Phi Beta Cons

Downstairs in the Ivory Tower

Inside Higher Ed reports that the English Department at Arizona State University will now require instructors—full-time, non-tenure-track faculty—to teach five classes in English composition each semester. Classes can be as large as 25 students per class.

Currently, the standard is four. While some instructors do teach five courses, they receive additional pay for the fifth. These are teachers with Ph.D.s (or “terminal” degrees) and their starting salary is $32,000. (Top salary is $52,000.)

First question: In a department with 75 tenured or tenure-track faculty, why do only non-tenured instructors teach English 101? (We know why: tenure-track faculty don’t want to teach it and don’t have to.)

Second question: Why are so many Ph.D. graduates (some from Arizona State) unable to get tenure-track jobs? (We know why: colleges are producing too many. Indeed, some of the tenured faculty who can avoid teaching  English comp may have persuaded some of these graduates to get their Ph.D.s.)

Third: Why is so little status given to teaching English composition when employers report that writing skill is one of the most important needs for new hires? (We know why: the Ivory Tower is a fortress unto itself.)

Jane S. ShawJane S. Shaw retired as president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in 2015. Before joining the Pope Center in 2006, Shaw spent 22 years in ...

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