and bring in a wealth of experience,” she says.

In fact, one study found that in some fields—especially technical and career-related programs such as psychology, architecture, and finance—students who are taught by professionals serving as part-time instructors appear to perform better academically. Such students also take more courses in the subject.

But that study (and others) found, in addition, that the students of adjuncts who are teaching the basic academic disciplines, such as English, history, and pure sciences, are more likely to drop out.

Despite that troubling research, more than half of all English professors are now not on the tenure track. And many adjuncts say most colleges provide them with so little support, job security, and money that it is inevitable that their students will underperform.

Since schools usually look at student evaluations to determine whether or not to invite adjuncts back, Lila Harper, who has a Ph.D. in English literature and teaches writing and literature at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Wash., finds herself grading a little easier than she likes and avoiding controversial subjects. “We are gradually undermining the value of a college degree,” she fears.

Harper, who is a full-time adjunct, says that because she has no chance at tenure, she stopped teaching a course that included Thomas Mann’s novella Death in Venice after a student objected on religious grounds. (The main character, a middle-aged writer, struggles with an unexpected passion for a young boy as he also confronts his mortality and his moral duty to warn the youngster to flee a coming plague.) “I am disposable,” Harper says. “If they can save face by firing me, they will fire me, so I try to pick topics that are not controversial.”

Multiple choice. Another adjunct, who teaches speech and communications part time at private Midwestern colleges and asked not to be named, says that only by teaching six to nine courses a semester (at about $2,000 a course) can he make the $25,000 to $30,000 a year he needs to cover his basic living costs. So he spends 12 to 13 hours a day driving to part-time jobs at different colleges, teaching, and grading. “I give multiple-choice tests because I don’t have time to grade essays,” he says. And when one private college, eager to increase enrollment, recently asked him to pass a flunk-ing student who would otherwise have dropped out, he says he had little choice but to agree, since he wants to be invited back to teach again next semester.

Sometimes, he thinks of how each of the 20 or 30 students in his classes is paying about $2,000 in tuition and fees for each course. The classes generate at least $40,000, which means the colleges pass on to him only about 5 percent of the students’ tuition. Although the adjunct, who has a master’s degree, gets top ratings from his students, he doesn’t get raises. The colleges “always say, ‘We know that you are worth more than this, but we don’t have the money.’ “

Meanwhile, to get to his classrooms, he drives past cranes erecting “million-dollar dorms and athletic facilities,” he notes. He is often tempted to find steadier, more lucrative work. But “I love teaching, being exposed to the students, their ideas and energy.” If he did quit, he knows there are dozens of professionals eager to take his place. “If the university can get something cheaper,” he says, “it will.”