September 03, 2009
The University of California may say I'm just taking a few days off. That's not how I see it.
Reader JG asks my position on this story from the Sacramento Bee:
Some University of California professors are so peeved that UC's Office of the President has forbidden them from taking furloughs on teaching days that they're planning to walk out on their classes later this month. The date they've chosen-- Sept. 24-- is the first day of class at several UC campuses, including UC Davis.
Professors advocating for the walkout say they can make political inroads by forcing students to feel the impact of budget cuts prompting the furloughs.
"Instructional furloughs pressure the state to cease defunding the UC system," says a letter calling for the walkout.
"We cannot allow either the California legislature or the Office of the President to proceed as though cuts to public education do not have debilitating consequences."
I expressed my thoughts about this in an email I sent to my colleagues last month when there was some discussion of these issues among UCSD professors. Here's what I said:
I strongly believe that cancellation of classes is a very bad idea.
The suggestion that it is possible to achieve a significant reduction in the work expected of a faculty member at UCSD by having us teach a few less hours in a quarter is a complete joke. The people who suggested it either see their jobs very differently than I do, or else they're trying to make a petty gesture of protest.
The latter is an extremely bad idea. Students are taking a very serious hit in the form of higher tuition and fees. Faculty members have also taken a significant reduction in income, and that should be the basic message that we send to the world. Personally I would have preferred to see it called "salary cut" rather than "furlough" for precisely this reason.
There are any number of things that happen in life that may not be as I would have wished. But one of my core principles is never to take that out on the students I am asked to teach.
If some of my colleagues perceive that they now have better opportunities than teaching at the University of California, I'd encourage them to resign so that they can take advantage of those opportunities.
If not, they need to stop whining and do their jobs.
And perhaps even be thankful that, unlike many other Americans, they still have one.
Posted by James Hamilton at September 3, 2009 08:21 PMdigg this | reddit
Your attitude doesn't sound very American. It's not all about "me me me". Please get with the program.
Posted by: Mogden at September 3, 2009 09:16 PM
Oh snap! Good for you, Prof.
Posted by: Steve at September 3, 2009 09:38 PM
Hang in there good professor. We are all in this together.
Posted by: tyaresun at September 3, 2009 09:44 PM
Wow. Reading this sent chills down my spine. Thank you for not succumbing to pressure and for doing what you believe to be right.
Posted by: surya at September 3, 2009 09:48 PM
I "took" one of your classes, or lecture series, on the Internet, at home. I had your vu grafs in PDF, I had a good view of the white board, and when stuck on something I had my Wikipedia up and running. While sitting in my easy office chair at home, I wondered about those poor folk sitting in the classroom on those hardback student desks.
Posted by: Mattyoung at September 3, 2009 10:36 PM
I've been wondering what happened to higher education. In the mid seventies I went to Purdue as an out of state student for $850/semester. That was about double the rate for in state students. I think the usual most expensive private schools like MIT, Cal Tech and Stanford were somewhere in the $2000-$3000 range per semester.
But the engineering profs were paid well. About $50k, and back then that was well into the top 5% of compensation in the country. Plus we know you people get summers off.
I just saw UC schools charge $38,000 for out of state students?!?! Maybe they meant per year rather than semester, but geez, are you guys making investment banker pay?
With costs like that, it a wonder anyone is going to college.
Posted by: Cedric Regula at September 3, 2009 11:00 PM
Syllabi are posted online, Professor. I also think that witnessing a bonafide labor dispute is more educational than many 50 min econ101 lectures.
Posted by: yuan at September 3, 2009 11:02 PM
Furloughs should be done on a random basis. If they fall on a class day, so be it. Send the students home with the Governators mailing address to ask for a refund.
Posted by: JD at September 3, 2009 11:17 PM
Posted by: Christian at September 4, 2009 01:34 AM
Just at the time when a good education in economics would not hurt.
May be worth trying to educate the congressmen of California? or too late ?
Posted by: lien at September 4, 2009 03:50 AM
You always were a decent, principled teacher - a fatal flaw, no doubt, in the rough and tumble world of higher education. Wasn't this sort of cyclical state funding nonsense one of the factors in your decision to leave UVa?
