Comments on: The cushy world of academia, surveillance 2.0 and $200 million to tear down a building Steven Brill Tue, 19 Aug 2014 18:30:28 +0000 hourly 1 By: AlkalineState Mon, 05 Aug 2013 22:00:56 +0000 Professor hires 8 students to work in her lab. Those students are now counted as ‘staff’ (because they are on the payroll) and they are also counted as ‘students’ (because they are also enrolled).

So in this case, the writer’s phony metric shows a ratio of 9 faculty/staff for every 8 students. It double-counts certain people. We know there are only 9 people in the room, not 17.

This, all because the research institution took the CRAZY step of hiring its students to give them hands-on experience. I say, take these ratios with a grain of salt. In cases where the teaching is research-intensive, the posted ratios do not reflect head-counts on the ground.

By: Andvari Fri, 02 Aug 2013 18:19:41 +0000 I believe Carnegie Mellon University receives about 80% of its funding from the federal government in one way or another, then there are the endowments.

As of 2011 there were 12058 students (grad and undergrad) with 5221 faculty and staff. 2.3 to one ratio.

Tuition goes up every other year, at least. Why, and why are we so costly when our budget is set by money for federal research?

Why is Penn State the costliest Public university?

By: mikemc Thu, 01 Aug 2013 00:08:26 +0000 Regarding your comment that, “All these staffing ratios suggest pretty light workloads and low productivity,” is an extremely naive comment and highlights the lack of deeper thought invested in this op-ed. The bulk of academic efforts at the higher institutions are in the form of research, meeting large publication requirements, and attempts to obtain grant funding. Researchers at these “cushiest workplaces” are the bastions of independent thought that prompt the creation and revision of public policy and ideas that promote invention and corporate growth. Additionally, the salary structure of the vast majority of the faculty at higher institutions are very low, especially given the advanced educational background required of the faculty to obtain these positions. As with most large businesses, the executive faculty at large academic institutions receive a salary disproportionate to the rest of the faculty, making it hard to accurately uniformly criticize all academics. Overall, poorly researched, poorly analyzed, poorly reported piece.

By: F.G Wed, 31 Jul 2013 15:14:05 +0000 You say you’re “looking for a story behind the numbers…”

(oh no! The horror! Instructors having student ratios of under 10! The “low-productivity” horror! By the way student-faculty ratios never accurately depict what real class sizes are. For example my undergrad alma mater has roughly a 17:1 student-faculty ratio, in reality class sizes, that were not massive 100-200 student surveys, had 20-30 students, certainly you should know this as a high-falutin’ journalism professor at Yale correct? Or is it writing a column titled “stories I’d like to see” which of course doesn’t involve any story writing of your own, the real “cushiest workplace” in America?)

… yet you’re ignoring a factor of data that has already been reported on extensively (which again as a vaunted professor of journalism *at Yale* you should probably already be aware of), and that is the explosive rise of adjunct, or otherwise contingent, faculty at universities across the country.

These adjuncts (who are normally quite qualified to be tenured professors) get paid somewhere between $2,000-$3,000 *per class* and no benefits (unless they’re at a generous institution), and normally are teaching multiple classes at several institutions to barely make ends meet (i/e a an annual income of $25,000-$30,000 if they’re lucky; the luckiest adjuncts can pull in a staggering $40,000 for the year, maybe without having to teach between multiple institutions). Now I know corporate schills break down with the vapours at any word that the typical American worker is anything but destitute, exhausted, and desperate, but I can assure you that adjuncts (which are becoming the majority of university “faculty” are working anything but “cushy jobs.”

Maybe take a stroll through your vaunted Yale campus and ask around?

Pinning rising college costs on faculty, and again as a journalist I thought you would know better, is a red herring. Universities have been gutting instructor pay and benefits (for those who are not lucky to land a tenure-track job they were promised their whole graduate career), yet tuition and fees keep rising. Maybe look moreso at the “staff.” The administrative class at universities, who typically have little, to zero, interaction with the student population (and may not even directly serve the student population in their job), rake in salaries at typically higher levels except for maybe the most senior professors (of whom I know, anecdotally, to rarely make more than $100,000 hardly the most offensive figure given presidents have been known to make $1 *MILLION* a year!), launch extravagant building projects that are paid for by the students, and add services that are also of dubious necessity (like food-service locations that try to present themselves as five-star restaurants to keep the rich students from taking their money outside campus).

Look I just wrote your story “behind the numbers” for you! And I’m just a schulb replying in the comments! It must be grand having a cushy job to make other people write the stories for you?

By: MBmb Wed, 31 Jul 2013 06:38:14 +0000 Maybe those cameras detonate when they are tampered with.

By: Mac20nine Tue, 30 Jul 2013 23:01:15 +0000 Brill, not that I’m taking the defensive for academia but it amazes me you don’t acknowledge that many faculty don’t teach at all. Or very little. I don’t know the percentages but many professors are hired simply to carry on research, especially at institutions that focus on that more than teaching, for example universities vs. colleges. That alone may skew your ratios and perceptions. Google ‘research university.’
Agree about cameras and demolition costs. As far as the Yankees go, I don’t live in NYC.

By: Burns0011 Tue, 30 Jul 2013 21:02:24 +0000 What an idiot. “All these staffing ratios suggest pretty light workloads and low productivity, especially given the size of so many of the classes faculty members typically teach.”

Yeah? Really? Ever tried being a professor? Ever tried finding out what kind of a workload they actually have? Ever tried giving a fair grade to 120 papers for six different classes within one week, every week for twenty weeks? Ever tried teaching six different classes while coming up with six different lesson plans? All the while attending faculty meetings and dealing with the universities’ paperwork AND keeping track of all the students’ progress on an individual level?


Why not? Surely it’s such a light workload it would be easy to make more productive. [sarcasm]I mean, critical analysis and reading alone is such a brainless activity, SURELY it can be handed over to some automated program.[/sarcasm]

By: markhahn Tue, 30 Jul 2013 20:11:30 +0000 who gave this guy a soapbox? Yale, I guess – which happens to have 2.9 students per faculty. but why would this be a meaningful metric? faculty do things other than teach – in fact career advancement is almost entirely focused on research/publication. or how about a doctor in a university hospital who has a faculty appointment? slow news day.

By: Bert2 Tue, 30 Jul 2013 18:35:46 +0000 Yes, some university have a very cushy faculty to student ratio and the funny thing is that they do not necessarily correlate to rankings and quality. Take the Georgia Institute of Technology: its school of mechanical engineering has approximately 95 faculty members and about 2200 undergraduate and 800 graduate students. That is a ratio of 30 students per faculty. Yet it is ranked consistently 6th or 5th in the nation (US News and World Report). And the faculty is research active. So I hope the author does not make broad generaliations based on a few data points. That would be bad science.

By: xsafford Tue, 30 Jul 2013 18:32:22 +0000 The only ratio that really matters is faculty to students. All the added staff is mostly overpaid vice presidents and their staffs. Their principle activity is building empires for themselves. Then they can create enough work to keep other useless bureaucracies busy doing more useless make work. Most of this work is at the behest of equally superfluous government officials with nothing better to do than waste other peoples’ time. How many Vice Presidents does it take to spell “Diversity”? More than you can count.