Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Ann Coulter Finally Gets Something Right

 
A Gentleman's C (love that title!) quotes Ann Coulter from her book Godless,
...Professors are the most cosseted, pussified, subsidized group of people in the U.S. workforce. They have concocted a system to preemptively protect themselves for not doing their jobs, known as "tenure." They make a lot of money, have health plans that would make New York City municipal workers' jaws drop, and work -- at most -- fifteen hours a week.
At last she gets something right ... or almost right. Well ... maybe a little bit right.

Tenure doesn't protect us from not doing our jobs, it protects us when we're doing our jobs. If you don't do your job you're going to lose it and tenure won't, and shouldn't, protect you. Tenure means that if Ann Coulter were a Professor she couldn't be fired for being such an ass, as long as she works hard at it. But that's a minor difference. For Ann Coulter, being 180° wrong is close enough.

Some Professors make a lot of money, but only when they get old. Most Professors make far less than they could if they were in the private sector. Some make less than a high school teacher. But that's a minor discrepancy. Ann Coulter is probably not familiar with how the real world lives.

Canadian Professors have a good health plan. But that's not very special since all Canadians have a good health plan. It's one of the benefits of living in a civilized society. Ann Coulter ought to try it sometime. Maybe she should move to Great Britain or Australia. They are pro-war staunch American allies. She'd like it there.

As for workload, I checked with my colleagues and they all agree that 15 hours a day is too much. The average seems to be closer to 10-11 hours a day during the week and another 10 or so hours on the weekend. The total comes out to about 60 hours. In this case Ann was being too generous. Professors put in a lot of hours but 15 hours per day is not sustainable over the long haul.

[Hat Tip: John Lynch]

15 comments :

  1. I'd love to see how she fared in academia. As a writing instructor/grad student, I never stop working. I'm either studying, working in the writing center, leading workshops, grading essays, going to class, or working at a second job because my T.A. stipend is not enough to live on. I know writing professors with published monographs that still work as bartenders because professorships in the humanities pay so little. And it's harder for us to get tenure, as we tend to spend longer amounts of time in adjunct positions.

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  2. She said 15 hours per week, not 15 hours per day (assuming the quote is correct). Which is of course absurd.

    That means she is right about...the health plan I guess (maybe).

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  3. Larry Moran wrote:

    "Tenure doesn't protect us from not doing our jobs, it protects us when we're doing our jobs."

    Ann Coulter wrote (as quoted by Larry):

    "They have concocted a system to preemptively protect themselves for not doing their jobs, known as 'tenure.'"

    Both statements contain elements of the truth. I doubt Larry would deny that virtually all departments have so-called "dead wood." That is, tenured faculty that do nothing more than teach their classes and hold their office hours, with little or no professional development or research, and with no support for any grad students. In other words, they do the bare minimum--working in such a way that, had they done so at the beginning of their careers, they never would have been tenured. In those cases, tenure is indeed protecting their jobs, not providing the academic freedom needed to perform their jobs.

    Such profs are very difficult to terminate, even if they are mediocre teachers. All that can really happen is that they receive no merit pay increases and get the least desirable teaching assignments.

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  4. The faculty of the California State University system are taking a strike vote because they've been in negotiations for 22 months without making any headway. The issue is money; no raises for more than 2 years, which is damned hard especially on the untenured faculty. They gave up on having a decent health care plan years ago.

    My department (I'm a graduate student) tried to hire 2 new faculty members last year, and made offers to 6 people; none were accepted, and all said they simply couldn't afford to live in our urban area on the salary.

    I don't know how the strike vote will go, since most faculty I know rate striking right up there with getting a root canal. They feel extremely guilty about cheating the students. They also have bills to pay. So we'll see.

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  5. David says,

    I doubt Larry would deny that virtually all departments have so-called "dead wood."

    I'm really disapppointed in you. It took you 6 hours and 48 minutes to rush to the defense of Ann Coulter by raising this canard.

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  6. Larry,

    This has nothing to do with Ann Coulter. It has to do with the fact that your statement, that tenure protects the faculty and allows them to do their jobs, is true but naive. It is also true that tenure does make it hard to get rid of faculty who are not living up to expectations. As is your custom, you ignored the substance of the comment--so in that sense I am not disappointed in you.

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  7. Dave,

    It has to do with the fact that your statement, that tenure protects the faculty and allows them to do their jobs, is true but naive. It is also true that tenure does make it hard to get rid of faculty who are not living up to expectations.

    You are confused about the difference between tenure, which is designed to protect academic freedom, and various forms of job security. Many places of work have well-defined rules about when and how people can be fired and this makes it difficult to fire someone just because you think they're not working hard enough. In that sense universities aren't much different than most large companies.

    The idea that universities are full of lazy Professors is one of those myths that just won't go away. Whenever someone wants to disparage Professors they always bring it up. You aren't any different than Ann Coulter.

