Thank you, it’s always a pleasure to have an excuse to be back in upstate New York, where I actually expect it to look like it does outside today [laughter]. I was gonna make my opening, sort of, joke about the fact that most of what I’m gonna tell you about the trends that affect future
faculty are kind of depressing and so, this talk was well-timed for you to go from here to happy hour to drink away your woes.
But Syracuse is ahead of me on that, giving you booze during the talk [laughter]. And I have to say that I give points to a university that even at the start of the year, feeds and provides booze to its grad students. So, major props to Syracuse for doing that. And hopefully you won’t be drowning too many of your sorrows but here’s the reality, is that right now, I mean I could not agree more even though obviously I have a conflict of interest that being informed on these trends is going to help you. I think higher ed. is changing dramatically and what I tell most grad students, and so this has nothing to do with the wisdom of Syracuse professors, but I tell most grad students is your advisor probably doesn’t
have a clue how you’re gonna get a job and how you’re gonna navigate in this system.
FPP Kickoff Event
So I think it is hugely important, no offense against your advisors, that you cast a wide net for information and that you recognize that your career paths and challenges are likely to be quite different from those that faced the people who are on your dissertation committee. Which isn’t to say that they don’t have a lot of wisdom, but it may not be in this area. So what I want to talk about are some of the big issues in higher ed., starting with some that don’t reflect, don’t relate directly to the job market, then shifting to the job market because that is always a prime concern
of grad students and should be.
But first I want to get a better sense of all of you so I’m just curious, how many of you are grad students in the humanities? Social sciences? STEM fields? Professional programs? Okay. So, it’s a good mix and is it fair—how many of you envision yourselves ideally as professors? Okay, so that’s the right, I’m in the right place. Okay, so, these are, as I said, very challenging times. I want to start with what’s in the news
these days, which is the election. And one of the things I get asked because I’m based in Washington D.C. is what will the election mean for higher education and for those of you who might depend both student aid or especially those of you in the STEM fields on research. And my news here, and like most of the news I’m gonna share with you is very mixed. Right now, it looks like Obama will win a second term and the thing that I fear for people in higher ed. is that most people in higher ed. are happy with that news and are probably from a higher ed.
Perspective, there’s more money likely to happen to be available in a second Obama administration than there would be in a Romney administration. But, and this is the huge but, there’s not gonna be much money at all. And I think that we are in such bad shape, financially, and the deals made by President Obama with the Republican congress and while I think there is this chance that the Democrats will hold the senate they’re not gonna take back the house. So, you’re looking at, even in a second.
Obama administration, very tight federal purse strings and if they don’t reach a budget
deal, you’re looking at across the board cuts in every federal program. And so for those of you who are in programs that depend on federal grants, certainly most of you in the STEM fields, that’s gonna be very tough, especially because so many federal grants are multiple year grants, so, if you’re awarded a multiple year grant and your budget’s cut, it makes it really hard to win new grants.
Money Flow And Plan Execuation
Now, having said that, if Romney wins and should try to execute his plans, it would be even worse because he’s committed to tax cuts and I don’t think he cares much, actually, if there’s across the board cuts. I think actually Obama would try to do a deal to avoid across the board cuts and would include tax increases as one part of his solution. But what you’re looking at is tight budgets or even worse, I don’t think there is a scenario where the money’s gonna start to flow again. So that’s one big impact of the election. The other big impact of the election is more philosophical and actually is having an impact because of somebody who lost and that is, guess.
Which Republican candidate are we gonna say has influenced the national debate [silence]? Rick Santorum, specifically on higher ed. Now, one of the big things about President Obama, I would argue, one of the most significant things about the Obama administration is that in his first State of the Union address, he said that we are now in an age where every American needs at least one year of postsecondary education. That is hugely significant. Most previous presidents, though many have extolled the value of higher education, have also said that one of their goals is to just create those good, old-fashioned American jobs that you could get after high school. Obama was the first person, I would argue, who was honest enough to say that without some postsecondary training, you’re not
gonna do well in the economy, even if you’re in what would use to be called a blue collar job. What Obama was talking about wasn’t, in fact, necessarily getting a four-year undergraduate degree at Syracuse, he’s talking about people going to community colleges, getting certificates, getting training, some of them going on, but he put that on the table.
Now, in the Republican primary debates, Santorum started to attack that and I don’t know if you watched the Republican primary debates—you know, some of us are paid to so we have to [laughter]—but Santorum started calling Obama a snob and started saying that this whole college for all thing was really unfair and that Obama didn’t care about the people who were, you know, plumbers and factory workers and so forth. Now, there’s a lot of—and he implied, actually, that Obama was saying that every American should go and study great books for 40 years, which Obama has never said. But at the time that Santorum started to say this, and he did it in several debates and in his town halls, he got loud applause in working class towns saying specifically—he said that Obama was trying to make students
the betters of their parents, really sort of flipping the whole American dream thing, where many people view the American dream as actually parents want their kids to be better educated to go on and do other things.
Votes And Selection Process
Santorum flipped it. He got votes for it, it was popular with non-college educated white people and he got votes for it. Now, at the time, most people in academe sort of laughed at it and said, oh how silly Santorum is saying this. But I tell you now, five months later, it’s been adopted by pundits all over the place, it is on talk radio, all of the articles you read about how, you know, these are like every month, there’s a new feature on philosophy graduate working as barista at Starbucks, watch for it, it’s like a whole genre of journalism now [laughter], just profiling these people. And, what they feed into is this idea that college is a waste.
