Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The awful truth

This piece, "Furlough Realities," posted today on Inside Higher Ed, is worth reading whether or not "furlough" has entered the discourse on your campus.

It makes the point that b/c furloughed faculty are not directed not to allow the furlough affect with their teaching and service responsibilities - and nor would they wish for it to - the effect (in particular for the untenured) is that furloughed faculty do exactly the same work, but for less pay. A so-called furlough is in fact an unacknowledged pay cut.

(Indeed, last spring, there was talk of furlough on my campus, which would have meant that I would not be paid for classes I already had taught, b/c I am paid every two weeks for work I already accomplished the two weeks prior.)

I share author Shaun Johnson's frustration that so much of the work that professors (and educators in general) do is taken for granted:

So much of what a successful K-12 or college educator must do to make the classroom operate effectively is done behind the scenes. In fact, the preparation done privately is absolutely essential to the public face of the profession, which is in the classroom. Whenever a new mandate or policy rolls out, a new curriculum, or certification requirement, it’s dumped on the backs of teachers. We are told that our extra duties must not in any way compromise time with the students. Teachers who have already run out of time weeks ago perpetually take the minutes and hours and blood out of their private preparation, which then inevitably creeps into educators’ personal lives. Educators take their jobs very personally and our performance, or lack thereof, is interpreted by society as a personal virtue. If we are perceived as not burning the midnight oil for the sake of our students, then there must be something wrong with us. It’s a character flaw and we therefore should find another line of work.

What’s the connection to higher education and the furlough concept? Sacrifices must come out of my private responsibilities as an educator. The powers that be know full well that for any professor who wants to keep his or her job, which is based on satisfactory teaching, research, and service, nothing meaningful will be cast aside. Many of us will just keep right on working as usual with not one thing taken off our plate.

In other words, professors do not simply waltz in, tell a few lame stories, then take the summers off.

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