Rolling higher education into the shitbin thread

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Descended from Free Speech and Creepy Liberalism

Distinct from Help, I'm trapped in an ivory tower! Or "what the fuck am i getting myself into with this academia stuff" because about institutional collapse more generally not so much the lived experience of being inside collapsing institutions

Or to quote amateurist, "this seems too broad..."

El Tomboto, Sunday, 29 May 2016 18:45 (three years ago) link

as a progressive empathetic person, I know I should think these adjuncts etc. are being exploited, but as someone who has spent the last 20 years doing jobs that the "academic class" wouldn't deign to stoop to, I feel like they have a sense of entitlement based on a glowing past, perhaps when they were students, and aren't really looking at how shitty other people have it economically.

sarahell, Sunday, 29 May 2016 19:18 (three years ago) link

one thing i've been thinking about is that this (the mismatch between phd's generated/jobs available) is generally presented as a humanities problem (and in english / philosophy / history in particular -- or that's what i know most about at least)

otoh i know plenty of people that can attest that this is a problem for "pure" mathematics as well, and i've seen some really amazing people doing work that is pretty clearly important and worthwhile bounce out of academia or to the adjunct grind, and not just in the states.

i do suspect that the "applied" end of STEM certainly is in more of a growth period, and e.g. if you want to make it onto tenure track in computer science that seems not an impossible dream still, but that's really an outlier in terms of growth.

i'd be curious to see a good breakdown between fields/departments that actually takes account of the pure/applied split.

germane geir hongro (s.clover), Sunday, 29 May 2016 20:03 (three years ago) link

as a progressive empathetic person, I know I should think these adjuncts etc. are being exploited, but as someone who has spent the last 20 years doing jobs that the "academic class" wouldn't deign to stoop to, I feel like they have a sense of entitlement based on a glowing past, perhaps when they were students, and aren't really looking at how shitty other people have it economically.

What sorts of jobs? What is this perception of the 'academic class' based on? When I was a sessional, I did plenty of other jobs as well, as did many of my colleagues. I had actually started growing reasonably comfortable with the gig economy. Still, what would you consider fair and appropriate compensation/conditions?

Hi! I'm twice-coloured! (Sund4r), Sunday, 29 May 2016 20:52 (three years ago) link

otoh i know plenty of people that can attest that this is a problem for "pure" mathematics as well, and i've seen some really amazing people doing work that is pretty clearly important and worthwhile bounce out of academia or to the adjunct grind, and not just in the states.

yes you can find articles on the postdoc crisis as well. an old girlfriend of mine is now a research biologist working at a major u and it's apparently impossible to get ahead / stable in the face of all the performance-metric bullshit, funding dances, professional hierarchies

j., Sunday, 29 May 2016 21:51 (three years ago) link

In Florida adjuncts can now be up to 70% of a school's teaching staff. There is no and can be no meaningful oversight of the quality of a liberal arts education in the post-MBAification of higher ed, and accreditation bodies are in practice virtually indifferent to the idea of quality academics and instruction anyway. Some of the issues relating to the quality of instruction aren't even new. Many states have long allowed instructors to teach anywhere from 15 to 23 credit hours per semester, and this workload has historically been approved by staff because picking up extra hours meant being able to eat or buy their kids clothes.

My old school's most recent academic growth plan included changing the school's name for the third time in 10 years, building a basketball stadium when the school had no league to play in, renting out for a season a pro baseball field several miles away, and chartering greyhound buses for the purpose of taking students to said baseball field as spectators. Meanwhile its library has shrunk in every five year period since I left, and the school's new president, coauthor of the the academic growth plan, is said to be even worse than its previous president, who didn't understand, for his entire interminable tenure up to the moment of his deferred retirement, when he was practically on death's bed, that his quixotic goals for the school flew in the face of what was statutorily allowable in the state of Florida.

The other school in the region was built on graft and straight up illegality. They needed surveys and tests and permits to build over wetlands and the school's reaction was fuck you, fine us. Three out of five members of the board who voted on the location the board ultimately chose worked for the company that owned the site and the land around site.

80% of the people getting a liberal arts education deserve free or cheap occupational/vocational training. The US workforce is heavily over-credentialed.

If I were king, I would socialize 80% of the private schools.

bamcquern, Sunday, 29 May 2016 22:20 (three years ago) link

accreditation bodies are in practice virtually indifferent to the idea of quality academics

SACSCOC is responsible for accrediting more degree awarding institutions than all the universities in the UK, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Spain and Australia combined, I believe. idk how they are meant to be able to do it properly.

On a Raqqa tip (ShariVari), Sunday, 29 May 2016 23:53 (three years ago) link

What is this perception of the 'academic class' based on?

the hundred or so people i know IRL who are university faculty (most adjunct) and what they've mentioned in person or in facebook posts on the subject. Almost all are arts and humanities ppl.

sarahell, Monday, 30 May 2016 01:13 (three years ago) link

So the majority of them are MFA's or MM's (or whatever the official U.S. Music Master's degree is called now) who pursued jobs in higher education partially in order to advance their careers as composers, artists, writers, etc.

sarahell, Monday, 30 May 2016 01:17 (three years ago) link

one thing i've been thinking about is that this (the mismatch between phd's generated/jobs available) is generally presented as a humanities problem (and in english / philosophy / history in particular -- or that's what i know most about at least)

otoh i know plenty of people that can attest that this is a problem for "pure" mathematics as well, and i've seen some really amazing people doing work that is pretty clearly important and worthwhile bounce out of academia or to the adjunct grind, and not just in the states.

