• September 18, 2014

Texas A&M System Will Rate Professors Based on Their Bottom-Line Value

The Texas A&M University System is moving ahead with a controversial method of evaluating how much professors are worth, based on their salaries, how much research money they bring in, and how much money they generate from teaching, The Bryan-College Station Eagle reports.

Under the proposal, officials will add the money generated by each professor and subtract that amount from his or her salary to get a bottom-line value for each, according to the article.

Frank Ashley, vice chancellor for academic affairs for the 11-campus system, said the public wanted accountability. "It's something that we're really not used to in higher education: for someone questioning whether we're working hard, whether our students are learning. That accountability is going to be with us from now on."

Peter Hugill, who heads the local chapter of the American Association of University Professors, blamed a conservative think tank with ties to Gov. Rick Perry for coming up with an idea that he said is simplistic and relies on "a silly measure" of accountability.

Comments

1. schwnj - September 02, 2010 at 03:31 pm

I'm actually someone who doesn't automatically oppose these sorts of cost-benefit analyses, but I think it's ridiculous to apply to individual faculty. Teaching assignments are often arbitrary, and students' class choices are not typically based on faculty, but on timeslot and curriculum requirements. Depending on how it's calculated, student-based money (tuition+subsidy) dwarfs research money, so all this will show is that faculty who teach intro classes are the most "valuable" to the university, even though they require the least amount of specialized knowledge. In sum, this is just all kinds of stupid.

2. unusedusername - September 02, 2010 at 03:33 pm

I'll teach the introductory class with 450 students. I'll give everyone A's and have 100% retention. I'll be first on the list! Send me my raise.

3. abichel - September 02, 2010 at 03:42 pm

Some form of public accountability has been long overdue in higher ed, and while this attempt is obviously not perfect at least it is a start. Granted the accounting for butts in seats may be a bit scewed, but not so much so that it can't be made more useful with a little more work, a variable point system perhaps that distinguishes between intro and upper level courses. Credit could also be given for committee assignments and advising loads, as well as publications and other forms of service to the instituion and/or community. If you want to monetize the job of professors fine, but be sure to include all aspects of their jobs. Same for administrators and staff members too.

4. indianalitchick - September 02, 2010 at 03:52 pm

Can someone explain what "money generated from teaching" means? Is it the tuition a student pays for a class?

5. avaltcheva - September 02, 2010 at 04:08 pm

While this is an interesting proposal on giving "value" to professors, I would like to know more about how exactly is that measure derived? What about class sizes and professors in smaller colleges/universities, where classrooms are smaller sizes? Will they be "worth" less? Will that mean that professors in such colleges will receive smaller value just because the emphasis is on teaching and student learning?

I agree with unusedusername post - do we want to push faculty to teach and assign higher grades just so their "value" increases? (Quite striking similarities to K-12 education with the "teaching to the test" struggles schools are having, no?)

While colleges/universities are in their essence business institutions (students pay for a service!), I think there is a lot more to the "value" of a faculty member than the results of "a silly measure" of accountability.

6. emeraldcite - September 02, 2010 at 04:13 pm

This will also ensure that all those teaching intro to sciences and those doing research will far outpace the worth of any in the humanities. The humanities just doesn't bring in that kind of money.

Those in the Freshman Comp programs will get creamed. Their classes are small compared to a 100-level lecture course. How could you ever compare the two? Not to mention the lack of research dollars.

Just another reason to get out of the Texas education system all together.

7. livebythegoldenrule - September 02, 2010 at 04:18 pm

Sounds like the college of corporate clowns sponsored by Wall Street. And the circus continues ....

8. kolds - September 02, 2010 at 04:29 pm

Given the indirect costs associated with educating students, especially in public universities, perhaps they should be rewarding professors with small class sizes if they really care about the bottom line - there is an economic logic to teaching fewer and fewer students, and just focusing faculty time on generating externally-derived research income. Hey, why not simply educate elites as they learn quicker and are out the door faster, costing taxpayers less. Even better, model the system on universities from the medieval era - efficient, low cost and perhaps ideal for modern-day Texas!

9. drdenesh - September 02, 2010 at 04:31 pm

Highly-paid humanities faculty (yes, there are some at A&M), if they generate research money at all, get grants that essentially provide partial salary replacement, not multi-millions of equipment, salary, and overhead dollars to the institution. These humanists tend to teach small graduate seminars and the smaller upper-level undergraduate courses, so they won't generate an impressive amount in terms of tuition dollars (and they don't teach in the professional schools, with their differentially higher tuition levels). The A&M calculation is guaranteed to show that these faculty members have a small net worth to the institution, and if you subtract from that paltry sum an additional liberal-bias tax imposed by conservative politicians, you might as well not bother calculating net worth at all and just conclude that humanities faculty can't possibly earn their keep at A&M. That would be a claim that any rational university in any rational universe would scoff at. But in Texas, which brought us "no child left behind," leaving behind this segment of the liberal arts faculty is certainly imaginable. And where does that leave those in the fine arts?

10. cordelia - September 02, 2010 at 04:33 pm

Well, another step towards the denigration of academia in Texas. It's not surprising.

BTW, the University of North Texas just mandated that all faculty members must be IN THEIR OFFICES for four hours/day, four days/week. This is in addition to any time they spend in class or at committee meetings.

11. cordelia - September 02, 2010 at 04:34 pm

Oh, not sure how they will "police" the faculty. Time clocks, anyone?

12. matthewsm - September 02, 2010 at 04:35 pm

Neo-liberalism taken to its rational conclusion: the commodification of everything, including humanity.

What is the value of Latin? Philosophy? Art?

If you'll excuse me, I'm off to scout local caves for future inhabitation during inevitable Dark Age.

13. wchristie - September 02, 2010 at 04:42 pm

I actually tried something like this when I was a VPAA at a private undergraduate college where every dollar counted. We had a few highly paid professors who taught only upper level classes (they became department chairs so they could control teaching assignments) with very small enrollments. One typically taught only about 36 students total per year. I had put pressure on him to assign himself introductory classes, but his faculty came to me privately and begged me to back off. They used the intro classes to recruit majors, and he was such a bad teacher that he drove students away. So the economic evidence I gathered helped me justify to my president (soft-hearted and somewhat soft-headed) why I wanted to reduce this professor's salary. Measures of economic productivity can in certain cases and for certain purposes provide useful information in financial decisions. I question their utility at a place like A&M. But at a tuition-driven college they can be very valuable. They aren't perfect; but they provide a certain kind of accountability, a word dreaded by most of the faculty who react violently against these measures.

14. kathden - September 02, 2010 at 04:43 pm

As a "naturalized" Texan I can feel proud: A&M has come up with an evaluation scheme that makes no reference to education or learning. Go Aggies!

Rick Perry has, by the way, been packing the board and highest administration with well-to-do and influential supporters. Perhaps he will be named a Distinguished University Professor if Bill White beats him in the governor's race. In that case, A&M's loss, Texas's gain.

15. johnga1949 - September 02, 2010 at 04:46 pm

I would agree with the overall intent but not necessarily on an individual basis. Overall, universities have to generate revenue and for public institutions, there are usually only four sources: contracts & grants, state appropriations, tuition, and gifts from alumni & friends.

In almost every major universities, there are high demand areas that generate lots of SCHs and that "subsidize" lower demand areas. That's just the nature of a comprehensive university. If this model became the sole determinant of program viability, I suspect you'd see a lot of program closures around the country.

16. tallenc - September 02, 2010 at 04:47 pm

I'm guessing that it wouldn't take too much work to convince Texas to secede and reconstitute its republic status. I say we get to work on that straight away.

