Thursday, March 29, 2007

Professors and easy living

Ignorant or ill-educated?

The faculty of the California State University has voted to authorize a strike. The professors have many grievances, including the usual complaints about salaries (which have lost buying power) and working conditions (facilities are not keeping up with student enrollments). The faculty at the Sacramento campus seems especially aggrieved with their president, who is viewed by many professors as a self-centered bureaucrat to whom the teaching mission of the university is of little importance. Hence the strike vote, which passed easily at Sacramento State.

The Sacramento Bee has been covering the story rather closely, of course, the local campus of the California State University being one of the biggest educational institutions in town. (Not the biggest, mind you. CSUS serves about 28,000 students and American River College serves over 32,000.) As you might expect, stories about teachers and strike votes bring out the Know-Nothing element, always ready to strike a blow for ignorance.

From the March 26, 2007, Letters to the Bee:

Nice work if you get it

I feel so sorry for the Sacramento State faculty. Working eight to nine months a year with a winter vacation of several weeks must be a tough life. Also, that they have to teach nine to 12 hours a week must be very tiring. I, too, would protest if I received only $80,000 per year to have to work under those conditions.

A suggestion for a strike: Do it during the summer vacation; that way you won't disrupt the students' education.

Gordon Hall, Sacramento

Don't give them raises

Overpaid college professors are angry because they are not more overpaid! They teach our children their hateful doctrine and are getting paid to do it. Liberal professors are filled with hate. They do no real work, unlike the real working people in this country.

They teach our children to hate hard work, values and morality. The next time a college professor contributes something to society will be the first time. These professors preach some other way of living—but enjoy the milk and honey this land has to offer. They do not need a raise.

Patrick Davis, Fair Oaks

What is one to say to a pair of wankers like Hall and Davis? Let's begin with Hall.

He probably wasn't responsible for the title on his letter (“Nice work if you can get it”), but I'm inspired to reply that, yes, it is nice work, but no, you can't get it. You clearly know nothing about education. If you went to college we somehow failed you. (Or perhaps you didn't pay attention. You have some responsibility for your own education, you know.) Mr. Hall simple-mindedly thinks that a professor's workload equals the number of classroom hours. As a community college instructor, my standard weekly load is 15 hours. (How cushy!) A state university professor is usually at 12 hours, I do believe. UC faculty even less. Sweet!

But let me reassure Hall that a professor's position is indeed a full-time job. I have lessons to prepare, papers to grade, committee meetings to attend, and other such random duties that may occur (like serving on hiring panels and what not). Yes, I easily put in a forty-hour work week, since the bulk of my labors occur outside the classroom. Quite a bit more than forty.

A Cal State professor is also expected to publish, which quickly wipes out the slightly lighter teaching load advantage with respect to the community college. A University of California professor is expected to publish quite a lot, as well as raise a significant part of his or her department's funding by securing research grants from various agencies and foundations. (This occurs at the state university, too, although at a lower level, but has even percolated down to some community colleges now.)

Yes, Mr. Hall, professors work full-time jobs. Thank goodness for the summer “vacation” when many of us work (I teach summer session), because we don't get paychecks during the summer (unless we have school-year pay withheld and doled out during the non-pay period), or scramble about writing research papers and books. I do really think that being a prof is a great job, with quite a bit of flexibility and occupational satisfaction, but most people aren't equal to the task—especially those people who have no idea what the task is.

As for Mr. Davis, I marvel at his statement that we teach students to hate hard work. Do we do this by assigning too much homework? It appears that Davis actually believes we spend our time in class lecturing our students about the delights of unbridled hedonism (I can define those terms if it would be helpful to Mr. Davis), but I really can't spare too much time in my algebra syllabus to preach licentiousness. The quadratic formula probably doesn't prompt many students into lives of political activism, anarchy, free love, and Bush hating. (The president is probably not a good example for our students, given his indolent frat-boy approach to education.)

I am, however, eager to ask one of my colleagues if he's carefully covering the radical-liberal agenda that Mr. Davis is certain pervades our colleges and universities. Perhaps it's not a coincidence that education and knowledge tend to be detrimental to the right-wing agenda, but I nevertheless have a colleague who was a guest at the 2005 presidential inaugural and undoubtedly voted for the incumbent. I really must castigate him for not getting with the program. We had lunch together today, and once again I missed the opportunity to denounce his political conservatism. Well, that's okay. After reading Mr. Davis's letter, I'm sure my colleague must be an endangered species, so we liberals will hasten to protect him.