Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Measure for measure

The famous report on faculty profitability is now available online. The Eagle covers the reaction:
It takes what a faculty member generates by teaching -- tuition paid by students and formula funding by the state based on weighted semester credit hours -- and subtracts from that the faculty member's salary and estimated cost of benefits.

It doesn't take research dollars generated into account, as The Eagle reported earlier this month based on how officials described the document. However, they appear in an adjacent column.
Two colleges at TAMU are in the red: Engineering and the Bush school.
In fact, at the College Station campus, the document shows that faculty members brought in nearly $75 million more than the $315 million spent on their salaries and benefits. In addition, they generated an additional $226 million through research.

The nature of the calculation means that the most profitable faculty are the non-tenured instructors who just got laid off. Identifying these is not straightforward, as different departments include or exclude graduate student TAs from the listing, depending on how the courses they participate in use them.
Jerry Strawser, dean of the Mays Business School and convener of the Council of Deans, said faculty members generally teach what their department heads tell them to teach that semester, sometimes big classes, other times not.

"According to this measure, it's going to look like one's doing a lot, and the other's not, and that's just totally and completely misleading, because they're doing what they've been asked to do," Strawser said.

"It's like judging a manufacturing process by how many units they produce. Not anything else. Not whether the customers buy the units. Not whether the units have defects in them. It just says, 'Here's how many units we've produced.'"

Universities should be run like businesses. Our model for evaluation of unit and employee profitability is Enron.
"I think this is all in the spirit of what we proposed," said Bill Peacock, the vice president for research of the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

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