Friday, March 22, 2013

McCrory and Higher Ed 3

First two installments are here and here.  What we're hearing a lot is "efficiency." The governor wants universities to be run more efficiently and be more accountable. This means evaluation. This is a perfectly reasonable idea, but very few people see how all too often it is operationalized on the ground level, namely in individual departments. As department chair, I receive instructions on evaluation and assessment and I have to carry them out. There is an enormous gap between the governor or state legislator and me. They make a speech about efficiency and have no idea whatsoever how it is measured.

So let me explain.

No matter how lofty it sounds at the beginning, evaluating academia at the ground level means a tremendous amount of paperwork, more bureaucratic rules, and new administrators to watch over it all. We do a ton of it now. We come up with new measures, forms, tables, matrices, student learning outcomes (SLOs), target percentages, and test questions. The culmination of this process is the spitting out of numbers, and then we are judged by those numbers. We are already doing plenty of this for accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). It is very time consuming, so if the legislature adds more, we will be spending quite a lot of time with paperwork. Staff time will have to be sucked up even more to collate everything into one big fat report.

Professors are considered easy targets since lots of people believe we waltz in, teach, and then nap all afternoon. What people don't realize is that--in addition to many other things--lots of professors have to spend quite a bit of time doing this. Evaluation gets integrated into classes, requires countless meetings, and faculty must collect data.

So, taxpayers and students, watch out for a plan that involves spending money on more evaluation in the name of efficiency and accountability, which means funding the creation of new bureaucrats (and yes, the governor's budget proposal does include that spending even as it cuts elsewhere). It also necessarily means less money for instruction. That means not hiring new tenure track faculty and relying ever more on part-time instructors. It means your professors will also spend more of their time on paperwork rather than classes.


Anonymous,  11:54 AM  

In a bid to be more efficient, I made a little app that will write your SLOs for you. It's a hell of a lot cheaper than the Vice Provost of Re-accreditation we're now paying at UT.

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