17. brentbetit - September 02, 2010 at 04:47 pm

Accountability and assessment of relative employee value is a vital precept in any organization (yes, I'm a member of the "dark side" - a senior academic administrator), but this would appear a highly counter-productive approach, with significant potential to produce an extraordinary range of negative, unintended consequences. I would urge the originators of this bit of malarkey to go back and study some basic systems theory. You're going to be horrified at the long-term outcomes of this "system." If you wish to insult your faculty, as this suggests, probably throwing some rotten tomatoes would work just as well.

18. 11272784 - September 02, 2010 at 04:48 pm

I worked at A&M for 13 years before escaping, and this doesn't surprise me. It potentially devalues all teaching in high-volume humanities courses, teachers who don't generate big research dollars, and will surely result in teaching being even more undervalued and undersupported (it's an expense, you know) than before.

The devil is in the details...if tuition generated from teaching is to be considered, how is it measured? Full tuiton? State portion only? Net after the state's portion is removed? There's plenty of potential for catastrophic problems.

19. blue_state_academic - September 02, 2010 at 04:49 pm

So, let's see -- on the research side, all I have to worry about is whether I bring in research grants. Doesn't matter whether I actually produce any scholarship (worthwile or otherwise) from those research grants. Just keep the dollars flowing in!

20. blue_state_academic - September 02, 2010 at 04:50 pm

Even better yet, let's rate the administrators on the same bottom line.

21. 11264892 - September 02, 2010 at 04:51 pm

Someone needs to apologize to the readers of the Chronicle for their having to read about the behavior of the nanobrains that are in charge of the TAMU System.

22. profmomof1 - September 02, 2010 at 04:54 pm

So if my University picked up this idea, I can see right now that no faculty member of sound mind should take on committee work, advising of students, developing new technologies for teaching, developing new courses, directing dissertation or thesis work, etc. None of those things would count in the assessment of a professor's "worth" to the institution. Teaching hand-on lab or studio courses, which require small class size, would also have to go.

23. oldphyrte - September 02, 2010 at 04:57 pm

What was it that Albert, the old physicist, used to say? “Not everything that counts can be counted; and not everything that can be counted counts”?

24. abichel - September 02, 2010 at 05:01 pm

OMG, they want to measure US? How dare THEY! WHO could possibly be qualified to do such a thing? YIKES! Call the union...

25. pchoffer - September 02, 2010 at 05:08 pm

Folks: the hours spent advising, reading, and generally working individually with grad students in my field, history, often equals the number of hours spent in class. We get no additional salary for this work, for it is not part of a course assignment. The MA and PhD advising we do has a course number, but is not counted as part of our course loads. It is part of our commitment to higher education and to our discipline. How would this be weighted in the A&M scale? Seems to me both students and faculty in the non-sciences would be advised to go someplace else. Those who can, will. The result will be an even less productive faculty and an even less qualified graduate student body. All best, Peter

26. feteel - September 02, 2010 at 05:11 pm

I too believe that accountability is important, however, I have to wonder when institutions of higher education became all about research or being paper mills. Many people worked hard to get doctorates to teach, not to allow the students seeking their doctorates to teach their classes. In my near 25 years as a professional I have seen the quality of research deteroriate, I blame this is part on "publish or parish". Now there is a proposal to make how much a faculty member brings in through grants or even tuition a major part of his/her evaluation. Some of us teach in accreditated programs that limit severely the number of student we can have in a section of a course. If my colleague above can see 450 students in a class does that make him/her more valuable as an instructor? Are all classes to become information only? If so how prepared are students going to be when they enter their new professions? What is important pushing through a large number of students, or training them to take their place in leadership? WHERE ARE OUR VALUES IN HIGHER EDUCATION?

27. 11274135 - September 02, 2010 at 05:14 pm

On the face of it, this approach seems a bit zany. But it might be kind of interesting to see what it produces, if it not done in some simple minded way. Research, for example, almost always costs the university more than any PI brings in by way of grant money. The cost of a large lecture section must include not only some portion of the instructor's salary but also the vast infrastructure (not to mention TAs and the like)required to support the course. Then if you look at the excess a faculty member brings in from all sources in relation to what the faculty member costs the university, the real champs will be the adjuncts teaching freshman comp, intro psychology, US history surveys, and the like. Adjuncts teaching reltively small courses like freshman comp usually generate income that is 5 to 10 times what they get paid. This logic leads to an all-adjunct university (ala the University of Phoenix, etc.) but this is not how you build a great university that that fulfills all of the obligations of a university: the communication, stewardship, and creation of knowledge. Aggies! Shish!

28. tuxthepenguin - September 02, 2010 at 05:18 pm

How do you measure the value of an introductory course versus a graduate seminar? They evidently have a LOT more information than anyone on the planet.

I can't say I wouldn't expect this to come out of the state of Texas...

29. szgoldberg - September 02, 2010 at 05:31 pm

Maybe I missed this in the comments or misunderstood the article, but it seems to say

add up the various funds the professor brings in and subtract that sum from the professor's salary to get the "net value"

Maybe the guy who thought this up can't speak English, or can't do math but let's consider two faculty members each with $60,000 salaries and one brings $100,000 but the other only brings in $40,000

So if I understand the formula in the article properly this works out as follows"
60,000 - 100,000 = -40,000
60,000 - 40,000 = +20,000

Pretty clear to me that whoever came up with this idea needs a remedial course in either English or arithmetic or both!

30. mdefusco - September 02, 2010 at 05:32 pm

I find these comments so interesting. I would concur with the physicist's comment that not everything that counts can be counted, but that does not address the issue that everything that counts (eventially) needs to be paid for. This seems to be a resource allocation issue, not a performance issue. This very simple resource allocation is what families do when they have to make important decisions about how to spend limited resources. While I would never judge the value of any of my children, I do have to make decisions about how we make choices (and that occasionally requires that we alter the way we have been doing things because of environmental changes). Knowing who produces financial results and rewarding them for that seems a simple task (akin to what a professional sports might do when planning a team). Faculty, if they are to be responsible for not only governance but also results of governance, should want to know the true costs, so that if alternations need to be made, they have a clear knowledge of Dollar value (not the implicit value clearly but also important).

In tough times, faculty can complain about the demise a pristine academy, but academic work has always needed to be paid for. Instead of feeding off the taxpayer trough, we might consider that the origens of our hoods were to collect the thoughful donations of our benefactors.

31. cranefly - September 02, 2010 at 05:37 pm

Isn't this counter-productive, in that faculty will be chasing grants all the time instead of focussing on their teaching?

32. gahnett - September 02, 2010 at 05:59 pm

Money money money money, MONEY

Some people got to have it
Hey, Hey, Hey - some people really need it

Hey, listen to me, y'all do thangs, do thangs, do thangs - bad thangs with it
Well, you wanna do thangs, do thangs, do thangs - good thangs with it - yeah

Un Huh, talkin' bout cash money, money

Talkin' bout cash money - dollar bills y'all - come on, now

33. babyboots - September 02, 2010 at 05:59 pm

Ha, ha, this is an April Fool's joke, right? Almost had me believing it.

What's next, evaluating children based on how much they cost vs. what they are worth on the open market?

34. _perplexed_ - September 02, 2010 at 06:14 pm

All the A&M faculty needs to do is coerce the Governor into applying this system to administrators like VC Ashley...

35. samwise - September 02, 2010 at 06:31 pm

Just to add a bit more fun to the mix. Several comments indicate that many of the valued faculty will be adjuncts. Well A&M has indicated that 400 adjunct positions will either be terminated or not filled beginning with the 2011 school year. Thus, on top of insulting the remaining faculty they fired a significant portion of the teaching faculty for introductory courses. The nightmare has only begun.

36. bobfutrelle - September 02, 2010 at 06:41 pm

If someone spends three years writing a book, that activity presumably "produces nothing", even though the book might be of great value when finished.

They'll need marketing people working with literary critics as the chapters get done. They'll also need to evaluate the hours of note-taking that develop the material for the book.

These sound like wonderful tasks for idiot bean-counters. (Does the govenor ever read books?)

