Thursday, March 04, 2010

I get it...

... and I understand both sides of this problem...

Colleges are eliminating smaller "programs" -- like the 1 person Classics department.

For 22 years this guy has been the only person in the Classics "department". He describes teaching a 4/4 load -- that is mostly small classes... His upper-division classes are considered to have healthy enrollments at 5-7 students.

5-7 students in a CLASS.

He also says that he teaches one section of French.

So (this is all speculation) -- he gets paid about what I do -- for teaching in the neighborhood of 50 students. Tht estimate may be high, because it includes the assumption that his French class has 30... which it may well not...

He has a 4/4 load, so it's likely that there isn't much of a research obligation.

I have 50 students in ONE class. This semester I have 4 classes and 190 students (plus a release for being department chair...).

I also think that -- in the last 22 years -- he could have worked to increase the size of his department. I say that, as the 2nd full-time faculty member hired at BNCC. Wise Woman was #1 -- with a bunch of adjuncts, I was #2, 7 years ago. Together we advocated for two more hires... and it worked.

So -- while I think cutting Classics isn't a good idea -- I also think that he had it pretty cozy for a long time and didn't want to change... until it was too late and the college/economy changed under him.


Anonymous said...

A tough call. On the one hand, if we only offered what students say they want, there'd be a heck of a lot of English/Business/Communications majors on the planet. On the said it.

Anonymous said...

If this guy is teaching a 4/4 and extra course in Greek my guess, from being a classic major in my undergrad, is that if his upper year courses are 5-7 then his first year courses are something like 50 or more students.

I was in intro Greek with over 65 students -- second year had 10. First year Latin at my school filled 2 sections of over 50 students.

Lots of students sign up for first year Greek and Latin, few go past first year. The culling happens in the first year for ancient languages.

He is teaching 8 half year courses:

2 terms of Intro to Latin -- 50 student in each
2 terms of Intro to French -- 50 student in each
2 terms of Intermediate Latin -- 10 students
2 Upper year courses on a text or author -- 5-7 student
Plus and extra 2 half year greek courses -- say 25 students

Introductory Latin is always popular, but most students who take Latin take only it. Less than half of them take second year and again half as much in the upper year courses. (Usually the same people again and again. The retired nun, the smart weird guy, the young fogey and an adult student or two)

Still that is at around 150 students/per full year equivalent (FTEs as we used to call them -- 6 terms hours I think in the US).

Say each student is paying $1000 per full year course he is bringing in is $150,000

He makes $57,000 let us say he costs a total of $80,000 with benefits. Less income he is brining in $70,000 to the college.
With say $2,500 in Library costs and office and classroom overhead say $25,000.

The college is still making a $50k profit on this dude. I really don't see this as a savings for the College.

And, in fact, he is teaching the expensive part of the Classics programme; the low enrolment language courses.

I know from looking at budget lines and enrolment figures at several universities that, in general, Classics makes money.

Why? Low overhead, and with the exception of a few small languages classes, which you need to have a major, they teach large survey courses.

If you added a second Classicist you would be able to teach surveys of Classical History and Literature in Translation which would mean that their total student prof ratio would be much much higher.

You know what is expensive? Physical Sciences, Engineering and Computer Science, teach the physical sciences and you have to buy lab equipment and lots of insurance.

Teach Math, Languages and other Humanities and you can cut overhead.

Anonymous said...

To be fair to this guy, I know someone who used to work at that school - ALL the classes are really small. (It's under 900 students, total.) He does teach way fewer students than you do, but for the institution he's at, I don't think he necessarily had it any cozier than his colleagues there, and you can't really blame him for the enrollment structure of an institution. Small private liberal arts places totally sell themselves on small classes; in comparison with your load, probably none of his colleagues would match up, either.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

Menolitios -- in my experience, language classes over 30 are really rare... and I'm having a hard time believing that Latin would be a high demand course. If it were, the prof probably would be keeping his job.

You are right about the per student cost of humanities instruction. In philosophy at BNCC, we have the lowest "cost per student" in both the humanities department AND we are one of the lowest cost on campus (social sciences is very close to us...).

The thing is, if this guy didn't do some work to grow his discipline at the college -- and he had plenty of time to do so -- then he did make himself into an easy target.

The_Myth said...

Isn't the real problem not that the Classics guy teaches too few students but rather that you teach far too many? (Even with the tutor/pseudo-TA.)

You seem to be basing this riff off of your personal experience, which seems skewed to my experience at 6 other schools that all tried to keep enrollments at the 30-40 range per section (excepting the big lecture classes).

Also, why try to grow a field that many students try to run from because of its perceived obsolescence?

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

This is the 6th college I've been at -- and, these classes are the largest I've had to handle alone. I inherited the big classes from someone who isn't on the faculty anymore... and, someone I'd love to tell off if I ever meet them.

One way or the other, the guy losing his job has had a pretty easy road in many ways -- and, there are ways to improve and increase a one-person department on a campus. For one, doing whatever you need to do to get your classes into the required category -- It isn't as much fun to teach several sections of intro to Latin, but if you market it to the pre-med, pre-law crowd as an advantage in grad school AND if it's an alternative to the foreign language requirement, suddenly the pre-med / pre-law folks are on your side, if only because they don't want to change their programs.