That's true of "some really amazing people," but only some -- in general it would be absurd to the point of offensiveness for Ph.D. students in pure math to compare their situation to that of their fellow students in English. The job situation in math is leagues better and has been for at least twenty years. That might change if universities decide calculus should be taught by machine, or not taught at all, but that hasn't happened yet.

Guayaquil (eephus!), Monday, 30 May 2016 01:47 (three years ago) link

english is another mainstay of service-curriculum needs in most institutions, so…?

j., Monday, 30 May 2016 02:14 (three years ago) link

It seems inevitable that the admin & sports creep pendulum has to swing back the other way at some point. Or else it's not a pendulum and in that case I don't see how in the world higher education survives in any state resembling my college experience from the late nineties, even.

El Tomboto, Monday, 30 May 2016 13:38 (three years ago) link

full disclosure i have not yet read this but ppl i trust are sharing it approvingly on fb:
https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/elephant-seminar-room-phd-saved/

Mordy, Monday, 30 May 2016 15:30 (three years ago) link

That's true of "some really amazing people," but only some -- in general it would be absurd to the point of offensiveness for Ph.D. students in pure math to compare their situation to that of their fellow students in English. The job situation in math is leagues better and has been for at least twenty years. That might change if universities decide calculus should be taught by machine, or not taught at all, but that hasn't happened yet.

― Guayaquil (eephus!), Sunday, May 29, 2016 9:47 PM Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

i think j's point pertains here. there are slots to do undergrad adjuncting in remedial math, but seems to be precious little else. not sure how this is functionally different from introductory english courses. degreewise as a whole, the difference being i think that a math degree better suits you (in terms of how you will be judged) for employment prospects _outside_ of academia than many humanities degrees.

germane geir hongro (s.clover), Monday, 30 May 2016 16:56 (three years ago) link

the analogy in that article with the AMA isn't quite right---the AMA restricts the # of MDs each year to help keep wages up, it's rent-seeking. I don't see how an organization could come in now and induce that kind of discipline among Ph.D.-granting departments now.

droit au butt (Euler), Monday, 30 May 2016 17:15 (three years ago) link

also ime grad student teaching doesn't add up to a lot of hours / "instructional units", relative to faculty. & sure they do some grading / sections but not *that* much. temp / adjunct teaching is a different story, but cutting a doctoral program wouldn't change radically the kinds of undergrad teaching that regular faculty too. losing the occasion grad course would be a drag, I guess, thoughI only got called up to the big leagues four years ago, & I was happy enough before that. the article *doesn't* mention the loss of institutional prestige in cutting a doctoral program, something admins care about since it can lead to $$$ by donations, both by pumping up occasional alums b/c of the subject area, b/c it contributes to staying within associations like the AAU, or b/c it offers the slim hope of having a faculty member win a big prize.

droit au butt (Euler), Monday, 30 May 2016 17:22 (three years ago) link

also ime grad student teaching doesn't add up to a lot of hours / "instructional units", relative to faculty. & sure they do some grading / sections but not *that* much.

― droit au butt (Euler), Monday, May 30, 2016 1:22 PM Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

I think this deeply varies by field. Big intro courses are often taught in ways that are sort of unthinkable without an army of student support. Otoh, I know that often advanced undergrads are given opportunities to TA as well, and so i could imagine institutional shifts towards that as a way to compensate should grad resources be cut.

germane geir hongro (s.clover), Monday, 30 May 2016 17:30 (three years ago) link

2 of my math friends who did geo/topo and finished phds in the last year got jack shit. one of them is in nyc trying to get back into banking (which he left to do math), the other spent >a year unemployed and then got a job writing python on another continent :-/

math seems to have a weird job market though. when i asked them about it they didn't apply to that many places and said you needed to have connections so they just applied to places their supervisors told them to. i know in economics there's a central clearing house style job market where every candidate and dept coordinate in one city one weekend and get it over with and you can apply to hundreds of depts and interview for dozens. i can see why that doesn't work in math though, where everything's so specialized and it's hard to quickly get a feel for someone's research

de l'asshole (flopson), Monday, 30 May 2016 18:00 (three years ago) link

xxp i think the faculty themselves can often care a lot about the prestige, too? from their peers, from having students to boss around, etc.

my graduate alma mater scrapped its upper-level writing requirements for u.g. degrees some time ago, end of the 90s i think, and moved to using a writing-intensive designation on courses across disciplines, rather than just requiring something from a range of junior/senior english/rpc courses. my department's offerings would surely change if there weren't grad students around to grade all those papers (in most undergrad courses below the senior level, often the junior level, the faculty grade exactly zero): the curriculum is overloaded with W-designated courses that are meant to lure as many students as possible into taking them for the writing credit.