37. universityprof - September 02, 2010 at 06:46 pm

Clearly more factors should be considered, but at least there now seems to be an effort to assign some kind of value to teaching. At the present time, there is virtually no value placed on teaching at Texas A&M or most other so-called research-oriented universities. The recent budget cut/re-allocation hit teaching the hardest. Non-tenured faculty members who taught a very disproportionately high amount of student credit hours were the first ones fired (you can't easily fire tenure track faculty). People who teach, whether tenured or non-tenured, are not highly valued. Faculty members often joke: Find a school where they give teaching awards and you'll find a school that doesn't care about teaching. For the most part, research gets virtually all the real rewards (pay raises, promotions, etc.). It's simple enough to see where the money goes, e.g. via the Tribune's website (http://www.texastribune.org/library/data/government-employee-salaries/texas-am-university/): athletics, administrators, and researchers, not teachers. In general, the highest paid faculty are those who publish in the "top" journals, generally only read by a small number of professors, and who teach few classes. The end result is that in fall 2011, if current plans are carried out, Texas A&M by necessity will have fewer and larger classes. From one perspective, the goal of the budget cut/reallocation seems to be to damage the undergraduate teaching mission as much as possible, while protecting research faculty and graduate programs to the maximum extent possible. Some departments totally cancelled summer classes (result - empty classrooms, resulting in gross under-utilization of the state's major investment in the physical plant of the university). The fact that there is now some effort to recognize the value of teaching should be applauded, not derided. Of course other factors should be considered (e.g. advising, committee work, etc.). At least this is a start in the right direction and perhaps a tiny step toward putting value on something other than research. Hopefully the end result will be some kind of balance, one in which teaching, research, and service all have real value.

38. crankycat - September 02, 2010 at 06:47 pm

When they start evaluating administrators based on their "bottom-line value" we'll know they're serious...

39. cwinton - September 02, 2010 at 06:50 pm

It never ceases to amaze me how the managerial types look for magic formulas to relieve themselves of the burden of actually evaluating something, the more simplistic the better (gives them more time on the golf course, I suppose). But come to think of it, administration seems to be geared to devising means for getting out of work, usually by passing it on to someone else. If this is the best they can do, then I suggest that the school might just as well run on auto-pilot and dispense with its administration entirely. Now that would be a real cost savings, and make just about aa much sense.

40. 11274135 - September 02, 2010 at 06:58 pm

As I noted above, the for-profits have figured out the financial model: have as few full-time faculty members as possible, if any. All of them will bring in more money than they cost. For-profits have a niche to fill in higher education, but I don't think that's the niche that Texas A & M is after. Is it? None of these simple minded accountability measures work at places like A & M, because such universities (heck, all universities) are very complex places doing lots of different things.

41. mdefusco - September 02, 2010 at 07:15 pm

I would concur that if the administration does not have similar measures of their efficiency, then this would be a cynical and futile exercise. Each organization must find a method to measure how it is accomplishing its stated mission (clearly the social contract it makes with students, taxpayers, and the the community in general).

In response to bobfutrelle, the production of an important monograph is surely to be a source of pride for institutions, and all their constituents. But under the social contract required by substantial taxpayer investment for the system, what real value does that book make to the people of the state? If professors decide to write on their spare time, of course the joy of a masterful scholarly piece should be their reward. If they write it on "company time", then the taxpayers rightly should see value - either in enjoying royalty rights, or in adding needed present knowledge that the state requires. What pharmaceutical company would allow its workers unrestricted rights to research, without a decision on the rewards directly going to "the owners"? Yet in state institutions, there are scores of faculty who produce intellectual property and retain ownership,without the least share for the citizens footing the bill.

The hard working people who deny their families loads of luxuries so their scions can attend a state supported research institution will find it hard to understand what all this boo-hoo is about.

42. soundingthealarm - September 02, 2010 at 07:25 pm

TAMU always has rated professors according to this scheme. They are just admitting it for the first time.

http://www.cynicalbastards.com/ubs

43. texasraised - September 02, 2010 at 07:26 pm

Having been at TAMU, the net result will be more anachronism. Why? First, no new courses. Students do not register til start of a semester so profs can now only offer what is tried and true - or required by curriculum. If a course fails to make, then out the prof goes! Secondly, undergrad honors classes will be gone. No tailored teach-to-the-student education, only "op-scan" Aggies will be the educational consequence. Third, no bright young faculty will want to be employed here so brain drain is next.

In short, TAMU's undergrads will suffer most. They will not be competitive to the best grad and professional schools. TAMU gets an "F" failing mark for serving its taxpayers poorly. No more AAU membership for TAMU!

44. newamsterdam - September 02, 2010 at 07:38 pm

As someone who often teaches intro courses, I want the good leads, because I'm a closer. A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing. Always be closing, always be closing.

45. samwise - September 02, 2010 at 07:45 pm

to universityprof : While it is certainly true that teaching and service are likely undervalued we still operate in a market system and the market says research is king. If A&M wants a tier 1 University then it has to play the market and pay the price for what it wants. If it has a mistake in its goals it should say so and not punish the qualified research faculty it bought to achieve the original goal. This is a formula that a business 101 student could see the flaw in. So if you believe teaching should be valued then change the University to one that emphasizes teaching stop all the nonsense about achieving a goal the University administration appears not to want. That way the market will resolve itself and A&M will pay for and get want they want. This method is just stupid destruction of valuable resources because you are too afraid to say you want something else. By the way make sure the administration stops bragging about its research faculty if it really doesn't want them it is a fabrication and an insult to those who focus on research as their primary market value. A&M should stop trying to change the market it entered and just withdraw from that market and give the state of texas something else if that's what the state of texas wants.

46. 22011344 - September 02, 2010 at 08:03 pm

Some things, neo-classical economists to the contrary, cannot be measured! The value of a good teacher or the worth of a forward thinking researcher being two examples. The insistance on measuring the unmeasurable is the fundamental absurdity of the Texas plan. How do we measure the beauty of a sunset or the contribution of a good book to a civilization?? Money?? Oh, that is rich. This measure is the ultimate degradation of the university into a corporatized vocational training school. Look, ma, the barbarians are not at the gate anymore! They are running the country.

47. english_ivy - September 02, 2010 at 09:19 pm

Next headlines out of A&M:
Mystreriously faculty refuse to do service work.
Grad Student has nervious breakdown trying to get a schedule of classes involving senior faculty.
Fights break out for Intro to the Major courses.
Grads amongst undergraduates mysteriously rise due to the complicated ponzi scheme led by senoir facult that is what A&M has become; the profs have the highest student satisfaction and "teaching value" in history.

What a mess.

48. frankschmidt - September 02, 2010 at 09:27 pm

Our university did this some time ago, but only by departments and schools. The only units that didn't cover costs were the professional schools (Med, Vet and Engineering), and that didn't take into account the money generated by professional practice, which would at least have thrown a couple of those into the black. Faculty are profit centers by this reckoning.

What will the politicians do when Texas A&M's audit shows the same results? I bet their response won't be to put more money in the budget.

49. profofengl - September 03, 2010 at 12:13 am

Texas A&M is run by idiots appointed by Perry. They already offer a monetary award for profs who "volunteer" to open their evaluations to scrutiny by the system and get all good evals. So of course this leads those profs who want the cash, and it's substantial, to give all As and make the students love them. Not all faculty can be painted by the same brush and this is just one more thing to alienate faculty and make them want to leave and teach where they are valued.

50. tcli5026 - September 03, 2010 at 01:26 am

I'm just glad I'm not a professor at Texas A&M.

51. rpm13 - September 03, 2010 at 01:34 am

Even if they get the math right and consider just economic value, the number is meaningless. To take just one side of the equation, there are tons of costs associated with each faculty line besides salary. For example, the professor teaching 450 students is using more square feet, electricity, etc. that the one teaching 45. Equipping a physics lab is more expensive than equipping a psychology lab. Processing a grant uses the time of research office personnel. Those are real dollars but apparently those doing the accounting in accountability at A&M are too lazy or stupid to consider more than two numbers and subtraction. What a great Aggie joke!

