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Author Topic: Salary Question  (Read 6816 times)
lizardmom1
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« Reply #30 on: November 19, 2012, 8:32:29 AM »

I appreciate the different perspectives we get here on the fora. For each of us, it helps to know we are not alone. It also helps to understand there is huge variability in salary, depending upon many, many variables (such as, field of specialization, type of higher education institution, location, etc.)

I believe ALL our students should be told just how low salaries can be for a professor (tt and non-tt) position in higher education. Maybe then we would see a drop in doctoral students who desire to go into higher education. Then, perhaps salaries would be adjusted to meet market conditions. I am thinking only in terms of simple supply and demand; however, other models may come into play. Therefore, it would help if economists weighed in here.

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aandsdean
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« Reply #31 on: November 19, 2012, 10:58:36 AM »

I appreciate the different perspectives we get here on the fora. For each of us, it helps to know we are not alone. It also helps to understand there is huge variability in salary, depending upon many, many variables (such as, field of specialization, type of higher education institution, location, etc.)

I believe ALL our students should be told just how low salaries can be for a professor (tt and non-tt) position in higher education. Maybe then we would see a drop in doctoral students who desire to go into higher education. Then, perhaps salaries would be adjusted to meet market conditions. I am thinking only in terms of simple supply and demand; however, other models may come into play. Therefore, it would help if economists weighed in here.



It's hard to imagine, given the huge amount of information available already about faculty salaries, that someone smart enough to get into a competitive Ph.D. program isn't at least intellectually (if not viscerally) aware of the relatively low salaries.  However, just as with the virtual impossibility of getting a TT job, more pervasive knowledge of low salaries is not likely to deter people enough to have a huge impact on the market.

And as Sagit says, driving up the price of TT faculty will increase adjunctification due to simple economics.  If I can get 8 courses taught at $3k/each ($24k total) and a TT faculty member costs $60k + benefits to teach the same courses (so in the vicinity of $85k), the economics are clear.

There are certainly externalities and additional benefits to having FT/TT faculty rather than adjuncts teaching your courses, but the balance is pretty delicate.  Small private schools like mine still mainly rely on FT faculty, but it's not surprising that large institutions in areas with a lot of potential adjunct faculty aren't.  This point is independent of any quality issues with delivering instruction that either model may bring, but it's an economic reality.

When states are still cutting budgets, freezing or cutting salaries, etc., it's professional suicide (not just individually but for the profession as a whole) to get too rigid about what salary is acceptable.  If you don't want to work for $50k, fine--I do understand that.  However, if you increased starting salaries to a floor of, let's say, $60k, a very large number of TT faculty positions would turn over to adjuncts.  Tomorrow.

I know all of this makes me sound like a Republican and I am shuddering in my soul as a result.  But it doesn't change the facts.
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pete_l_clark
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« Reply #32 on: November 19, 2012, 11:05:53 AM »


You don't really know a lot about high school job teachings and job market if you think that is a better alternative to taking a low paying position on the TT.  Yes, there are some schools that are probably great with faculty with PhDs.  But the market is probably a lot different than when most of your high school teachers were hired.  The market is glutted for getting positions in "good" high schools.  School districts are pressed for funds and so will be less likely to hire someone who already has a PhD.  Not to mention, many places would still require state certification on top of the PhD.  Further, for someone who wanted to go into higher education, why would they want to be a high school teachers???  I would rather be paid $45K a year as a TT faculty member than be paid twice that as a high school teacher in a typical public school.  I like the flexibility of controlling my own courses and the ability to pursue intellectual challenges in my research. 

