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Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does a bunch of other stuff.

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24 Responses

  1. Avatar greginak says:

    This is somewhat of a rebuttal from another academic.
    http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/fear-and-paranoia-in-academia/

    A lot of this seems to be anecdata. A few bad incidents that are taken as proving a massive wave of PC. I’m sure there have been some stupid stuff, but i haven’t been convinced this is wider phenomenon. Being an academic with tenure still seems like a pretty sweet job.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      Of course that was written by a tenured professor. I really didn’t have to read to the end to know that (but I did). Ask a tenured professor and they’ll tell you that, well, admittedly, things are difficult for the untenured lumpenproletariat that now does the majority of teaching in universities, but they’re going to need more data to be convinced that things are really that bad for them.Report

  2. Avatar zic says:

    Perhaps this closely correlates with and the adjunct conundrum, gig labor flooding the university system. When adjuncts are a cheap, you don’t have to give them benefits, and there’s a huge supply, it makes it harder and harder to value your respected teachers, to publicly defend them, I should think. Even if it’s not happening (or, like false rape claims, happens rarely,) there’s a fear that its commonplace because devaluing adjunct labor devalues your labor or something like that.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      That’s a great point. I also think that it’s fairly clear that adjuncts don’t have academic freedom, which means the majority of instructors in academia don’t. That must have an effect.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      This is a really interesting point and adjuncts have no reason to really push students against their assumptions and biases either. Nor do they have any incentive to being a harsh grader.Report

    • Avatar j r says:

      I tend to think that the growing use of adjuncts and the changing nature of students’ expectation are linked in that they are both being led by the overall changing character of the university.

      College used to be somewhere that a young person went to submit to the pedagogy of the institution, which placed an enormous amount of relative power in the hands of the faculty. Now college is more like a place that a young person goes to purchase a basket of goods and services.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        I am not sure this is completely true. I think a lot of people are sincerely interested in getting an education but they are also interested in getting a job that lets them pay back loans in a reasonable manner.Report

        • Avatar j r says:

          I didn’t say anything about not wanting to get an education. I said that the nature of what that education entails has changed since the days of “look to your left; now look to your right…”Report

  3. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I agree with some of the stuff in the article Greg posted. We so far have a lot of anecdotes but not much systematic proof.Report

    • Avatar Doctor Jay says:

      That’s an interesting piece. A couple of notes on it.

      For me, teaching in college in the early 90’s, it was utterly evident that there was a power dynamic between professors and students. I was scrupulous to stay away from women who were my students. I ended up marrying an undergrad at the institution I taught at, but she never took any of my classes, nor was she a major in my department. This may have been because I was in a field in which graduates had high earning potential. My gatekeeping was well in evidence even then. This isn’t something new, as the piece claims.

      I did not find Kipnis’ description of universal fucking and partying between students and professors to apply to me either as a professor or a grad student. So there’s that as well.

      Finally, and it took this piece to help me see that, Schlosser’s piece fails because of its lack of specificity. He just cites a mood, a vibe. What’s giving him that vibe, that mood? He needs to spell it out, much like Freddie did. I think there’s something there. We’re feeling shame everywhere and eager to dish it out. From the particular comes the universal.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        @doctor-jay

        I think there were always examples of student-teacher relationships. Every school is going to have a roue professor or two. I knew several professors that married students. Sometimes when they were young guys starting in their careers (back in the 1960s when it was possible to be a 27 or 28 year old professor). Other times when they were much older. Sometimes these were loving relationships and other times they were flings.

        I don’t know how widespread it is or not. I certainly heard stories almost every semester of my undergrad and grad school life. Unsurprisingly law school is much more professional but even there I heard stories and rumors.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. says:

        Doctor Jay: Great points. I suppose the problem with Schlosser’s piece is it makes a sort of circular argument I used to see in a lot of cultural histories: something like
        1. People are not saying X,
        2. Because they can’t say X due to social strictures.
        3. Which we can see because they’re not saying X.

        On the other hand, I think my impression was still that it’s not much of a job to come in to as an adjunct now. Some of this I remember. As a grad student, I was almost pulled from a course because some complaint had led a faceless administrator to believe that I “cared too much” about teaching, a gripe I’m still happy to have gotten. But it’s hard for me to see the tradeoff in working through grad school for years in order to get a low-paying, short-term, precarious adjunct position where you can be fired at a moment’s notice. I’d rather stick with restaurant work!Report

  4. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    For decades universities and colleges have been telling their students “You are the consumer. You paid for this.” This is the result, I think. It’s toughest on adjuncts and non-tenured faculty. They don’t need cause to be fired, they just aren’t rehired the next year. At a community college I know, if your enrollments aren’t good enough after two weeks, the college pulls the plug on your class, and you’re out that income for the quarter.