j., Monday, 30 May 2016 18:46 (three years ago) link

"i know in economics there's a central clearing house style job market where every candidate and dept coordinate in one city one weekend and get it over with and you can apply to hundreds of depts and interview for dozens"

no this exists in math in the states, at the big MAA/AMS joint meeting each January

droit au butt (Euler), Monday, 30 May 2016 19:17 (three years ago) link

in my job in cornland we had a doctoral program & I got a grader for my early modern course, sophomore level, but not for my junior/senior courses. I wasn't used to that because in wheatland I did all my own grading, but my colleagues in cornland were...pretty used to having that grading.

faculty definitely care a lot about prestige. I did; I didn't want to stay in wheatland for a bunch of (obv) reasons but one was jumping to a dept with a doctoral program, for the sake of vanity and to teach more advanced material occasionally. but yeah vanity for sure.

here in cheeseland first and second year undergrad courses are split between something like lecture and something like sections, and the person doing the lecture does just a little bit of grading on the final; in the sections you give three exams and if you're teaching those you have to grade them yourself. I taught one of those sections this last term, but the others were either grad students or adjunct-like people.

droit au butt (Euler), Monday, 30 May 2016 19:25 (three years ago) link

i know in economics there's a central clearing house style job market where every candidate and dept coordinate in one city one weekend and get it over with

some of my housemates from college were discussing this on fb. one is now an econ/applied math professor and the others were bio and pure math people, and the others were envious at the efficiency of the economics faculty job system.

sarahell, Monday, 30 May 2016 19:37 (three years ago) link

there are slots to do undergrad adjuncting in remedial math, but seems to be precious little else

Just don't think this is really true. To take a good but not top-10 department, University of Illinois, here's their recent job placement info:

http://www.math.illinois.edu/GraduateProgram/doctoral-graduates.html

Lots of these people are going to industry jobs in finance or data science, and lots are going to academic postdocs (which are not adjunct instructorships.) Now you could say maybe the postdoctoral system in math just means these folks are all dumped from the academy three years after Ph.D. instead of right after?

Just googling some of those grads from 2012, who would have been on the TT market this year or last, I see Avsec has a second postdoc at Texas A&M, Butterfield is tenure-track at U Victoria, Choi I can't find, Cummins is TT at West Point, Dixit is TT at IIT-Gandhinagar, Hu is TT at Georgia Southern...

So I just don't think it makes sense to say it's a pipe dream for math Ph.D.s that they're going to get a non-adjunct faculty job; a large proportion still do.

Guayaquil (eephus!), Tuesday, 31 May 2016 04:17 (three years ago) link

Times Higher Education is launching a new ranking system in September, having decided that the current systems for ranking US schools is 'not fit for purpose'.

https://www.timeshighereducation.com/world-university-rankings/us-college-ranking-launched-by-times-higher-education

Is anyone at NAFSA this week? I'd intended to go this year but it got nixed. Seeing that David Brooks is giving the plenary speech might mean i dodged a bullet.

On a Raqqa tip (ShariVari), Tuesday, 31 May 2016 10:02 (three years ago) link

https://twitter.com/Limerick1914/status/737541019797848066

with leaders like this the future is bright

dear god

Queens has a good anthropology department, iirc. That doesn't necessarily mean that anyone wants to study it there. It looks like a gloss on market forces at work. Not unrelated:

https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/tuition-fees-force-students-pick-degrees-salary-prospects

That goes double (or treble) for lucrative international students.

On a Raqqa tip (ShariVari), Tuesday, 31 May 2016 12:51 (three years ago) link

a few theoretical premises / hypotheticals, if i may ~

1. class inequality in the US has been dramatic for some time and continues to slide toward neo-feudalism

2. as in all other prestige professions, those born into privilege are the most "marketable" and thus over-represented in academia

3. to reflect 'the world as it is', why not dispense with the marxist pretenses of our humanities departments altogether, and award college admission and professorships at birth? AP classes and SAT tests would then only be taken by the "smart" comfortable / active / rich kids, to determine where they end up at school (although sooner or later, we might want to consider fine-tuning that, too, to accord with increasing feudalism)

4. the collective sigh of relief among the children of say, the bottom 66%, realizing they're not allowed to take AP classes or SATs like their "smart" comfortable counterparts, could very well release the engines of personal industry, and get this country moving again. first, they might get off their lazy butts and start working earlier. second, instead of taking out student loans upon high school graduation, the bottom two-thirds could take out small business loans. in any event, the money the government would save no longer subsidizing the advanced educations of people not born into comfortable circumstances could then be applied to further tax cuts on the job creators, which can only benefit the less industrious classes who'd be jobhunting at younger and younger ages, a virtuous circle

5. in the short term, this would mean shutting down a ton of schools, but you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. another drawback would be the shrinking of the NCAA, but perhaps it's time to have basketball and football minor leagues, anyways? the college music scene would likewise shrink, but hey, the obscurer the audience the better!

reggie (qualmsley), Tuesday, 31 May 2016 14:05 (three years ago) link

xxxpost
I wonder how much the econ job market system contributes to their culture of assholishness. They gossip and backstab to rival the cast of Mean Girls: http://www.econjobrumors.com/

But that doesn't mean it's not somehow "efficient"...