52. drkull - September 03, 2010 at 03:35 am

"Never confuse value with its measure." - Michael Kull

53. ardvaark - September 03, 2010 at 04:38 am

Let's come up with a formula to calculate the value of the administrators calculating these values!

54. mbelvadi - September 03, 2010 at 06:54 am

rpm13, don't forget the library costs. The science faculty bring in more research money than the humanities, but they also cost the university orders of magnitude more in library resources - typical humanities journals are under $100 whereas typical physical science journals are well into 4 digits, and many of the core titles are actually above $10,000 PER YEAR. Books are less extreme, but there too science books cost a lot more than humanities books. And then there's SciFinder (aka Chemical Abstracts online). Start subtracting these costs in any appropriate pro-rated fashion and the humanities faculty may start looking like bargains!
To consider a cost-benefit analysis and only look at salary on the cost side is so absurd as to clearly indicate an intention to skew the results.

55. archman - September 03, 2010 at 07:54 am

You folks don't know how ironic this is! Just recently Texas A&M started making plans to fire most of their lecturers for 2011-2012. The 1-year notices to lecturers started going out this week.

So let's see... faculty would be solely evaluated on how much money they bring in (tuition dollars or grants). But oops! they're going to sack a big chunk of the teaching staff. And oh yes, there is steadily rising undergraduate enrollment.

I guess the students will teach themselves so faculty can get more gants. Faculty who don't bring in big grants can offer 1,000 student, online classes. Yay!

56. statmanz - September 03, 2010 at 08:08 am

One thing is for sure---TX A&M can forget about recruiting quality faculty.

57. 22019391 - September 03, 2010 at 08:24 am

I once was in a meeting with a dean, an economist, who wondered why introductory language classes couldn't be taught as 400-student lectures like introductory econcomics classes were. Perhaps he's now at Texas A&M.

58. intexas - September 03, 2010 at 08:38 am

I think I'll give up my teaching career in Texas and become an administrator (in Texas). No need to teach, research, or have common sense. And, the big bonus: no accountability. Plus,there should be plenty of openings according to a report in the Dallas Morning News that indicates "The glass offices at the nation's leading universities have filled faster than the classrooms, with new layers of administrators added at twice the rate of faculty and instructors." What do you think: Dean of the Office of Accountability and Bad Decision Making. Yes, it's an oxymoron, but that kind of thinking seems to rule in Texas. Since I will be the Dean, my first move will be to create more administrative slots.

59. kesylvester - September 03, 2010 at 09:05 am

Finally, the realization that academia is a business. In this case, the computation of teaching loads now becomes important and desired; in this case, people are motivated to go beyond the call of duty and not just do the bare minimum; in this model, junior and senior faculty alike are assessed and paid for their labor and not their power to inflict labor; in this case we now see the top heavy, non productive existence that can occur among faculty in individual departments; Yes this is a simple approach and it should be to at least to start the process of assessing accountability. Can you imagine what all of you would be saying if you did not understand it or if it were complex? The issue that I see with this idea is that the implementation must maintain equity as well as value for intangible elements of academia that have been so well articulated by others (Committee assignments, graduate student assignments, student advising, outreach, etc.) With this model, now faculty will want to chair graduate committees, now faculty will want to teach larger classes; now administrators will be force to do and know have more skills than just keeping the faculty happy and how not to be sued; Academia for too long has been a white collar, welfare industry where politics, friendship, and overt favoritism have been the determinants of acceptance into the academy. With this model, there is potential to balance scales and provide true equity and value. I would just advise the Texas A&M System to be careful what is asks for. They might find that more than not, expenditures to faculty may need to be increased. Otherwise, here comes the 40 hour work week with defined job descriptions for University faculty. Some might say we finally have to justify our work and do a real job representative of the real world, Ph.D. or not.

60. crross1 - September 03, 2010 at 09:56 am

The think tank that the article refers to is here:

http://www.texaspolicy.com/

Tells you all you need to know about this idea.

61. soc_sci_anon - September 03, 2010 at 10:38 am

"publish or parish"? Is this part of the science vs. religion debate?

I predict a rapid demise in the Texas higher education system, as any facutly member who can get out flees to a saner state. Among those remaining, battles will ensue over undergraduate distribution requirements, because every discipline will claim that students "must" take their courses. A&M will far yet further behind other publics nationally, and wonder why...

If the brilliant people who thought of this plan intend to subtract from "net value" the costs of the shiny new buildings and equipment and other infrastrcuture that universities build to woo faculty who bring in the science and engineering grants, the relative salaries of empirical social scientists will skyrocket (same IDCs charged, but essentially zero marginal infrastructure cost to the university).

62. 11134078 - September 03, 2010 at 11:23 am

The other evening, Inspector Lewis expressed extreme irritation at his bosses because they were more interested in the publicity generated by a high profile crime than in his attempts to solve it. His Sgt., Sgt. Hathaway, said "They live in a different universe." Exactly so. The utter idiots who think that everything on earth can be quantified and have no love whatever for abstract thought and that sort of thing, do indeed inhabit a universe utterly different from ours. The question of the moment is how to defend ourselves and our belief in intellect and the life of the mind from the intergalactic war that has been launched against us. One very simple suggestion: organize!

63. bdellarocca - September 03, 2010 at 11:32 am

There's nothing else to say but that I am totally astonished. What do you think this move will cost them in donations? I can't imagine this kind of bottom line first approach will resonate with donors. Good grief.

64. nuclear_engineer - September 03, 2010 at 11:33 am

It is unwise and inaccurate to rate individual professors on "how much money they generate from teaching". That should be done on a department level basis. Then each professor in the department would carry the mean amount of funds generated. It would probably be more accurate to keep tally with a running three to five semester average.

Research funds generated, however, are quite different. They really do have individual professors names on them, and those who "captured" them should be recognized individually.

65. mr_grieves - September 03, 2010 at 12:12 pm

The merits of whether professors should be evaluated in this way, and what the proper ways are have been discussed here so I have nothing new to add. My question is: what about creating a similar accountability system for the administrators? Make them show the value they add over and above their often extravagant salaries?

66. bonobo - September 03, 2010 at 12:49 pm

What's interesting to me is that institution-level evaluations based on formulas and/or reputation (US News, etc.) reward very different things. If you undervalue senior faculty who publish highly cited theoretical texts that synthesize a career's worth of lab research in favor of adjunct faculty who teach 500 students at a time or those who simply chase RFPs rather than build programs of research, your rankings could (and quite likely would) plummet fairly rapidly. If administrators at TAMU don't think rankings affect the bottom line at all, why do they seem to care so much about them? If they do think that they affect the bottom line, why don't they evaluate faculty on the role they play in improving those numbers?

67. ksledge - September 03, 2010 at 01:23 pm

I read the linked article. It reconfirmed that this is a very, very bad idea that is poorly done. Only time in classroom counts as teaching, and it is based on the number of students you have.

From the linked article it sounded like the point of the evaluation is to prove to the public that the university is carrying its weight. If that's the only purpose, it doesn't really matter how crude it is. If raises or promotions are at all based on this system, then it's a complete disaster.

Take this simple example from the original article: "First, the teaching measurement is based on weighted semester credit hours, units that the state provides funding for based on students' major and level. For instance, the university receives significantly more money from the state for teaching a doctoral science student than a liberal arts undergraduate."

More credit for teaching a class of doctoral students than a class of undergraduates? HA! In grad classes you just have students read articles and discuss them. Usually the grad students "present" the articles so the professor has very little to do. Undergraduate teaching is a whole different story. At my doctoral institution all of the professors were trying to fulfill their teaching requirements with grad classes because they were less time consuming.

