Why Sanders’s College Plan Is Horrible, Part I

The problem with Bernie’s college reform plan is not that it’s impossible to institute. It is quite possible, unfortunately. The problem is that the plan sucks. It’s one of the worst things I have ever seen, and all it will do is just slaughter public education. Let’s look at the so-called “free college” plan in greater detail.

A state that receives a grant under this section shall use any remaining grant funds and matching funds required under this section to increase the quality of instruction and student support services by carrying out the following: A) Expanding academic course offerings to students.

The idea that our course offerings will be micromanaged from the White House is nothing short of scary. The last thing we need is to witness the creation of yet another Office of Academic Accountability or Office for the Expansion of Academic Offerings that will force us to provide endless reports on how we increased course offerings and how we will increase them even more next year. Lord Jesus, can we at least be allowed the academic freedom needed to decide which courses we offer? It is insulting that politicians will be dictating to us how to constitute our programs of study. Practitioners of no other profession are humiliated in this way. 

(B) Increasing the number and percentage of full-time instructional faculty.

Why? At my department, we have a fair number of part-timers who teach basic language courses. None of them are interested in full-time employment because they have all kinds of life circumstances (children, age, homeschooling, etc) that make part-time work preferable to them. Are we supposed to kick them all out and start giving out tenure for teaching Spanish 101 just to make Mr. Sanders happy? Or can we be allowed to decide what’s best for our program?

(C) Providing all faculty with professional supports to help students succeed, such as professional development opportunities, office space and shared governance in the institution.

God, just shoot me in the head and be done with this already. We already have an office of professional development stuffed with a bunch of useless idiots who persecute us with endless – and endlessly ridiculous – workshops. Empowering them from the Oval Office to bug us even more is not what we need. And what’s with the idea that we are not professionally developed enough and have to be prodded to develop more by faraway politicians?

(D) Compensating part-time faculty for work done outside of the classroom relating to instruction, such as holding office hours….”

Another ridiculous statement that does not take into account how colleges function. As a tenured faculty member, I do tons of service, mentoring, supervision, advising, interaction with student organizations, etc. And believe me, my salary is very, very modest. Why should a part-timer get paid extra for doing 1% of the work I provide without extra pay? If you think that I live more luxuriously than our part-timers, you are ignorant. Besides, part-timers are often spouses of professors or administrators. Why should the Dean’s wife ( a real person at my department) be paid extra to sit in her office waiting for her husband to come back from some function while I do actual work in the office next door without extra pay?

My university doesn’t overpay administrators, erect superfluous and expensive facilities or exploit adjuncts. All we need is for the state to honor its obligations to us and then go away. We can barely breathe because of the out-of-control regulation by federal and state agencies. We don’t need more of it. We are figuring out which courses to offer, what buildings to construct, whom to hire and how to teach extremely well. 

The greatest mistake at the core of the Sanders plan is that he confuses the problems of the Ivies with those of modest public schools like mine. We have none of the issues that this plan aims to address. All that prevents us from doing the kick-ass job we are doing is the refusal of the state of Illinois to honor its obligations to us. 

13 thoughts on “Why Sanders’s College Plan Is Horrible, Part I”

  1. I agree that the negatives will by far outweigh the positives. This proposal sets up so many hoops for us to jump through. Why doesn’t anybody consider that public education deserves to be funded, period. With no conditions, no strings attached, no additional supervision.

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    1. Exactly! Why can’t we simply get the funding that is owed to us? All these federal grants will do is allow state governments to withdraw funding altogether. So we’ll have less money and more micromanagement.

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      1. The only thing I could think of regarding expanding course offerings would probably have to do with enrollment. The thought being that not enough students are enrolling, so we should attract them with more classes. Because that makes sense. Seems like a really out-of-place bid for support from numbers-obsessed school administrators.

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        1. The problem is that nobody just takes courses. People do majors and minors, all majors and minors have an internal logic. We can’t simply go and add courses. The program needs to be internally consistent.

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          1. Not to mention that the higher the level a class is, the fewer students there tend to be in the class. Major departments tend to have more than enough classes to create small environments. So much so that some classes are already offered on a sporadic basis.

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