Dan I., Tuesday, 31 May 2016 14:11 (three years ago) link

What could sociology, anthropology, and history possibly have to do with the analysis of society?

jmm, Tuesday, 31 May 2016 14:12 (three years ago) link

i love EJMR but i think the ass-holishness on display there is just typical conservative message board trolls and doesn't reflect irl. the fact that the polisci and sociology equivalents are just as toxic kinda proves that. all the econ grad students i know are nice people who are disturbed by the stuff written there anonymously by peers

de l'asshole (flopson), Tuesday, 31 May 2016 16:09 (three years ago) link

the hundred or so people i know IRL who are university faculty (most adjunct) and what they've mentioned in person or in facebook posts on the subject. Almost all are arts and humanities ppl.

So the majority of them are MFA's or MM's (or whatever the official U.S. Music Master's degree is called now) who pursued jobs in higher education partially in order to advance their careers as composers, artists, writers, etc.

I dunno, the music sessionals I've known have generally either taught a tonne of courses or done other jobs as well (mostly music lessons or some kind of performance/conducting gig but I know people who have done manual labour). I did quite a bit of temping for a while until I was in a place where I could do well enough with other teaching work. I don't necessarily think there should be a really easy ride to tenure and a six-figure salary or anything but I think the labour situation could fairly be described as exploitative in a number of places. The fact that other people are also facing exploitative conditions does not change this.

Hi! I'm twice-coloured! (Sund4r), Tuesday, 31 May 2016 18:00 (three years ago) link

i'm not quite sure how to work it so that 'area studies' get to be saved but lately i've been feelin the crazy idea that academics should start pushing back hard against usefulness in schools, anything that's not a traditional academic subject is to be axed, banished to the vocational schools

i guess this would solve nothing tho, since aside from STEM-related fields needed to get the engineers out the door it would mean universities' revenue streams would vanish

j., Tuesday, 31 May 2016 18:04 (three years ago) link

I worry that we'd end up with a lot of musicologists who can't play.

Hi! I'm twice-coloured! (Sund4r), Tuesday, 31 May 2016 18:14 (three years ago) link

The jump in the number of students between 1980 and now, and particularly over the last ten years, has been extraordinary and I'd guess mostly driven by people who were the first in their families to go to college or the children of first generation immigrants. Usefulness isn't just built into the political agenda, it's in the agenda of millions of families where the risk of fronting up college fees needs to be tied to demonstrable increases in conventional employment prospects. Obviously there are questions over how demonstrable those prospects remain but I can't really see much of a way back from here. Business / marketing / finance are also absolutely crucial to the international student demographic, who'll be increasingly important in the the U.S. in the future.

On a Raqqa tip (ShariVari), Tuesday, 31 May 2016 18:15 (three years ago) link

actually i was partly thinking of uselessness as a proxy for (the freedom for) rigorousness and student motivation (perhaps again in the freedom from certain occluding motivations). in my adjuncting adventures i've kicked around to a pretty representative range of the levels of institution in my region, had traditionally/untraditionally good/bad students at all of them, but it seems like the most poisonous combination, pedagogically, has been the ones who are only at college because they (economically) have to be, pursuing a practical major (in that mid range of the ones housed in universities, never traditionally in vocational schools) which has no real or even speculative need for anything like scientific/systematic knowledge, and are fundamentally incurious. it seems as if the traditional disciplines, trying to play the administrative numbers games, just cannot win with those students, thus just cannot win with the administrators.

this is a serious question, but, like, what do marketing majors even study

j., Tuesday, 31 May 2016 18:40 (three years ago) link

Every marketing course I've ever seen has been a combination of business fundamentals (intro to business statistics, management theory, finance, business ethics, etc), psych modules and more specific content (retail marketing, digital marketing, etc). As an undergraduate course it does often look like it has been cobbled together but there is also a fairly serious academic discipline behind it that gets fleshed out more at post-grad level and does cross over with the more traditional ideas of applied social science research.

There clearly needs to be viable, respected alternative routes for people who fundamentally don't want to be at university but feel they have no other options though. Whether that is vocational study, apprenticeships or something else, I don't know. Germany is an interesting example of a country that is arguably more 'over credentialed' than even the U.S. but still retains a strong alternative path for less academic students.

On a Raqqa tip (ShariVari), Tuesday, 31 May 2016 19:20 (three years ago) link

it's mean the way vocational schools and the like are under-emphasized in secondary schools. kids who aren't great at school are made to feel like society has no use for them.

Treeship, Tuesday, 31 May 2016 19:29 (three years ago) link

even though i agree about incurious marketing students i feel like explicitly railing against 'usefulness' backfires in practice

de l'asshole (flopson), Tuesday, 31 May 2016 19:33 (three years ago) link

I dunno, the music sessionals I've known have generally either taught a tonne of courses or done other jobs as well (mostly music lessons or some kind of performance/conducting gig

uh, those are all perfectly respectable. Those aren't at all the types of "wouldn't stoop to x" jobs.

It's a supply and demand problem, as has been mentioned by others in the past dozen posts. Should "we" create more economic opportunities for all the MFAs etc or should there just be less of them? And what hasn't been discussed is education for education's sake. If someone wants a Master's in Music Composition or an MFA in visual art, because it will make them a more emotionally/intellectually fulfilled person, then why shouldn't they? Why should they have to reproduce the means of production by becoming a professor or a professional artist or musician?