68. santon - September 03, 2010 at 01:35 pm

The fact that there should be accountability in higher ed, as in all institutions does not change the fact of what it is: managerial fascism. Sorry, I don't throw words around lightly, but let's call a spade a spade. Ultimately, human life is not reducible to a cost benefit analysis, because ultimately, it's a loss, unless you assume growing demographics and the ability to shift costs onto an ever growing population of young workers.

69. rpm13 - September 03, 2010 at 01:45 pm

ksledge: Your point about public consumption versus merit evaluations is well taken. But the quotation reflects how the state of Texas funds higher education (the supposed only economic value of teaching) not the difficulty of different assignments. It was never meant as a metric for anything below the institutional level, much less for individual faculty. Until now. Btw, I am sorry that your faculty don't take doctoral seminars more seriously. They ought to be more fun and stimulating, but not less effortful!

70. teacherspaddle - September 03, 2010 at 02:08 pm

Forget reason here. Forget starting off a statement like, "I believe in accountability, but.."

THIS IDEA IS ASSININE. No admnistrator with a brain could justify it. Research money earned is not a viable indicator for the majority of disciplines, and certainly not the starting point for determining the worth of an individual faculty member.

Those in disciplines that rely on research money need to band up and speak out, too, explaining the uselessness of this formula, before this nonsense takes hold.

71. hermz1 - September 03, 2010 at 02:15 pm

Does this evaluation system also apply to all the coaches in non-revenue sports?

72. txlogic - September 03, 2010 at 02:46 pm

bdellarocca: Donations will probably go up in response. You're forgetting that most donors are wealthy former students who are largely cut from the same cloth as Perry (himself a former student) and his cronies on the Board of Regents.

73. agteach - September 03, 2010 at 02:57 pm

OK, OK, I got it. They could round up the rest of the executives from Enron, you know, the guys not in jail, but still in the know, of Texas money-making and wealth creation, and have them set up a teaching derivatives market, a research derivatives market and a knowledge creation derivatives market. Think of all the ways traders could trade the derivatives, the ratios on the derivatives, and swaps between derivatives to determine values based on supply and demand. Surely California will follow, then we can compare values between institutions. If it's all about economic values, why not run it like Enron, MCI Worldcom, Goldman-Sachs or Lehman Brothers, which were also focussed with finance and economics over substance . Texans could build the Exchange in the Panhandle Paradise of Amarillo, with a redundant redundant site in Dalhart for backup.

Let the traders determine value, leave them poor administrators alone. Salaries and tuition could be tied to share price. Think about, how wonderful it would be.

74. am_2009 - September 03, 2010 at 03:02 pm

So ... I am single and don't cost the university any contributions for spouse or dependant benefits. Would that count as money I bring in to the university?

75. gypsyboots - September 03, 2010 at 03:13 pm

Will administators at Texas A&M also be required to jsutify their worth this way?

Thought not...even though bloated, rapidly expanding administrative superstructures with ever-higher-paid functionaries who don't teach are one of the main drivers of higher education costs over the past 30 years.

76. 11301218 - September 03, 2010 at 03:24 pm

faculty as share-croppers. A good Southern tradition.

77. billstone - September 03, 2010 at 03:34 pm

Actually, administrations tend to be very well aware of the money brought in by grants. Giving some credit for money brought in by teaching seems like an improvement.

78. samwise - September 03, 2010 at 04:30 pm

to billstone: The key word in your statement is "teaching" and there is nothing about a body count that relates to teaching. Body counts are normally related to casualties which the students at A&M will ultimately be.

79. phylsteiner - September 03, 2010 at 05:38 pm

Instead of religion, some groups (and their think-tanks) use the market to dictate what goes on in higher education, bypassing quaint qualitative notions like academic freedom or standards or the education of a free people (i.e., "liberal arts" for those from the Austin statehouse), and other faculty favored bugbears. The TAMU effort to monetize academics' value strangely echoes the Iranian government's recent crackdown on the humanities as instigating too much "independence," "skepticism and doubt": http://www.rferl.org/content/Iran_Launches_New_Crackdown_On_Universities/2138387.html.

80. commentarius - September 03, 2010 at 05:51 pm

An added irony is that the Texas legislature (for those unfamiliar with its redneck antics I highly recommend viewing Mike Judge's film "Idiocracy") has decided, based largely on assumptions about the economic value of research universities, that Texas doesn't have enough "Tier 1" universities and has initiated an expensive Idol-style competition among the also-rans to determine which will be the next one.

Meanwhile it does everything in its power to destroy the two public Tier 1's that already exist, by de-funding, punitive legislation, micromanagement by bean-counting morons, political chicanery and graft, blatant favoritism, cronyism, and many other crimes. What Tier 2 school in its right mind would want to attract this kind of attention from the state government?

81. universityprof - September 03, 2010 at 05:58 pm

This is a quick response to samwise and everyone concerned about the impact of valuing teaching again at Texas A&M and at higher ed in general: While true that supply and demand has played a role in the high value placed on top researchers, I think it incorrect to suggest that A&M would lose faculty members (i.e., "brain drain"), including top researchers, if it started placing value on teaching. Some new first-year faculty at A&M are paid as much as $200,000 fresh out of their PhD programs. For $200,000 A&M would still be able to hire the best and brightest, and retain virtually all their current faculty for that matter. Instead of focusing on research to earn their $200,000, new faculty members could focus on teaching. In turn, these faculty members might even enjoy their jobs and life in general even more by teaching 6 classes per year and doing a little research. In fact, faculty members who teach 6 classes per year and do a little research might be happier than those teaching 3 classes per year and doing a lot of research. If A&M were to do this, it is even possible that A&M would start a national trend. A&M's big bucks would most likely keep A&M in a leadership position. Money would still buy the top PhD graduates. The new mantra might become: Big bucks for big teaching with some research, not big research and little teaching. The end result might be better prepared graduates and fewer academic journal articles. How badly will the world suffer with fewer academic journal articles? I expect most students and most taxpayers would prefer the "big bucks for big teaching" model. Of course, research will still be important. Research has a positive impact on teaching performance, but research should not be more important than teaching. Research now drives what faculty do; teaching is almost meaningless from a reward standpoint. Things need to come back to a better balance. To do that, research needs to be less emphasized and teaching more emphasized.

82. moleman - September 03, 2010 at 06:09 pm

I am thankful that Governor Rick Perry is a graduate of Texas A&M. Otherwise, he might ruin my almamater, The University of Texas. Hopefully, he will be out of office before he destroys the entire system of higher education in Texas. I am for sending him to Oklahoma.

83. arrive2__net - September 03, 2010 at 07:26 pm

Releasing all that info may create a market demand for the biggest revenue professors, so maybe the big revenue generators will be getting more job offers? For a business, that information would be proprietary. From a PR perspetive, if it were vitally important to put that data out there, maybe A&M could just publish group data (like department, school, and university-wide).

Maybe publishing that data will pressure professors to increase course load, enlarge classes, and to spend more time on research grants, since these are ways of increasing "revenue", but it may not increase the value the students get. It could have the effect of watering down instruction.

Some profs may greet this as a good idea if they feel they are currently undervalued for their teaching and research work. However, since the credit for teaching is based on a student head count, it will not credit quality of teaching. It seems to be crediting grant money, but not necessarily research, itself.

If they go ahead with the plan, the effects will also be public, so I guess we will see if it 'let's the sun shine in', or 'lets out the air', or both

Bernard Schuster
Arrive2.net

84. mdefusco - September 03, 2010 at 09:51 pm

The utter idiots (post 63) who pay the bills of Texas public Universities want some answers. They want to know why they need to mortgage their homes so their children can get a good education. They want to know why the costs of education are rising at twice the rate of inflation (they know that their own salaries are not rising so quickly). They want to know as pointed out by universityprof in item #82. how a professor can earn a six figure salary teaching six classes (or 3 if they doing lot's of research - presumably the university is making a royalty from?). What is the seat time translation 45 class hours for each 3 unit class? And they do this with summers and Fridays off?

