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Monday, December 19, 2016

Universities are, mostly, about teaching. Not that these guys seem to have noticed.

Erik Brynjolfsson and John Silberholz's " ‘Moneyball’ for Professors?" is one of the most appallingly bad pieces of analysis of academic processes I have ever read.  Read it yourself and then ask yourself what one word about the responsibilities (and time use) of university faculty is missing. 

I'll give you a hint, by reproducing the paragraph in which they talk about the weaknesses of their "model."

"Of course, we need to consider some of the limitations we encountered. While we are encouraged by our ability to better forecast future research success, other criteria need to be measured in tenure decisions. For example, the proposed models do not account for scholars’ service to their universities or their personalities — criteria that cannot be easily quantified. Tenure committees must rely on imprecise measures when evaluating candidates on these factors. The analysis has other limitations too, including the relatively small number of scholars in the data set and the focus on only one field."

You noticed, right?  The word "teaching" does not appear.  In fact nothing about faculty interactions with students seems to have found its way into their "model" or into their discussion.  Unless I missed it, the words "students" and "learning" do not appear. I almost want to scream at them, "What the hell do you think universities DO?"

I realize that they are writing about MIT-equivalent institutions, but Jesus Christ Almighty.  That's, what, 1%? 2%?, of the college and university faculty in the US?  And the faculty they are talking about are teaching what percentage of the undergraduate students in the US?  I am literally livid that two guys with their reputations are so blinkered about what academia really is, and so tone-deaf about how this will play with people who do not--I almost typed "teach" here--who do not conduct research at MIT, its peer institutions, and their wannabbes.  I am becoming incoherent with rage.


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