Most people I ask—cab drivers, veterinarians, jugglers—don’t seem to know that the Federal Education Department recently convened a 2-day meeting of meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI), to discuss higher education accreditation.
Those same people don’t know that, a week prior to the NACIQI meeting, a group assembled by the California Faculty Association (CFA) held a meeting to launch a “national dialogue to save higher ed.”
The NACIQI meeting is a regularly scheduled one, and is designed to offer advice to the Secretary of Education, and in this mission is provided for by the Federal Higher Education Act of 1965.
The CFA meeting, billed as a “first-of-its-kind discussion on how to assert the faculty’s voice in the national debate over the future of American higher education,” was designed to, well, launch a dialogue. Let’s go.
First, let’s get the players straight: you’ve got some NACIQI members appointed by the Secretary of Education, some by the Speaker of the House, and some by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate. They are in three years if appointed by the Secretary, four if by the Speaker, and six if by the President Pro Tempore.
The CFA meeting? That involved some 70 faculty folk, from 21 states. More about that later.
The NACIQI members are required, in line with the relevant federal rule, to be, let’s see, individuals of great experience, integrity, impartiality, and good judgment; knowledgeable concerning education and training beyond secondary Education; and qualified on the basis of technical qualifications, or professional standing, and/or demonstrated knowledge in the fields of accreditation and administration of higher education.
Those attending the CFA’s Quality Higher Education for the 21st Century draft statement assembly? Ok, I admit, I don’t know anything except that these 70 or so faculty are claimed to “collectively represent hundreds of thousands of faculty members who teach millions of students in colleges and universities throughout the country.”
Right, well, let concentrate more closely on some of the NACIQI processes, and on some of the NACIQI people, about whom more is known.
We have the right to assume, at the outset, that NACIQI has been overseeing, since 1965, based on the language of the statute in question, the quality and integrity of our higher education system, and this they have done, in such a manner as to ensure an almost uninterrupted decline in the ranks of regular faculty—the once traditional type that relied on a strong measure of job security—“tenure,” so called—and who received comfortable levels of recompense by way of regular wages, health insurance, and provision for their golden, or as some would say, twilight years.
And NACIQI has also, since about 1965, with their experience, knowledge, and professional standing, safeguarded the quality and integrity of higher education such that traditional faculty have been increasingly replaced by great numbers of adjunct and contingent faculty, who are available at reasonable rates, need, apparently, little in the way of health insurance, are not in need, apparently, of provisioning for their twilight or golden years and who, to boot, can be hired, or not, at the convenience of the managers of higher educational institutions of all sorts, in the private and public sectors, and in the non-profit and in the for-profit sectors—the accreditation system, you see, and those who are entrusted in Federal law to oversee its Institutional Quality and Integrity, pronounces alike, and with no partiality, on all subsectors that comprise the super sector which we know as Higher Education.
NACIQI members today include William Pepicello, Provost and President of the University of Phoenix, one of the education properties of the NASDAQ-traded Apollo Group, shares of which are currently going for, okay, about half of what they were getting, peak, in 2008-09, and yesterday, whoa!—taking a bit of a hit, but maybe climbing back up? Take a look. Community sentiment, I read, is "bullish" on Apollo.
And NACIQI members today also include Arthur E. Keiser, Chancellor , Keiser Collegiate System—that’s a smaller, almost ma-and-pop outfit in the higher ed private sector, and a 501(c)(3) non-profit, and I don’t which one of those things explains why they’re such pikers in regard to Washington lobbying—they only coughed up $70,000 in 2010, whereas Apollo Group, for University of Phoenix, managed $180,000. Apollo actually spent more than half a million, but who knows, maybe some of that was on behalf of some high school they just bought—they have these really cool Buddhist-sounding ones called “Insight Schools.” I don’t know. Drill down a little more than I did. NACIQI’s goal at their most recent meeting was as follows: “To broaden the members’ knowledge and to arrive at an informal, draft set of topics on which the NACIQI will focus during the June 8, 2011 NACIQI meeting concerning the Higher Education Act (HEA) Reauthorization.”
The members were guided in their deliberations by a variety of presentations, including one from Gary Rhoades, General Secretary of the American Association of University Professors, who has been known to say such things as:
“Amid the unacceptable exploitation of contingent faculty, what if we were able to establish for these colleagues due process and terms and conditions of work comparable to those of tenured and tenure-eligible faculty, ensuring their academic freedom?”
Stirring sentiments, those.
Also, the NACIQI committee heard from Tom Dawson of the Gates Foundation, who is into such things as critical drivers of degree productivity, and also from Holly McKiernan of the Lumina Foundation, which is really into cranking up degree-yield big time. AAUP is just a dues-paying bunch, you know, but these foundations, wow! Gates needs no explanation here, of course, but Lumina is less well-known: it owes its power to the selling off, by its parent, USA Group, of a gazillion dollars’ worth of education loan assets to the Federally spawned but now independent Student Loan Marketing Association, Inc. (Sallie Mae). It’s actually quite the story—read this:
“The transaction was a magical thing. All of a sudden we snapped our fingers, and we had almost a billion dollars. What do we do with it?” recalled Lumina Board Member Norris Darrell. Lumina Foundation Board Member—that’s in a Lumina-written history of its own honorable self.