I'll probably use the wrong terminology here, but I think that this situation has some interesting public choice potential. UC system faculty calls it what it is: a pay cut. Then they present the legislature with A Modest Proposal: increase the (woefully low) out-of-state enrollment. Since the non-CA tuition is substantially higher than in-state, this puts a dent in the shortfall. I'll admit that tuition covers only a fraction of the full costs of the UC education, but it would be nice to see the politicos squirm when trying to decide which constituency to favor/screw in the tradeoff - taxpayers/faculty/staff vs. taxpayers with college-age children. Evil, perhaps...
Posted by: KevinT at September 4, 2009 06:09 AM
"If some of my colleagues perceive that they now have better opportunities than teaching at the University of California, I'd encourage them to resign so that they can take advantage of those opportunities.
If not, they need to stop whining and do their jobs.
And perhaps even be thankful that, unlike many other Americans, they still have one."
Posted by James Hamilton
Spoken like a true economics professor.
Posted by: Barry at September 4, 2009 06:41 AM
Posted by: Chris at September 4, 2009 07:19 AM
Thank you. I have worked for the UC and believe there is plenty of waste in the system that they refuse to clean up crisis after crisis. I would like to see the two university systems embrace as many students as possible during this crisis by making serious and painful cuts. Then when the crisis is over they can legitimately go back to the state to ask for more funding. If they end up cutting enrollment it will not make sense to increase their funding. They have chosen to limit their value to society rather than increase it at at time when public education is needed more than ever.
Posted by: Me at September 4, 2009 07:20 AM
Thank you for what you do sir. UC and it's students are lucky to have such a fine professor.
Posted by: GWG at September 4, 2009 07:24 AM
If they walk, fire them! Two problems solved! Use the saving to just reduce furloughed but still working faculty. fund the remaining now under worked faculty, and bring them up to a full work load (40 hours student contact hours with their grading after hours) Watch higher education return to yesterday's standards. Require students to work to fund for the university as a part of their obligation, no pay, just hard working skills learned.
What a sight--hard working students, hard working faculty! A true miracle in higher eduction.
Posted by: Gene at September 4, 2009 07:34 AM
I commend your decision, but ultimately your outlook and relationship with your students reflects the perverse nature of public education and the public provision of services.
You write, 'But one of my core principles is never to take that out on the students I am asked to teach.'
The choice of the word 'asked' is very illuminating. It implies that you're doing a favor. And no doubt the professors who want to take a day off from teaching see the situation exactly as you do. They have no need to make sure their clients, the students are happy. That you personally base your decision on some high minded principle is a lucky roll of the dice for your students.
Students at private colleges don't have to worry about the principles of their college professors. Those professors operate in a system where if the students don't feel that they are getting value for their money, the students will leave, and the professors will then have to deal with something worse than a furlough.
The end of this economic crisis will likely be signaled when politicians at all levels of government have stood up to the public sector and significantly cutback on pay and benefits.
Posted by: kashof at September 4, 2009 07:48 AM
Posted by: Steve Kopits at September 4, 2009 08:02 AM
Wait, I'm confused - how come CA can't just print more money to pay the full budget? Or couldn't they just power the university system with renewable energy, maybe wave power, and save a bundle that way? Surely there's a better way to balance this budget than having real people make difficult and painful choices!
Posted by: Dr. D at September 4, 2009 08:28 AM
Agree with the professor wholeheartedly. teaching is one of the few noble things we do in the society. It is too bad that most academic institutions judge faculty on their academic productivities (papers, research etc..) not on teaching.
Posted by: pete at September 4, 2009 08:50 AM
JDH: Well put. If any privileged elite is partially responsible for the current mess that California finds itself in, that comfortable elite consists of college and university professors.
Are rank and file earning less US$7/hour? Are families sending one parent or another to work each day wondering if the parent will come home alive?
I can think of many good reasons for work stoppages. This de facto salary cut is not one of them.
Posted by: GNP at September 4, 2009 09:05 AM
Two comments, one that Menzie might be able to weigh in on. The first is that there a steadily rising percentage of the personnel in higher education have been administrators and staff, a few years ago nationwide coming to exceed the number of instructors/professors. Somehow I think that this has something to do with the escalating tuition costs that students face.