So let's assume that this is the worst idea ever submitted to civilized man. How would Sargeant Hathaway (post 63) and the rest of the indentured professorate explain to the taxpayers of Texas how they should justify salary? I am all for quality and I know quality costs more. Tell me an explanation to the taxpayer's question. #69 Satton, the people people will only tolerate "managerial fasciscm" if they are really pissed off.

85. fruupp - September 03, 2010 at 10:51 pm


Man, am I glad I wasn't offered the job I interviewed for years ago at Texas A&M, in scenic College Station, TX, zip code E-I-E-I-O. Ya-hooooo.....

86. voxprincipalis - September 04, 2010 at 12:19 am

In comment #3, abichel writes: "Some form of public accountability has been long overdue in higher ed[.]"

Why?

87. samwise - September 04, 2010 at 12:31 am

to Universityprof: because universityprof was kind enough to respond I feel it necessary to respond. First, let me say that I have no problem with increasing the value of teaching but I do have a problem with how it is carried out. The method at A&M suggests that administration really does not care about teaching but let me explain.

Under the system proposed all that A&M is doing is creating a measure that put's research faculty at a disadvantage relative to teaching faculty. Remember that this is still about markets although universityprof is trying to minimize its effect. the measure proposed only penalizes faculty who are research active because their body count will by default be lower than faculty that are doing little or no research. Because research faculty know there is a nationwide market for their skills they are not likely to abandon those skills to increase their teaching and thus given the penalty situation there will be a brain drain at A&M if these faculty are forced to alter their allocation of time and energy to something they may either not prefer or have invested a great deal of time in to become the researchers they are. So universityprof is wrong thinking that a brain drain will not happen from the current faculty who are being insulted by a measure that only counts bodies. At the current moment there is not nationwide market for teaching and because there are apparently equivalent teaching faculty at lower prices the rational decision by research faculty is to leave and go to schools that value their market. Now there is another way to accomplish what universityprof desires but apparently the administration has overlooked that or intentionally avoids it because valuing teaching is not their goal. This alternative is as follows:

1. start paying your teaching faculty the salaries that you propose now and advertise for teaching faculty at that rate. If A&M is starting the market that does not exist then they set the price for teaching and should attract numerous candidates for their positions. The problem is determining who is the superior teacher since many will come. If it is done by student evaluations the system is flawed because student evaluations can be manipulated but that is A&M's problem. Now given that A&M has advertised a higher price for teaching than that expected they need to be careful that when the decision to tenure a teaching faculty arises that they are subjected to the same risk level as a research oriented faculty. If not then proposing that salaries would be the same is unrealistic. If the teaching faculty are subject to lower risk of tenure then eventually the research faculty price will rise just like any investment. So talking about paying people 200,000 to teach 6 courses a year sounds good but unless you establish some system for exposing them to the same risk as a junior research faculty for tenure it ends up costing the University more.

Now assume that the junior person who has been convinced to come to A&M fails the tenure process. Where will they go. Unless a market has truly been established they have no where to go for another job except at possibly a significantly lower salary than A&M. In addition if A&M tenures the person they have no where to go if the market still values research. Unless College Station is considered a premiere place to live for 25 years this limits the persons options unless of course A&M by itself has managed to create a market for teaching (unlikley).

Thus, unless A&M abandons this punish approach the brain drain will happen and the likelihood that A&M alone can create a market for teaching is small. Thus, while universityprof has a desire to improve the value of teaching they are promoting a system that can only destroy not only the University's reputation but potential the careers of individuals to engage in this adventure of starting a teaching market that does not currently exist and a single school on its own is unlikely to create. So wish all you want but face the realities that bringing balance to teaching and research will not be accomplish but currently punishing research faculty with a faulty body count based on nothing at all.

88. marnall - September 04, 2010 at 12:31 am

Ah, accountability! How we faculty fear it - in any of its loathsome forms!

89. samwise - September 04, 2010 at 12:36 am

to Universityprof: because universityprof was kind enough to respond I feel it necessary to respond. First, let me say that I have no problem with increasing the value of teaching but I do have a problem with how it is carried out. The method at A&M suggests that administration really does not care about teaching but let me explain.

Under the system proposed all that A&M is doing is creating a measure that put's research faculty at a disadvantage relative to teaching faculty. Remember that this is still about markets although universityprof is trying to minimize its effect. the measure proposed only penalizes faculty who are research active because their body count will by default be lower than faculty that are doing little or no research. Because research faculty know there is a nationwide market for their skills they are not likely to abandon those skills to increase their teaching and thus given the penalty situation there will be a brain drain at A&M if these faculty are forced to alter their allocation of time and energy to something they may either not prefer or have invested a great deal of time in to become the researchers they are. So universityprof is wrong thinking that a brain drain will not happen from the current faculty who are being insulted by a measure that only counts bodies. At the current moment there is not nationwide market for teaching and because there are apparently equivalent teaching faculty at lower prices the rational decision by research faculty is to leave and go to schools that value their market. Now there is another way to accomplish what universityprof desires but apparently the administration has overlooked that or intentionally avoids it because valuing teaching is not their goal. This alternative is as follows:

1. start paying your teaching faculty the salaries that you propose now and advertise for teaching faculty at that rate. If A&M is starting the market that does not exist then they set the price for teaching and should attract numerous candidates for their positions. The problem is determining who is the superior teacher since many will come. If it is done by student evaluations the system is flawed because student evaluations can be manipulated but that is A&M's problem. Now given that A&M has advertised a higher price for teaching than that expected they need to be careful that when the decision to tenure a teaching faculty arises that they are subjected to the same risk level as a research oriented faculty. If not then proposing that salaries would be the same is unrealistic. If the teaching faculty are subject to lower risk of tenure then eventually the research faculty price will rise just like any investment. So talking about paying people 200,000 to teach 6 courses a year sounds good but unless you establish some system for exposing them to the same risk as a junior research faculty for tenure it ends up costing the University more because research faculty will demand more for greater risk if teaching faculty receive the salary that research faculty receive now just to teach 6 courses a year.

Now assume that the junior person who has been convinced to come to A&M fails the tenure process. Where will they go. Unless a market has truly been established they have no where to go for another job except at possibly a significantly lower salary than A&M. In addition if A&M tenures the person they have no where to go if the market still values research. Unless College Station is considered a premiere place to live for 25 years this limits the persons options unless of course A&M by itself has managed to create a market for teaching (unlikley).

Thus, unless A&M abandons this punishment approach the brain drain will happen if only because good researchers will take action to protect their market values. Thus, while universityprof has a desire to improve the value of teaching they are advocating a system that can only destroy, not only the University's reputation nationwide, but potentially the careers of individuals convinced to be a part of this adventure of starting a teaching market that does not currently exist and which a single school on its own is unlikely to create. So wish all you want but face the realities that bringing balance to teaching and research will not be accomplished by currently punishing research faculty with a faulty body count based on nothing at all.

90. samwise - September 04, 2010 at 12:45 am

to mdefusco: Why not ask administrators whose number has increased 65 percent versus faculty that has increased 9 percent. You are picking on the wrong party for answers. When you get an answer for the difference increased numbers you will also no why parents are mortgaging their houses. It is not faculty . Survey's indicate A&M faculty are underpaid relative to ALL peer institutions. This suggests the villian lies elsewhere.

91. raymond_j_ritchie - September 04, 2010 at 01:47 am

Dear Samwise - you are asking the right question!

The admin people who love "goals and outcomes and team players" and are such fans of applying economic rationalism to teaching and research staff would never be able to pass muster if they were required to justify their own salary in terms of the income they generated.

Most of the problems found in universities throughout the USA, Canada, Australasia and Europe are caused by bloated administration committees with three or more pairs of legs and no brain. The collaborationists in senior academic posts make it worse. I am sorry to say I cannot think of a solution.