I was on, I was guest on a talk radio show at WNYC in New York City last week and all the questions, a lot of the questions were from people saying college isn’t worth it, people shouldn’t encourage everyone to go to college. One of the first call-in people actually was a graduate of the journalism program here at Syracuse and denounced it and said, why are people going to study journalism.
My Point Of View as a Journalist
Actually, I think there are real questions about why studying journalism right now, but this is out there, that higher ed. isn’t worth it, that people are asking that. Now, I believe very strongly that higher ed. is worth it and, in fact, every single bit of data show that even in the recession, even in this terrible, terrible recession, people are better off the more educated they are. You are better off with an associate’s degree than a high school diploma, you’re better off with a bachelor’s degree and so forth. But, it’s so bad right now that many people, in fact, aren’t getting the great jobs immediately after they graduate.
But this doubt about higher ed.’s value I think is something that you’re gonna encounter and is hugely important to people who anticipate being employed by higher ed. How do you think about it? And whether you think about it in different ways, whether you’re teaching English or engineering and I would argue this is an important question for all. And Santorum, while losing the Republican nomination, I think so far, he’s winning the battle of ideas on that issue and I actually question why higher ed.
Big Issues And Challenge
Let him do that. So that’s one issue. Another big issue is just coming up this month
and that is the future of affirmative action and perhaps diversity in American higher education. And this is a case that might seem not to affect you because Syracuse is a private institution and your chancellor is a well-known proponent of diversity and affirmative action, she was very involved at the University of Michigan, which was the last institution to have its programs go to the Supreme Court. But I would argue that this case could very easily affect Syracuse and all of the institutions where you might hope to work someday. So what this is a challenge to is the University of Texas’s affirmative action program. Texas has a law called the 10% law, where the top 10% of every high school is allowed to go to the university of their choice and they designed this when they lost an earlier court case about affirmative action and because it works in Texas to promote diversity in a “race neutral” way, because Texas has almost, has many segregated high schools, Texas has many high schools that are all Latino, it has many high schools that are all African American, it also has many high schools that
are all white.
It has high school that are all poor white. It has high school that are all rich white. But they have a lot of segregated high schools. So admitting the top 10% gets a diverse student body but maybe not as diverse as Texas would like. Texas is on its way to becoming a majority minority state. So the University of Texas has been using affirmative action on top of 10% and it is being sued by a white woman who was rejected and the Supreme Court is about to take up this case. October 10th, they look at the arguments. It will come down either December or early in 2013. Now here’s why this matters: One, is, I think, here’s another case where higher ed. is being very quiet. Because of all the attention that went to the healthcare decision and the fact that the Obama administration won it, in sort of a surprise way, I think a lot of people in academe assume that there’ll be some sort of Justice Roberts miracle that will save affirmative action.
Supreme Court justices vote
And, who knows, there might be? You don’t know how Supreme Court justices will vote but I actually think higher ed. is extremely vulnerable to a decision that could greatly restrict the use of the consideration of race and ethnicity in admissions decisions and possibly in other decisions. There are nine justices on the Supreme Court, one of them, Justice Kagan, who is a supporter of affirmative action, has recused herself from this case because she was involved in the case when she was Solicitor General before she was on the Supreme Court. So that leaves us eight.
I would say of those eight, there are only three, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor who are in any way can be considered reliable supporters of affirmative action. And I don’t know if all of the remaining
five have at many times, been very skeptical of affirmative action. And so I think it is quite possible that colleges and universities will be forced to reconsider their admission policies. If that happens, and they can’t consider race and ethnicity, I would anticipate many more debates over dropping consideration of
the SAT because on average, minority students do not do well on the SAT or do not do as
well on average as white and Asian students.
I would see more emphasis on so-called first generation affirmative action, which is legal if you look at sort of whose parents have haven’t gone to college. I would see more emphasis on transfers. Colleges may identify talented students who are at community colleges at get them to transfer. But even if they do all of those things, I think there will be less diversity in American higher education and I think in the context of an institution like this, that at least is known for valuing diversity, you may be surprised by what you may encounter at other institutions.
So that is coming down and I think it’s gonna be a really big decision and if people tell you not to worry about it, that it’s all gonna work out okay, I wouldn’t believe them [laughter]. Next big issue, unions. So unions right now, none of you are unionized as TAs because it may be that—that’s because Syracuse treats you so well and gives you hors d’oeuvres and drinks [laughter] or it might also be because the National Labor Relations Board says that graduate students at private universities cannot unionize. And in the last 12 years, as administrations have changed, the NLRB has flip-flopped.
when there is a Republican majority, they say no to unions, when there’s a Democratic majority, they say unions are okay, it’s gone back and forth and back and forth. Right now, Obama has majority nominees—appointees—on the NLRB and they are, right now, considering a case at NYU that could lead them to say that grad students have the right to unionize. If that happens, now I don’t know, actually are there any efforts to organize grad students here? >> Yes.
