How should the value of faculty be measured? How do we weigh the interests of academics, students, taxpayers, the community, and others in public education? Should “profit-and-loss” statements for individual faculty and departments be a factor?
On Saturday, the Wall Street Journal reported on efforts by Texas and other states to measure the value of faculty and academic departments at public universities. The Texas A&M system has gone so far as to create a massive spreadsheet detailing faculty members’ monetary value. Here’s how the Bryan-College Station Eagle describes the spreadsheet:
A several-inches thick document in the possession of A&M System officials contains three key pieces of information for every single faculty member in the 11-university system: their salary, how much external research funding they received and how much money they generated from teaching.
Photo credit: DavidDMuir via Flickr
As you might imagine, this is somewhat controversial. Back to the WSJ:
The balance sheet sparked an immediate uproar from faculty, who called it misleading, simplistic and crassâ€”not to mention, riddled with errors. But the move here comes amid a national drive, backed by some on both the left and the right, to assess more rigorously what, exactly, public universities are doing with their studentsâ€”and their tax dollars.
One of the common criticisms of budget-based systems for measuring academics is that research grants will rule the day. Humanities departments, for example, simply don’t receive the large research grants typical of science and engineering departments. The numbers pulled by the WSJ suggest that the humanities’ large number of tuition-paying students and low overhead costs might benefit them in this system (the WSJ shows Texas A&M’s English and history departments with a net profit of over $6 million, while aerospace engineering shows a deficit of $1.4 million). Writing in the Chronicle, Robert Watson argues that “The Humanities Really Do Produce a Profit”, based on numbers from California and other state systems. [Read more…] about How Do We Value Faculty?