Surely it is overly simplistic to say that high school teaching either is or is not a better alternative to a low paying tenure track college/university job: it must depend on the person and the situation.  And although I went to a public high school and enjoyed the experience as a student, I certainly didn't restrict the discussion of high school teaching to public high schools.  Someone with a PhD and strong teaching credentials is a strong candidate for a teaching job at an excellent private school: I know several people who have gone that route.  Your question "why would they want to be a high school teachers???" seems strange to me: just because it's "higher education" doesn't mean the job is inherently "higher" than a job teaching high school.  With regards to teaching, I and many others are passionate about teaching reasonably bright, well-prepared students with a strong desire to learn.  Students who didn't have these traits in high school do not suddenly acquire them in college, but conversely many students lose these traits by the time they get to college because of poor high school teaching.  There are obviously going to be some high schools and some high school teachers that encounter a more stimulating cohort of students than some higher educational professors.  Also not every college faculty member gets to control their own courses and many of them do not have the time or institutional support to pursue any research whatsoever.  On the other hand, there are a few famous examples of important mathematical research being done by high school teachers, and certainly there are many, many examples of high school teachers who write novels, pursue music or art, and so forth, in their spare time.  

Anyway, I already said that I find the idea of teaching high school a reasonable and appealing alternative to being a university professor.  I think it is something for PhD students to keep in mind, especially as decent university jobs become increasingly rare.

The other point to address is that if some people choose to NOT accept $45K a year TT positions and then leave Higher Education for another pursuit, it is incredibly naive to think this will have *any* impact on the salaries being offered.  Do you know how many qualified applicants apply for TT positions?  In some fields, it is HUNDREDS.  Thus if one person, such as the OP, turns down a position, the college will turn around and hire someone else from their pile of applicants.  And if they run out of people qualified for the TT position (which could happen in some fields), then they simply offer adjunct work at FAR less money to teach the same classes and still will find people to take those positions.

I am currently part of a faculty search at my university, for which several hundred candidates have applied for each job, so I am well aware of the realities of the job search.  I didn't say that "some people" not accepting TT positions for $45K would have an appreciable effect: it would have to be, as I said, (almost) everyone.  Yes, I am suggesting behavior which is apparently very different from the way some people behave.  But let's talk economics: are the people who are accepting TT positions for $45K behaving rationally?  I think it's clear that they're not: most people who undergo a decade or more of higher education and then accept a job at this salary are setting themselves up for lifelong financial insolvency.   Why do they do this?  Maybe because of the sunk cost fallacy that since you spent 10 years in grad school with the goal of getting a TT job, you should take any one that you can get, even if it pays half as much or less as a different job you could probably get, perhaps with a comparatively negligible amount of additional planning and training.  (You mentioned teaching certification: that's a trivial amount of work compared to getting a PhD.  Many PhD programs have courses that a student can take to get teaching certification in their state along with the PhD; I've seen students do this, and it's easy.  Also someone with enough intelligence and persistence to get a PhD could spend a small number of months learning computer skills sufficient to make them a very strong candidate for plenty of high-paying contemporary jobs.)  

Also: are you seriously suggesting that faculty need to take extraordinarily low-paying jobs because otherwise adjuncts will take the same jobs at even lower rates?  You seem to be trying to argue the non-existence of tenure track faculty members getting paid halfway decent salaries.  In fact, according to this article

http://chronicle.com/article/faculty-salaries-barely-budge-2012/131432

the average assistant professor's salary is $66,654.  (The point of the article is to explain why even this is not so desirable and evidence of unpleasant trends in academia, which is where I came in: a starting TT faculty member should be aiming for at least this much.)  When the average is over $66K and starting faculty can and should be strategizing to get more -- which is possible, by the way; simply having an awareness of what one's peers are getting is often reasonable leverage to improve one's starting salary -- why on earth should we tell someone that $45K is a reasonable starting salary?  It isn't: if you get offered a TT job at this salary, the economically rational thing to do is to keep looking for TT jobs and possibly for other jobs as well.  
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pete_l_clark
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« Reply #33 on: November 19, 2012, 11:37:01 AM »

And as Sagit says, driving up the price of TT faculty will increase adjunctification due to simple economics.  If I can get 8 courses taught at $3k/each ($24k total) and a TT faculty member costs $60k + benefits to teach the same courses (so in the vicinity of $85k), the economics are clear.

There are certainly externalities and additional benefits to having FT/TT faculty rather than adjuncts teaching your courses, but the balance is pretty delicate.  Small private schools like mine still mainly rely on FT faculty, but it's not surprising that large institutions in areas with a lot of potential adjunct faculty aren't.  This point is independent of any quality issues with delivering instruction that either model may bring, but it's an economic reality.

