Saturday, June 6, 2009

Head in the sand

Naturally, I'm interested in how well colleges are doing as I'm going back over my job materials for the fall, so I took a quick look around at some recent stuff from the Chronicle for Higher Ed here and here... The sky is falling.

Some stuff:

In a span of a few days last week, UCSD's share of budget reductions proposed for University of California mushroomed to approximately $90 million from $30 million, Spector said. UCSD's budget is $2.3 billion.

Florida Atlantic University will lay off 30 workers... leave 140 jobs vacant, and drop 45 majors as it attempts to slash $16.7 million from its budget

The University of North Carolina System is bracing for additional layoffs as a proposed 11% budget cut goes before the state legislature.

But that's all general stuff... We knew schools were hurting... None of this is philosophy specific so...

--Second Suitor


Anonymous said...

This is a good will separate the wheat from the chaff...think of all the old geysers who have tenured positions but could not secure a job in today's extremely competitive job market because they lack the skills and productivity of their junior colleagues...hopefully they will be the first to be let go...then the younger generation with more journal publications, more degrees, more experience conferencing, more books, more enthusiasm, etc., will take the helm. Of course it usually does not work out this way, but we can always do what Obama recommends and have the audacity to hope!

Anonymous said...

Old folks in tenured positions will be the last people let go, so I'm not sure what 7:29 is getting at.

When it comes down to it, this was all pretty much expected. The economy is expected to bottom out right about now, and then slowly start getting better. With budgets turned in early (as they tend to be), we shouldn't expect much of a job market until fall 2010 or 2011.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:29, the "old geysers [sic] who have tenured positions" ... have tenured positions. Do you know what "tenure" means?

Honestly, I'm scared for myself, but I'm also starting to feel quite bad for the students. Cutting 45 majors? That's insane. Kids are paying good money to go to college and getting the fuzzy end of the lollipop.

Anonymous said...

Tenure is no protection against layoffs. How do you think school-teachers who have tenure get laid off? If the layoffs are across the board and for budgetary reasons, tenure is not a factor. Tenure is meant to protect faculty against retaliation for making unpopular statements (academic freedom of speech). As a practical matter, part-time and temp faculty tend to get laid off before tenured faculty. But if the cuts go deep, then tenured faculty will also suffer job losses.

Also, 8:37's response to 7:29 is a perfect demonstration of what we philosophers lack: solidarity. 7:29 clearly qualifies: "Of course it usually does not work out this way..." And then 8:37 cut down 7:29 as if s/he made a categorical statement that geezers will lose their positions before the young Turks. And this is the reason that faculty are easy to divide and conquer: they conquer each other first, thereby making it easier for administration to inflict the death-stroke.

Anonymous said...

8:37 here. I fail to see how my post somehow fails to show "solidarity" (whatever you might even mean by this). Solidarity involves working together toward a common purpose and empathy toward a fellow's plight. It doesn't involve agreeing with everyone about everything.

Mr. Zero said...

Anon 1:30,

I don't see how acknowledging the obvious fact that tenured "geezers" with the most seniority would be the last to be laid off demonstrates a lack of solidarity. As you point out, 7:29's suggestion that the geezers will be the first to go is incorrect. The cuts will have to be deep in order for the geezers to be affected.

And maybe I'm naive, but I don't see why the administrators would want to close departments. Isn't this kind of thing a last resort when there just isn't any money? I don't think they were like, Oh good, we're going to lose 90 million dollars this year; now we can divide and conquer the faculty. Are administrators trying to phase out academic operations at UCSD, UNC, and FAU?

8:37 is right. And I hope s/he's right about the turnaround--it's probably too late this year, but it would sure be nice to see a thick JFP in 10/2010.

12:16 is right. The students are getting the shaft, too.

Anonymous said...

1:30 writes "If the layoffs are across the board and for budgetary reasons, tenure is not a factor."

This isn't true. At most institutions cutting tenured (and sometimes tenure track lines) requires a declaration of financial exigency.

Many institutions define 'financial exigency' as follows: "A financial exigency is an actual or impending financial crisis that threatens the survival of the university in its current structure and which cannot be alleviated by less drastic measures than terminating tenured and tenure track faculty. Words like "crisis" and "survival" are used to make it clear that an exigency must involve extremely serious financial problems, and not merely minor or temporary budget difficulties. Further, the financial problems must threaten the existence of the entire university, and not just a part thereof."

So you see, it's not simply a matter of political expedience that entrenched tenured faculty hold their jobs in the face of drastic budget cuts and layoffs. It's practically mandated by the language that these other budget correction means must be tried before tenured faculty can be touched.

Anonymous said...

Solidarity means (Merriam-Webster dictionary) "unity (as of a group or class) that produces or is based on community of interests, objectives, and standards." Those who show solidarity read (or listen) to others and interpret their statements in the best possible light (charity principle). Clearly, 8:37 did not afford 7:29 this respect.

7:29 writes: "Of course it [geezers in tenured positions being the first to go] usually does not work out this way, but we can always do what Obama recommends and have the audacity to hope!"

8:37 responds: "Old folks in tenured positions will be the last people let go, so I'm not sure what 7:29 is getting at."

