Saturday, May 17, 2008

Epic Fail

It's failure and sadness all the way around in this story from Inside Higher Ed about Prof. Steve Aird and Norfolk State University.

No one seems to dispute that Aird was denied tenure for failing too many students. How many is too many? Well many professors at Norfolk State say that there is a clear expectation from administrators — in particular from Dean Sandra J. DeLoatch, the dean whose recommendation turned the tide against Aird’s tenure bid — that 70 percent of students should pass.

Now that seems more than a little nuts, to have a quota. However, Aird wasn't just marginally below quota:

The review listed various courses, with remarks such as: “At the end of Spring 2004, 22 students remained in Dr. Aird’s CHM 100 class. One student earned a grade of ‘B’ and all others, approximately 95 percent, earned grades between ‘D’ and ‘F.’” Or: “At the end of Fall 2005, 38 students remained in Dr. Aird’s BIO 100 class. Four students earned a grade of ‘C-’ or better and 34, approximately 89 percent, received D’s and F’s.”

These class records resulted in the reason cited for tenure denial: “the core problem of the overwhelming failure of the vast majority of the students he teaches, especially since the students who enroll in the classes of Dr. Aird’s supporters achieve a greater level of success than Dr. Aird’s students.”

So I gotta say that this is more than a little nuts too. If you are consistently failing a majority of your students, you are in the wrong place. One can argue that the institution should be reformed or disbanded, but as an employee you cannot take it upon yourself to create an entirely separate mini-world.


Anonymous said...

“…as an employee you cannot take it upon yourself to create an entirely separate mini-world.”

This seems a little odd coming from a Libertarian. Isn’t this precisely what many Libertarians are trying to do in America (Free State Project, anyone)? Also, the article states that Mr. Aird primarily failed kids that attended class sessions less then the required 80%, per school policy. This wasn’t an enforced policy, but it was part the explicit rules by which faculty were meant to abide, and was hence not an “entirely separate mini-world.”

Additionally, any professor that routinely failed a vast majority of their students would be notorious on campus, and it could reasonably be expected that a student who wanted to pass would do one of two things; either they would decide that going to class 80% of the time is too much work and take the class from a different professor, or they would figure out that going to class 80% of the time is not that hard and would adjust their behavior accordingly. As such, why don’t you argue that the students are irrational for not taking either of the two options above, the administration is irrational for their incessant fascination with the ineffective, and the only rational one is Aird since he expected students to do that which can reasonable be expected of them.

By the way, I’ve enjoyed your podcasts with Prof. Roberts, and would support your campaign if I lived in NC.

Anonymous said...

Oops, my first post here and I confused the two of you. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

Bad analogy in reference to the Free State Project. Despite the 'stimulus check' I got last week, I'm still >40% government slave and 0% government employee.

Employer-employee contracts are at the discretion of those two parties. When an employer says, "if you do x, you will get y", then it is up to the employee to decide if it's worth doing x to get y.

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with employer-employee contracts as you state them. The point is that Mr. Aird did not “create an entirely separate mini-world.” He followed the explicit school policy, which happened to contradict with the implicit school policy. Therefore, the contract as set by his employer was contradictory, i.e., irrational.

Also, the fruits of your labor are >40% slave to the government, not you. As you state, you’re still free, for the most part, to choose your labor.

Angus said...

BR: is that a stimulus check in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

DCWILK: if Aird is the only person on campus doing what he's doing, then yes he did "create a separate mini-world". You could go to Norfolk State and skate by with little effort, or you might think you were going to Norfolk State but get stuck in Aird U and have to bust your butt.

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