The Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting on the latest brouhaha from Texas:
Faculty members and administrators in Texas are speaking out about a recent state law that requires them to post specific, detailed information about their classroom assignments, curricula vitae, department budgets, and the results of student evaluations.
A conservative group whose administrators have close ties to Gov. Rick Perry lobbied for the law, saying it offers important “consumer protection.” Opponents counter that it has created an expensive and time-consuming burden and offers little benefit to the public.
It might also be noted that, amazingly enough, “lawmakers did not consult with faculty governance groups when formulating the legislation.” Now there is a shocker: legislators not respecting faculty governance. Question: does anyone who is not a faculty member respect faculty governance, anywhere?
So, what should we think about this? As usual, I have many options for you:
- Transparency in government is a good thing, no?
- This is just conservatives poking pointy-headed academics for electoral gains, like drunk hunters shooting the deer at their salt lick.
- Given the leftist excesses of the professoriate, this is a means of the public better monitoring those academics who get paid by the state’s citizens but so seldom share the citizens’ values. This would be silly argument, but for the fact that the professoriate really is incredibly out of sync with the political values of the electorate (even in Texas).
- The general public has no ideas how universities function or what professors really do with their time (they only teach two hours a week and get their summers off—I wish!). Legislators are little different. This is just another case of a legislature sticking its nose into something it doesn’t understand well enough, ending up imposing unnecessary costs (another case of government failure). No serious person really thinks this is going to increase value to students, do they?
- Most of this stuff sounds like things most universities are already doing on their own anyway. My department has had vitas and syllabi on line for years. Isn’t regulating an activity that is already doing pretty well a waste, from any perspective?
- Though I’m a fan of markets and the valuable information market signals provide, as an professor I’m very wary of adopting wholesale the consumer model of education, where our job is to provide services that students either buy or don’t, given their preferences. If students knew what they really needed to know, they wouldn’t need to be at the university anyway. Indeed, many of them think that they actually don’t need to be there, that they are being forced to jump through hoops to get a credential, and we should make their jumping easier for them. I’d prefer to not give this brand of student any more ammunition than we already do.
- At a more fundamental level, why are states running universities anyway? One could possibly make a utilitarian or even a libertarian argument for a state promoting and even subsidizing education, but I can’t think of a reasonable argument for the state actually running universities (or any other school for that matter).
As FoxNews says, “We report. You decide.”