Let’s see, the Gates man at NACIQI spoke in on a panel “Outside the Box,” and the Lumina rep was one of the wrapping-up ”Synthesizers,” who, you know, synthesized things.
So I don’t know what all they did, but remember, they’re all getting ready for the June 8, 2011 NACIQI meeting concerning the Higher Education Act (HEA) Reauthorization, so they’re just getting geared up. But what did they really do? I have no idea. I wonder if they thought about some of the following issues, and are just waiting to tell us:
1) Might they have been considering, for whatever accreditation apparatus that they decide to keep in place, or retool, the reporting requirements for colleges and universities, in regard to the ratio of full-time to part-time (adjunct and contingent) faculty? One would think this data would be of keen interest to the general taxpayer, especially given the tendency of some observers to (unfairly in my view) associate part timers with lower quality teaching and student outcomes. And, perhaps, might they consider adding some enforcement provisions?
We don’t really know how many adjunct and contingent instructors there are at our colleges and universities, and that is because, while they’re very good at reporting numbers of full-timers, and trumpeting their achievements and credentials, they are very much less consistent in regard to adjunct/contingents.
Now there is, in existing Higher Education law, a bit which requires the secretary of Education to report on “student-faculty ratio, the number of full-time and part-time faculty, and the number of graduate assistants with primarily instructional responsibilities, at the institution.” That would be on view in your United States Code TITLE 20, CHAPTER 28, SUBCHAPTER I, Part C, 1015a (i) (1) (m), the whole of 1015a being, by the way, entitled "Transparency in college tuition for consumers,” a noble phrase if ever one were keystroked.
Now, how is that working out? Ask around. This is the sort of data that an accreditation system might be reasonably interested in, no? Worthy, I think, of a congressional hearing?
2) Insofar as a goodly percentage, probably a majority in most categories, of adjunct/contingents are women—don’t have good numbers, see #1 above—our subcommittee might have had a crack at this: does the current abuse of adjunct and contingent labor violate at least the spirit of the Equal Pay Act amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act, in 1963, the part which requires equal pay for all people, regardless of sex, who are working at jobs "equal skill, effort, and responsibility and performed under similar working conditions"?
That would be a good hearing too.
But the truth is, pressing on, I don’t know what NACIQI is up to. And I don’t know how much pull William Pepicello of the NASDAQ-traded Apollo Group, or Arthur E. Keiser, proprietor of the Keiser Collegiate System, have on that subcommittee. I do know they were both appointed by authority of Nancy Pelosi, which should cause at least a few people to reassess their view of Democrats as anti-business union-coddlers. (Idle hope, I suppose)
And, back to the Quality Higher Education for the 21st Century statement, and the “faculty leaders” who have launched a “national dialogue”? In another Inside Higher Ed piece Professor Lillian Taiz, president of the CFA, is quoted as being "Over the moon" in regard to the enthusiasm and joy of the drafters, but this seems odd to me, given that they managed to leave out the thing that most threatens the faculty—adjunct and contingent exploitation. Well, they did have one statement that included the majority: “The increasing practice of hiring faculty into contingent positions . . is not an “innovation” or an “efficiency” that will serve higher education well in the 21st century.”
They drafted this last week? Increasing? Innovation? It's been going on for thirty years! To the point that most faculty are adcon and not traditional tenured/tenured track.
And that is why, mainly, the traditional faculty is in such dreadful shape, and why the traditional faculty needs to, right from the beginning of any “reform” statements, reach out sincerely to their adcon brothers and sisters who might be willing to support “faculty,” but only when all who toil in that category are included.
This Quality Higher Education for the 21st Century: Draft Principles thing is weak. Does anybody think that such a document presents any sort of threat to institutions like NACIQI?
These folks are going to eat you all up! Think, from yet another Inside Higher Ed article, about those NACIQI deliberations, where Kevin Carey, of Education Sector, was one of the presenters. Mr. Carey, styled by IHE, by the way, as “among the more innovative thinkers about higher education,” is quoted as follows:
"When Uncle Sam provides or guarantees 9 out of every 10 dollars -- or more -- that flow into the coffers of large private sector corporations, the federal government must play a far stronger role in managing that process than it does today."
That’s nice, but who’s going to define that “management” role? The faculty? Traditional faculty who apparently cannot bear to face up to the fact that the majority faculty are adjuncts and contingents? Traditional unions, which over and over again ignore or bargain away the rights of adjuncts and contingents in favor of the traditional full-timers? Official NACIQI-style processes, which depend on ancient and newly energized networks of interest in universities, businesses and government, and increasingly, on the philanthropic ventures of tycoon-reformers who have little patience with the traditional culture and values of the university? Perhaps some new form of organization that can clearly and forcefully argue against the secrecy and inequity in higher education and in the processes that shape it?