This is definitely tied to socioeconomic class, but, this pressure to have a career in what you studied in college feels more pronounced now than when I was in college.

sarahell, Tuesday, 31 May 2016 19:56 (three years ago) link

given the cost of college in america, degrees are either 'investments' or luxury goods and if you get a job in your field then you avoid feeling like you bought a luxury good.

iatee, Tuesday, 31 May 2016 20:12 (three years ago) link

Otm

de l'asshole (flopson), Tuesday, 31 May 2016 20:24 (three years ago) link

what's wrong with luxury goods?

sarahell, Tuesday, 31 May 2016 20:24 (three years ago) link

and "cost" is relative.

sarahell, Tuesday, 31 May 2016 20:25 (three years ago) link

nothing's wrong with them, but unlike buying a sportscar a lot of people only find that their degrees were luxury goods after they made the purchase

iatee, Tuesday, 31 May 2016 20:44 (three years ago) link

yeah, it's as if they told everyone that a sports car was the ticket to a well paying job and a comfortable lifestyle and then when you got home they were just lol now you can pay this off for the next 20 years except w/ the sports car you resell it but no one will buy yr diploma even from a fancy college

Mordy, Tuesday, 31 May 2016 20:45 (three years ago) link

anything that's not a traditional academic subject is to be axed, banished to the vocational schools

Coming back to this for a moment, i do think it's at least plausible that a substantial cohort of students might, in the future, decide that a traditional academic university environment isn't the best place to learn business skills. Given the option of studying a degree-level course at a mid-to-low level college / university with little to no 'brand recognition' or studying a vocationally-orientated degree course with a theoretical path to direct employment at IBM College or the Chevron School of Management, i think a lot of people would probably lean towards the latter.

Sumsung does this reasonably successfully in Germany, Canada and the UK, typically at a lower level and in partnership with traditional colleges, but it has the potential to take a much larger segment of the market. One FTSE 100 company in the UK has launched its own stand-alone degrees rubber stamped by a trad university and aims, in the future, to have degree-awarding powers of its own.

This inevitably means the "corporatisation of higher education" and has been resisted on those grounds, and also poses a potential revenue threat to traditional universities, but it could lead to refocusing of attention.

On a Raqqa tip (ShariVari), Wednesday, 1 June 2016 07:48 (three years ago) link

eh it's a law school, whatever

L'assie (Euler), Sunday, 22 December 2019 11:33 (five months ago) link

Really? I'm not really in favour of asking employees to donate their pay to their employer, especially when their employment is precarious and especially in the context of also informing them about impending position cuts.

Un sang impur (Sund4r), Sunday, 22 December 2019 12:56 (five months ago) link

Regardless of the kind of school. Not like the students are attending for free.

Un sang impur (Sund4r), Sunday, 22 December 2019 12:59 (five months ago) link

As the article says, the temps in question are lawyers doing this on the side. This isn’t a general university issue, but an issue of the law school.

L'assie (Euler), Sunday, 22 December 2019 13:01 (five months ago) link

I'm standing by the previous post (esp bc I think "mostly" is doing a lot of work). They can start a podcast if they want to give away tips for free.

Un sang impur (Sund4r), Sunday, 22 December 2019 13:07 (five months ago) link

The 5% cut is the university-wide issue.

Un sang impur (Sund4r), Sunday, 22 December 2019 13:23 (five months ago) link

The dean's salary - which is surely over $6k; is he donating any of it? - is coming at least in part from tuition dollars the students are paying for the sessionals' instruction. Whether they have good day jobs is beside the point imo.

Un sang impur (Sund4r), Sunday, 22 December 2019 13:33 (five months ago) link

The 5% cut was a provincial choice, not a university choice. But I’m not trying to argue about this; obviously an employer asking employees for donations to pay for their workplace is terrible. My thought is that law schools are quite different than universities as a whole—in bad ways of course, they’re greedy and lazy places. I wouldn’t infer anything general from what they do.

L'assie (Euler), Sunday, 22 December 2019 14:07 (five months ago) link

I don't think I said at any point that the university as a whole, and only the uni, is responsible for this, but fair enough if your point is that this is a "law schools exist in an eternal shitbin" issue as opposed to a "higher education into the shitbin" issue.

Un sang impur (Sund4r), Sunday, 22 December 2019 16:46 (five months ago) link

Totally, just that

L'assie (Euler), Sunday, 22 December 2019 17:04 (five months ago) link

one month passes...

UCSC administration is attempting to frighten faculty, graduate students, and undergrads from standing in solidarity with teach other. I just sent this message to the over 300 students I'm teaching this term. https://t.co/RtI8Uwu4sP pic.twitter.com/df1pM6DUcP

— yung epistemologist #FreeLiyah (@touchfaith) February 8, 2020

j., Saturday, 8 February 2020 19:06 (three months ago) link

one month passes...

A colleague who works at a small private university in socal, a European who kept his job here (in France you can go on leave for up to five years and the job stays yours, without pay obv), is asking those of us in Europe to let colleagues here know about the devastation coming to usa higher education, so that Europeans will finally drop whatever (ill-guided) dreams they may have had of relocating to the usa, and warn prospective grad students away from usa universities (since there will be no jobs for them upon completion, even more than there were no jobs before)(yes, you can get a lot less than zero, because a doctorate from the usa doesn't mean very much when you're trying to get a job in European academia).