When states are still cutting budgets, freezing or cutting salaries, etc., it's professional suicide (not just individually but for the profession as a whole) to get too rigid about what salary is acceptable.  If you don't want to work for $50k, fine--I do understand that.  However, if you increased starting salaries to a floor of, let's say, $60k, a very large number of TT faculty positions would turn over to adjuncts.  Tomorrow.

This is really not clear to me.  Maybe I am being naive, but I am also a numerate person (a mathematician) with a lot of experience in academia.  Have you actually consulted any economists -- or run models, or gathered data -- to see whether your "simple economics" is correct?

The type of tenure track positions for which $60K would be a reasonable salary floor to impose are not those which can be performed by adjuncts, meaning faculty who are paid per course, because there is so much more than the job than teaching routine courses repeatedly.  Tenure track faculty teach advanced and specialized courses, including graduate courses, and they design new courses using their knowledge of cutting edge research.  They also direct theses at the undergraduate, master's and PhD level.  They design and administrate the undergraduate and graduate programs.  And they do research! 

If a university has no interest in supporting the things that a tenure track faculty member does, than that's a terrible problem beyond faculty's ability to solve by taking a specific salary.  If it does, then to stay competitive with other universities it must be willing to offer reasonable starting salaries.  Unfortunately many universities will begin by offering unreasonable starting salaries, which a small number of faculty will naively take: I have many times seen people with similar qualifications accept jobs with a $10K or more differential in the starting salaries.  Faculty should push back against this.

Having in mind an average and target salary and being prepared to say no, at least at first, to proposed salaries which are below, say, the 25th percentile, sounds to me like a simple, relatively minimal way of looking out for your own self-interest.  Please be careful before saying that behavior like this will ruin the profession. 


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aandsdean
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« Reply #34 on: November 19, 2012, 11:40:06 AM »

The average assistant professor salary includes law, medicine, accounting, nursing, and other areas (the AACSB average starting salary for a doctorally-qualified accounting professor is in the ballpark of $125k, for example) as well as English, history and philosophy.  It also--and this is important--includes assistant professors at every point of their trajectory, not just entry-level assistants.

It also includes assistant professors at huge R1s, the Ivies, etc.

And yes, there are "decently paid" TT assistant professors by your standards.  However, you absolutely need to scale for community conditions.  If you're located in a town where the average FAMILY income is <$40,000 (and there are a lot of places like this), $50,000 is decent pay.  OTOH, $50k in Boston, San Francisco, or NYC is a terrible salary.  

Way more than half of the people earning Ph.D.s in high-supply, low-demand fields will NEVER find a TT job.  Turning one down because the salary isn't $60k is highly likely to result in never getting another offer.  Fine--take those $60k+ skills into the nonacademic sector.  That's great--creates a slot for another person and removes a disgruntled person from the faculty pool.  Everyone wins.  But a completely unrealistic picture of what the true situation for academic employment is is not helpful.
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aandsdean
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« Reply #35 on: November 19, 2012, 11:43:13 AM »

And as Sagit says, driving up the price of TT faculty will increase adjunctification due to simple economics.  If I can get 8 courses taught at $3k/each ($24k total) and a TT faculty member costs $60k + benefits to teach the same courses (so in the vicinity of $85k), the economics are clear.

There are certainly externalities and additional benefits to having FT/TT faculty rather than adjuncts teaching your courses, but the balance is pretty delicate.  Small private schools like mine still mainly rely on FT faculty, but it's not surprising that large institutions in areas with a lot of potential adjunct faculty aren't.  This point is independent of any quality issues with delivering instruction that either model may bring, but it's an economic reality.

When states are still cutting budgets, freezing or cutting salaries, etc., it's professional suicide (not just individually but for the profession as a whole) to get too rigid about what salary is acceptable.  If you don't want to work for $50k, fine--I do understand that.  However, if you increased starting salaries to a floor of, let's say, $60k, a very large number of TT faculty positions would turn over to adjuncts.  Tomorrow.

