More on that fuss about Texas higher ed from Dr. Trowbridge:
A barn burning study last month from Richard Vedder’s Center for College Affordability and Productivity revealed that of the more than 4,200 faculty members at the University of Texas at Austin, the 840 most productive faculty members teach an extraordinary 57 percent of student credit hours, while the least productive 840 members teach only 2 percent of student credit hours.
But this disparity is not the greatest abuse.
Rather it is the fact that of the faculty members outside the 20 percent most productive teachers, the average teaching load is 63 students a year. That borders on semi-retirement – research and publications notwithstanding.
Former Harvard dean Harry Lewis writes in Excellence Without a Soul that universities have shifted priorities to research first, students second. “The ultimate source of this cultural shift,” he writes, “is the replacement of education by research as the university’s principal function.”
But not all research is valuable. John Silber, former dean at UT-Austin and president of Boston University, recently told the Texas Tribune that many products of research “aren’t worth anything.”
Hofstra University law professor Richard Neumann reported at a conference in April that it costs approximately $100,000 for a tenured law professor to publish one article per year and that 43 percent of law review articles are never cited by anyone. In Neumann’s words, “At least a third of these things have no value.”
World Shakespeare Bibliography reports that from 1980 to mid-2010, there were 39,222 scholarly articles published on Shakespeare. Professors can research and publish anything they wish; it’s a free country. But should they be given reduced teaching loads, at student and taxpayer expense, to publish the 39,223rd article?
Lewis reports that “academic presses now publish books selling fewer than 300 copies,” and he quotes a humanities editor as saying that “the demands of productivity are leading to the production of much more nonsense.”
Yet former Harvard president Derek Bok reports in Our Underachieving Colleges that “fewer than half of all professors publish as much as one article per year.”
A September 2010 issue of The Economist reports that “senior professors in Ivy League universities now get sabbaticals every third year rather than every seventh. This year, 20 of Harvard’s history professors will be on leave.” Perhaps one reason universities may not want regents to peek inside the ivory tower is that it’s somewhat empty—with the exception, of course, of adjuncts and young, inexperienced teaching assistants.