Unfogged Mobile

Posted by Ogged on 09.24.20

The two paragraphs in this tweet (summarizing the findings of this book) are the great koan of American politics. Understand the why of this, and you will have reached enlightenment.

Inequality does not lead the public to favor policies that reduce it. It makes racially biased citizens less egalitarian & more supportive of Republicans.

More Republican control in Congress increases inequality, which in turn increases Republican control. pic.twitter.com/q9UmpHlaVY

— Matt Grossmann (@MattGrossmann) September 25, 2020
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Collateral Damage
Posted by Heebie-Geebie on 09.24.20

A thing I see play out over and over again is that higher ed administrations cut faculty lines or leave them unfilled, and the remaining faculty respond by increasing their own workloads so as to not hamper students' progression towards graduation. They do cut their workload in some ways - "I used to have [X] as a class assignment, a decade ago, but now that my classes are twice as large, I've had to change it to [Y] to keep up with the grading" - but only these soft changes that are impossible to quantify on any scale. (And adjuncts are hired, of course, but the service workload increases for the remaining tenure/tenure-track faculty. And you can run through your adjunct budget and still need more teachers, and be back in the same situation.)

What they don't do is reduce how many courses they're offering and cap course size and make current students collateral damage. In other words, say ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, "I'm so sorry - I agree that it would be great to take this course, and you should consider transferring, and at your exit interview, be sure to tell the people in charge that you're transferring because you can't get into the course you need." This would be awful for students in the shortterm, but is really the only bargaining chip to get administrators to fundamentally see that there is a trade-off to cutting faculty lines.

Now, my observations come from a sample comes from incredibly earnest educators. First, the faculty at Heebie U would never consider the trade-off above. (And to be fair, the situation at Heebie U is not as dire as elsewhere, because our administration is also sweet and earnest (at this moment in time)). Second, the math colleagues that I work with most closely at other institutions tend to be at (severely underfunded) public institutions and very passionate about teaching. (And of course, the admininstrations there are constrained by the amount allocated by the state, although at the university level they can of course make terrible decisions in addition.) But my point is that I'm only in contact with faculty who would never use undergrads as pawns in this way.

But I do think that they should consider doing a kinder, gentler version of the above: take stock of your department. Decide on reasonable amounts of work to deliver, based on how many people are employed by the department, and how large classes have traditionally been. Then base what you offer on your staffing, and not (entirely) on the number of students who need your classes, and explain to the administration why there is such a large gap.

(Maybe this plays out differently in other disciplines and states! I have no idea.)

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