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Pablo Eisenberg
Philanthropic leader

Pablo Eisenberg

A Senior Fellow at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, Pablo Eisenberg served for 23 years as Executive Director of the Center for Community Change.

An adjunct problem

Q: How would you assess the leadership of college presidents in embracing new technology and innovative teaching techniques aimed at reducing costs, improving quality and reengineering higher education? What leadership steps would you recommend for them?

Although the salaries and perks of college and university presidents, as well as their major administrators, continue to increase at an alarming pace, the plight of poorly paid adjuncts who now constitute over 70% of higher education teaching staff remains unaddressed, as do the lowly wages of the blue-collar workers who maintain the campuses. They are the "untouchables" of our higher education caste system.

College presidents continue to overlook these gross inequities in staffing. Instead, they should be cutting high salaries at the top and curtailing the building of expensive facilities.

By Pablo Eisenberg

 |  May 25, 2010; 6:52 AM ET
Category:  Education leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Yes, and I would attribute this trend toward the use of cheap adjuncts to the increasing adoption of business models in higher education.

We constantly hear that personnel is the greatest expense in education. The push to online education is one way to reduce that expense. Cutting out tenure, cutting out full-time teaching positions and substituting adjuncts who are often paid little more than minimum wage with no benefits is another. I will say that tenured faculty probably played into this strategy, at least in the early days of this practice because it was a way for them to dispense with teaching basic courses.

Another way of cutting personnel costs, mentioned as a "creative" means of budget management by one of the other "leaders" here, has been the subcontracting out of food services, especially. These people have become second-class citizens on the campus.

Office and service personnel (blue and pink collar) have traditionally been paid modest wages - blue collar because the benefits were good and they enjoyed tuition remission (or at least a huge reduction) for themselves and their family; pink collar jobs because college communities have a high proportion of educated women who are married (faculty/staff/administrator/graduate student wives) and want to work, in addition to the women who need to work and want to enjoy the same benefits, including tuition reduction or remission for themselves and their family.

Interestingly, the pink-collar jobs have not been subcontracted out like the blue-collar jobs. Too many direct links with the white collar people?

But food service is commonly subcontracted out. This is an industry that is already infamous for low wages and poor benefits, yet these people are now cut off from the benefits enjoyed by other university employees. Yet, every day, they work at a university where the people who surround them generally have decent health plans, where the university contributes to their retirement plan, where employees and their family members enjoy tuition remission/reduction.

Food service employees are the stepchildren of the university - all in the name of adopting a business model, including "creative" ways of meeting a budget.

The business model never admits the human costs of their so-called "efficiency." These models have led to highly paid presidents, upper administration, coaches, and "superstar" faculty, especially (not coincidentally) business school faculty. The rest of the university personnel has fallen behind or even been pushed off the radar at all. For institutions that are supposed to be devoted to questions of humanity, it is shameful.

But the business model has never been about humanity - and now less than ever.

Posted by: lxp19 | May 29, 2010 2:16 AM
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Totally unbalanced power.

Posted by: knowledgenotebook | May 25, 2010 5:26 PM
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