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Faculty Work at Traditional and For Profit Institutions

Tomorrow's Academic Careers

Message Number: 
1051

One may ask why it is necessary to understand academic freedom, and how it relates to the role of faculty in traditional organizations to discuss faculty at for-profit institutions. We do so because in one sense, the contrast is not very significant, and yet in another, the differences are vast. That is, at most traditional and for-profit institutions, faculty teach courses to students. However, to make such a facile comparison is, as previously stated, a bit like implying that since a bicycle and an airplane are both means of transportation, they are quite similar. As we previously outlined, although faculty teach classes at traditional institutions, the impetus of the organization is quite different from a simple desire to offer courses, much less to make a profit. 

 

Folks:

The excerpt below compares faculty work and traditional and for-profit institutions.  It is from Chapter Four, Differences in Academic Work at Traditional and For-Profit Postsecondary Institutions, Policy Implications for Academic Freedom, by William G. Tierney and Vicente M. Lechuga in the book, For-Profit Colleges and Universities: Their Markets, Tegulation, Perforance, and Place in Higher Education, edited by Guilbert C. Hentschke, Vicente M. Lechuga, and William G. Tierney. Published by Stylus Publishing, LLC, 2283 Quicksilver Drive, Sterling, Virginia 20166-2102.[http://www.styluspub.com/Books/Features.aspx]  © copyright 2010, by Stylus Publishing, LLC. Reprinted with permission.

Regards,

Rick Reis

reis@stanford.edu

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Tomorrow's Academic Careers

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Faculty Work at Traditional and For Profit Institutions

Faculty Work at Traditional Institutions: Academic Freedom Drives Faculty Work

 

Although there may be any number of starting points for determining how faculty roles have been configured in American higher education, the most pertinent place to begin is the late nineteenth century. Faculty who had been trained in Europe, primarily in Germany and England, returned to the United States with the idea that faculty work should be more than teaching. Philanthropists had the income to support such a desire. Thus, by the start of the twentieth century, a handful of colonial institutions and church-related colleges had experienced dramatic institutional makeovers, and newcomers had entered the academic ranks such as Stanford, Duke, Vanderbilt, Cornell, and Chicago. In 1900 the Association of American Universities (AAU) was created and laid claim to institutional greatness for American research universities, not simply in the United States, but throughout the world.


Concomitantly, previously undeveloped areas of knowledge and inquiry began to become professionalized. By 1920, professional associations existed, for example, in political science, economics, anthropology, and history. Reports such as those written by Abraham Flexner in 1910 on medical training or the work of Elwood Cubberly in education sought to give intellectual rigor and shape to professional fields. The result was that academic standards came into existence and expectations of the faculty rose. Whereas in the early nineteenth century a typical professor may well have been a minister who sought to imbue his charges with a sense of devotion and moral training, the new American institution required that faculty have some sort of scientific training to impart to graduate and undergraduate students. Rather that rely on Europe for that training, the United States sought to develop institutions at home that could prepare faculty.


The growth of American higher education and the professionalization of the faculty had many results that few could have predicted. Prior to the twentieth century, administration at a college meant a president and perhaps a registrar and dean of students. The president hired and fired faculty at will. A board of trustees, rather that the faculty, held the trust for the direction of the organization. Faculty meeting, if they existed, concerned the grading and evaluation of students. Faculty had no impute on budgets, buildings, or the nature of their own work. The faculty had one role--to teach undergraduate students. Although most professors taught full-time, their work was not that different from other mid-level individuals in a professional job. Just as individuals who work in a store are valued for their labor but are not directors of their work, professors were valued for their teaching but were little more than hired hands, albeit in a somewhat refined workplace.


By the early years of the twentieth century, however, the size of the faculty had more than doubled. As institutions grew, the size of the faculty had more than doubled. As institutions grew, the size of the administration increased as well. Faculty returned from Europe with a desire for greater autonomy in their professional lives. The Germanic concept of Lehrfieheit came with graduate student training in the disciplines, and American students learned their lessons well. The concept pertained to "the right of the university professor to freedom of inquiry and to freedom of teaching, the right to study and to report on his finding in an atmosphere of consent" (Rudolph, 1962, p. 412). The desire for freedom of inquiry and teaching and the rise of professional associations was on a collision course with the manner in which colleges and universities were run. Faculty no longer say themselves as the equivalent of hired labor, but they had not yet determined what their new role would be. Conflict was bound to ensue.