>> Yes, there are? By who? >> GSO… >> Okay, GSO, yeah, which is actually the group at NYU. And my guess is if the NLRB lets the NYU kids go forward, you will see a much intensified discussion of that issue here and elsewhere. Now the tricky thing is whenever the—if the NLRB, whatever the NLRB says in the end will probably be challenged in court and then it’s also quite difficult because of these flip-flops because graduate student populations, you all hope that five years from now you’re not grad students [laugher], which actually makes you a hard group to unionize.
Steel workers unionizing
If you’re unionizing steel workers, you’re unionizing people who anticipate themselves being steel workers in five years. You’re different. So grad students are a challenging group to unionize but I anticipate much more action on that. Now, if you go back 10, 12 years, the first round of grad student unions, since then, and I would argue, in part, because of that movement, many universities have greatly improved their treatment of graduate students. Stipends are up significantly, things that it’s hard to believe that this was the case, but 20 years ago, grad students who said, what’s the sexual harassment policy for my program, would likely have been told there isn’t one. You know, what’s the grievance policy for an unreasonable advisor or whatever, a lot of things that have come into—came into place because of this union drive and so things are in some ways better.
union movement And job market
The job market is terrible, which is what I’m gonna talk about later [laughter] and actually my personal view when—I get a lot of questions from university leaders who are so dismayed by the grad student movement and are like—union movement—and are like why do they unionize, we love them, we want them to be us later [laughter], you know, why would they do this to us [laughter], and I get that question all the time.
And what I tell them is I actually think a lot of it has to do with the job market. Your professors were probably abused as grad students [laughter] but they—it’s sort of like fraternity hazing, they thought they would get through it and then they would land in a good place and they saw the prospect of a good lifelong career that they wanted at the end of, you know, getting their advisor’s dry cleaning done [laughter]. And so they put up with worse than many of you put up with but I think today, when grad students don’t necessarily see an easy path or even a clear path to a good career, they are much less likely to say, why am I putting up with this, why do I not have good health insurance, why don’t I have good benefits.
So I always tell the university presidents when they say that, I say, if you really want to not have unions, hire more faculty, that’s just my guess about the psychology of the whole thing. And again, that’s because stipends have gone up but that is gonna be front and center, I think, quite soon, especially if Obama wins reelection because then he’ll get more NLRB seats to appoint. So, getting to the job market, and I am curious, how many of you right now are on the market? Okay, so a minority—so most of you have a little time, which is probably a good thing. So I wanna start by telling you just about
the reactions to two recent stories that we did that I think illustrate the state of the job market. One of them is that we noticed about two weeks ago someone sent us an email that said, you need to check out this job ad at Colorado State University and it was a job ad that said, to apply—this was a job to teach early American literature, that’s important because it wasn’t to teach a field, it wasn’t to teach like Twitter studies or something that would have just emerged in the last year [laughter], it was early American literature—and the job ad listed the typical requirements but one of them was, PhD awarded 2010 or later.
So, your friends who graduated three years ago, who earned their PhDs three years ago, who’ve been adjuncting and trying to put it together, they couldn’t apply because they wanted “fresh” PhDs [bewilderment]. And if you think it’s just Colorado State, then we did another story, Harvard was doing the same thing. And again, they want “fresh” PhDs, now.
This could be good, because you’re all like, “fresh” [laughter]. So for you, it could be good right now but
there are a bunch of issues about this. One, many people think it’s a form of age discrimination, which is illegal because they—there’s a debate among the people we quoted, some think it’s illegal some think it’s just immoral but they were saying they didn’t want the adjuncts and the others who’d been out for a few years.
Salary And Paying At entry level
And they claim because, oh well, we’re paying an entry level salary so they wouldn’t want the job but the reality is, there are a lot of people who got their PhDs in 2008 who would be thrilled with a tenure track job. These were tenure track jobs at an entry level salary that would be much better than getting $2,000 a course at multiple universities. And I think what this story shows, one, there are some jobs out there but it’s very much a buyer’s market and so institutions are able to do things that they really shouldn’t necessarily be able to do. And in fact, the one good thing that people said about these job ads was that they were being honest. There are a lot of people who think that these aren’t typically in the ads but that departments sit around and, in fact, are looking for those of you who are just about to finish.
And again, there’s so much inconsistencies in this because for instance, a lot of places in this market don’t wanna look at ABDs, they want to know the dissertation is done. So you have to be fresh but complete and you have this like, you know, expiration date [laughter] and it’s really hard and the
reality is, people who earned their PhDs in 2008 were just as good as you or just as bad as you, you know, they weren’t better or worse PhDs but some of them, it was probably about the worst time to go on the academic job market and so there are a lot of them out there like that.
American students decade
And so as a result, you see, you know, a lot of cynicism and then I wanna refer to the article that was mentioned in introducing me. Today, there are new data out showing that for the first time in a decade, fewer American students are doing what you did and actually enrolling in graduate school. And the numbers are notably down for American in the humanities, new enrollments are down 5% this year, after the average for the last decade has been going up 1% every year. Education, down 8.6%, social sciences flat, after going up and up and up. Now, there are some people who think this is a good thing that the market for students—and actually I think there is some truth to that, if you wanna look at who has, of doctors, who has the absolute best chances of landing a job, vets. In part, it’s because you all love your dogs and cats but it’s also because vet, veterinarian medicine restricts entry.