Joey Corona (Euler), Monday, 6 April 2020 14:28 (one month ago) link

i think this was a long time coming for many reasons - but maybe particularly bc of just the massive generational size difference btwn millennials (children of boomers iow echo-boom) + zoomers and below, even b4 dealing w/ economic/debt issues that will also be exacerbated by this crisis.

Mordy, Monday, 6 April 2020 14:35 (one month ago) link

Euler, didn't you get a European job with a doctorate from the US?

Sund4r, Monday, 6 April 2020 14:39 (one month ago) link

that's right, Sund4r, and that's why I know that it's exceptional! also I know a lot of Euros with usa doctorates who get stuck in shitty small american towns but thought they'd end up in NYC, not understanding how shitty 99% of the usa is. and they're forever damaged goods in their home countries because there's a certain amount of patronage in getting a job and you only earn that patronage at home.

Joey Corona (Euler), Monday, 6 April 2020 15:09 (one month ago) link

Mordy, right, it's the economic/debt issues that I'm thinking of. cohort sizes changing will have an effect especially on specialized places, like unis for religious denominations on the decline (thinking chiefly of mainline-ish protestant places, which litter the usa, but also catholic ones. don't think Jewish instituions are under this threat)

Joey Corona (Euler), Monday, 6 April 2020 15:11 (one month ago) link

since there will be no jobs for them upon completion, even more than there were no jobs before

0 x 0 = 0

(My bitterness knows no bounds.)

Publius Covidius Naso (pomenitul), Monday, 6 April 2020 15:14 (one month ago) link

Jewish institutions should be spared the worst demographic crunch but YU seems perpetually under threat bc MoDox in general is an endangered species and "higher education" in Ortho Jewish institutions means yeshivas. I don't know how JTS is weathering these storms but I wouldn't be surprised if they're struggling as well, as I understand Conservative and other liberal denominations are.

Mordy, Monday, 6 April 2020 15:19 (one month ago) link

otoh iirc i think i saw that even liberal jews are growing in real numbers partic just smaller % bc of massive charedi growth so maybe they'll all do fine as long as jewish pop is growing

Mordy, Monday, 6 April 2020 15:20 (one month ago) link

ignore 'partic' plz part of sentence i deleted*

Mordy, Monday, 6 April 2020 15:21 (one month ago) link

my contact with yeshivas is mostly in Israel (I spent some time at Mir Yeshiva in December), but I reckon they're pretty similarly run elsewhere, and yeah, that's a completely different world than the degree-seeking aim of higher education that's dominant otherwise.

Joey Corona (Euler), Monday, 6 April 2020 15:25 (one month ago) link

what did you do at Mir?? when i was in high school Mir was one of the feeder schools for bochurim who went to israel for bais medresh (a few students also went to ponevezh every year) most students stayed in the states at the yeshiva and eventually lakewood

Mordy, Monday, 6 April 2020 15:34 (one month ago) link

one of my friends/hosts in Jerusalem took me there for part of a day, because his son has been a rosh yeshiva there, having married into the family (a Lithuanian family whose name I've forgotten).

Joey Corona (Euler), Monday, 6 April 2020 15:36 (one month ago) link

and oh no no no, I just learned that that friend, who took me to Mir, died of the virus today in Jerusalem. He was a great philosopher of mathematics, trained at Princeton, then a longtime faculty member at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. RIP.

Joey Corona (Euler), Monday, 6 April 2020 15:45 (one month ago) link

baruch dayan emes sorry such sad news

Mordy, Monday, 6 April 2020 15:47 (one month ago) link

thanks Mordy. Here's a link.

Joey Corona (Euler), Monday, 6 April 2020 15:51 (one month ago) link

My condolences, Euler. RIP.

Publius Covidius Naso (pomenitul), Monday, 6 April 2020 15:52 (one month ago) link

Sorry to hear, Euler.

Sund4r, Monday, 6 April 2020 17:58 (one month ago) link

I know a lot of Euros with usa doctorates who get stuck in shitty small american towns but thought they'd end up in NYC, not understanding how shitty 99% of the usa is

tbh I know tons of US phds in this same boat - a lot of people don't realize when starting a phd program that you will end up living where you find a job, if you are lucky enough to do so. And the chances that you end up in a cool big city are close to zero, especially when a lot of schools in those places pay shit relative to local cost of living and have arduous tenure requirements because they know people really want to live there.

That said a lot of them get used to living somewhere small/shitty/cheap, can deal with it for 9 months if they can GTFO in the summer, or get some sort of stockholm syndrome where a bigger, less shitty place feels like a huge win in comparison (see: me, for example).

joygoat, Tuesday, 7 April 2020 17:57 (one month ago) link

Not wanting to live in the middle of nowhere working for a shitty college is probably the main reason I gave up on the academic job search after school. My brilliant peers in grad school all managed to get good jobs in nice places but, uh, I was not my brilliant peers.

