March 10, 2005

Fun With Trustees

My friend Chien Wen Kung suggests I weigh in on the elections for Dartmouth's Board of Trustees. Ah, but be careful what you wish for! As it happens, I'm descended from the New Hampshire governor who originally tried to destroy the college way back in the day. (Well, I assume I'm related; how many Plumers can there possibly be?) So you can see where I'm coming from on this—nationalize the means of pedagogy, etc.

At any rate, I'd be lying if I said I didn't care at all about the Trustees election, but I'd also be lying if I said I'm paying very close attention. Consider the issues. What to do about fraternities? Don't care. (Honestly, kids, if you want better social options, just do what I did all four years and spend Friday nights in the library...) Should we abolish the swim team? Don't care. Hire another dean of diversity? Don't care! Shocking I know...

In my alumni inbox, though, I notice that Volokh Conspiracy blogger Todd Zywicki is running for office and promising to make class sizes smaller, have adjunct professors teaching fewer classes, etc. etc. Now that sounds important, of course, but it's not like no one's ever thought of this before. Zywicki proposes a committee to "study" the matter, but we all know that that's the best way to punt on a difficult issue. A more serious take might go something like this: Colleges don't necessarily need fewer adjunct professors teaching. They need more of the good adjunct professors teaching, as well as the ability to pay those "good" adjunct professors their fair market value. As Daniel Davies once pointed out somewhere (I can't find the link), this isn't really a "teaching gets denigrated in favor of research" issue, it's a labor market issue, and one amenable, presumably, to some sort of market-based response.

So the cleverest solution to this problem gets my vote. And no fair saying we need to eliminate tenure and place a greater emphasis on student learning. As I said in the post below, there will be no wishing for everything and a pony today.

UPDATE: Interestingly, it seems that the "conservatives" at Dartmouth are much better organized due to their vast fraternity infrastructure. Why, it was just yesterday that I heard a political operative suggest that 4 million Gamma Delts stayed home on election day 2000...
-- Brad Plumer 8:41 PM || ||