There are very few veterinarian medicine schools, they are incredibly competitive to get into and you get out, you’re employed and you’re employed at probably lot higher salary than even the PhDs in engineering here—I’m sorry to the engineers here [laughter], who are still gonna do okay—but you restrict who comes in, it has an—you know, sort of basic economics. So, many people think that’s good, on the other hand, there are questions about whether that’s really the—attacking the real problem. Is the problem too many grad students or not enough tenure track jobs? And so it’s attacking one part of it, but you look online and, you know, we write stories about this, you know, every month it seems something goes viral, like there was this open letter from a history professor to his undergrads that was basically, you cannot go to grad school.
job seekers underemployed people
Or there’s the website a 100 reason not to go to grad school [laughter], did you all read that, the new students especially? You know, obviously not [laughter] but there is a lot of angst and fear over the job market right now. And right now, I would say, you know, some of the big picture trends I see in the job market is things are a little better than the last few years, but, okay having just told you a little bit of good news, remember all of those unemployed and underemployed people from the past few years, I actually didn’t—while there was more job listings now in—even in the humanities, which is really, it had the worst job market—then there were a few years ago there are also more job seekers. And so once upon a time you could say, you know, how many new PhDs are there in history, how many new jobs are there in history, is this a match but now you’re really matching with the previous people from up to five,
six years prior, who didn’t land well.
ratio of unemployed Peoples
So, I think the ratio of job seekers to jobs is perhaps even more unfavorable but the number of jobs is going up a bit and that’s good for you. There’s great competition for them, there’s also—you need to watch out not just the job totals but disciplinary mismatch issues. And by that, what I mean is that in many fields. Where there are jobs they’re not across the board, they are specialized jobs and I’m gonna talk about interdisciplinary in a minute but don’t—I actually believe what all the experts say that the best research today is interdisciplinary, I don’t believe that’s the best way to get a job.
Jobs seeker American history
And so you may say, well history jobs are up, but actually even though the top field in history is American history, that’s not where the most, where the new jobs are. There are a lot more jobs now in African history, there are more jobs than there are PhDs. In Latin American history, again, it’s similar. So, in sociology, for instance, another field, criminal justice, really hot, a new sociology PhD in criminology is probably well-situated but guess what? That’s not the top field that the sociology PhDs study. And so, you need to look at discipline and then within the discipline. There’s also a lot of talk increasingly in fields like the humanities about non-academic jobs for PhDs. This is a very touchy issue, I’m not going to ask for a show of hands because many people believe that if you express interest in a non-academic job it will be frowned upon by your faculty advisors who will look down upon
it. I actually think it is important for fields to have a range of options but a lot of the debate now is, it’s not enough to just say, oh, we support our English PhDs and our history PhDs getting non-academic jobs.
What are you gonna do about it? Does—do your graduate programs, for instance—and you guys can do things about it even if your grad program don’t—do you know your way around and Excel spreadsheet? Have you taken statistics courses even if you’re not in the social sciences and you don’t have to? Do you know how to plan and organize a budget? Have you held a job outside of academia? A lot of these things are not necessarily valued by graduate programs and yet, they would place students looking for non-academic jobs in a much better way—place.
It is still the case that many new PhDs are going to spend one or more years, or many years, adjuncting. And that has real financial, emotional, psychological, you know, lots of burdens and that’s still where a lot of the jobs are. Now, some things about what you can do to position yourself and where there are maybe more jobs. Start with there are the fewest jobs for new. PhDs at institutions that train PhDs [laughter] and that’s the big problem because you need to get to know people who understand career paths are very different from the ones here. So for instance, community college job market is much better than the research university job market, there are jobs. There are jobs, there are jobs that are tenured, there are jobs that pay health insurance, where you don’t have to be an adjunct running around, very potentially rewarding jobs but they’re not research jobs, they’re jobs with teaching loads that faculty here would, like, just be shocked by—are even possible, they’re jobs teaching students with a range of abilities and not everyone who comes out of a PhD program is prepared for a classroom of older working adults coming back for education, students who went to lousy high schools, students who weren’t prepared the way likely people were prepared at your undergraduate institutions.
And as a result of that, there’s a big bias at many community colleges against hiring PhDs. 25 years ago, most community colleges would’ve loved to get a few PhD applicants. Now, they get a lot and they worry that it’s people who are “settling” a community college job and are gonna be job hunting on
Online Certificates of Community College Teaching
And so if you can show that you aren’t applying there as a plan B, but because you believe in the mission and actually, I have to say, it’s a great mission. These institutions are truly advancing people’s
livelihoods and making their lives better. If you believe in that and you believe that your career can fit, it’s great but you gotta show that. And so you gotta show that by getting yourself an adjunct job at a community college here, in this area, or there was mention briefly about, you got this certificate of teaching, there are now a bunch of online certificates of community college teaching. So there are ways that you won’t just be identified as Syracuse PhD but Syracuse PhD who has shown real skill in teaching at community colleges. It’s really a very important career tract, especially and actually, again, forget upstate New York for a minute, in the southwest, community colleges are just growing like crazy and so there are jobs, there’s more growth and more jobs in other parts of the country.
