Let me be unmistakably clear: most college professors are conscientious, hard-working professionals. But many are not. I base this on extrapolation from a half dozen indolent professors I encountered in getting my Ph. D. at the University of Michigan. Frankly, I really didn’t know how they could in good conscience take their paychecks.
I illustrate below Professor X, who is a composite of actual professors I have known. Having been a professor for 28 years, an editor of an academic journal, a college vice president, and director of the Fulbright Program for the U. S. government, I know how universities operate.
Professor X gets a Ph. D. at age 29, then works through the ranks for seven years to be awarded tenure at age 36. Tenure virtually guarantees lifetime job security, so Professor X no longer needs to publish anything ever again, nor even, really, to be a good teacher.
Still, Professor X publishes one or two articles a year but they are so esoteric that only few scholars read or cite them. These articles have no value to students.
Professor X teaches two classes per semester, each class averaging 16 students, or 32 per semester, for a total of 64 students a year. He has taught these two classes several times over the years, so needs little preparation for class, save some brief reviewing of notes.
He posts three office-hours per week to meet with students. He grades papers, but with only 32 students per semester, such grading is not a heavy demand. He serves on a few committees, but elects not to do much work for them.
Professor X’s salary runs in six figures, plus 25% in fringe benefits. He teaches two 15-week courses per semester, for a total of 30 weeks per year. He does not teach the other 22 weeks in the year.
He says he “works 60 hours a week.” Maybe so, but many of these hours are external to his teaching and focus on outside matters of interest to him.
Now the fundamental question is: how many professors are like Professor X?
Answer: I have not the foggiest idea. And that’s my point: no one else does either. Regents, chancellors, presidents, faculty, students, parents, and the public don’t know. Why? Because awareness is limited to the respective trenches of compartmentalized universities. The history faculty know who the slackers are in the history department, but not in the English department. Nor do administrators know who the slackers are because there is no overall accountability.
With college costs becoming obscene, it’s time for such accountability.