"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

What Tenure-Track Professors at UF May Expect

The NYTimes has an extensive piece on Ron DeSantis's choice for president of Florida's flagship public university, and there's lots to consider, particularly if you are teaching in a tenured or tenure-earning position.  Here's a taste: 

Sasse’s words sometimes tumble out in a kind of techno-futurist patois that can be hard to follow. In response to a question about his perceived invisibility on campus, he veered off into something about the future of pedagogy. “And that requires us to unbundle cohorting, community and synchronicity from co-localities,” he said. Later, he added, “What will today’s generic term ‘professor’ mean when you disaggregate syllabus designer, sage-on-the-stage lecturer, seminar leader, instructional technologist, grader, assessor, etc.?”

When you cut through Sasse's murky McKenzie-inspired malarkey, what remains is a clear aspiration to apply a fragmentation grenade to the professoriate, so that what remains are exploded pieces to be swept up by gig workers doing epistemological piecework. This 21st Century Taylorism is the stock and trade of the philosophical eunuchs at McKinsey, who have a $4.7 million contract with Sasse to develop and impose a strategic plan that uses 21st Century tech talk to impose 19th Century business practices and cultural values upon an institutions once devoted to unencumbered human learning and inquiry.

While fixated on the glories of STEM education, Sasse has not forgotten that part of his assignment is to transform the teaching of history at UF.  It took Sasse only three months to turn over space on campus to create what appears to be the foundations for an alternative history department

 About three months after Sasse took over, the Republican-controlled Legislature allotted $10 million in recurring annual funds for the recently established Hamilton Center for Classical and Civic Education and an additional $20 million to renovate its building on the U.F. campus, a former infirmary. The entire budget for the school’s history department is about $4 million. No one at the university had requested the funds or even suggested the creation of the center. The idea came from a little-known organization called the Council on Public University Reform. The name attached to the “local funding initiative request” was Josh Holdenried, who has worked in Washington for the conservative Heritage Foundation and for Napa Legal, which assists faith-based nonprofits. He appears to have no links to the university or the state of Florida. (Holdenried could not be reached for comment.)

A proposal sent to U.F. administrators by the group’s lobbyist, Adrian Lukis, a former DeSantis chief of staff, made it clear that the center was not intended as a complement to what already exists at the university. Instead, the center is to “provide choice for Florida’s students and their parents dissatisfied with the present offerings.” (The proposal was originally obtained by The Chronicle of Higher Education.) According to the center’s website, there’s an additional mission, too: to participate in the implementation of the K-12 civics curriculum in Florida’s public schools. The curriculum is to include Portraits in Patriotism, featuring the stories of Floridians who fled leftist regimes in Cuba and Venezuela.

As other news outlets have documented, Sasse has a record of turning his faculty-smashing aspirations into reality. At Midland University, where Sasse served as President from 2009 to 2014, Sasse went to work immediately to blow up faculty tenure at the school. Sasse put together buyout contracts for tenured faculty, with the clear intent to replace them with part-time or adjunct faculty.

Sasse was up-front with them [tenured faculty members]: They could take the buyout or continue at the university with an uncertain future after he got rid of tenure.

Bracker remembers groups of five or six faculty members at a time would lose their tenure, she said. She was one of the last to finally lose it.

“You can usurp power, and then you can do certain things because you usurp power,” Scott told Mother Jones. “But there might have been a kinder, gentler way to do that than to say, ‘These are the new rules; this is what we’re gonna do.'” 

Longtime, established faculty members who took the buyouts were replaced with low-cost, part-time adjunct professors in a cost-saving move, some former faculty members said. 

If you are a tenure track assistant professor hoping for tenure a few years down the road, you should know that that track is sure to be bristling with mines that were not there prior to the arrival of Sasse. You may expect, too, that an invisible ideological gauntlet is being constructed that could require your syllabi, your research, and your truth to be compromised if tenure is to be granted.  

One thing is for sure: tenure is no longer the arduous journey that it once was but, rather, the arduous journey with the addition of professorial judges who must answer to a university administration approved by Florida's most prominent fascist politician.

Sasse has stressed the need for a “data-saturated environment” on campus. McKinsey is getting $4.7 million to provide guidance on “strategic management.”

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