Online education, I’m gonna talk about MOOCs later but the ability to create online courses and to teach online is increasingly coming up in job ads and in searches as a way you can make yourself a better candidate even if you’re looking at a job at a research university or a traditional liberal arts college, a lot of institutions flag this in their departments. And so if you can say you got the skill, you’ve
done it, that helps and you can teach at online institutions. But again, it’s not just, oh, I know how
to surf the web, it’s a skill, you gotta learn it and do it well but it will make yourself
better. Entreprenueralism, this is a hard one to get—to really describe because it’s mushy but I am hearing, from in the social sciences and in the humanitities, search committees placing specific attention on, does candidate A show the ability to land a grant.
Physical and Biological Sciences
Now, in the physical and biological sciences this is not new at all because, you know, you’re working in labs and you’re learning how—you know, from a PI who got a grant from the NIH—how to do that. This is new territory because a lot of very successful humanities and some social science professors who’ve never applied for a federal grant. And it doesn’t need to be a big grant but can you show that you got some money from somewhere, organized something and pulled it off on a budget.
Because increasingly, universities don’t have money so they want people who can get money and there’s a lot of debate on search committees whether—because this deviates from the idea of, I’m just going for the most brilliant PhD in whatever field. You’re now going for maybe not the most
brilliant or maybe the most—but you’re valuing grant-getting skills. If you can show that you’ve done that, irregardless of your field, I think you will stand out. I wanna talk about interdisciplinary. So, interdisciplinary is hot, how many of you would say you do interdisciplinary work? Okay, so, it’s really hot, people like it, it’s a lot of great stuff. I think that higher ed.
Is totally schizophrenic on this, because they love—president’s get up and say, I value the interdisciplinarity and that’s all our hot fields and we’re creating new programs that are interdisciplinary and then, they deny tenure to the young faculty who actually try to do it. Your best path to a job and tenure is making a discipline love you. After you have tenure, please, be interdisciplinary [laughter], but seriously, I mean, and there are certainly exceptions to this, but by and large, I hear all over, horror stories of people who actually believed it when they were told that institutions value interdisciplinarity.
I actually think they most value it in superstars, when they’re recrutiting for the endowed chair, you know, the university professorship and whatever, they love interdisciplinarity. But when you’re starting in the job market.
They want someone who teaches intro whatever that field is and who’s gonna like it and
be creative about intro. And when they are awarding tenure, if you’re the person who’s done amazing work with that department across the quad, creating new courses and you got a joint grant or whatever, it doesn’t count as much as publishing in the flagship journal of your discipline. Now, will this change? I hope it will, someday, and it’s better than it used to be but I really worry about grad students being sold a bill of goods that higher ed. really believes what it claims to believe. It’s the same on teaching versus research. President after president will get up and say, we value teaching just as much as research and if you’re at a community college they, in fact, truly value teaching more but at most other institutions, in my experience of seeing this play out, a so-so teacher who’s great at research can get a job and tenure, the opposite is not the case.
Punctuality And Sincerity In Education
And again, I think that’s a terrible thing and so, again, if you wanna be a great teacher, do it after you get tenure [laughter], be a great interdisciplinary teacher after you get tenure. But be careful—and they’re sincere when they say this, I don’t think they’re lying but I think there’s a little bit of a disconnect between the people saying these things and the reality on the ground. So you need to really be aware of that. Now, looking ahead, two big trends that I think are gonna change the nature of faculty life.
One is, I think we are seeing a rising gap between higher ed.’s haves and have nots. It is a great time to be a professor at Harvard, you know, they lost a $1,000,000,000 from their endowment this year and, life will go on. Syracuse is celebrating that you just raised a $1,000,000,000, they lost a $1,000,000,000 this year and no one will be fired for it. The reality is the very wealthiest universities are able to do things, in terms of hiring, fellowships for grad students, you know, creating new programs, beautiful buildings, all of that, but it’s a smaller and smaller number of institutions.
what a university institution
And what we’re seeing at institutions that are very good but not as wealthy is a retrenchment—a pulling away from the idea of the breadth of what a university is about, we’re seeing institutions say things like, fields like physics and Spanish are optional, can be eliminated. 20 years ago, a university president would’ve been embarrassed to say we don’t have a physics department or we don’t have a Spanish department. We’re seeing, in particular, the humanities and arts programs take huge hits at campus after campus, particularly your non-flagship public universities. The very best publics are basically turning into pseudo-privates, raising money to replace what they lost from the states. But in terms of faculty life, what you’re seeing is the model that you might imagine of a balance of teaching and research, reasonably sized classes, a nice office, a sabbatical, these are things that are disappearing from more and more institutions and yet, remain, and remain quite nice, at some of the best institutions.
Now I wanna talk about MOOCs, which was mentioned earlier. So how many of you don’t know what MOOCs are? Okay, it’s okay [laughter]! But you need to. So, MOOCs, as you heard, are massive open
online courses that are about six months old. And what these are, these are some of the best universities in the world creating free, non-credit online courses.
edX(Harvard, MIT, and Berkeley)
So, there’s one called edX, which is done by Harvard, MIT, and Berkeley. There’s one called Coursera, which involves Michigan, Penn, Princeton, and now, a whole bunch of others. They’re getting in these courses, like 300,000 students, all online, no credit and they are hot. And what is happening is the first round of distance education in the United States, the leaders were not, in fact, the most prestigious universities, but in this round of distance ed., the prestigious universities have decided they are going to own that part again. Now, a lot of people in higher ed. are looking at this and saying, oh, we don’t need to worry about it, it’s free, it’s non-credit, this isn’t gonna affect us, but guess what? It will. Because here’s what’s gonna happen, they’re already moving in the direction of creating ways to award credit for people who take MOOCs and they’re starting to explore the idea of licensing MOOC content.