This is really not clear to me.  Maybe I am being naive, but I am also a numerate person (a mathematician) with a lot of experience in academia.  Have you actually consulted any economists -- or run models, or gathered data -- to see whether your "simple economics" is correct?

The type of tenure track positions for which $60K would be a reasonable salary floor to impose are not those which can be performed by adjuncts, meaning faculty who are paid per course, because there is so much more than the job than teaching routine courses repeatedly.  Tenure track faculty teach advanced and specialized courses, including graduate courses, and they design new courses using their knowledge of cutting edge research.  They also direct theses at the undergraduate, master's and PhD level.  They design and administrate the undergraduate and graduate programs.  And they do research! 

If a university has no interest in supporting the things that a tenure track faculty member does, than that's a terrible problem beyond faculty's ability to solve by taking a specific salary.  If it does, then to stay competitive with other universities it must be willing to offer reasonable starting salaries.  Unfortunately many universities will begin by offering unreasonable starting salaries, which a small number of faculty will naively take: I have many times seen people with similar qualifications accept jobs with a $10K or more differential in the starting salaries.  Faculty should push back against this.

Having in mind an average and target salary and being prepared to say no, at least at first, to proposed salaries which are below, say, the 25th percentile, sounds to me like a simple, relatively minimal way of looking out for your own self-interest.  Please be careful before saying that behavior like this will ruin the profession. 


I am not a mathematician, but I've been chair of a big department, dean, and VPAA for over 12 years.  The "simple economics" are already happening, if you'd check the literature on the trajectory of the proportion of instruction being delivered by adjuncts over the past 25 years. 

I agree that there are way more things to a faculty job than just teaching undergraduate courses.  The people writing the checks at the state level, however, do not so believe.
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proftowanda
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« Reply #36 on: November 19, 2012, 11:49:18 AM »

Thanks, aandsdean.  Yes, it is important that the OP consistently confuses starting salaries for assistant professors with average salaries for assistant professors -- and then claims that new hires deserve and must demand the salary level of those who have proved themselves past the first probationary contract and are in their third or fourth years. 
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pete_l_clark
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« Reply #37 on: November 19, 2012, 12:04:55 PM »

I am not a mathematician, but I've been chair of a big department, dean, and VPAA for over 12 years.  The "simple economics" are already happening, if you'd check the literature on the trajectory of the proportion of instruction being delivered by adjuncts over the past 25 years. 

I am aware of the upward trend of the percentage of undergraduate courses being taught by adjuncts.  This is easy and uncontested.  You are claiming something much stronger: that something catastrophic will happen if faculty consistently say no to very low paying jobs.  Again, what is your quantitative evidence for this?  Or, do you have direct experience with faculty turning down jobs because of salary conditions and having these jobs replaced by adjuncts?  At which college or university? 

To proftowanda: At least in my field, what you say is incorrect.  Please see

http://www.ams.org/notices/201203/rtx120300410p.pdf

which shows that "new hire assistant professor" salaries are higher than average assistant professor salaries (and, in many places, comparable to average associate professor salaries).  If you want to suggest that it is different in some other fields, could you please supply some data?
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sagit
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« Reply #38 on: November 19, 2012, 5:46:40 PM »


You don't really know a lot about high school job teachings and job market if you think that is a better alternative to taking a low paying position on the TT.  Yes, there are some schools that are probably great with faculty with PhDs.  But the market is probably a lot different than when most of your high school teachers were hired.  The market is glutted for getting positions in "good" high schools.  School districts are pressed for funds and so will be less likely to hire someone who already has a PhD.  Not to mention, many places would still require state certification on top of the PhD.  Further, for someone who wanted to go into higher education, why would they want to be a high school teachers???  I would rather be paid $45K a year as a TT faculty member than be paid twice that as a high school teacher in a typical public school.  I like the flexibility of controlling my own courses and the ability to pursue intellectual challenges in my research. 

