On Class War

Where I used to work there is permanent class war because professors put professional standards above personal convenience and instructors do the opposite. You cannot have a program in that way, especially when the instructors are the more powerful group and have the most backing.

Teaching goal of professors: produce good majors and graduate students.

Teaching goal of instructors: automate classes as much as possible so as to teach as many courses on overtime as possible and make as much possible money in the least amount of time. Also, convince administration to assign them as many upper division courses as possible. According to instructors, a PhD is obtained by doing two years of coursework beyond the MA (i.e. a PhD  is the MA + 30) and its functional equivalent is seniority at the MA level. Therefore, replacement of professors by instructors in upper division courses is reasonable — especially since there are plenty of textbook representatives available to teach them the relevant course content.

The administration’s official goals were those of the professors but their real goals were those of the instructors. The assistant professors with the best pedagogical training were threatening to the instructors and were turned down at tenure time for alleged poor teaching. I think this was far worse than not counting teaching at all for tenure or not caring about it — because this was negative caring.

What other universities do: limit the total number of courses each person is allowed to teach. If you cannot afford to live on that amount of money then you must go into another line of work.

Why we could not do that: there were not enough unemployed M.A.s walking around on the streets to enable us to just hire someone else. We had to let our instructors teach seven and eight courses because if they did not, they could not buy property or new cars. We would become less viable for them and there would be nobody at all left to teach, it was said. We could not simply raise salaries such that instructors would not require so much overtime, it was said.

This last point was valid in its way. Despite what they alleged, instructors did not make much less than assistant professors, who had many more responsibilities and who also had research expenses to cover, so they also deserved raises. Still it would have been more convenient for many had the instructors been paid more so as to feel happier and work with a different set of goals in mind.

The instructors said they put teaching first but this was only because they did not do research or service: they liked saying they were faculty, but they did not actually like the students or the material.

Our academic advisors told us to put teaching last and they did us a great disservice. I already dislike lower division teaching enough;  to have had to listen to so many lectures about how doing it right would hurt my career only makes it more painful. In real life you have to be very much up on lower division teaching and able to effectively defend against these instructors and these kinds of situations in general.

When I think of these poorly informed professors preaching on about this matter I want to push them right off the Berkeley Marina. With a plopping sound they will fall right into the water and then stand there waist deep, looking surprised.


2 thoughts on “On Class War

  1. You are a very brave woman to write about this issue the way you do. There is, indeed, a festering conflict always taking place along these lines and nobody knows how to resolve it. But the issue is scary, so people prefer not to talk about it at all.

  2. Well someone has to talk about it. In some places it can be swept under the rug but in some places I’ve been it’s the reason for revolving door syndrome and other forms of underdevelopment!

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