The second is that I was visiting at Wisconsin this summer (and missed Menzie). I was told there that there is 3% cut for "furloughs" there across the board for all state employees, with state offices closing on certain days. Faculty have apparently been told (or at least some) that they are not supposed to work at all in any way shape or form on the days that they furlough (with one being the day after Thanksgiving). It is my understanding that there have been some hilarious blogposts put up somewhere by some law profs there about this, although apparentlty the real reason for the "furloughs" rather than straight out pay cuts is that this keeps the states from having to pay overtime if the "furloughed" workers actually work (or at least admit that they do).
Posted by: Barkley Rosser at September 4, 2009 09:20 AM
Professor, you have a clear sense of what is important and what your institution is primarily about.
Congratulations to your parents for raising you well, and to you for publicly stating, and being ready to act upon, your convictions.
Posted by: jg at September 4, 2009 10:18 AM
By the way, you are right about calling a salary cut a salary cut. My recommendation is that you just use that expression, as if oblivious to the effort to foist "furlough" into the conversation. "The salary cut imposed on professors..." "When university administration cut professors' salaries..." and right on down the line. There are more of you than there are of them. When it comes to these power thingies, the guys who think they are in power have a natural tendency to assume that the language they use to further their interests will be generally adopted because they have power. It takes work to foster the use of honest language, but I think you'll find it gratifying, and maybe even worthwhile in a practical sense.
Never let the other guy lie about things that matter to you.
Posted by: kharris at September 4, 2009 10:45 AM
So UC professors have joined the elite?
I am ecstatic that JH considers teaching a calling. Almost makes me believe in macroeconomics, almost, not quite.
Posted by: Edd at September 4, 2009 10:51 AM
Professor, you offer good common sense to a very terrible situation in our state. Hopefully some of your colleagues will listen to what you say. For the faculty to take their anger about this situation out on the students (who are paying more for less) is just plain counter-productive. Instead of complaining about the job they have, the faculty should be glad they have one. Count your blessings!
I can tell you from personal experience that the loss of a job and the income associated with a job loss is DEVASTATING for many families in our state. Do not rub the unemployed's noses in your unfortunate "furlough" or "salary cut". You still have a job to go to and income associated with that job. You only have to cut back a little, while some of those without jobs are not eating, have no health insurance, and may be losing a home.
Posted by: CH at September 4, 2009 11:42 AM
kharris raises some interesting and relevant points.
If I may go slightly off topic (OT), do we have any applied theoretical work or empirical work that tests whether hyperbole and deliberate deception work in a cost-effective manner for social, community and/or special interest gain? Clearly there must be some ex ante expectation of gain. Do the results ex post justify the fib strategy?
Posted by: GNP at September 4, 2009 12:28 PM
I agree with Professor Hamilton that furloughs are more properly called salary cuts. The problem with "furlough" is that it gives students and the general public the idea that professors are now doing less work because they have some extra vacation days, albeit without pay (and canceling classes because of furlough days merely reinforces this bizarre notion). However, the reality of academic life means that a professor's work continues undiminished, furlough or no furlough. And, by the way, this includes the summer months for those of you who think professors get the summer off.
Posted by: Dr N at September 4, 2009 12:39 PM
Please don't take furlough on a day in which you would otherwise have posted a blog.
Posted by: don at September 4, 2009 01:31 PM
I was being partly facetious about summers off.
Our engineering profs at Purdue were expected to attract research grants and once awarded I happen to know they worked on them not only thru the summer, but weekends as well. I know this because, while a undergrad student, I had a part time job drilling holes in cement walls to mount lab equipment for the research projects.
However, I think our rather small liberal arts colleges spent their summers taking mini-sabbaticals to Europe, and studying art, literature and maybe ancient architecture. When they got back, I imagine they published a paper entitled "What I did on my summer sabbatical".
Posted by: Cedric Regula at September 4, 2009 01:50 PM
Don't kid yourself about "teaching" students. Whatever material you may choose to present, it cannot rival students' access to thousands of books
and online articles on *any* subject.
Who needs libraries when you have Google and Amazon.com? Likewise, universities don't provide much more than entertainment value.( years ago HBS taught a "best practices" case study on Enron.. )
Posted by: molecule at September 4, 2009 03:51 PM
UC campuses are not composed solely of professors. For hourly workers furlough really is furlough, distinct from a salary (or hourly rate) cut.