Surely it is overly simplistic to say that high school teaching either is or is not a better alternative to a low paying tenure track college/university job: it must depend on the person and the situation.  And although I went to a public high school and enjoyed the experience as a student, I certainly didn't restrict the discussion of high school teaching to public high schools.  Someone with a PhD and strong teaching credentials is a strong candidate for a teaching job at an excellent private school: I know several people who have gone that route.  Your question "why would they want to be a high school teachers???" seems strange to me: just because it's "higher education" doesn't mean the job is inherently "higher" than a job teaching high school.  With regards to teaching, I and many others are passionate about teaching reasonably bright, well-prepared students with a strong desire to learn.  Students who didn't have these traits in high school do not suddenly acquire them in college, but conversely many students lose these traits by the time they get to college because of poor high school teaching.  There are obviously going to be some high schools and some high school teachers that encounter a more stimulating cohort of students than some higher educational professors.  Also not every college faculty member gets to control their own courses and many of them do not have the time or institutional support to pursue any research whatsoever.  On the other hand, there are a few famous examples of important mathematical research being done by high school teachers, and certainly there are many, many examples of high school teachers who write novels, pursue music or art, and so forth, in their spare time.  

Anyway, I already said that I find the idea of teaching high school a reasonable and appealing alternative to being a university professor.  I think it is something for PhD students to keep in mind, especially as decent university jobs become increasingly rare.

Being a public high school teacher and being a University faculty member are often quite different.  I don't know a lot about expensive private high schools, but I am guessing that competition to get jobs there is similarly difficult compared to getting a TT faculty position.  Further, while teachers at elite private schools may be paid well (I am not sure about that), I do know that in the state I live in, private school teachers are paid less than public school teachers.  So that leaves us with public high schools.  Teachers are increasingly under pressure to teach under ridged alignment with district curriculum so that they "cover the standards" to prepare students for standardized tests.  I say this from the experience of being a faculty member in education who works with teachers in several districts across my state.  So yes, in my experience, there are difference between college students and the broader population of students in high school.  But that to me is less concerning than the poor conditions under which many teachers must teach where they are not supported as experts and professionals in their classrooms by their administrators (and sometimes, the broader public at large).
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snowbound
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« Reply #39 on: November 19, 2012, 6:00:34 PM »

The salary compression that you're talking about applies to fields or sub-fields where there is some demand.  It's that demand that pushes up the starting salary.  To get their preferred candidate, the university sometimes HAS to offer more than they would have a couple of years ago; otherwise, the candidate will take one of the other offers that they have in hand.  For fields in which the supply far outstrips the demand, the university has no reason to offer higher salaries to new hires than their current faculty gets.  In fact, keeping starting salaries as low as possible helps keep enough money available for high salaries to lure new hires in fields where the demand in high.
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quasihumanist
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« Reply #40 on: November 19, 2012, 6:46:59 PM »

About my experience: I am a mathematician, and my numbers come from mathematics.  The American Mathematical Society does a good job of reporting annual statistics on salary information.  Here is the report for 2011-2012:

http://www.ams.org/notices/201203/rtx120300410p.pdf

If you read their data, you can see that I should have been more clear that I am talking about PhD-granting institutions.  Within that set, my claim that $45K is laughably low is demonstrably true.

Pete: I'm also a mathematician, and I'm looking at the same data you are, and I don't see $45K as laughably low.  What the data tells me is that $45K is roughly what a poor struggling 4-year college is willing to pay a freshly hired mathematician.

Looking at the Group I data is ridiculous when more than half of new tenure-track hires are in Group B.  Also remember that a representative Group B college is far more like Armstrong Atlantic State than like Davidson.

I can tell you that almost all private high schools pay even less.  The only ones that don't are the ones that have made a commitment in recent years to increase their salaries and raised endowment funds to do so.
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pete_l_clark
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« Reply #41 on: November 19, 2012, 7:26:27 PM »

About my experience: I am a mathematician, and my numbers come from mathematics.  The American Mathematical Society does a good job of reporting annual statistics on salary information.  Here is the report for 2011-2012:

http://www.ams.org/notices/201203/rtx120300410p.pdf

If you read their data, you can see that I should have been more clear that I am talking about PhD-granting institutions.  Within that set, my claim that $45K is laughably low is demonstrably true.

