Class Warfare in Law School

My law school has decided to hire a new supervisor of about 5 secretaries. Anyone can interview the candidates so I tagged along.  I do most of my own work and rarely use a secretary but have never had any complaints. Nor have most of my colleagues. It's a pretty good relationship.

BUT, as one secretary said in the interview "our biggest problem is the faculty." The story is like this. A couple of faculty make obviously out of bounds requests -- skirting copyright laws, tons of personal work and lots of work that would not be necessary if their own jobs were treated as full time -- If a secretary balks at all, off the faculty member is to the administration which promptly orders the secretary to "do it."

So you've got privileged over affirmed elitists who mostly have not done a hour of real work in their lives or come close to walking in the shoes of a secretary dealing with secretaries who generally have not been to college.  Oh, and they are tenured and quick to sue  if they feel wronged. Plus, no dean I have known has the balls to say "you are wrong and the secretary is right." My goodness, he or she is "just" a secretary right?  Instead there is appeasement and ultimately the "do it" order.

As I said before, respect should be afforded people in inverse relationship to their status and wealth. You will rarely go wrong unless you have an Aztec. Then you will never go wrong.

Income Redistribution Summer Program Style

From high school through graduate school study abroad programs are always iffy. I did not realize it completely until one of my high school age kids asked about going abroad on a program offered by a teacher at his school. When I checked it all  out, I realized that if the professor got enough students to sign up, he and a partner could go free. And, behind it all was essentially a travel agency that arranged everything. The teacher was for all practical purposes the agent of the agency casting about for students.

But that does not really take the cake. It might well had been worth it to have a chaperoned trip to Europe or where ever.

What takes the cake is more like this. A public law school offers study abroad summer programs.  The school pays the teachers' salaries and the students pay enough for their own housing, meals,  and transportation and for the housing and transportation of the professors.  This is great for the professors and the students. The students get credit while essentially hanging out. Not so great for taxpayers. They are the ones who foot the bill for the biggest expense of all - tens of thousands of dollars for teachers teaching a handful of the students.

But wait! What's the big deal. This is the way public schools work after all. Taxpayers pay and students are subsidized.

The little twist is that, as you look over a sea of students,  which ones would you expect to be the ones who can pass up  summer jobs and afford to travel abroad for six or seven weeks on their own dime?  I'll go way out on a limb and suggest it is, not always but most of the time, the relatively affluent ones. When you get down to it, it is a matter of taxing everyone  in order for the well to do to have a good time abroad. After all, we would not want the rich to actually pay the full cost of educating them in places those paying the tab can only hope to go.

Taiwan: University administration extorting payments from faculty members in return for greater job security

A university in central Taiwan has been demanding that its faculty members bring in outside sources of income into the university coffers in exchange for helping ensure their continued employment. Faculty members who do not receive research funding or other grants from outside the university are expected to find opportunities for and establish academic-enterprise cooperation agreements with businesses, while the university collects ten percent of this secondary income claiming "administrative costs," regardless of whether the individual faculty members or the business with which they cooperate require the university's administrative assistance. Those who do not receive research funding or work for businesses off campus are severely penalized by either having half of their customary year end bonus cut by half and forbidden to work part-time off campus as part of receiving a second tier performance evaluation rating, or even receive zero bonus and no customary annual pay rise for having a third tier performance evaluation rating, and will be dismissed altogether after receiving this level of the performance evaluation.

While the budget for research grants has been cut drastically and most faculty members at this university are not very interested in pursuing research opportunities, regardless of whether they could even acquire funding after they had applied for it, very many individual faculty members have resorted to establishing fraudulent "academic enterprise agreements" while the university administration turns a blind eye to this form of fraud while gladly collecting what is akin to extortion.

 This has become a widespread practice in the country, and there has been talk in government circles about how this type of fraud has become prevalent, but it remains to be seen whether anything is going to be done, and there has not been even any talk about confronting university administrations for compelling faculty members to make such involuntary cash donations to their employers.

Anonymous contribution

The cross-examination of Professor Rancourt continues: Blog articles and student spy report introduced into evidence

The public tribunal hearings into the 2009 firing of tenured Full Professor Denis Rancourt at the University of Ottawa are on-going this May and June 2013.

These hearings will determine if the dismissal of the professor was (1) justified, and (2) whether it was done in bad faith for reasons other than the alleged pretexts given.

The main alleged reason given by the University of Ottawa for firing the professor is that he would have assigned fraudulent grades to 23 students in an advanced physics course in the winter semester of 2008, grades that are alleged to have no relation to the students' actual performances and progress in the course.

A recent ruling by the Arbitrator has allowed the university to cross-examine Rancourt on his radical blogs "U of O Watch" and "Activist Teacher", and on any broad question to impeach Rancourt's "credibility" and/or fitness to be a university professor.

Rancourt's union had argued that such questions should not be permitted (HERE and HERE). The University had argued that such questions are proper cross-examination questions (HERE and HERE).

The Arbitrator explained that allowing the cross-examination questions is a distinct step from a determination of the relevance of the questions and answers, and cited the factors for determining admissibility of the thus gathered evidence.

The questions about the blogs appear to be aimed at establishing that Rancourt cannot be allowed back on campus because he incites and/or condones violence (link), because he is an anarchist, because he attacks University administrators with no regard for their feelings (link), because he uses his blogs for vengeance against any University executive associated with the dismissal (link), because he celebrates burning cop cars at G20 (link), because he promotes academic squatting (link), and so on.

On May 23, 2013, the University was allowed to put into evidence a report covertly prepared by a hired student spy about a talk Rancourt gave on another campus in 2007. Rancourt requested that he be provided a complete document rather than an incomplete report, and requested that the source of the report be identified and documented on the record, prior to answering questions about the report. Rancourt's requests were not granted. The Arbitrator ordered Rancourt to answer questions about the report. Rancourt was then cross-examined about the report.

The union will introduce a new witness when the hearings resume on June 5, 2013. The cross-examination of Professor Rancourt will then continue after the new witness is cross-examined and re-examined.