Friday, March 28, 2008

Paying to Play

By Richard Vedder

I read in INSIDE HIGHER ED that Florida State charges professors $10 for each grade turned in late. It has worked marvelously in reducing a serious campus problem.

I think the principle should be greatly expanded, with carrots as well as sticks involved. Indeed, a revolving fund could be established, with funds raised from fining bad faculty behavior used to fund bonuses given for positive steps taken by the faculty or staff that need to be rewarded.

In particular, faculty should be fined for violating university rules on the times that final examinations are to be given, for failure to meet with student advisees, for failure to attend important ceremonial events (e.g., graduation), for missing classes, etc. The fines should be leveled against the departments in which the faculty member is in, with the chair being given the option of passing the fine along to the individual (this means Prof X's bad behavior reduces the travel budget for Prof Y, increasing peer pressure to play the game by the rules).

Fine money should be available as bonuses for employees who discover a new way to save money or who do extraordinary service (e.g., covering the classes of sick colleagues). In some sense, this is not too different from what pro sports teams do. A football player who is late to training camp is fined, as is one who embarrasses the team with antics on or off the field. But bonuses are often given for exemplary performance --winning the Super Bowl, for example.

We need to sharpen the consequences for bad behavior as well as the rewards for good behavior in the academy. The Florida State system is one way of doing this. Harvard penalizes humanities departments that keep Ph.D. students around forever by reducing the number of new students they can take. The result: Harvard Ph.D. candidates get their degrees faster than before. Incentives and disincentives work. Let's use them.

1 comment:

Daniel said...

Interesting concept. Something definitely needs to be done to to rid the academy of some deadweight loss and facilitate an environment of achievement. I couldn't agree more with penalizing those who consistently underperform and rewarding those who exemplify extraordinary efforts...in any industry.