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Where Are Your Professors?

Where Are Your Professors?
September 20, 2010

To Bob Smith, provost at Texas Tech University, maintaining a public faculty directory is just one of those things universities do.

So it irks him to see many of the nation’s largest for-profit colleges operate without publishing faculty lists online or in print while public and private nonprofit institutions generally maintain directories listing the names, titles and contact information for full- and part-time faculty.

“There’s a certain amount of transparency that comes with listing who your faculty are; it looks like you’re hiding something if you won’t say who’s working for you,” he says, arguing that the issue raises questions about accountability for the for-profit sector and faculty at both for-profit and nonprofit colleges. “And it also makes it possible for faculty to moonlight without getting caught.”

Full-time faculty at his and other public institutions, he worries, are at once reaping the full benefits of those jobs while also teaching part-time at for-profit colleges, aided by the for-profits’ general practice of not publicizing faculty lists.

While Smith has for years wanted to better understand who teaches at for-profit colleges and what other jobs they hold, it wasn’t until this summer that he got an answer, of sorts, from administrators at two for-profit colleges. At a panel discussion held at a meeting of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities’ Council on Academic Affairs, he asked representatives from the University of Phoenix and the Art Institute of Portland whether any of their faculty also held full-time jobs at public colleges and universities.

While the Art Institute representative said that most of his faculty were full-time, Smith says the response from Adam Honea, Phoenix’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, was, “We hire a lot of your faculty,” referring to APLU institutions. Whether those faculty disclose their part-time jobs to their full-time employers, Honea said, was something Phoenix chooses to “leave … up to the individual,” Smith recalls. He asked Honea for Phoenix's faculty roster but, close to two months later, has not gotten it.

While faculty at most public universities are required to disclose their conflicts of interest and commitment – and often to get permission before teaching classes at other institutions – the opacity offered by many for-profits leaves room for faculty to skirt those requirements.

Don Langenberg, former chancellor of the University System of Maryland, says that administrators at nonprofit universities operate under the assumption that their full-time faculty are fully devoted to their jobs, unless authorized to consult with companies or government, or to do other outside work. “The general principle is that the primary commitment of a faculty member at a college or university is to that institution,” he says. “It doesn’t confine itself to X number of hours a day.”

Smith points to several studies estimating that faculty often put in upwards of 50 hours each week in full-time positions. “The for-profits say, ‘Teach a course for us, it’s 20-25 hours a week,’ but when you add that to a full-time faculty position you’re at 70 or 75 hours and dealing with someone who’s overworked,” he says. “It’s burnout mode, all for the sake of making a few thousand bucks for that course.”

That’s not how Smith wants Texas Tech faculty – or faculty at any public institution -- operating. “When faculty have a full-time position, there’s an expectation from students, parents, taxpayers that they’re fully committed to it,” he says, “not that they’re also working part-time for a for-profit and contributing to that company’s profits.” (Smith's concerns focus on full-time faculty and not adjuncts who may work at multiple institutions to make a living wage.)

As he gets access to for-profit faculty rosters, Smith is checking them against his own list of close to 1000 full-time faculty. “This is a serious moral issue as far as I’m concerned,” he says. “If across the country there are tens of thousands of full-time faculty teaching classes for for-profits, that’s a very significant strain of resources meant to be going to public education.”

This week, after being directed by Inside Higher Ed to some lists available online, Smith was able to identify a full-time faculty member and a full-time staff member who are both listed as teaching at a for-profit college owned by a publicly traded company. He has begun an investigation to learn more about the faculty member’s work for the for-profit. “The faculty member seems embarrassed about this,” he says, “and said he or she stopped teaching there after feeling guilty about it.”

Not all full-time faculty at public institutions have a problem with the practice.

John Radzilowski, an assistant professor of history at the University of Alaska Southeast, says he has permission from his institution to teach occasional courses for the American Public University System and is sure to keep the work separate. “I try not to mix the two,” he says. “I do my APUS stuff at home only. I have a different e-mail address and I’m doing it in what would be my personal time.”

While he can understand “a dean or provost having a problem with it, saying, 'My faculty aren’t paying attention,'” Radzilowski says he thinks the ability to handle a course for another institution varies from person to person. “Some people can do this better than others.”

To list or not to list

David Shulenburger, APLU’s vice president for academic affairs, who was at the meeting where Smith asked for Phoenix’s roster, says he is “troubled by the lack of transparency” on faculty and general academic operations demonstrated by most for-profits.

“There’s certainly a need for openness on their part, as there is on the part of all of higher education,” he says. “It seems to me if you’re going to argue that your education is of high quality, you ought to be able to tell the public who your faculty are.”

Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors, says it is “absurd, alienating, and educationally counterproductive to hide the names of the faculty members who teach at any institution, profit or nonprofit.” He adds: “Prospective students should know, and faculty members should know who their colleagues are and be able to communicate with them easily.”

Nonetheless, many for-profit colleges are reluctant to identify their faculty.

A Phoenix spokeswoman told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Texas Tech’s local newspaper, that many of its faculty are “employed by government agencies, corporations, nonprofits and academia, and share a passion for preparing our students to succeed in today’s rapidly evolving market place.”

In a statement to Inside Higher Ed, Ryan Rauzon, a spokesman for University of Phoenix parent company Apollo Group, did not answer questions about whether the institution would provide a faculty roster to Smith or to the general public or about the company’s policy on disclosing who it employs. "We believe colleges are best served by asking their own faculty members to disclose whether they teach at other schools or work at other jobs,” Rauzon says.

Administrators at nonprofit institutions, Langenberg says, “have taken it for granted that who’s on the faculty is a matter of public information” and that there’s “usually at least phonebook information available to the public about each faculty member.”

Not all for-profit colleges are quite as secretive as Phoenix with their faculty lists. The American Public University System’s website includes a list of part- and full-time faculty members by school, as well as biographies for some. DeVry University’s campus websites include lists of full-time faculty.

Argosy University, owned by Education Management Corporation, also the parent company of the Art Institutes, posted a list of full-time faculty on its website this summer. The company did not respond to multiple requests about whether the APLU meeting had anything to do with the decision to publish the list in time for this story.

While Apollo Group’s policy appears to be not to offer up a list of faculty to people outside the company, Mark Harrad, a spokesman for Kaplan Higher Education, says the company doesn’t have “a policy, just a practice rooted in logistics” guiding whether it maintains publicly accessible faculty lists online.

Kaplan University, he says, doesn’t have a public faculty directory because of “scale and continuity – there are more than 5,000 faculty – it would take a lot to keep that list up-to-date.” Kaplan’s Concord Law School, meanwhile, offers names and biographies for its full- and part-time faculty. “It’s basically a size issue, and they can do it because they’re much smaller.”

Not publishing a list of Kaplan faculty, Harrad says, “isn’t an attempt to hide from any other institution." Whether that argument will hold up under Smith's scrutiny remains to be seen.

 

 

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