So, if they haven’t already, somebody from Coursera or edX is gonna make an appointment with Nancy Cantor and they’re gonna say, guess what, we have a noble prize winner teaching Physics 101, how’d you like to have that broadcast into your classroom and guess what? You might not need so many physics professors and you can save a lot of money. So that’s one thing that’s gonna happen. The other thing that’s gonna happen is that some precocious freshman is gonna walk into a dean’s office and say, I just took this MOOC and I took the MOOC test so I want you to grant me credit and I don’t want to take your gen. ed., silly gen ed. requirement that requires me to get up at 8:00 in the morning. And you may think that Syracuse’s deans are gonna be, no, no, no, no, we value the Syracuse educational experience too much, but what happens when Syracuse’s competitors get easy on granting the MOOC credit? It’s gonna be very hard for universities to resist and the number of universities right now are planning how they’re gonna handle to it—handle it.
Now for you, as future faculty, what this potentially means is fewer people giving lectures and a—this is the ultimate of the flipped classroom, where good institutions that are using MOOCs or similar tools to provide the content will still need people to interact with students, to grade, to do all that. But they may not be looking for the same kinds of people they’re looking for now. The role of the professor may be diminished. Likewise, those who are good and can ride this wave are gonna do quite well.
But it’s fewer people, the idea behind it—right now, the Gates Foundation has gotten all excited about MOOCs and so they’re offering money to community colleges to do MOOCs to replace remedial education. They’re saying, we can do that better. And so what you’re seeing is sort of a centralization
of content delivery, which runs against the historic practice of American higher education of incredible diversity of experience. So, adding these things altogether, I suppose I have been painting a scary picture, for which I apologize and for which I’m glad you have alcohol [laughter]. And I guess I wanna close by saying that while I am noting all these trends, I’m not actually cheering all of these trends. I think most of these things can be worked for good or bad. I believe, from my own educational experience and from writing about it, I happen to believe that the world of ideas matters.
We need great people thinking of new ideas in every discipline. I believe there is—I do believe there is
magic in the college classroom when students and professors trade ideas and really have life-changing experiences. So, I want all of you to figure out a way to make it work but it’s gonna be really hard. Now, what do I have to offer, I have no free, you know, magic bullet to solve all things. I do have some humor; I have the poetry magnet [laughter] and these have words suggested by our readers as—so I have that for you. And, I have the power of information. If you aren’t getting our news alerts and you write me your email address, I will send you our news for free and if you send me your email address and your discipline, I will put you on our job alert list for your discipline, also, totally, 100% forever, for free. So, information is your friend. And I would encourage you to take advantage
of that but by and large, I encourage you to be creative, think of the next move, think of the next big thing.
Transform your discipline, be great teachers, you know, all that stuff, it matters and I look forward to your questions and I wish you the best of luck. Thank you [applause]. Questions, comments? Yes, and if you could tell me what you’re studying so that I can… >> Sure, I’m in religion/Judaic studies, so yeah, all that humanities waste, thank you for that [laughter], but, what do you think about the conversation we’ve been hearing for a couple years about the move away from the tenure track into long-term contracts. How do you see that proceeding? >> If that happens—at places that that happens,
the people who are in those contracts generally like it because they view it as better than adjuncting, where you’re just moving from campus to campus and there are some places, Georgia State is a good example, of a university where they now have basically three tracks, tenure track, adjunct track, and this middle ground.
And then the middle ground, once you adjunct for like, a certain number of courses, you can get on this additional track, you have more job security, you have more pay, you pretty much can get yourself a full-time position. You don’t have the lifetime job security of tenure and you’re not—you’re judged primarily on teaching not research and it works well. I’ve done stories where I’ve talked to
people who are in it, they like it. Some of the traditional faculty groups don’t like it because it’s not the tenure track. And so there’s some people who believe that people should hold out for the tenure track above all. Now, I think, the people I’ve talked to at Georgia State generally have felt that they weren’t gonna get on the tenure track and so they view it as much better.
And I think we may see more of them, those kinds of options. The problem is I think there are too few institutions that are doing it. I think there are a lot of institutions that employ some of the same adjuncts year after year after year without giving them long-term contracts. And so they are in limbo until they get their contracts, sometimes right before classes start. So actually, I think that’s a positive sign. There’s a group called the Delphi group based at USC that is right now trying to promote more alternative models but it gets real tricky because for some faculty to acknowledge that there is an alternative to tenure that might be good is very hard.
American university of’s or American—western style
But I think we’ll see some growth in that but not—so far not a lot. Other questions or comments? Yes? >> Are there any growth in the international market? >> Meaning working abroad? >> Yes. >> Yes. There’s actually, there are a lot of universities, you know, we track job ads are our major source of revenue. And so, about 10% of our job ads are outside the United States, particularly from the Middle East. There are a lot of, you know, American university of’s or American—western style universities starting in other countries.
Many of them are STEM dominated so aren’t quite as broad as American universities tend to be but they have a range of disciplines, they tend to pay quite well, much better than most American universities, particularly for junior professors. Sometimes they’re—but they—many of these positions are in countries that are not small ‘d’ democratic and while most of these institutions have degrees of freedom that are far greater than the freedom enjoyed by the citizens of that country, there are issues that come up.
