Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Wins Prestigious "Turkey at the Top" Award



MTSU faculty member Andy Smith discusses what it's like to be a college professor on food stamps.

It's kind of like an episode of The Wire where drug kingpin Marlo Stanfield puts out the word that his street dealers are going to have to work harder and keep less of the profit, and if they don't like it, screw 'em.

But in reality, it's the Tennessee Board of Regents' "New Business Model for Long Term Productivity Enhancement," dated Nov. 20, 2008.

And it's so galling that it's earned TBR chancellor Charlie Manning the 2008 "Turkey at the Top" award, bestowed by The Chronicle Review, a publication of The Chronicle of Higher Education.

To put it in perspective, Manning beat out University of Louisville Dean Robert Felner, who was indicted for conspiracy to commit fraud, money laundering and tax evasion, "in what the feds allege are repeated acts of embezzlement of grant monies amounting to over $2 million," according to the Chronicle Review's Marc Bousquet, associate professor of cultural studies and writing with new media at Santa Clara University. (Bousquet has a new book out, How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation.)

Here's just a sampling of Bousquet's high praise for Manning:

In the big picture of capital, Chuck Manning is just a low-level squeezer--the higher-ed equivalent of a regional manager for PepsiCo. The first half of the "opportunity" for higher-level squeezers and shareholders has already been realized, in the stabilization of finance-industry holdings and incomes. Chuck's job is to realize the other half of the opportunity--squeezing a few more nickels and dimes out of his already-on-food-stamps faculty, and further watering down the thin gruel he passes off as "higher education."

Bousquet cites some of the business model's more egregious proposals, which include requiring students to take a certain number of online courses en route to their bachelor's and associate's degrees, turning online learning into an entirely automated experience "with no direct support from a faculty member except oversight of testing and grading," and using  "advanced students" to teach "beginning students" (and building that requirement into curriculum and financial aid packages).

According to the business model, the policy structure suggested for the Regents is as follows:
The Board of Regents expects its campuses to be at least 15% more productive than the average of their peer institutions while both maintaining the salaries of faculty and staff at least at 95% of peer averages and equaling or exceeding peer averages in the quality of the educational experience provided to our students.
In other words, we're going to pay you 5% less than your peers and expect you to work 15% harder. How's that for incentive?

Bousquet sums it up this way:

But the reality is that if you're really experienced and qualified, teaching 10 courses a year for Chuck Manning nets you about 15 grand without benefits, or less than you'd make at Wal-mart. That's quite a bit less than half the $33,960 that the extremely useful Living Wage Calculator says is necessary to support one adult and one child in Knox County.

And with many of Tennessee's higher-ed faculty already on food stamps, maybe this does have the makings of a Wire episode.

UPDATE: Andy Smith has since left MTSU, and now teaches at Tennessee Tech. See comments below.

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