I support the professor's stance here 100%.
I also find the enrollment reduction baffling. Each additional student will bring in additional revenue. Is the UC so capacity limited that there is no marginal net revenue to be gained from enrolling additional students? What about out-of-state students?
Posted by: HZ at September 4, 2009 05:40 PM
"Don't kid yourself about "teaching" students. Whatever material you may choose to present, it cannot rival students' access to thousands of books and online articles on *any* subject."
This bizarre romanticization of the internet is always fascinating.
Posted by: PM at September 5, 2009 02:06 AM
What a surprise!
An academic economist disapproves of a labor action because it might cause a few college students to miss the first day of classes. If left-wing economists actually existed in the United States (and please...Baker, Krugman, would be centrists in Europa) they might comment on the complete evisceration of a functioning labour movement in the United States of America:
Posted by: debbs at September 5, 2009 09:09 AM
The bare knuckle nature of economics comes out from underneath outwardly elegant and sophisticated economic theorizing.
Krugman wrote a futuristic dystopian piece about education some years back (http://www.eurotrib.com/story/2009/8/15/35742/9754 ):
Eventually, of course, the eroding payoff to higher education created a crisis in the education industry itself. Why should a student put herself through four years of college and several years of postgraduate work in order to acquire academic credentials with hardly any monetary value? These days jobs that require only six or twelve months of vocational training -- paranursing, carpentry, household maintenance (a profession that has taken over much of the housework that used to be done by unpaid spouses), and so on -- pay nearly as much as one can expect to earn with a master's degree, and more than one can expect to earn with a Ph.D.. And so enrollment in colleges and universities has dropped almost two-thirds since its turn-of-the-century peak. Many institutions of higher education could not survive this harsher environment. The famous universities mostly did manage to cope, but only by changing their character and reverting to an older role. Today a place like Harvard is, as it was in the 19th century, more of a social institution than a scholarly one -- a place for the children of the wealthy to refine their social graces and make friends with others of the same class.
Still, the celebrity economy has been hard on some people -- especially those of us with a scholarly bent. A century ago it was actually possible to make a living as a more or less pure scholar: someone like myself would probably have earned a pretty good salary as a college professor, and been able to supplement that income with textbook royalties. Today, however, teaching jobs are hard to find and pay a pittance in any case; and nobody makes money by selling books. If you want to devote yourself to scholarship, there are now only three options (the same options that were available in the 19th century, before the rise of institutionalized academic research). Like Charles Darwin, you can be born rich, and live off your inheritance. Like Alfred Wallace, the less fortunate co-discoverer of evolution, you can make your living doing something else, and pursue research as a hobby. Or, like many 19th-century scientists, you can try to cash in on scholarly reputation by going on the paid lecture circuit. But celebrity, though more common than ever before, still does not come easily. And that is why writing this article is such an opportunity. I actually don't mind my day job in the veterinary clinic, but I have always wanted to be a full-time economist; an article like this might be just what I need to make my dream come true."
It looks to me like what Krugman describes is a transformation of a country into what we call often a third world country, with a small wealthy elite and powerless uneducated masses that labor for the elite as servants (note that colleges are solely for the rich and maids and servants are commonplace occupation). With a fear in their hearts and the attitude "I better shut up and pull my cart", this kind of dystopian world is where this whole thing is heading.
The next disintegration will be in technology and sciences. If things do not improve, better people will begin to leave (and are already leaving). Foreign talented students will stop coming. There will always be some other land that would want to scoop up all the highly trained and talented individuals (I refer here more to hard sciences). Canada, Australia, some countries in Europe have green card programs; China attempts to bring back highly trained oversees Chinese (although it may also start bring in none-Chinese as well). Science magazine always has position announcements from all over the world.
So have no fear. The labor market for scientists is the whole world, someone will always hire at a good pay.
Posted by: biofuel at September 5, 2009 11:11 AM
My respect for you grows.
Posted by: DickF at September 6, 2009 04:36 AM
1. Chinese universities are being built to take an enormous load of asian students.
2. Internet based degrees are everywhere, inexpensive and effective.
3. The number of students in the age group for college is at its max in the US.
4. Any tenute track position can count on hundreds of good applications. Plenty of folks would like your job, even at a much lower pay.
