Thursday, November 18, 2010

Nobody Likes a Tattletale

by Daniel L. Bennett

I was able to muster up a bit of a chuckle when reading this article in the Chronicle. Apparently, Kaplan CEO Andrew Rosen attended and spoke at the recent annual meeting of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. Public university leaders appear to be upset that some of their faculty have taken part-time positions teaching at for-profit universities without first seeking the permission of their full-time employer and believe it is a conflict of interest for those doing so. As the Chronicle reports, a provost at Texas Tech University asked Mr. Rosen,
"When are you going to get your act together and start publishing that list [of public university faculty working for Kaplan]?"
While at first glance this is not "ha-ha" funny, it is somewhat humorous considering that the public (as well as private non-profit) institutions are quite cryptic with the information that they release to the public. In fact, it has generally taken government mandates, which they have fought viciously with their lobby, to get any information out of them. Yet, these same folks are haranguing the for-profit sector for not releasing information that would likely only be of use to the institutions whose employees are violating their employment contract by not seeking permission (or at least reporting) that they are considering a part-time job. This is akin to the IRS asking citizens to report their neighbors for cheating on their taxes.

While I certainly don't advocate that public university faculty violate their employment contracts by taking such positions, it is not the responsibility of Kaplan or any other college to publish a list of potential offenders. This would actually do more harm than good for the reporting institution, as it would likely have trouble recruiting qualified instructors if it did so. It could however, enforce a contract of its own that includes a provision that any instructors employed by another institution must verify that their existing employment contract allows them to seek outside work.

1 comment:

Glen S. McGhee said...

This is one of those rare instances where the complainer can "lead by example."

It's odd that Bob Smith doesn't provide a link to his real-time faculty rosters -- rosters that don't just list a vague degree like "MA" or "PhD" but also give the details about what those degrees are in.

Typically, the rosters that Bob Smith is talking about are mostly window-dressing, and not the gold standard -- that would be the faculty rosters submitted for accreditation review purposes.

Faculty rosters submitted for accreditation give details on courses taught, relevant academic degrees and the number of credits earned in each discipline, as well as other qualifications for teaching those particular courses. They are also supposed to list adjuncts and dual enrollment instructors, but don't always. Sometimes it is hard for schools to track down the credentials for their instructors, especially when hiring is delegated to the deans, and credentials are not properly vetted by HR.

But, even here, the quality of faculty rosters submitted for accreditation reaffirmation varies considerably from institution to institution, and department to department.

Historically, this has been the most cited deficiency for schools in the South. One of the reasons is that, again, historically, as many as 30% of the instructors have been assigned to teach classes for which they lack qualifications, 18 graduate hours in the teaching discipline.

Institutions such as Texas Tech are therefore understandably reluctant to put their complete accreditation rosters on the web in real-time.

Even if they do, the rosters used for accrediting purposes can be flawed -- missing instructors who may not be otherwise qualified that are teaching during the summer.

Now, here again, this is something the US Department of Education has been really lax about enforcing, since it is a 34 CFR 602 requirement. (This reminds us the the "Office of Education" began as a mouthpiece for the colleges in Washington DC.)

I'd like to see Bob Smith post his reaffirmation faculty roster to the web in real-time. That way he could lead by example.