Home » Commentary, Editorials » Corporatizing Columbia
The battle between the part-time faculty union, P-Fac, and Columbia’s administration continues to rage, with no end in sight. Among other things, P-Fac is assailing the “corporatization” of Columbia primarily because of the prioritization process. The administration contends this measure is necessary to focus its resources as a response to declining enrollment. However, because Columbia is a private institution, it has no legal obligation to publicly publish its budget, so only the highest administration officials know the truth on this matter. The school could—and should—go public with its budget, like a growing number of other private liberal arts colleges, such as New York University and Temple University.
Is Columbia’s marshalling of resources “corporatization?” P-Fac president Diana Vallera gave the closest thing to an explanation of this term in an article published in the blog of Academe Magazine, a publication of the American Association of University Professors.
Some of the signs she noted were “the significant expansion of administration on all levels, including assistants, with high-paid salaries,” “standardization of classes so that faculty have less choice in the design of syllabi and selection of texts,” and “an overall decline in the quality of education.”
The comment about the decline in the quality of education, without facts and figures to back it up, would seem to insult the administration, faculty and student body. Rhetoric like this seems excessive and off-putting. In spite of this, the argument for some form of job security for adunct faculty has merit, particularly in light of a study done by two Michigan State University researchers that was published earlier this year.
The study reveals that part-time adjuncts are more likely to use teaching techniques that are less time-consuming and less learning-intensive. The study’s authors, Roger Baldwin and Matthew Wawrzynski, aren’t blaming part-time faculty, though—they’re blaming the schools that employ them. The researchers fault the contingent employment conditions these employees work under for their failure to use effective teaching methods. That puts some weight behind P-Fac’s demand for job security; the study’s authors suggest that adjunct positions be converted to full-time positions.
If any employee is to be effective in doing a job, he or she must be fairly compensated and treated as an important member of the team. It’s obvious that working conditions directly affect performance, so it’s understandable that P-Fac is asking for increased security. And why shouldn’t they? Columbia students pay approximately $20,000 in tuition alone—not including housing, meal plans, etc.—and they deserve the best education available. Both P-Fac and the college administration need to realize that when it comes down to it, this is all about the students.