5. POD book publishing means that everyone can publish a book.
Conclusion - in the next few years watch many US universities transition to internet-based, cut costs, reduce faculty by using adjunct "internet based" faculty, and lower costs and expenses.
Frankly folks, you may be in the buggy whip business. Maybe it is worth thinking about accepting a lower salary as the new normal, teaching three sections every term, doing more consulting for private companies and stay off the government teat, no sabbatical, and plan to spend the summer teaching as well as doing research. Hard work and lower pay is the new normal for faculty.
Or am I missing something here.
Posted by: Keating Willcox at September 6, 2009 06:04 PM
I appreciate the professor's concerns for his students, but I urge him to think about using his class on the 24th to teach his students what they stand to lose now that the UC budget has been restructured. They face huge hikes in fees and tuition, projections that up to 25% of future admitted classes to the UC may come from out-of-state, and the likelihood that UC will lose prominent professors to rival universities if departments continue to lose funding. Many of the previous commentators to this blog seem unaware that this issue reaches far beyond the furloughs or faculty pay (or the problem of eliminating any pretense of democratic governance of the university). They might not know, for instance, that staff members have lost their jobs altogether. They might not know that in some departments, Graduate Student Instructors are paying out of pocket to be able to afford to make basic photocopies for their classes because of departmental limits. And they might not know that between 1992 and 2008, executive pay increased nearly 200%. There is a lot to protest here, and this professor would honor his students most by demonstrating his dismay with the gross abuses of the University of California Office of the President rather than insulting his colleagues who are attempting to protest them. After all, it's public education that's at stake.
Please see: ucfacultywalkout.wordpress.com; http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/newsroom/2009PRS/ucwalkout.htm; http://utotherescue.blogspot.com/2009/09/teaching-cuts-ucb-prof-catherine-m-cole.html
Posted by: Anonymous at September 6, 2009 07:50 PM
I am also a UC professor (in one of the hard sciences) and agree wholeheartedly with JDH's point of view.
If the UC faculty want to "send a message" through cancellation of some classes, they really ought to consult some experts in message framing (such as UC Berkeley cognitive linguist George Lakoff) before doing so. Otherwise, the message that is received by the public and the legislature is likely to be rather different than the one that was intended to be sent by the faculty.
Posted by: AVo at September 6, 2009 09:01 PM
Keating Wilcox:"Or am I missing something here."
Indian colleges is one. At the start of the decade, the Indian government remarked that the cost of going to school in the US, even in Indiana, is getting exorbitant.
So from the looks of this website, they are now up to a count of 6384 colleges in India.
Foreign competition and outsourcing? What will they think of next. And with IBM in the process of moving(re-sourcing is a better word, it's not really the "I've Been Moved" company anymore) half their workforce there, there could even be corporate sponsored scholarships available. Haven't checked Indian programmer salaries lately, but at the start of the decade a BS computer science major made about $10,000 with a few years of experience, and a PhD made around $20,000. I guess they want to ensure educational cost doesn't exceed what you can make in your career. Especially since we need so much on-going education in many fields.
Posted by: Cedric Regula at September 7, 2009 06:34 AM
And there is more Cedric. It's not only engineers in India, it's also lawyers in China. There are 600 law schools in China, and one of them now teaches US law and will seek accreditation from the American Bar Association, so that its students could take bar exams in the US. Imagine if this experiment works, I look forward to $20 an hour legal help. Jokes like "talk is cheap until you hire a lawyer" would be rendered obsolete.
And there is more. Telemedicine inches ahead to bring to us the best - or the cheapest - doctors of the world. Teleradiology should alleviate the shortage of radiologists. The thing is to find a way around regulations and certification requirements. But don't you worry:
---"It is imperative to understand that every country has its own licensure requirements. Any preliminary 'preread' report would therefore have to be reviewed again by the onsite radiologist. In this context, the article by Burute does not, in my opinion, adequately differentiate between a preread and a so-called 'ghost' read. The process of dual review or 'preread' in which a preliminary report by a trained professional (radiologist, technologist or physician assistant) is overread by a radiologist licensed in that country, who reviews the study in toto, results in an efficiency, productivity and quality benefit, as has been validated repeatedly in the literature.This model is now largely an accepted one - as opposed to the specter that has been raised of "ghost reporting" in which the licensed radiologist does not review the study but simply "signs off"."