Report Against journalism professor
We just reported about a journalism professor who was basically kicked out of a Middle Eastern country for doing, you know, hugely controversial things like, you know, exercising free speech. And so, but there are some great opportunities also in Asia, institutions like Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. I was there for a story, doing amazing things, hiring American PhDs almost exclusively. So there are definitely opportunities and if it fits your personal situation, I would definitely explore them. The pattern tends to be a small number of people go to these places and decide to build their lives there. Many others will go for two or five years and the pattern seems to be particularly when they have kids, tend to come back to the states.
So, you know, there are difficulties of distance from where people’s families and loved ones are but for some people, great salary and some job security. Other questions? Yes? >> I have a list. >> A list? Okay. >> So, you mentioned about how stipends are getting better for graduate students but don’t you think that that money also stems from the fact that, especially at private universities, are trying to attract better graduate students? I know in my own department they talk about how they fight with the university to get better stipends for the graduate students because they have a hard time recruiting good students because they get better offers elsewhere.
> Yes, that’s absolutely part of it but you have to sort of have enough money to be able to play that game. And so we’ve also seen places like Emory, Chicago, that have decided to admit fewer students so they can have decent stipends. So, if you get in and get one, that’s good, and yes, they are very competitive, they all want the best grad students. >> And then I wanna talk about, you mentioned value in higher ed., like, people go for the value of getting a bachelor’s degree in—whatever student you were talking about, you mentioned had written like, don’t do it! Do you think that that might stem from the huge rising tuition costs and the huge debt that people incur, like, there’s value in getting a degree, obviously, but you’re gonna put yourself $100,000 in debt to do it, is it really worth it on the other end cause of how long it’s gonna take you to get it back, I mean, now that student debt has exceeded credit card debt as a measure of GDP? >> Absolutely, I mean, you touch on a few
Issues About graduate education programs
One of the hot issues in—for the people who run graduate education programs is time to degree and this is particularly bad in the humanities. If it takes people 10 years to get a PhD, that’s too long and something is not working right. And there’s a lot of debate about how long is too long but I’ll say 10 years is too long [laughter]. And so, especially if someone has an undergrad—when I speak to undergrads they always say, should I go to grad school, there are people, will say should I go to grad school. And I always say, if a program wants you enough to fund you, sure, consider it. I am amazed by people who go into debt to enroll in PhD programs, that strikes me as very risky. Now as you have more people coming out of undergrad with larger debt levels, you have a tricky problem because in your grad school years you’re maybe hoping that, sort of, break even and—but if you’re having to repay, it’s a real mess.
So I think that definitely comes into play and I worry as well that grad schools aren’t always honest about this. So, for instance, they will say, oh, we’re giving you full funding but they’re giving you full funding maybe for three or four years when no one earns a PhD in less than six years. That’s not full funding. So I think you have to ask and that’s not—I don’t know that that’s the case at Syracuse, I’m just using that as an example. But you need to ask—you know, when people are looking at these things, how long does it typically take to get out, where do they go to get jobs, and so forth. There’s a big push on the American Historical Association, is called that every graduate program in history to track every one of its graduates for the last 10 years and say where they are. Not by name, because that’s privacy but you should be able to look. The norm, if you go on most graduate department, graduate pages of departmental websites and then you go to, like, careers, you will see their superstars have all landed good jobs.
You won’t see Jane Smith is adjuncting at five different colleges without health insurance and you really need that information to make informed choices, particularly if you have a large debt level. And this is part of the have, have not situation because there are fewer institutions that can give people the stipends for enough time to get by. Yes? I’ll come back to you for the rest of your list, don’t worry.
But yes? >> I heard a story recently on NPR, it’s not directly related to the issue of current graduate students but it’s related to higher education in that one of the—a lot of emphasis has been placed on getting kids in from secondary to college and we have failed as a nation in the retention—retaining kids in college.
Students percentage In college
Especially, you know, as the percentage of students who go to college has decreased and the important college has increased that retention and that, you know, that one of those studies they cited showed that maybe getting a two-year degree can help your standard of living but having, like, a year of college and not having any degree isn’t really helping much more than just high school education. So I was wondering if you could speak to that a little bit… >> Sure… >> …and I guess our goal, as being a faculty member not a graduate student, our role as mentors, leaders in the community, and how we could progress that type of leadership.
>> Sure, so, a few things—one actually did you wanna give these out… >> Sure. >> Yeah. So, it’s a huge issue, it’s most evident, these days, at public institutions where academic advising has been hacked and, you know, just really hurt and class size has gotten bigger, there’s less personal attention. The role of academic advising, whether it’s through academic advisors or faculty advisors, and this is again a skillset that you all should have, is under-talked about, in my opinion. Whether a student graduates in four years, five, or six, depends hugely on whether that student gets good advice. And is that student told, you know, you wanna study x and y, these are the prerequisites, this is how you get into it, this is how you work the system.
That, or the advisor says, you’re weak in these areas so if you wanna study this this is what you have to do. That is generally losing money and losing alots throughout higher ed. And for good reason because budget strapped universities say, we wanna preserve the number of classroom spots, we wanna give more money to financial aid, so things like academic advising get cut for well-intentioned reasons,
but it’s really bad.