Dan I., Tuesday, 7 April 2020 19:48 (one month ago) link

yeah that's a good point, I certainly didn't realize when I chose my doctoral institution in the midwest usa that that significantly increased my chances of having to take a job in the midwest usa, a region I wanted nothing to do with. once I ended up in kansass I mean of course I spent every summer out of town, usually in Europe, but it didn't help the sense of failure, of having trudged so hard only end up in a shithole where my students didn't give a fuck about the subject I taught & were ill-equipped to write a cogent sentence about anything. the teaching was the most depressing part, just that empty look in their eyes, with their neckbeards and beer tshirts. I guess that's why getting out of town never helped. and people who got used to living there only made it worse for me, because then we had nothing in common: they were trying to set up roots there, and I was just hustling to get out asap. & I did! but those were friendless years.

Joey Corona (Euler), Wednesday, 8 April 2020 15:53 (one month ago) link

Ominous projections in the U.K., with some universities expecting to lose over £100m in revenue through the absence of foreign students:

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/apr/11/universities-brace-for-huge-losses-as-foreign-students-drop-out

Without a bailout, I can’t see them all surviving.

ShariVari, Saturday, 11 April 2020 23:17 (one month ago) link

A friend, a prof at St Andrews, expects doom. International students, or at least Chinese students, pay 3x what home students pay! And St Andrews is a top UK uni! I gather UK universities at all levels are funded this way. Also St Andrews relies on fees from renting out its facilities to conferences and the like over summers, and at least this year that's gone.

Of course there will be a bailout. But still, that's a mad way to fund a university system. When I was on the faculty at a USA Big Ten institution, that institution also relied on international students, in particular Chinese and Brazilian students, who indeed paid more than in-state and even out-of-state students. In France the Macron government proposed last year upping the uni fees for non-EU students to about 3000 € per year for bachelors students and 4000 € per year for masters students. But this was strongly contested by universities, and most have committed to not apply those fees. Furthermore, one of the French "supreme courts" ruled late last year that fees, even for non-EU students, violate a constitutional commitment to free university access. It's thus unclear whether these fees will ever be widely charged to international students. (To be fair, since French university courses must be given in French, by law, our pool of international students is not as extensive as those of the US and the UK. Though I have (excellent, as usual) Chinese students here too.)

Does Ireland do it differently, as it's an EU country, or are they more on the US-UK model?

Joey Corona (Euler), Sunday, 12 April 2020 09:28 (one month ago) link

Ireland has negligible fees for EU students and higher ones for everyone else - not dissimilar to Scotland, iirc.

The U.K. model is driven by a commercial mindset focused on investment to fuel growth. Most universities will have ambitions to expand the number of students, spend heavily on recruitment, plan larger campuses, etc. A huge amount has been borrowed against anticipated earnings. That’s one of the main reasons his is so disastrous. You can’t just scale down operations.

ShariVari, Sunday, 12 April 2020 10:44 (one month ago) link

only negligible in comparison to US and UK - by continental standards they are high iirc

first Google hit (from 2017) says Ireland has the second-highest fees in Europe: https://www.thejournal.ie/college-fees-ireland-3675177-Nov2017/

rí an techno (seandalai), Sunday, 12 April 2020 11:21 (one month ago) link

iirc Sharivari you said uk universities even borrowed off expected fees from the next term—ooof!

Joey Corona (Euler), Sunday, 12 April 2020 11:38 (one month ago) link

The government stopped giving any funding for most (all non-STEM?) students a while back, so that universities can stand on their own two feet, best education system in the world, etc.

rí an techno (seandalai), Sunday, 12 April 2020 11:44 (one month ago) link

In Ireland or the UK? The latter I imagine.

Joey Corona (Euler), Sunday, 12 April 2020 11:48 (one month ago) link

The whole thing is a nightmare. Universities, iirc, have taken on north of £12bn debt and the majority of that is to private lenders - only a handful are able to go down a public bond route and the banks are pretty restrictive. To compound things, there has been a dip in the number of domestic students and many universities, even those borrowing nine figure sums, are already running a deficit. There has been an underlying assumption that the government will bail out any universities that get into trouble, which just fuels irresponsible borrowing (and irresponsible lending).

The majority of the borrowing aiui is over a fairly long term but a £100m revenue hole at a university that has next to no surplus even under normal circumstances is going to make it impossible to meet payments.

ShariVari, Sunday, 12 April 2020 12:05 (one month ago) link

What do you think the consequences of that will be for unis? And will it be different for Russell group unis? My sense is that even Bristol is vulnerable (I know several staff members there and in my area it’s quite good)

Joey Corona (Euler), Sunday, 12 April 2020 12:54 (one month ago) link

i don't claim this as fact at all but i seem to recall reading something about u.s. public universities having more difficulty reaping big international student $$$$ because of certain pressures by their state legislatures/regents to stop tuition growth and to not price residents out by throwing so many admission slots to international or out-of-state applicants (in a secondary version of the international student finance strategy, i guess publics have also been leaning harder into domestic but outstate recruitment because of the cost differential).

(not sure how this applies at the non-small non-elite public i do most of my teaching at, since i don't spend much time on campus to even have a sense for what it's like demographically, but i do get fewer international students in my courses than i used to at my r1 alma mater. i infer that more elite schools are more vulnerable to dropoff from international enrollments just because they have more to draw them in the first place.)

more concerning i think would be that the steady decline in most states' hs grad enrollment percentages / absolute student numbers over several years (the demographic dip) has been turning the screws tighter and tighter on budgets and staffing, and there is little give left. assuming a significant dip in enrollments and thus necessary tuition dollars this fall/next spring, plus probably associated financial crisis from not being able to milk other cash cows related to residential student support and athletics, i expect to see deep cuts, starting at the bottom where there are fewest impediments to them.

j., Sunday, 12 April 2020 12:56 (one month ago) link

j do you expect those cuts to involve you? How has the disease changed your job so far?

