Saturday, March 1, 2008

[Higher Education] On Adjuncts to Tenured Professor Ratios

From the International Herald Tribune:

Three decades ago, adjuncts - both part-timers and full-timers not on a tenure track - represented only 43 percent of professors, according to the professors' association, which has studied data reported to the federal Education Department. Currently, the association says, they account for nearly 70 percent of professors at colleges and universities, both public and private.

Ah, the sweet smell of the long-term defunding of education.

Thanks, military-industrial complex! Political elites! Thanks, globalization!

While I'm interested in how this affects the student experience, I'm no student affairs professional, so my primary interest (at the moment) happens to be something not directly mentioned in the article:

Graduate students.

(And here is where it gets a little disjointed and rambly.)

Most college-level classes are taught by someone from the following list:

Tenured Faculty
Tenure-track faculty
professional faculty (support staff, deans, etc., who sometimes teach a single class)
specialized instructors (industry folks teaching a single class, for example)
Adjunct/Instructors (non-tenure track faculty)
graduate students

I'm guessing a bit, but I think as you move down the list, the cost to the university gets cheaper. (Though, to be honest, there are some graduate students who make more than adjuncts, depending on how you measure it.)

I'm not even going to touch the claim that quality changes linearly as you move down the list. I'm not sure it's true, but I have no way of - and no interest in - trying to quantify it on a large scale.

The point being that I want to know how graduate teaching assistants play into this. A few pieces of information:

Depending on the university, graduate students may or may not get a whole class to themselves to teach. They might just teach a section or a lab or recitation (or two, or three), for example. They might grade papers and proctor exams - or they might teach their own class and do everything. It varies.

I suspect GTAs who teach their own classes do not get graders, like many tenured faculty seem to. They're expected to do all the grading on their own. This keeps the cost per class down.

So. As the percentage of classes taught by adjuncts goes up, what happens to the share of the pie allocated to graduate students? Many graduate students use teaching as a way to pay for their education - to say nothing of the experience they get along the way.

Do adjuncts start getting TA graders? I doubt it. Do adjuncts encroach on traditionally GTA territory? Maybe, a bit, but again, I doubt it.

But the real question: To what extent are adjuncts and graduate students in competition for the same work? Is that changing?

[Hasso Hering] Ducking Responsibility Like Pro


The old adage says that all economic news is bad news. This certainly proved true again earlier this week.

The price of oil and gasoline was soaring. The value of the dollar was sinking. And the chairman of the Federal Reserve said the Fed may again cut interest rates to banks because the economy showed signs of weakening.

It’s all connected. The price of gas is so high because of the rising price of imported oil. Oil keeps costing more in dollars because the dollar is worth less. The dollar is worth less because the Fed keeps lowering rates. The Fed lowers rates because the economy is slowing. It’s slowing because housing has slumped. And maybe housing slumped in part because gas costs so much more, driving up inflation.

No wonder some commentators have started worrying about a return of stagflation, barely remembered from the distant past, during the Ford and Carter administrations.

Somebody had better break the cycle before all of this gets out of hand. (hh)

Yup. Someone should do something.

Like, say, Bush?

What about Bush-appointed Fed Chair Ben Bernanke?

How about - be careful, this one's a doozy - Congress?

This is a shit editorial. There's really not a more polite way of saying that. The fact that it ignores something so obvious that its omission can only be intentional makes it rather pointless (why bring up the problem if you can't even point in the general direction of a solution?), and as a result, it's bad journalism. It's a waste of the reader's time.

If I were a journalism instructor, I would use this as an example of what not to do with all that valuable real estate on the editorial page.


[Civil Disobedience] War is Peace. Ignorance is Strength. Freedom is Slavery. (Special Jersey Edition)

Probably from Romanesko, this story on a couple of twenty-nine eighth graders who decided on a particularly creative form of protest at their newly reduced lunch time:

Twenty-nine eighth graders at a Hunterdon County school received two days detention after they paid for their $2 lunches with pennies, officials said.

The 8th graders at Readington Middle School were protesting having only 30 minutes for lunch each day. They received detentions for slowing the cafeteria line and disrespecting lunch aides...

I think that's rather brilliant, myself. It's totally legal but it sure gets the attention of the folks in charge.

Plus, you know, it gets rid of a whole lot of pennies.

So why were they punished? Because they challenged the authority of the school. It's just that simple.

I say congratulations - I hope the event teaches them to distrust authority for a good long while, as a healthy distrust for authority will serve them well.

[Daily Barometer] It's a start...

The Baro ran an editorial Friday rehashing some recent ethics issues in journalism.

The joke practically writes itself.

I mean, I could have stopped there.

It's a shame I'm not that smart.

Instead: Hey, Baro, why don't you look in your own closet? There's plenty of ethical skeletons in there. How about, I don't know, blackface? How about holding onto at least column for a few weeks because it was too critical of the paper (and then forcing changes to be made before agreeing to run it)?

Or - dare I say it - Nathanael Blake's entire run as a columnist?

But no. No, that would be.... what? Too introspective? Too hard? Require taking responsibility for the institution even when the individuals are long gone?