Surely this is the kind of behavior that undermines solidarity among philosophers and faculty generally: the desire to tear each other down and ignore those parts of statements that would make them immune from such petty attacks. Thus, when layoffs occur, they show the same lack of respect that destroys group solidarity. They pat themselves on their own backs when they are not among the ones to be let go, instead of supporting/defending those who are unfairly let go (the same could be said of those faculty who sat idly by and sipped their lattes, saying nothing when the CU Boulder administration conspired to fire tenured professor Ward Churchill).

Administrators conduct layoffs. A lack of solidarity among faculty makes it easier for administrators to execute a layoff. Thus why faculty unions are necessary...though faculty in-fighting and back-biting tend to, again, undermine solidarity even within these organizations.

Can't we all just get along?

Anonymous said...

Just in case anyone is unaware, tenure works *very* differently in the K-12 system than it does at the university level. Obviously if there's no money, there's no money, but getting rid of a tenured prof is a much bigger, more difficult deal than firing a "tenured" high school teacher.

UCSDGradStudent said...

You might also be interested in the plight of higher education in Nevada. The recently proposed cuts amount to closing either of UNLV or UNR completely, or shutting down the community college system.

The last I heard on the topic, there is a good chance UNLV will be shutting down several COLLEGES. (Presumably they have accumulated enough negative financial inertia to overcome the tenure hurdle.)

Probably (hopefully) they'll just raise taxes.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, I'll weigh in on this sub-thread of disciplinary solidarity.

I used to study music (pretty sure the philosophy job market is better). One reason I left was because the general attitude in the studio was that a comrade's failure contributed to an individual's likelihood of success.

I suppose this is true when there are less than twenty excellent symphonies in the country, each of which hires 3 trumpet players. That's 60 jobs for at least several hundred graduates. The vast majority end up teaching private lessons if they are lucky.

So, I get that we pretty much have a small enough job market where this *seems* to be the case. But I'm not sure that it really is the case.

I'm pretty sure, given the deplorable way that philosophers have presented themselves to administrators and the outside world, that when those jobs go away they are not likely to suddenly come back in 2010-2011. Or in any year after that.

If tenured faculty are laid off at an institution there is a high probability those positions won't be coming back. If they do come back, it will be by the same decision process universities use now. Which departments are most useful, profitable, have high enrollments? I'm not sure what all goes into these decisions, but resolving the "problem" of vagueness (one of my research areas) probably doesn't compare with finding a (patentable, profitable) cure for cancer.

The bottom line:

When a "geezer" retires, you want that job. I want that job. When a "geezer" retires during a recession, that job might disappear. When a "geezer" loses his job on account of a recession, that job WILL disappear. How could it not?

So, it is highly unlikely to be good for you (unless that particular "geezer" is making your life hell). It is certainly not good for the discipline and it is likely very bad for anyone on the job market for years to come (long after the recession has ended).

Note: I use "geezer" to designate whomever 7:29 meant by "geyser." I don't not mean for the term to be derogatory in any way. As far as my comments are concerned, "geezer" could denote 30-year old, prolific, genius assistant professors. For my part, it was not intended to be derogatory.

Latte Sipper said...

What the heck, Anon 6/7 @ 2:55? You're griping about the lack of solidarity and then impute bad faith to those who disagree with you on Ward Churchill? At least you have your Fox News - worthy coded insult ready for action ...

diomedea exulans said...

This solidarity thread is an interesting but, I think, intrinsically sticky issue. Many repressive norms (or even policies) can be justified on the grounds of preserving/protecting solidarity. There is something legitimate, here, in that dissent and criticism are what they are - expressions of a lack of solidarity.

I'm not sure we need to have solidarity "come what may." I'm a grad union member, and I appreciate most of what the union does. But I'm not comfortable with the idea that union members should (or must?) back each other up come what may.

I'm not weighing in on the Ward Churchill issue, about which I know very little. However, it seems like there is a difference between showing solidarity with respect to external threats, like layoffs, political persecutions, etc., and to threats that result from personal actions (possibly among other attack vectors). I take it part of the Churchill issue concerns just which of these is going on. I'm not informed enough to have an inkling.

So, we need a position between some kind of blind (or authoritarian) devotion to one another and a cut throat, egoistic mode. I'm not sure exactly what this looks like. It is obviously highly dependent on interpretations of events.

What does seem pretty clear, though, is that when external circumstances threaten and the outcome looks to be negative for pretty much everyone involved, this is a case for solidarity, if there is any.

Xenophon said...

"we shouldn't expect much of a job market until fall 2010 or 2011"

Right on, except I'd say 2011 or 2012. It'll take time for state coffers to start filling up again, and then they'll be the backlog of projects needing funding. There will be relatively more jobs in private colleges the next couple of years, probably.

"If tenured faculty are laid off at an institution there is a high probability those positions won't be coming back."

Maybe true, maybe not. When finances improve to the point that a school can add to its standing faculty, positions will come back. Whether they're in philosophy depends mostly on the gen ed program at the school: only research institutions offering PhDs (and not all of them, even) will consider a gap in their coverage of vagueness worthy of replacement. But if 10,000 undergrads need to take Intro or Ethics, there will come a time when adding adjuncts won't cut it.