    That’s rough, even though I kind of endorse the message to students, “You are the consumer”.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      I went to college from 1998-2002, Graduate School from 2005-2008, and Law School from 2008-2011. At no time was I ever told explicitly or in an implied way that I was a consumer.

      There are students who get that message probably or think of themselves as the consumer and with student loans I can see why. There seem to be schools like NYU, GW, and others that are willing to go all out on recruitment by making their colleges into luxury resorts. These are certainly strong implications to colleges and universities treating students as consumers.

      The question is what are people consuming and why.Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird says:

    The memetic virus that is messing with my mind the most these days is the one that makes me wonder how the culture will evolve and into what, exactly.

    How representative are these kids? What jobs are they most suited for? Are these jobs at places likely to google stuff that will reveal stories like this one? Will that make the hiring managers less likely to hire them? (Will it make the hiring managers *MORE* likely to hire them?)

    How will the culture evolve? Into what?Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      @jaybird

      People are pretty good at hiding their political views as soon as they enter the economy. I know some people who are much further to the left than me with very corporate jobs at all levels from admin assistant to being pretty high-up on the corporate ladder. I know people who are to my left and have no problem working in business law.

      There is a guy at LGM named Doc Amazing. If he is to be believed, he is a left-wing anarchist but also has a private medical practice as a pediatrician. He probably does not talk with his patient’s parents about anarchist politics.

      There were always people who wore their politics and refused to take certain jobs or careers because of their politics. These people find ways to pay the rent through social work, psychology, or whatever.

      The issue is that we are out in public we tend to hide our political views pretty well. According to the article on Suey Park, she works as a barrista like many young people in their 20s do. I highly doubt she does her twitter routine while taking orders. I doubt she says “You want a double non-fat latte. Do I look like your Asian sidekick?”

      There was a guy who used to hang out at my cafe. He worked as a software engineer. He had views that most people would view as outside of the mainstream, even in San Francisco. He just expressed them at the coffeeshop and not at work.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        I kinda wasn’t talking about barista work.

        Though I certainly wouldn’t question whether the kids who did such things as mentioned in the article would be qualified for it.Report

  6. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    None of this would matter unless administrators made it matter. The reason we keep hearing more of these studies is that by siding with students over professors on issues like this is a convenient way for university boards and administrators to exercise power over their professors and other faculty members. This makes it easier to run a university as a business and make money from tuition for the executives. It relates to the adjunct conundrum as adjuncts are easier to punish than tenured professors.

    Saul’s linked article is also important. When the economy granted nearly every college graduate an adequate job simply by holding a degree, closer professor-student relationships were possible because professors had fewer ways to screw up students. College was also cheaper and you did not need to go into debt to graduate. These days are long pass and students expect professors to deliver the goods.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      Exactly. And it’s also a way to increase administrative power that puts academics in a double bind when it’s the left-leaning students complaining, since progressive academics are generally more reluctant and uncomfortable with raising a stink about it than they would be if it was a conservative student.

      The point about the professionalization of academia is important too. I’m glad Saul shared that.Report

  7. Avatar greginak says:

    More response to the post that spurred the OP. It mostly reiterates push back that has already been noted in the comments.

    http://www.vox.com/2015/6/5/8736591/liberal-professor-identityReport

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      That’s a good one. Her point is apt: the problem really is with how precarious the job is for many instructors. Of course, they’re going to hedge their bets across the board. Hell, I’ve got a good friend whose adjuncting career (and taste for the academic life) ended when students complained that an extra credit optional assignment he’d offered was to go to an event on a Saturday, which was discriminatory against students who work on Saturdays- this, instead of just asking if they could have another option. The university, meanwhile, told him he would not be coming back.

      It’s hard, when you have such an obvious inversion of authority, to keep in mind that the problem is not with the handful of entitled students, but with the administrative structure. I agree that the first prof didn’t do a good job of that. On the other hand, this points out the fact that making people’s employment so dependent on customer satisfaction is going to breed pretty irrational resentment against students.Report