92. mdefusco - September 04, 2010 at 07:14 am

I am no fan of bloated administrations. In fact, in tough times, every expense should be examined to see if sparse resources are being wisely used. I have no intent of blaming faculty. In fact, I am simply want to urge faculty to explain their worth to a public who thinks that 6 classes a year schedule is the best part time gig a person could ever fall into.

Lord knows, there are all varieties of inefficiencies on college campuses. I assure you taxpayers who see many of their colleagues downsized will also not take too kindly to armies of associate deans that they are paying for.

But why not look at this the other way? If faculty can define what performance(s) best serve the organizations's mission and reward accordingly, then many of the hard working professors will avoid the need to explain how hard they work (see North Texas where they are not paroled until they spend 4 hours a day in office) and actually do well.

The public perception that faculty retire on the job once they get tenure is not going away. Being proactive and defining worth before others do seems the only solution. Remember, I was the one who recommended that we pay superstar professors on a per student basis (http://chronicle.com/article/Professors-Known-for-Teachi/48293/)

93. samwise - September 04, 2010 at 07:52 am

To mdefusco: two things first i understand the problem public perception and solving that would help everyone. Not sure how since the only thing we have at the moment is verification of effort through publications that the public does not read. The torture behind getting many of those pubs is unobservable. So finding away that indicates that most research profs work 60-70 hours a week is good. Second it is the job of those bloated administrators to explain how the university works. At a&m instead of doing that ( probably because they are clueless how hard facultywork) the administration choses to impose a measure that can only make most research faculty look worse because it ignores 80 percent of their wok effort. Using one terrible measure does not solve anything and since the developer has an advanced degrees

94. samwise - September 04, 2010 at 07:59 am

To mdefusco: (continuing from above) one can only conclude they did not learn to think in achieving that degree, are simply too lazy to do their job, or there is something more sinister going on.

95. phyllis_stein - September 04, 2010 at 08:45 am

By all means, balance the teaching/research equation while maintaining tier one status (not likely); still the economics of this move don't make a lot of sense beyond grandstanding and further killing off the liberal arts for all but the most elite institutions and their students. That the public could so easily buy the monetize-the-faculty idea shows how out of touch too many academics have become, refusing, for whatever reason, to be vocal and, one would think, articulate and persuasive in making the case to their constituencies (students and the public) about what quality education requires: a truly professional faculty allowed to do its job.

The economics seem bizarre because the trends in higher education for years have been toward increased enrollments, increased tuition, increased administrative costs, increased campus amenities and capital expenditures, increased reliance on part-time faculty, and very slow growth, if at all, to full-time faculty positions. The job market for academics has been in the toilet for decades. For every person who gets a full-time position there are many capable people cobbling together part-time work, barely surviving in academia. So while it's historically logical that faculty get further controlled, demoralized, and diminished with such monetizing moves, the idea that full-time faculty are the big source of financial waste on campus is a bad joke. The truth is that faculty are vulnerable and are being scapegoated for a public that does not want to come to terms with the realities of what a good education requires.

Factors so favor a buyers' market of academic labor that U of Phoenix can pay peanuts to "facilitators," securing a wondrous windfall profit for investors. So the idea that academics are living like rock stars or bloated mandarins is something of a joke when so many of us are living on the margins for years and those of us who have full-time jobs with benefits have survivor's guilt and are all the more well-heeled because of our great fortune in the employment lottery. (I mean, it's not unusual to see students driving better cars and having spiffier cell phones than their professors.) The irony then is that the well-heeled faculty members who do have full time jobs are counted on to concede ever more autonomy and undergo ever more humiliating, deprofessionalizing concessions, in the name of pleasing the public or economizing the institution or supporting administrative costs.

96. samwise - September 04, 2010 at 08:58 am

To phylllis_stein: well said

97. samwise - September 04, 2010 at 09:12 am

To universityprof: a body count measure is not a move in the right direction if it is taken at the expense of the primary driver of university reputation. Before you continue slamming researchers it seems that based on your moniker you at one time must have been one of the evil researchers. So if you are not now one of the " hated ones" why should it be appropriate to change the game you played when you chose not to play. Seems a bit unfair to all junior faculty who must play it and although i hate to say it a little selfish on your part. If students are graduating and getting jobs then where is the failure by research faculty in teaching. If i suspect this is to appease the public concern over cost then have administrators account for their existence.

98. samwise - September 04, 2010 at 09:58 am

To universityprof: please note the overwhelming sentiment in this blog. This measure is already damaging the reputation of A&M just with the suggestion of using a body count measure. Try and imagine the catastrophic damage if implemented. You suggest it would not be bad as believed but sentiment here suggests the long run effects would be horrible.

99. english_ivy - September 04, 2010 at 01:19 pm

Yeah, Texas A&M just took a HUGE hit in the only ranking that matters, the public opinion of other professional scholars.
Few will want to work and study there.
Many of those who are there will want to leave as fast as they can.
This is the sort of boneheaded decision by a group of Idiots-In-Charge that can seriously undermine, even ruin, an institution.
It is unlikely to destroy A&M but it will wreak havoc on the university's reputation, recruitment, and rention at all levels until it is repealed or against all nay-sayers proves to work.

100. english_ivy - September 04, 2010 at 01:20 pm

Oh, my sympathies to those who are there.

101. 11126724 - September 04, 2010 at 02:26 pm

Why would any reasonably intelligent academic want to work in the Texas A&M University System?

The measures have no rational relationship to what faculty do.

102. samwise - September 04, 2010 at 02:36 pm

to 11126724: Some were mislead and are now trying to arrange to leave when the time arrives. Those hired under Gates are the most likely to leave. So the word "want" is based on a fairy tale that never came true.

103. olmsted - September 04, 2010 at 07:50 pm

There is an air of 'tenuredness' that abounds in many of the (extensive) comments for this article. And they suggest a loss of connection with reality which, perhaps, is a bit of the issue that Gov. Rick and the public are crying for. Have you noticed the public anger about economics in America? Iraq? Housing values? That people are pissed and want answers/heads to roll is the reality. That you (or I) are tenured and can puff about 'not working at A&M' is just so much arrogance. Are you REALLY that sure you, if currently a TAMU prof, could in this hiring season secure another tenured/tenure-track position elsewhere? Let alone at a better school? For all the Aggie jokes, and all the carefully manipulated "we get paid poorly compared to peer schools" surveys, it's a pretty good job/salary.

Frankly, I'd say you're blowing smoke from the comfort of your secure job title if you claim that. Most A&M prof's will NOT be threatening to leave. Yes, quite a few will seek an offer elsewhere. But the math shows most won't get an offer. So the question is what we/they do when faced with such reasonable demands from a public that doesn't get it (and some here have made just that pt). Money for higher ed isn't going to be easier to coerce from taxpayers themselves strapped for cash/jobs. So we should learn a bit about how to STFU and communicate effectively with others who don't get it. That governors or others obfuscate the process is just one of the hurdles we face.

FYI: STFU=show teaching faculty's utility. What did you think?

104. abichel - September 04, 2010 at 09:03 pm

The hypocrisy continues unabated, faculty are feckless self-preservationists whose best argument states that none other than THEMSELVES are qualified to understand and appreciate their selfless/endless toils. Crass BS at it's best! Off to the real world with the lot of you...

105. samwise - September 04, 2010 at 09:20 pm

to abichel: you sound just like one of the public that olmsted says doesn't get it. Your tirade is an excellent example of the A&M BOR's understanding of faculty and their job. Keep uo the ignorance it serves you well.