And there is more. Most people have difficulty grasping the idea of feed back loops. Of course, by the time all these wonderful developments take their course we all, except the very few at the very top of the power structure, would be too poor to afford even a $20/h consultation. But that is in the future, hopefully distant, so party on.
Posted by: biofuel at September 7, 2009 12:07 PM
A radio show on the walkout.
Posted by: Anonymous at September 7, 2009 02:54 PM
Some years ago when I was a professor I was whining about something at home, probably more work for the same pay.
My wife, who was getting ready to do the night shift nurse position in an Alzheimers unit, stopped, looked at me and said.
"You have a secure job, the hours are easy, the pay is good, you claim to enjoy your work, and you just finished three months of working on a very unstructured schedule called summer.
So what is it you are bitching about? Would you like to trade jobs?"
So what is it that professors are bitching about?
Posted by: save_the_rustbelt at September 7, 2009 04:34 PM
-----------GLOBALISING THE GLOBALISERS-----------
American academics - as of tomorrow lectures will
be delivered into your classrooms from Asia via videoconferencing screens for only 10% of your salaries...
How are you going to feed your families?
Posted by: Mark Gendala at September 8, 2009 06:44 AM
The fact that both the university management and the academics emphasise teaching suggests that they know that this is what the public value most highly, whereas the academics judge themselves by research publications. I would like to see these aspects of the academic job unbundled (and maybe administration too), so that the public can pay less for research that they do not value. Providing that a modest amount of teaching paid enough to survive as an academic without worrying about research publications, I actually believe that this would be healthier for research anyway. Those academics wanting more prestige and money could pursue itemised research funding to enable them to work more intensively on fashionable topics, while those driven by curiosity and longer-term goals would be free to follow their research interest, albeit at the cost of relative poverty.
Posted by: RebelEconomist at September 8, 2009 07:54 AM
RebelEconomist: If the public places no value on research, then why do students seem to vastly prefer universities whose faculty are prestigious researchers?
Posted by: JDH at September 8, 2009 08:41 AM
Furloughed faceless bureaucrat posting today. I think furloughs work when you have services that cannot withstand a permanent cut in work force, but with a need to reduce expenses. But as Prof. hamilton points out, just call it a salary cut and/or make it a voluntary vacation.
And much like "vacations", I was doing some work today to make sure I didn't fall behind at a key moment in the year for us. I think with good management, a voluntary unpaid vacation may work better than the random days off given by places like UC and my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin (hi Menzie!). Research and teaching needs go on regardless of furlough days, and the furloughing of grant-funded researchers is especially ridiculous.
If Prof. Hamilton's fellow UC colleagues think the 1 day of pay they are giving up is so much more important than being available for their students, they're in the wrong profession (and I'm now speaking as a former HS teacher and UW TA for Intro Macro).
Posted by: J. Miller at September 8, 2009 12:59 PM
Check out the updates to ucfacultywalkout.com.
I think the people on this board don't understand that massive fee and tuition hikes are also involved with these budget cuts. The same cuts devastating faculty and staff (not the posh professors the commentators on this board like to imagine but the secretaries who are being fired and made to do more work for less pay) are also devastating students. The media is doing an incredible job casting this issue as one of faculty greed and glossing over the fact that public education is threatened.
Why did the same meeting that imposed furloughs (budget cuts) raise executive pay?
Why is the budget not transparent?
Why does it make people so angry that professors want to protest the collapse of the UC system?
Bay Area readers of this blog should check out this event:
Posted by: Anonymous at September 8, 2009 08:49 PM
Molecule: if you think Amazon and Google have all you need to learn available--you chose a good screen name. Learning is about a lot more than "materials." And you have little notion of how a core of commonly-held knowledge improves our civilization.
You think you know what the universe that surrounds you consists of, but don't know enough to see the big picture!
Get thee to a college, any college. . .or study this time.
Posted by: Elemental at September 8, 2009 10:03 PM
Dear Prof. Hamilton:
Was your salary cut? Or do you have "outside funding"? To speak out against your colleagues whose salaries have been "furloughed", and to criticize their right to defend not only their jobs but their conviction that UC is failing its stated mission to public education, does not strike me as good breeding at all.
