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Contributor III

Measuring a Professor's Worth

Did anyone read the article “Putting a Price on Professors” in the October 22 issue of the Wall Street Journal?

The article cites a growing trend to quantify the value of professors (and academic institutions in general) based on revenue generation, productivity, graduation rates, and the academic proficiency of those that graduate, among others.

What do you think of these recent trends to remake the educational system?

How do such trends impact newly hired, adjunct and tenured faculty? 

Do the trends impact science vs. liberal arts programs differently?

Can academic value be determined based on the results of a balance sheet?

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Contributor II

Re: Measuring a Professor's Worth

Yes, I read the WSJ article.  While the implications are no doubt disturbing to a large number of us, I'm not surprised at the increasing efforts to "quantify a professor's worth".  It's part of an overall trend in US society (and perhaps globally) these days to assess everything, with the goal of increasing efficiency (think six sigma and the like) or improving the quality of a product.

The trouble with applying these methods to areas such as education, R&D, policy-making organizations, etc., are that the benefits are often vastly separated in time from the original actions, making immediate assessments of the current actions almost meaningless.  In other words, the benefits of a particular program in R&D, or of a particular student-teacher interaction, might only been seen years (decades) after the actions occurred.  Or they might never be observed.  So, if one only assesses the things that are easy to quantify, such as dollars brought in, number of students graduating, etc., one might be missing the longterm value of a particular scientist, or a particular professor.

I realize this doesn't answer the question, but it's certainly a good topic for discussion!

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New Contributor

Re: Measuring a Professor's Worth

While ongoing profit & loss assessment of tenured faculty might be new, it is hardly a recent trend at research universities for tenure-track and prospective faculty, who are assessed almost exclusively by their "potential to attract grant funding" to the university.

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Re: Measuring a Professor's Worth

I would like to see a vibrant discussion (and exposition) of universities [specifically naming those] that hire tenure track "professors" via a "good-ole-boy" methodology in direct contradiction of their own "operations manuals"; that is by bringing in an individual who is a "friend" of a particularly "powerful professor" where this man did not even bother to apply for a genuine open position. In this particular case, while there were approximately 80 viable and accepted applications (from which the search committee selected 5 finalists), the president rejected all under pressure from this "powerful professor" who was approximately 80 years old at the time.

This "tenure track professor" was then given early tenure (after about 2 years) even though he had NOT taught a single semester-long course, authored a single independent paper, or received a single independent research grant. Incidentally, the tenure committee had unanimously rejected this individual from tenure, but the president, again under pressure from the then 82 - 83 year old "powerful professor" granted him tenure anyway.

It seems to me that the quality of the educator pool at such "universities" would decrease substantially over time.

While such institutions generally have resources to defend themselves in the field of public opinion, the chemistry community (and perhaps the education community at large) ought to be aware of such shortcomings - especially when parents are asked to foot bills for students attending these "universities" that are ever increasing and are on the order of many tens of thousands of dollars annually.

If we are going to discuss "value" of a "professor", we ought to be able to guarantee that a "professor" in the statistical sample is truly a professor...

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