I agree that smaller us public unis don’t rely as much on international students as r1s but I bet it’s generally a non trivial revenue source even at those institutions.

Joey Corona (Euler), Sunday, 12 April 2020 13:20 (one month ago) link

The government stopped giving any funding for most (all non-STEM?) students a while back, so that universities can stand on their own two feet, best education system in the world, etc.

― rí an techno (seandalai), Sunday, 12 April 2020 11:44 (one hour ago) bookmarkflaglink

In Ireland or the UK? The latter I imagine.

― Joey Corona (Euler), Sunday, 12 April 2020 11:48 (one hour ago) bookmarkflaglink

Yeah, UK. In Ireland the universities are more directly connected to the state, in the UK aiui they're basically independent organisations that just happen to get some funding from the government.

rí an techno (seandalai), Sunday, 12 April 2020 13:34 (one month ago) link


I agree that smaller us public unis don’t rely as much on international students as r1s but I bet it’s generally a non trivial revenue source even at those institutions.

Yep - a number of smaller universities were badly hit when Saudi Arabia recalled most of the students they fund a few years ago.

What do you think the consequences of that will be for unis? And will it be different for Russell group unis? My sense is that even Bristol is vulnerable (I know several staff members there and in my area it’s quite good)

tbh, I’d expect the government to turn up with a wheelbarrow full of cash. The lending was predicated on the sector being too big to fail and that’s probably correct. Bristol had debts of close to £500m a few years ago but a lot of that is long-term borrowing structured over 30-40 years. No Russell Group universities will go under, imo, but they’ll be forced to go through brutal cost-cutting. Whether the government will see it as so critical to keep others open remains to be seen. The Office For Students suggested that failing universities wouldn’t be bailed out in 2018 - but 2018 feels like a very long time ago now.

Whether anything actually changes, in relation to behaviour, when things return to a semblance of normality, I don’t know.

ShariVari, Sunday, 12 April 2020 13:51 (one month ago) link

My school is a massive flagship type place in big state, my department runs a critical university-wide program, my wife has tenure (not me though) so I feel pretty lucky right now.

But we have between 4000 and 5000 students from China alone and if a big percentage of them don’t return it’ll be pretty catastrophic, for the school and the local economy. There have been a number of “luxury” apartment buildings built in the last decades targeting wealthy international students, there are lots of luxury cars purchased and driven by young international students (like there is always at least one Maserati, sometimes three or four, parked at the Asian grocery store I frequent), plus markets and restaurants that cater heavily to students from China and India in particular. No way all of those stay open and occupied without the students coming back.

joygoat, Sunday, 12 April 2020 13:55 (one month ago) link

yeah when I was in urblanda the Chinese restos were ace! and similarly lots of luxury apts for the Chinese students. gonna change.

Sharivari: yeah I wonder how the cost-cutting will go at eg Bristol. When you cut contingent staff then you cut their courses too. If the number of students drops enough then that works out. Intro type courses are revenue drivers but inessential educationally imo (I’ve taught many of them). But does this cut into the core, to permanent staff? Tenure doesn’t exist in the UK.

And in the USA tenure only matters until they cut your department. In 2008 that was something relevant at the dumb big 12 university employing me at the time. I was still untenured then but my colleagues made it clear they couldn’t (wouldn’t?) do anything to save my job if it risked theirs (or maybe even just their salaries). This is going to be considerably worse than 2008.

Joey Corona (Euler), Sunday, 12 April 2020 15:01 (one month ago) link

yeah, since i moved to boston in 2013 my neighborhood (which is bordered by bu and bc to the east and west, and has a ton of other universities around it) has had a huge uptick in asian restaurants/snack shops/grocery stores. i wonder what that's going to look like now. already i think that at least four units in my 12-unit building have gone unoccupied.

on the bright side maybe rents will go down... lol jk

maura, Friday, 17 April 2020 00:06 (one month ago) link

I don't teach at a university, I am member of staff - white-collar-working-class office bullshit. I'm on the executive board of the union local and we're glad to be ratifying our new memorandum of understanding right now because the modest pay raises that are contained within it will probably not be on the table for much longer (there is a cartel of public sector employees that sets how generous public employers can be with pay raises in their collective agreements here in BC, we got the maximum - 2% a year).

we expect redundancies. the membership is worried and all we can really say is "we have lay-off procedures in our collective agreement". i.e, "you might get laid-off but you'll get some notice and a bit of a severance".

COVID and the Gang (jim in vancouver), Friday, 17 April 2020 00:35 (one month ago) link

"cartel of public sector employeRs" that should read, not "employees"

COVID and the Gang (jim in vancouver), Friday, 17 April 2020 00:35 (one month ago) link

yeah, that just seemed wrong when I read it

A is for (Aimless), Friday, 17 April 2020 02:51 (one month ago) link


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