If you think this bill is actually about “professor quality,” then I have a baby you can attempt to put to bed in a crib, too

My second column since my glorious return to Slate is about the absolute shit-show of a stupid-ass piece of legislation that would mandate a 4-4 MINIMUM for every professor at a public university in North Carolina. Here’s a taste:

Whether or not the stated goal is to “close it all down,” that will definitely be the result. The professors forced into a 4-4 will simply pick up their research—and the labs where that research gets done, and those labs’ workforces—and move them somewhere that will fund them. With the inevitable cratering of UNC–Chapel Hill and NC State, the Research Triangle will become the Research Dot, and the 50,000 individuals North Carolina currently employs in Research Triangle Park—a massive conglomerate of nonacademic research labs located where it is precisely because of its proximity to Duke, UNC, and NC Statewill have their livelihoods put in danger. It’s easy to sneer that the university isn’t a “jobs program” until you have to answer for your state’s brain drain.

21 thoughts on “If you think this bill is actually about “professor quality,” then I have a baby you can attempt to put to bed in a crib, too

  1. It’s possible to be research-active in the humanities on a 4-4 load…if you deform your research agenda to fit whatever resources your university offers, if you cut every corner you can think of on your teaching, if you give up major portions of your personal life, and if you don’t have to maintain a graduate program. I don’t know if even that is possible in the sciences, with the way their lab hours are counted (sometimes 2 hours supervising a student lab = 1 instructional hour or less, so some people might find themselves lecturing for 6 hours and supervising a lab for 12 hours a week or more). In the short term, this would mean pulling the plug on every grad program at UNC.

    I have no doubt that many states would be quick to follow if this passes. So, pretty much the end of the public research university as we know it.


  2. As you explain, the public often misunderstands what obligations we have beyond in-class contact hours. It’s clear from the comments on Slate that there are also misunderstandings about how a university is funded, particularly research activity. Many of the critical commenters believe that research is paid for with tuition. This is a dangerous misconception, because revenue from grants and contracts far outstrips tuition and fees at a R1 like UNC-CH, while research expenses are less than instruction.
    Here’s a breakdown for Chapel Hill (see pp 30-31): http://www.unc.edu/finance/fd/c/docs/2012_cafr.pdf


  3. I’ve got a 2-2 at a big public R1. I know exactly what I’d do if I were told 4-4 was now the minimum. One, I’d spend every single year from that point forward looking to switch to a better university. I would never, under any circumstances, “settle” for remaining put at my university.

    Two, I’d stop preparing for my classes in any way shape or form, and I’d stop assigning anything that would take me any time to grade. No more essay assignments, ever. Instead, multiple choice test, gradable by computer.

    Doubtless, some of my colleagues would get distracted by their sympathy for the students. Oh won’t someone please think of their futures?! I wouldn’t have any such dilemmas. The students’ parents can vote in a new legislature, if they want proper university instruction for their kids.


  4. I dunno if you read CHE comment sections these days, but over the last year it’s been thoroughly coopted by sexist, racist, anti-university trolls. IE, not much different than Slate commenters.

    This sort of thing is always the moderators’ fault, IMO.


  5. I’ve wondered who they are. I think a lot of them are Breitbart readers who’ve been whipped into an anti-university frenzy. They’d like to see a university with more campus sexual assault, less climate science, more apologia for slavery and imperialism, less tenure. I have a hunch that a few of them are hired people — by Scott Walker’s office and the like.


    • See I have no idea about that. That must be why so many CHE readers think I am the enemy of academic humanity because I allegedly give comfort to those suckers by criticizing the academy when it merits it. They think we should all close ranks against those asshats and I get it. But these are probably the same people whose FB feeds are full of harsh criticism of Obama when he dares act like the centrist he is, and nobody ever tells them to STFU for giving comfort to Republicans. That said, though, I will keep the Breitbart invasion in mind when I write die that audience.


      • Totally agree. The loss of the CHE comments section bugs me because it used to (kind of) be a place for that kind of necessary academic self-criticism, rather than just another trolls lair.


  6. Rebecca, when I have seen the expression 4-4 load it means 4 credit hours (one course) each semester. Your article on Slate interprets this as 4 courses each semester. That’s heavy even for English and History profs and utterly impossible for Comp Sci profs (I was one at UNC-CH long ago before the state got infested with Republicans.) Are you sure the bill is counting courses? If I’m right, the response of the faculty is the same. We’re outta there (only I left a decade ago).


  7. Found the bill online. It does say “eight class courses per year” but that can’t be what they mean. Eight credit hours per year would be a reasonable-looking request. Still meddlesome and stupid, though.


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