Relationship between the Quality of Academic Advising and Graduation Rates
There’s a direct relationship between the quality of academic advising and graduation rates and generally, privates do better at this because privates are tuition dependent and so, a lost SU student costs this university money. So, the university will pay more attention to it. At many publics that have more students than they can handle, a lost student opens up a spot for another student.
So, I mean that’s really—that sounds really cold but that’s the way I think it is. But I think showing your students, and again your students may turn to you, even if you’re a TA—may turn to you for help on these issues that you’ve never been trained for. So learning what are the good paths to graduation
in the fields in which you teach in, what are the pitfalls, does everyone, like, lose a year when they don’t get into Professor Jones’ seminar or whatever. You need to be up on those things and that will help a lot.
Other questions, comments? Yes? >> So what is your perspective on the affirmative action debate seeing that we’ve gotten to the point where there are as many black students entering college as the percentage of blacks in the country? Do you feel affirmative action should continue, seeing that affirmative action was put into place to give people the opportunities, cause the debate—some people say, well, we still need to make up for the past and other people say, well, the people now aren’t the people who suffered the most in the past? >> Because I covered this, I don’t like to endorse one position or another but I guess I would say that the debate to me isn’t now so much on the, who’s suffered in the past, because right now actually, in fact, there are more Latinos in higher education than African Americans and while there’s definitely bias against Latinos, it is different from the slavery/Jim Crow experience of African Americans.
Affirmative action On legal basis
Right now, the legal basis for affirmative action is that a diverse student body encourages a better education for everybody and I think there are definitely some truth to that, that where affirmative action gets into trouble, politically and legally, is when there are large gaps in things like average SAT scores, GPAs, and so forth. That tends to increase the political criticism of it.
The other thing that people still aren’t engaged in in the—when the University of Michigan won its affirmative action case in 2003, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor who wrote the decision, said that she believed that 25 years from then, there should be no need. And, if you look at the situation in urban high schools, in low income districts, we have made no progress—no meaningful progress since 2003. And so, there’s gonna continue to be a relatively small number of minority—of African American and Latino students who are recruited by the best universities and, you know, everyone writes if you—at a place like here, that takes seriously diversity, you may have the impression that lots of minority students have lots of opportunities. There are an awful lot of minority students that no college is giving the time of day to and if we don’t change what goes on in K-12, we’re gonna be stuck with this issue for a long time. And I see very little progress there. If you look at, like, the average SAT scores
just came out and if you look at—the college board doesn’t like to draw a lot of attention to it but they have average scores by race and ethnicity—and if you look at it you’ll see that the averages there are huge gaps.
Asian Americans College
Asian Americans are way on top, followed by whites and then Latinos and African Americans. And colleges that rely on this do not have the same pools of students from all groups and this is a huge challenge for American higher education and I don’t see a lot of progress. Other questions or comments? Yes, back to you, you’ve got, you’ve still got your list [laughter]. >> Yeah, still working on questions. No, I actually literally believe I only have one more thing.
You were talking about how a lot of professors are worried about being replaced by these—what you called them MOOCs? >> MOOCs. >> MOOCs? >> M-O-O-C. >> They better come up with a better name
that just sound weird [laughter]. But, I mean, I would say that professors serve a dual purpose, like, especially at the research university where they are the professor, instructor of record, but they also bring in research dollars, prestige through publication, that sort of thing, and will some disciplines have to worry about this more than others in respect to how much money they bring to the university, prestige, so on and so forth? >> So, again, remember, you’re at a research university that values that. Go to many other universities where no one’slanding big grants and the question is how do you most efficiently educate large numbers
of students who don’t have a lot of money.
online research universities And education to save money
And the push for online education to save money is there, not at the research universities. The research universities now creating these MOOCs as a new revenue stream but they’re not, you know, the professors at Penn and Princeton and MIT, they’re gonna continue to land big grants and maybe do a MOOC instead of actually interacting in person with freshman. But at many other universities, the question—remember, at public universities, go to Texas, go to California, they’re turning away students. They don’t have enough slots. California’s community colleges in recent years have dropped enrollment by 450,000.
Not because the students aren’t interested but because they don’t have the money to sections. And it’s in that environment that people are gonna say, hey, create, you know, give it to us online. Now again, the question then becomes do you do that well or do you do it on the cheap. I think there is a huge range of quality in online education, some of it is quite good, some of it isn’t, I kind of believe that
good online education also has strong personal interaction between the instructor and the
student that may not be the person who gives the lecture it may be someone who’s campus
based but all that costs money and the problem right now, in the United States, is there a lot of people just focused on, what is the cheapest way we can do it as opposed to how can we use technology to improve student learning and maybe save some money on the side.
And, but in many universities the imperative is educate more students with less money. Again, it’s the—because—and it’s gonna look different here because privates are basically trying to encourage their undergraduates to spend more than they would have to to go to say, SUNY. They can’t let the quality of their graduate experience erode. Publics can and many are. And I actually think that there’s some great
MOOC things but there’s a lot, you know, it’s all how you do it. And so, I guess what I want—I know you all have other places to go and drink on Friday night, so I don’t want to keep you, but I would stick around and answer questions in person [laughter]. And seriously, I hope that some of you give me your names and email addresses because I want you to be informed, I want you to get jobs and I want you to do well.
So, best of luck to all of you [applause]..