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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Column: Funding for professors, students profit too

    Another year, another application cycle — for many of the untenured faculty at the UA, this cycle is the decisive factor in knowing whether they will have a job and, more importantly, an income for the upcoming year.

    Untenured faculty, specifically adjuncts and lecturers, are the teenage, replaceable workers of the university industry. They are treated as expendable employees and suffer from a lack of benefits and job security.

    This mistreatment can be felt by students both in the quality of education received and in consideration of future career paths. Who wants to be a teacher when teachers are treated so poorly?

    This problem is exemplified by how American universities have drastically increased the amount of administrators per student — and inflated administrative funding to support this — while the amount of employees engaged in teaching, research or service per student pales in comparison.

    According to the Goldwater Institute, “Between 1993 and 2007, the number of full-time administrators per 100 students at America’s leading universities grew by 39 percent, while the number of employees engaged in teaching, research or service only grew by 18 percent.”

    One nearby example of this is Arizona State University, according to the same Goldwater report, which notes that, “Nearly half of all full-time employees at [ASU] are administrators.”

    This increase in administrative spending reflects not only a disinterest in promoting academia as a feasible career option for students but also a devaluation of educators.

    “Everybody says [this] an issue but the people who have the most influence and the most ability to do something about it are not acting on it,” writes Gary Rhoades, a professor in the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the UA, in an Inside Higher Ed article.

    The issue, which Rhoades writes “pit[s] administrative prerogatives against labor concerns and educational outcomes,” is an economic one.

    With declining state revenues and the dissipation of endowments, funding for public universities has shriveled up while undergraduate enrollment continues to increase. The increase in demand for enrollment has led to a high necessity for instructors without the comparable match in funding to adequately compensate them, limiting their supply.

    Jesseka Zeleike, a UA English adjunct, said this inadequate compensation affects the quality of life of adjuncts to a great degree.

    Funding is driven by prestige and revenue instead of ethics or practicality, Rhoades writes. Attractive updates to campus — like modernized and upscale dorms, revamped athletic facilities and gimmicky amenities — are being used to draw tuition-paying middle-class students to universities.

    So when one considers that ASU President Michael Crow and UA President Ann Weaver Hart have both approved three-year bonus plans, proposed by their regents, to improve student retention, bachelor’s degrees and research funding, potentially totaling up to $260,000, on top of already impressive salary and benefit packages –— Crow: $742,500; Hart: $620,500 — concerns abound.

    These improvements are not directly impacted by the administration. Student retention and bachelor’s degrees, for instance, are directly impacted by the quality and treatment of instructors employed by the university.

    When professors’ jobs are insecure and they are lowly compensated for large quantities of time and effort, they are less incentivized to avoid grade inflation and are passing students to get them out of the system.

    This becomes a perception problem for adjuncts and other untenured faculty, such as graduate teaching assistants, because the incentive to produce high-quality education just isn’t there.

    The system seems more in support of pumping out as many bachelors of something as possible, rather than trying to create doctoral candidates who are financially successful.

    “Most grad students don’t plan on becoming adjuncts,” Zeleike said. “Many who assume they will get a tenure track job or work outside of the university later end up working as adjuncts for a variety of reasons.”

    The problem with underfunding instructors in higher education is that it diminishes higher education in its entirety. University administrations nationwide seem totally OK with treating crucial employees — and subsequently the product they directly dispense to students — as disposable, but those employees are not.

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    Nick Havey is a junior studying Spanish and Physiology. Follow him on Twitter.

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