106. samwise - September 05, 2010 at 08:59 am

to olmsted: If you think this is arrogance you have an incomplete picture of what is happening at A&M. The administration is imposing a substantial reallocation of the budget that was not called for by the legislature but instead is the impetus of the BOR to provide funds for strategic initiatives. Those initiatives have not been spelled out nor disclosed to anyone at this point but there is a rumor that 21 million will be given to a private business as part of a development plan for quasi-university businesses. That reallocation in addition to the expected budget cut of 10% on top of 10% over the last two years is being imposed on the University without any knowledge of what the legislature is actually going to do. The legislature said to all Universities plan for a 10% cut. The administration has decided to enact that cut 39million plus the 21 million regardless of whether the 10 percent is truly enacted. The administration has indicated that if the state does not require the 39 million cut any funds saved will be allocated to the pool created by the 21 million dollar reallocation. Thus, the actions by the administration are expected to create a slush fund to be used for funding businesses that could approach 30-40 million dollars. That has resulted in over 300 non-tenure track faculty being fired beginning in the 2011 school year and if you consider that another 100 positions currently empty that will not be filled the impact on the educational mission is tremendous. Originally the public and faculty were told that part of the 21 million would fund faculty merit raises, the tenured faculty indicated they would not take raises for two years to minimize or avoid the firings. When the tenured faculty voted to not take raises the administration said they were firing the non-tenure track faculty anyway and the 21 million would not be used for raises and that the administration had never said it was for raises (although through the summer colleges had meetings where that issue was discussed based on information from the administration and there are video clips of a faculty senate meeting where the Provost is saying those very words (merit raises for faculty). In response to the faculty vote to not take raises the Provost lied in the local paper claiming never to have made those statements. Faculty were also asked to originally to volunteer to take a 10% pay cut to fund the 21 million dollars which now appears to be intended for something that smacks of misappropriation of funds rather than achieving goals of the University.

Basically the administration at A&M, the Chancellor, President, and Provost who are responsible for communicating with the public and BOR about what are the activities of the University and why they operate the way they do, responsible for protecting the institution's educational mission and responsible for providing a work environment for faculty and students consistent with that mission have abdicated that responsibility in favor of allowing an oversight committee BOR (board of regents) to micro manage the University to from all appearances generate businesses that will result in profits to individuals in the state but provide nothing to the University for its educational mission.

The departures are not likely to be immediate for some because as you say the market it poor but over the next 5 years the exodus is likely to be catastrophic because on top of the shenanigans being pulled at the upper level of the University they now want to measure faculty worth based on a measure that is basically a factory piece rate which they acknowledge does not take into account 80% of faculty work effort. For many faculty It takes into account only bodies in the room and nothing else. So think this is arrogance if you want but also take note that the University has been taken hostage by a group of people that have no idea how to run a University, whose original job was oversight of the University and not micro-management and who want to generate an education process at the University that looks like a factory farm.

107. betterschools - September 05, 2010 at 03:13 pm

Look at this . . . 117 comments and rising (OK, a few are SPAM). A recent article on how to teach better went unposted for 10 days.

As for the topic, I note a persistent confusion among different senses of value and worth, arising perhaps out of a lack of understanding of commonness with which the value of human endeavors, even life, are adjudicated, sometimes mechanically.

For example, when we set speed limits, we balance the value of life for a determined but unspecified few against the value of time for the many. Five MPH might be the greatest speed limit that does not enter this trade on human life. Beyond that and we knowingly trade human life for convenience at statistically known levels.

I do not know if TAMU's formula is the right one for them or even if it is a good one. I do believe the experimentation will be a good thing if we keep the open and constructive minds of intellectuals. We are intellectuals, aren't we?

108. samwise - September 05, 2010 at 03:46 pm

to betterschools: If you did not read the post just above yours then do it again. You make the presumption that the individuals pushing the experimentation have open and constructive minds. Those pushing it are Gov Perry appointments to the BOR and none have EVER been in academics and they are the experimenters. Some validity problems I fear.

109. betterschools - September 05, 2010 at 04:22 pm

@samwise,

From what I see I may concur but much of it would be unsubstantiated speculation on my part. I do see potential here. Properly assessed and for productive individuals, professorial value can be higher than many think. Keep the spotlight on this and, if the production is there, the governor may have been too clever by half.

110. samwise - September 05, 2010 at 04:26 pm

to betterschools: I have not problem with assessing faculty value through proper measurement that accounts for all of their job not just 20% of their job. I guess we will see what the outcome is, although the picture does not look bright if the measure proposed is the only input to valuation.

111. abichel - September 05, 2010 at 08:14 pm

Samwise, grow a pair. If you can't admit the truth about the need for more stringent assessment in higher education and the hyperactive role that faculty play in perpetuating the very myths THEY (the faculty) decry then it is YOU who needs schooling. The professorate is still an honorable profession, but it won't remain that way unless it adapts to the reality of the times - the dark ages along with their mystic revelry of knowledge/wisdom are over, get with the times or retire.

112. samwise - September 05, 2010 at 10:06 pm

To abichel: apparently you can only berate not read. If you had bothered to read my response to betterschools you would have observed that i favor assessment with methods that capture more than twenty percent of effort but apparently that was too much effort for you so my assessment is that you need remedial help.

113. jkinsell - September 07, 2010 at 02:28 am

Samwise, you make excellent points here.

Just like providing sex, or providing god (and at one time, providing healthcare and security), so too is the notion of providing education difficult to value as a primarily market-based exchange. Teachers used to be highly valued in this society, not just financially. But, like Rome, perhaps it's better to let the empire crumble, and make damn well sure we're around to pick up the pieces. Maybe we need to follow matthewsm in search of caves in which to hide out during the next several years...

Or should we try to educate our students about this (and other) poor articulation of capitalist values on one more basic human endeavor? Like so many other human activities that we used to believe were beyond capitalist value -- or at least on the periphery, I hate to see the providers of education careen down that path of capitalist industrialization, whither providers of health, and guardians of safety have increasingly been relinquished in today's capitalist society.

114. calluna - September 17, 2010 at 12:57 am

Rating the value of faculty, by itself, is not a bad idea. However, at a university, this needs to be weighted according to the missions of the university. Texas A&M is a land-grant institution, which means it has a primary mission to educate the workforce of the state both via traditional classroom education, and via extension services to the state residents.

There is a disturbing trend across universities to try to balance budgets with extramural research funds. However, the vast majority of these funds come from other publicly funded government agencies. It pretty much just sets up a "borrow from Peter to pay Paul" situation where the demand for research funds means pressuring Congress to increase the budgets of these large funding agencies. In turn, to balance the budget, they cut higher education spending. The states then cut university budgets, that they then try to recover through more extramural funds.

Tenure-track and tenured faculty cut back on their teaching loads to have more time to chase the almighty research dollars, forcing universities to hire more contingent faculty who do the majority of the work that actually satisfies the missions of the university - the work that used to be required to earn tenure and promotion.

When the only criteria counted are the amount of indirect costs covered on research grants and the amount of direct costs covering salary, the formula neglects to count the cost of the contingent faculty salaries and benefits that need to be paid out of the indirect costs or other budget sources to ensure there are sufficient faculty to teach the students that make a university a university.

What is the value of having well-established experts in their field working at a university if they never disseminate their knowledge to the students? In that regard, the responsibilities through the ranks are a bit upside-down as well. Currently, junior faculty shoulder the majority of the teaching loads, leaving them little time to develop their research programs, while senior faculty bring in the majority of research funding.

It would take a nationwide overhaul, particularly at funding agencies, but seems to make more sense for junior faculty to devote more time toward research while they have the energy and innovative ideas rather than being stuck in outdated ruts, even if those ruts keep getting funded based more on reputation than merit of the proposed research. As faculty gain seniority, they should be able to reap the rewards of their successes early in their career to relax and not worry about the funding rat race. Instead, that would be the time for them to pass along their acquired wisdom to the next generation through more classroom teaching as well as mentoring junior faculty toward becoming better educators in addition to doing the research we all are trained to do in our Ph.D. programs.

Add Your Comment

Commenting is closed.

subscribe today

Get the insight you need for success in academe.