As for the UC professor in the hard sciences who quotes Lakoff on message framing, thank you for reminding me that Prof. Lakoff will be speaking about the "university in crisis" this coming Monday 9/14 at 4pm in 160 Kroeber Hall. Perhaps you will respect and appreciate what he has to say.
I greatly respect the professors I know who have signed the letter in support of the 9/24 walkout. They are dedicated teachers and responsible scholars, who deserve better than to be dismissed out-of-hand by their better funded colleagues.
A student in the humanities at UC Berkeley
Posted by: K at September 8, 2009 11:23 PM
Good question, JDH. In my (British) experience, students value a degree from a prestigious institution more than the teaching, and research contributes to that prestige. To the extent that students do not receive a better education from a prestigious institution, this is socially wasteful, and I would tackle it by unbundling the degree from the teaching as far as possible. I would advocate public examinations for as much of a degree course as possible, or at least compel universities to allow external students to take their exams without prejudice.
It is not just that the public do not value research much, but also that the academics enjoy doing it, which allows the limited resources available to be targeted on teaching.
Posted by: RebelEconomist at September 9, 2009 06:52 AM
Krugman basically described a education as in Eastern Europe in the 1990s. My family had friends in Moscow universities during that time. Not pretty. Even now young profs I know in Bulgaria don't get a salary that covers half of their monthly expenses, leading to widespread freelancing.
I live in the US and chose not to become a prof. But with all due respect to Mr. Hamilton, he sounds like a lamb lead to slaughter. The first 10 percent pay cut is easy. It is the next rounds that matter. I encourage everyone to fight for their rights: Why does sanctity of contracts - tenure! - only apply to wall street?
Now, I fully understand that students are the weakest link. But it seems that Mr. Hamilton thinks too highly of the impact of his teachings. I studied at Caltech and there many students were to busy to show up for lectures, after all they had to solve homework sets. Maybe engineering is different from economics, but a little bit of independence couldn't hurt the latter.
Posted by: IF at September 10, 2009 08:23 AM
Some people posting here have a very narrow view of how a university education can potentially benefit students.
I never enrolled in classes of some of the more influential professors during my student career. I read their books or papers; I talked to them in the seminars and hallways or occasionally over a beer. Or I organized public conferences where they (and sometimes me) presented papers, and in the process, handled the media strategy.
One of my more influential profs--I took his course twice, read many, many of his papers--claimed that students learned the most from their fellow students. In other words, the prestigious and highly productive applied theory professor did more than just lecture; he acted as the catalyst to bring motivated students together.
Posted by: GNP at September 10, 2009 09:35 AM
My own experiences as a mature student getting an MBA as a full time student really opened my eyes to the decline of American academia.
I attended Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. I was extremely dismayed at the arrogance of the facility and administration. Just who do they think they work for?
The tenure system is EVIL! That is my principal conclusion. By creating a self-"policing" and self-organizing system unaccountable to the taxpayers under the ruise of "academic freedom," American academia as an institution has begun its descent into decadance.
Thankfully, there are still professors like Hamilton who understand the responsibility that comes from a public university job and the gift of academic freedom.
Posted by: Joseph Somsel at September 10, 2009 10:00 AM
Since when do professors get paid by the day? Aren't they salaried at a monthly or annual rate? After you've been there for a few years and had a few promotions and departmental reorganizations does your contract bear even a remote resemblance to what you do or are paid for?
At my company, they simply announced a 10% across-the-board pay cut. Six months later executives are saying "oh by the way, we never promised that it would be temporary." Just you wait...
Echoing "debbs" above, the administrators have their own jobs to worry about. After they've made their decisions about where to cut costs, coordinated walkouts are a very inefficient way to provide them with a dataset of information about the minimum wage cuts and increases in "overhead" deductions on grants to prevent significant disruption to their ability to deliver their knowledge product their customer bases of students and granting agencies.
It's very difficult to negotiate with a mob, especially an anonymous internet-coordinated one; elected union representatives virtualize the market for salary vs labor action data, allowing for much faster convergence on a stable solution -- hopefully a convergence time faster than the rate of variation of exogenous drivers, but sometimes not...
Posted by: Dean Loomis at September 19, 2009 08:28 AM