Sigh. Oh Baro, I remember when you were the top college paper in the nation. It's been a quick fall these last few years.

That said: At least I know that someone over there is thinking about journalistic ethics. I was pretty sure that wasn't the case there for awhile.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

[Autism] "Not damaged. Not dysfunctional. Just different."

Found via BB, this Wired article on autism:

Should autism be treated? Yes, says Baggs, it should be treated with respect. "People aren't interested in us functioning with the brains we have," she says, because autism is considered to be outside the range of normal variability. "I don't fit the stereotype of autism. But who does?" she asks, hammering especially hard on the keyboard. "The definition of autism is so fluid and changing every few years." What's exciting, she says, is that Mottron and other scientists have "found universal strengths where others usually look for universal deficits." Neuro-cognitive science, she says, is finally catching up to what she and many other adults with autism have been saying all along.

Baggs is working on some new videos. One project is tentatively titled "Am I a Person Yet?" She'll explore communication, empathy, self-reflection — core elements of the human experience that have at times been used to define personhood itself. And at various points during the clip, she'll ask: "Am I a person yet?" It's a provocative idea, and you might find yourself thinking: She has a point.

It's an amazing article, one that rocked me. Take a look.

... I should say, too, that there is a ton of precedent for scientists catching up to what a stigmatized group has been saying all along: For a long time, people of color were not considered people by scientists (and yes, that does make me want to put scientists in quotation marks). Neither were people with disabilities. People with HIV/AIDS were consistently coming out ahead of the (really bad) scientific research that was being done in the early and mid 1980s.

I suspect that this will turn out to be similar - the biases and blind spots of the people doing the science are slowly being torn away, only to reveal a truth that flies in the face of decades of established "truth."

My questions: Why does this keep happening? Doesn't science as an institution need to interrogate itself as to the presence of a very disturbing pattern of events? What about the vaunted "scientific method?"

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

[Almost Blogtastic Navel-Gazing] The Perfect Summing-up

Atrios encapsulates the absurdity of the last eight years in perhaps the best way I've ever seen:

There must have been a moment, at the beginning, where we could have said -- no. But, somehow we missed it.

Well, we'll know better next time.

-Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

My god, he's good.

I kind of want to cry. Existentialism and all that.

[Youtube] Animator vs. Animation


Somehow, it seems old-school in its creativity. Simple, unreliant on effects (despite the medium), etc. Fantasia-like, even.

OK, maybe that last was a bit overboard. But it's neat nonetheless.

[Lebanon Truth] A Response to A Particularly Frustrating Comment

This post is written as a response to a comment on this post over at LT's.

Anonymous @ 5:30 PM.... I don't even know where to begin, except to say that my experience does not match your impression of LHS. At all.

I'm going to go through all the claims you make one by one... let's see:

Kids wander the hall regularly and in groups without hall passes.

Sometimes. And often, they get busted for it. How is this a giant problem again?

Kids smoke in the church parking lot, bathrooms, stadium, behind the school and anywhere no one is looking.

And? That's been happening for decades. It's also more of a police function, don't you think? I return to the fact that a rotating cast of dozens smoke in the church parking lot behind the school every day and the police don't do anything about it. Why blame the school?

Open PDA is prevalent.

Hm. I saw very little that was unacceptable, unless "open PDA" includes things like holding hands and hugging. If you have a problem with those, I suggest you stop paying attention to a public school and start paying attention to something a little less grounded in reality, because the only way to prevent such harmless gestures is to turn LHS into a police state.

The dress code is a joke.

Why is there even a dress code in the first place?

Disrespect to staff members is rampant.

And has been for years; the present is only different in that staff are not allowed to hit students (and rightly so). This is a school, not the Army. A little (or even a lot) of healthy disrespect for authority is fine.

Total disregard for district property is the norm.

Again, this is not new, and "enforcing the rules" isn't going to do a damn thing to change this. If anything, this is a symptom of something else.

Vulgar language is the way to communicate.

For the third time, this is not new. If you're suggesting this is a "problem" solvable by anything short of police-state tactics, then I would politely suggest you're in error. It's certainly also a symptom.

And besides, students have a lot to be angry about. They perceive that many adults in the community don't care about them and are more interested in playing games with their futures. I'd be mad too if I thought I was in that situation.

Confront them and face the tidal flow of curse words, laughter and total apathy towrds authority.

Really? I never had that happen, and I worked with just about every student in the school at one point or another. I don't think "respect for authority" should even be a goal in and of itself - blind obedience and subservience is the antithesis of a good education, after all.

These kids are out of control.
And no one is there to control them.

That's just insulting to the entire staff.

There are alot of really good kids there who want to learn.

There are also a lot of really "bad" kids who want to learn, but are facing a variety of barriers. Let's talk about removing those barriers rather than trying to control behavior. Please?

But, too many students there would rather be at the mall.

Why is this the school's problem? How would the school even begin to solve it? Thousands - hundreds of thousands - of teachers, administrators, staff and other education professionals have tried to fight this. It's largely out of the hands of educators.

There should be zero tolerance for disregard of established policies
(which are outlined and approved by the school board).