Pete: I'm also a mathematician, and I'm looking at the same data you are, and I don't see $45K as laughably low.  What the data tells me is that $45K is roughly what a poor struggling 4-year college is willing to pay a freshly hired mathematician.

Looking at the Group I data is ridiculous when more than half of new tenure-track hires are in Group B.  Also remember that a representative Group B college is far more like Armstrong Atlantic State than like Davidson.

I can tell you that almost all private high schools pay even less.  The only ones that don't are the ones that have made a commitment in recent years to increase their salaries and raised endowment funds to do so.


Quasihumanist: As you quoted, I already said that I meant to restrict my remarks to PhD granting institutions.  But if you want to look at four-year colleges, the data says that the first quartile salary for a new hire assistant professor is $47,600.  So a starting salary of $45K is lower than the first quartile for the least prestigious group that the AMS keeps track of.  "Laughably low" is not a precise term, but certainly a math PhD should think two or three times before taking such a job.  You're not doing much of what you've been trained to do, and you're accepting a salary that is half or less of what you could get by getting a "real world" job (let's ignore high school teaching for now: I was making a personal statement that I would rather take some high school teaching jobs than this kind of college professor job).  How wrong is it to suggest to people that they should shoot for the 25th percentile of the bottom rung or beyond? 

On the other hand, you provided specifics where a lot of other people seem to be trying to weigh in with junior high school economics, and moreover your specifics are correct.  Check out the faculty salaries at Armstrong Atlantic University:

http://www.armstrong.edu/images/Addendum%20A_Faculty%20Salary%20Study%202011.pdf

Yikes.

I also looked up the salary of the one mathematician I know at AAU, and while he makes significantly more than $45K, he doesn't make what I consider to be a "reasonable" salary, considering that he is a successful research mathematician (or was before he took this job: anyway he has real talent and a few beautiful results).  I don't want to start saying what I think he should have done instead of taking that job -- what an obnoxious thing that would be -- but it breaks my heart to see how little he makes. 

This will be my last post on this thread for a while: I want to gather more data and broaden my perspective.  Thanks to everyone who was patient and engaging with me.

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aandsdean
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« Reply #42 on: November 19, 2012, 7:32:38 PM »

Junior High Economics:

I've hired about 100 faculty members in the past 16 years.  I supervise about 90 faculty members and around 200 adjuncts.

In my "real life," I am a known authority on small-college faculty careers.

In my "real life," I manage a budget of over $22 milliion.

You've read a PDF.
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pete_l_clark
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« Reply #43 on: November 19, 2012, 7:50:36 PM »

Junior High Economics:

I've hired about 100 faculty members in the past 16 years.  I supervise about 90 faculty members and around 200 adjuncts.

In my "real life," I am a known authority on small-college faculty careers.

In my "real life," I manage a budget of over $22 milliion.

All these things are probably true -- I can't confirm them, but I have no reason to doubt them -- but I asked you for specifics and didn't get anything in reply.  (For the third time: I am not an authority on small colleges.  I am speaking about PhD granting institutions.  The OP didn't specify which type of job she was applying to.)  Just because you have a certain job doesn't mean you get to make broad sweeping assertions (including talk about the demise of the academic profession).


Quote
You've read a PDF.

I have academic credentials too.  Because I've given you my real name, you can look them up.  I'm sorry to say that just being a university (or college) administrator does not make you automatically wise or even well-informed.  If you have expertise and don't share it in significant, convincing ways...well, I'm not very likely to be convinced. 

This is really my last message on this thread.  If anyone wants to talk about it further, please contact me in real life.
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pete_l_clark
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« Reply #44 on: November 19, 2012, 7:56:18 PM »

Sorry, just to correct myself on a factual point:

(For the third time: I am not an authority on small colleges.  I am speaking about PhD granting institutions.  The OP didn't specify which type of job she was applying to.) 

I looked again, and in fact the OP said she was applying to a university, not a small college. 


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