    Don't be embarrassed about your ignorance concerning tenure. Many people make the same mistake. Unfortunately, this includes many Professors who haven't bothered to learn about the importance of academic freedom and why it needs to be protected.

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  8. Ann Coulter is insane.

    She stated in a Pxman interview - somewhere on You Tube I think - that all the sicentists in the world were part of a giant conspiracy to promote evilution ...

    Paxman was so gobsamcked, he let it pass!

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  9. Try ...
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aiHbUplz3k

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  10. Larry,

    "You are confused about the difference between tenure, which is designed to protect academic freedom, and various forms of job security.

    "The idea that universities are full of lazy Professors is one of those myths that just won't go away. Whenever someone wants to disparage Professors they always bring it up. You aren't any different than Ann Coulter.

    "Don't be embarrassed about your ignorance concerning tenure."


    Since your response was directed at me, I think it is fair to say that you have responded to points I never made. I never wrote that tenure wasn't needed to protect academic freedom, nor did I write anything remotely similar to an allegation that universities are full of lazy people.

    What I wrote, which is so obvious I am amazed that even you would take issue with it (although the only way you attack it is to ignore what I actually wrote and respond as if I wrote what Coulter did) is that there is a flip side of tenure--some deadbeats do get to keep their jobs. You don't have to ask me--ask the students and ask the untenured faculty--they will have a keen sense about which tenured faculty are wasting tenured slots. Deans and departments chairs will also have a list of people they wish they could get rid of for lack of performance.

    As for knowing about tenure, I was (1) tenured and (2) served on and chaired the faculty review committee that evaluated faculty for tenure. I know all about tenure.

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  11. Thanks for offering to export Ms Coulter to the UK. We're not all slavish fans of Bush, and all his works, and all his ill advised military adventures. Almost two million of us demonstrated agin the invasion of Iraq.

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  12. David:

    You say that academic tenure protects faculty from being fired for under-performance; Larry says otherwise. Who's right?

    My understanding was that tenure prevented faculty from being fired other than for cause. That seems to support Larry.

    Why do you say that tenure, rather than poorly written contracts, protects faculty from being fired for not doing their job properly?

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  13. Robin,

    Do you think that someone who does the minimal effort to fulfill his contract, while engaging in none of the activities (professional development, research, etc.) about which the academic freedom aspect of tenure has applicability, should be untouchable for life?

    The cause for which someone with tenure can be fired includes things like immoral behavior, falsifying research, or failure to meet your classes. The bar is very, very low for keeping your job once you are tenured. For the eleven years I taught, only one tenured prof was fired--and that was for having a sexual relationship with an undergrad in his class. I'm not even sure if he was actually fired--I seem to recall he left before the long process of firing him could complete.

    The universities are not filled with such people (deadbeats), but neither are they hard to find. Any department of any size is likely to have someone who barely meets his contract obligations--who teaches his classes without enthusiasm, holds minimal office hours, attends meetings, serves on a committee now and then--but applies for no grants, supports no students, writes no books or papers, and engages in no professional development. Tenure makes it impossible to get rid of such people.

    I'm not advocating getting rid of the tenure system--I am merely pointing out that it is not a panacea. And when it fails--not common, but not particularly rare either--it is an expensive failure. Keeping a loser in a tenured slot obviously prevents filling it with someone who is competent. It's a lose-lose, and the biggest losers are the students.

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  14. Robin Levett asks of David,

    Why do you say that tenure, rather than poorly written contracts, protects faculty from being fired for not doing their job properly?

    He says this because he's confused about the real meaning of tenure. There are lots of jobs where it's very difficult to get rid of people. High school teachers, judges, members of Congress, and many government employees are classic examples. So, perhaps, are barristers working for Her Majesty's government. None of them have "tenure" in the sense that academics do.

    David thinks that the job security of university employees is all do to "tenure" but it's not. Professors can be fired for all kinds of things but they can't be fired for having unpopular opinions or disagreeing with the university administration.

    It's not a question of "poorly written" contracts. Most university faculty are unionized and the contracts are subject to intense scrutiny by lawyers from both sides. What we end up with is a set of rules and regulations governing hiring and firing that aren't much different than a lot of other union -negotiated contracts.

    There are excellent reasons for having these rules and regulations and most of them aren't directly related to tenure. At my university they apply to untenured administrative staff, to untenured lecturers, and to untenured Professors, none of whom can be fired on a whim.

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  15. Larry:

    You said that:

    It's not a question of "poorly written" contracts. Most university faculty are unionized and the contracts are subject to intense scrutiny by lawyers from both sides. What we end up with is a set of rules and regulations governing hiring and firing that aren't much different than a lot of other union -negotiated contracts.

    to which I'd reply that the genesis of a contract doesn't really affect whether it is poorly (from the particular party's PoV) written. I take the point - but it doesn't change the fact that it is the way the contracts are written, rather than anything inherent in tenure, that causes the "problem" that Heddle sees. Which is of course your point too...

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