What happens with zero tolerance? LHS starts kicking kids out for chewing gum or wearing the wrong T-shirts? Who wins then? Certainly not the students.

Let's start by enforcing the rules.

Another parting shot at the staff, huh?

Honestly, Anonymous, it sounds like you have some expectations for student behavior that are way out of line with what's possible - or even desirable. For the sake of the sanity of the students, I hope you don't work anywhere near a school.

Monday, February 25, 2008

[NYT] Diablo Cody in the NYT

She was in there, of course, because Juno won Best Original Screenplay, and she wrote it.

But tell me how, Mssrs. Halbfinger and Cieply, is this relevant:

The indie delight “Juno,” about a pregnant teenager with a mouth on her, won for best original screenplay, by Diablo Cody, who once worked as a stripper. She tearfully thanked her family for “loving me for who I am.”

She was a stripper? Oh Noes!


Get over it. There is no justifiable journalistic reason to include this. It's not related to the content of the movie, it's sensationalist and - dare I say it - sexist, designed simply to get a rise out of readers (and, perhaps, simultaneously inspire a sense of righteousness).

[GDP] Evidence is so 1990s...

I would like this a lot more if the numbers weren't there and I could pretend is was drawn by someone in kindergarten or first grade. As is, it's a bit depressing.

Found here.

[Media] Another blog goes into the RSS reader...

From someone named Douglas McLennan, blogging over at the National Arts Journalism Program:

Is there anyone not talking about a crisis in the news industry? The New York Times is dumping 100 jobs. The troubled Tribune Company is offloading 400-500 people. And across the country there are reports of slumping advertising and impending layoffs. Now this report in AdAge:

U.S. media employment in December fell to a 15-year low (886,900), slammed by the slumping newspaper industry. But employment in advertising/marketing-services -- agencies and other firms that provide marketing and communications services to marketers -- broke a record in November (769,000). Marketing consulting powered that growth.

So things are pretty bad, and we're working in a dying industry. Nobody's reading newspapers anymore.

And yet they are. And in record numbers. Look at this report in Editor & Publisher. The online audience is soaring, and here's the growth rate and numbers of unique readers for newspaper websites in January 2008 (with 000's at the end): -- 20,461 -- 45.1% -- 12,314 -- 19.4% -- 9,902 -- 14.6%
Wall Street Journal Online -- 6,962 -- 81.4%
LA Times -- 5,715 -- 4.7%

Not only are these huge audiences, but the growth rates continue to be spectacular. By far, more people are reading newspapers than ever before. As just one example, scroll down the list to No. 16, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which has a unique web audience of 2.2 million. The P-I's print circulation, when it was considered healthy in the last century, was somewhere in the low 200,000's.

This is spectacular growth in audience. And yet, as the P-I's print circulation has declined to the mid-100,000s, its newsprint ad revenue has slumped, the paper is losing money, it's not replacing staff, and the owners are riding down its content, managing losses. As the paper's content has degraded, the perception of it in the community is one of declining influence and quality.

The problem, say newspaper industry execs, is that...

Go read for some great analysis. I'd work for a paper that was doing what he describes, even though it's mostly centered on advertising. It's that compelling.

[Hasso Hering] Surrender to the forces of reason? Never!

Face-melting should be caused by guitar solos, not this:

We will never reform or improve our system of paying for health care as long as policy wonks are in charge of the debate.

You know, as asinine and wrong as that statement is, at least it's clear where he stands.

Oh. Wait. That's not justification for anything. It just makes the statement clearly wrong rather than obtusely wrong.

It gets better:

The problem is simple: Medical attention costs too much. And because it costs too much, lots of people could not afford it without insurance. But with insurance, they don’t care what it costs because they don’t have to pay.

Why does it cost so much? Because we want the best.


Skill and advances in technology have made many things possible in medicine, and they all cost a bundle. We all want everybody to be infinitely cautious. If they’re not, we sue.

That will never change, And so, no amount of policy wonking will reduce the cost of medicine.

I suppose obscene profits are god-given, natural parts of the health care system, like policy cancellations for people who are sick. I bet a policy would help fix that problem.

Here's more cost-reducing policy-wonking: Allow the government to negotiate prescription drug prices and get good bulk rates. That's a policy. It saves money.

This editorial's dishonesty is only matched by its anti-intellectualism. Neither has a place in a newspaper.

[Daily Barometer] Great Editorial on PeaceJam

This is so good it makes me think someone other than the normal editorial board wrote it.

Nevertheless, it's a great piece. And a great starting point (honestly, the Baro has a lot of work to do with its own staff before it can move to the rest of campus):

Examination of prejudice and preconceived notions on the part of all students is critical to the continuing understanding of the cultures that merge on our campus. It is also critical to making OSU a welcoming place for students from lands far and near.

We must fix our campus, before we can reach to other nations and offer a hand.

While the students at PeaceJam conference are raising dollars for Darfur and Sudan, we ask you join us in taking a look at ourselves, each of our behaviors and our contributions. It can be as small as working to recognize your misconceptions.

Peace starts with a willingness to learn.

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