Lehrfreiheit became the forerunner of the American ideal of academic freedom. The violations of a professor's academic freedom from that period are legendary and well documented. Tichard Ely, for example, a liberal economist at the University of Wisconsin, lost his job in 1894 because of his support for labor unions (Schrecker, 1983, p. 27). Scott Nearing was fired in 1915 from the University of Pennsylvania because he opposed the use of child labor in cole mines (Slaughter, 1980, p. 52). John Mecklin, an outspoken liberal professor at Lafayette College was forced to resign in 1913 because of his philosophical relativism, interest in pragmatism, and teaching of evolution (Metzger, 1955, p. 201). In perhaps the most infamous case during that time, Edward Ross of Stanford University used what today would be considered hate speech to argue for the rights of unions and to warn of the threat of imported labor. Mrs. Stanford, the sole trustee of the university, demanded that President Jordan fire Ross. He lost his job in 1900. (Tierney, 2004).

In addition to the creation of disciplinary associations as a means to confront issues related to the infringement of academic freedom, faculty formed an association in 1915 that cut across disciplines and demanded professional rights. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) chose John Dewey as its first president. During its first two years, the AAUP investigated over thirty cases of infringements on academic freedom. They established a committee to conduct investigations and set about developing policies that protected academic freedom.

The result of these actions was fourfold. First, academic freedom became enshrined as a hallmark declaration for American higher education. In declaring that institutions of higher education were conducted for the common good, individuals agreed that the search for truth and its free exposition were essential. Second, to preserve academic freedom, a system of tenure came into existence that guaranteed faculty lifetime employment and protected them from being fired at will if they studied a topic that drew the ire of administrators or legislators. Third, in order for academic freedom to remain a hallmark of the institution, the concept of shared governance came into existence. Shared governance acknowledges the central role of the faculty in governing the internal affairs of the institution such as the hiring, evaluation, and firing of faculty, the standards for admitting students, and the curricula. And fourth, the role of faculty changed. Research, teaching, and service became the three primary functions of academic work. The assumption was that to be good teachers, the vast majority of professors needed to participate in research; for some faculty, research would be their primary activity. If shared governance was essential, then service to the institution and the profession was also necessary.

Although such a transformation did not occur overnight, by the end of World War II, the vast majority of traditional colleges and universities more or less accepted these basic precepts. Many individuals complained about one or another aspect--especially tenure policies. But they also recognized that after tenure came into existence, shared governance became the norm, and America emerged as a global superpower, American higher education became the envy of the world.

This brief overview of academic freedom and faculty work in traditional organizations is obviously an idealized type. A handful of postsecondary institutions, for example, don not have tenure. At many institutions, research is far less important than teaching. Although tenure remains a basic precept, the reality is that more part-time and non-tunure-track professors are hired today than full-time tenure-track faculty (Benjamin, 2003). Similarly, shared governance is still said to be important and valued, but administrators have greater authority on campus today than a generation ago. Nevertheless, the modalities remain in place and stand in contrast to the norms and policies at for-profit colleges and universities.

                Faculty Work at For-Profit Institutions:
Curricula Drive Faculty Work

One may ask why it is necessary to understand academic freedom, and how it relates to the role of faculty in traditional organizations to discuss faculty at for-profit institutions. We do so because in one sense, the contrast is not very significant, and yet in another, the differences are vast. That is, at most traditional and for-profit institutions, faculty teach courses to students. However, to make such a facile comparison is, as previously stated, a bit like implying that since a bicycle and an airplane are both means of transportation, they are quite similar. As we previously outlined, although faculty teach classes at traditional institutions, the impetus of the organization is quite different from a simple desire to offer courses, much less to make a profit.

In some respects, traditional colleges and universities have been arranged more to serve the needs of the faculty than to meet the needs of other constituencies. Some will argue that such a statement makes self-evident the criticism that traditional institutions ill serve their various constituencies. We disagree. Traditional colleges and universities have had as their priority a concern for academic freedom and the search for truth. The assumption has been that such a search is not a self-encapsulated benefit to those who do the searching--the faculty. The argument has instead been made (and supported by the Supreme Court) that society gains when faculty are provided with the conditions for the unfettered search for truth. If tenure is nothing more than lifetime employment, then it is merely a sinecure for intellectuals. However, tenure came about to ensure academic freedom, and that protection has been supported time and again in the courts and in public opinion polls.

One way to think about for-profit colleges and universities is with regard to their fiscal status. Some are publicly traded entities that are set up as corporations where shareholders own a portion of the company. Others are privately held companies where an investor, or group of investors, owns the institution. While the fiscal implications for profit sharing, ownership, strategic direction, and manner of corporate decision making are important, whether an institution is a publicly traded or privately held company does not appear to influence significantly the makeup, modalities, or work of the faculty.

Instead, what in large part determines faculty work and modalities are what we define as five curricular categories. The functional categories pertain not only to what is taught, but also to the structural frameworks employed to define and deliver courses. In turn, these categories impact the expectations of professional and regional accreditation associations that also frame faculty work. We suggest, then, that just as a desire for academic freedom determined how faculty work was constructed at traditional institutions, the curriculum determines academic work at proprietary institutions. Thus, policies pertaining to academic freedom take on an entirely different meaning. An overview of the curricular categories is in order.