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The Numbers

March 15, 2009

In the fall, the executive vice president debuted about 5-8 minutes of a new recruiting/fundraising video the administration had had made. Science labs were heavily featured. Not one shot of the new theatre or the fabulous productions or the art studio or any of the mass com studios or the student paper or the summer journalism institute or any published authors. When someone from the Humanities asked the ExecVP why we didn’t see any of the arts, the ExecVP snippily answered that there “wasn’t time” to “show everything.” And that was that. Because he is looking at The Numbers, probably degrees awarded by year and, in sheer numbers, natural sciences wins:

2004: total degrees per division: Business = 67
Education and Psychology = 42 (25 of those Psychology)
Humanities = 70
Natural Science = 139
Nursing = 6
Social Sciences = 62
total degrees = 346

2005: B = 76
EaP = 46 (P = 28)
H = 60
NS = 117
N = 21
SS = 49
total degrees = 368

2006: B = 53
EaP = 65 (P = 31)
H = 77
NS = 106
N = 7
SS = 50
total degrees = 347

2007: B = 26
EaP = 28 (P = 15)
H = 28
NS = 55
N = 13
SS = 30
total degrees = 180

2008: B = 29
EaP = 32 (P = 17)
H = 30
NS = 49
N = 12
SS = 24
total degrees = 176

In Business, only 1 of its majors hasn’t awarded a degree since 2004. There’s one Psych degree and 18 education majors, multiple elementary and secondary degrees. 6 of those have awarded no degrees since 2004. In Humanities, 4 of 15 majors haven’t awarded degrees; one was discontinued in 2004-2005, I thought, and one cross-divisional major was eliminated by the other division. In Natural Sciences, 4 of the 16 have awarded no degrees. Social Science, only 1 of 9.

The Humanities, including the arts, is said to have Bad Numbers and Be in Crisis, not like Science, Business, Law or Accounting.

How has this happened? According to [Frank] Donoghue [author of The Last Professors: The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities], it’s been happening for a long time, at least since 1891, when Andrew Carnegie congratulated the graduates of the Pierce College of Business for being “fully occupied in obtaining a knowledge of shorthand and typewriting” rather than wasting time “upon dead languages.”

Industrialist Richard Teller Crane was even more pointed in his 1911 dismissal of what humanists call the “life of the mind.” No one who has “a taste for literature has the right to be happy” because “the only men entitled to happiness . . . are those who are useful.”

The opposition between this view and the view held by the heirs of Matthew Arnold’s conviction that poetry will save us could not be more stark. But Donoghue counsels us not to think that the two visions are locked in a struggle whose outcome is uncertain. One vision, rooted in an “ethic of productivity” and efficiency, has, he tells us, already won the day; and the proof is that in the very colleges and universities where the life of the mind is routinely celebrated, the material conditions of the workplace are configured by the business model that scorns it. [emphasis added]

The best evidence for this is the shrinking number of tenured and tenure-track faculty and the corresponding rise of adjuncts, part-timers more akin to itinerant workers than to embedded professionals.

…Universities under increasing financial pressure, [Donoghue] explains, do not “hire the most experienced teachers, but rather the cheapest teachers.” Tenured and tenure-track teachers now make up only 35 percent of the pedagogical workforce and “this number is steadily falling.”

Once adjuncts are hired to deal with an expanding student body (and the student body is always expanding), budgetary planners find it difficult to dispense with the savings they have come to rely on; and “as a result, an adjunct workforce, however imperceptible its origins . . . has now mushroomed into a significant fact of academic life.”

The for-profit university is the logical end of a shift from a model of education centered in an individual professor who delivers insight and inspiration to a model that begins and ends with the imperative to deliver the information and skills necessary to gain employment.

In this latter model, the mode of delivery – a disc, a computer screen, a video hook-up – doesn’t matter so long as delivery occurs. Insofar as there are real-life faculty in the picture, their credentials and publications (if they have any) are beside the point, for they are just “delivery people.”

from “The Last Professor”–Stanley Fish, NYTimes blog

And easily, so they think, replaced. D’oh’s academic affairs cannot get the administration to pay to advertise open tenure-track positions. This has beeen going on for years. But with the budget issues, adjuncts are now also verboten.

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