Friday, May 18, 2007

Losing our faculties

Recently, the Zarqa Private University fired a group of 14 faculty members, including the deputy president to the IAF, Irhail Gharaibeh. The university says the move was made due to “restructuring”.

Actually, the restructuring started a couple of years ago, when a non-Islamist investor purchased control of the majority stake in the university, which had until then been controlled by the Islamists. This change in management meant change in the philosophy of the institution. Another reason why the university may have done this was to lower staff costs.

The main question, to me, is whether universities are similar to massage parlors, grocery stores or gas stations. Can institutions of higher learning be managed as any business? How can intellectual freedom, debate and research be fostered in a climate where faculty members can be dismissed at will? Gharaibeh asks these questions himself today. It goes without saying that ZPU was not exactly a hotbed of challenging debate and free thinking before the change in management.

But the question remains, and goes to the heart of what we perceive the function of a university to be. Do we want diploma mills?

Of course, public universities suffer from the opposite problem. The promotion and tenure system there allow for a lot of dead wood in their teaching staff, and it is impossible to fire even the most demonstrably incompetent and lazy faculty members. Universities have faculty members who have been in their service for over twenty years without obtaining tenure. Tenure decisions usually are made in five or six years in most universities in the west. Even when reaching the top academic rank of professor, many faculty members choose to sit back and do nothing. No supervision of graduate students, no grants and no research or publications. What can be done about them? Under current legislation, practically nothing.

So, we hang between two extremes, with private sector greed and abuse, and public sector mismanagement and complacency. Maybe the candidates to become university presidents might like to debate how to resolve this issue.



At 9:55 PM, Blogger Mohanned Al-arabiat said...

I think it all goes the "privilages" issue not to forget the "mowazi", the professor now teaches 5-8 lectures and has no time for research, knowing that most of our Ph.D holders get it just for the Dr. before the name, so research is not his goal, as soon as he gets the "Dr" then he/she stops the process of learning..I Think the reform should start by restructuring the admittance policy to our schools, then you can force Ph.D holders to produce a minimum amount of publishable quality research..
BTW I saw a picture of the "kholwat el taleem el 3ali" And I laughed, they are sitting behind a round table wearing suites ties with each of them having a plate infront of them!!If you want to be real take off the suites, wear jeans and shirts, start a brainstrming session!!

At 1:28 AM, Blogger Arrabi said...

It's all about the 'goal' of an organization, and how well it is run to achieve it.

Private Universities can be for 'benefit of the society' - an oyster of freedom of speech, progressive thinking, and creative ideas. Universities like Harvard, Stanford, CMU, etc... were made for excellence in education, and I think they have achieved that.

Other private universities are built for money: Phoenix University, City University, many community colleges, even the NY Institute of Technology... Those are created on a 'business model', where they charge good amounts of money for professional degrees, that supposedly will make even more money for their graduates.

I would think that Zarqa Private University is similar to the latter example. And unfortunately, if a university says that they want to make a profit... there's not much to discuss there in terms of 'humanity' of 'social factor'.

It is in their benefit to cut costs, and not to be 'involved in politics'. Stable environment is beneficial for most businesses.

At the same time, firing many professors at once is bad for the university's reputation.

I wish if one of the Jordanian Millionaires.. like Shoman or the many others in the US, would create a university similar to Rockefeller or Carnegie-Mellon-Univ with the goal of 'Educational Excellence'. Such a university, even if it starts with very few concentration fields, would make a big difference.

Putting laws to 'protect' professors from being 'fired'... unionizing the 'professorship' in jordan... I think is a plan for eternal mediocrity's

At 8:31 AM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Mohanned: These "professors" who are teaching 18 credit hours are happy to do it, because they get paid overtime. Many departments with this issue refuse to hire new faculty or to send people for scholarships because they don't want lower loads.

Mahammed: You are right in that private universities in Jordan follow the same model as the "universities" that send me spam to get my "Ph.D." based on "life experiences". Anybody who has been through the process of getting a Ph.D. through a credible university in the US knows that this is total nonsense. Unfortunately, as Mohanned says, people and more interested in the Dr title than the content that it supposed to convey.

At 12:20 AM, Blogger Arrabi said...

Salam Khalaf,
I wanted to discuss the Education draft-paper I wrote further. Do you think it's worth expanding? One of my greatest misgivings is that I'm not an education major - thus I know every little about education theory and proper references. Do you know a professor who might be willing to advise me on this paper (or work on a new mutual paper on the same subject, but with better fleshed-out ideas)?

At 12:22 AM, Blogger Arrabi said...

another question
do you have any recommendations on what to do next with it?

if you've written something like that, what else - besides putting it on your blog - would you do?

some has suggested translating it to arabic and sending it to some newspaper. not sure if this would work - and I'm sure it needs more work before it can be published or taken seriously.

your input would be great.
thanks ya Khalaf,

At 7:53 PM, Blogger programmer craig said...

I'm not sure why you talk about "diploma mills" when you discuss the idea of being able to dismiss incompetent professors? How about a professor who has been doing his utmost to indoctrinate his students with his own personal philosophy, year after year? That is OK? Isn't that worse than a "diploma mill"? In that case, not only are the students not learning the correct information, but they are being forced to learn the INCORRECT information.

Diploma mills are what we have now, in the US. In my opinion. I haven't met a recent college grad who was prepared to go to work in my field (software engineering) in at least 10 years. And it takes at least 6 months to humiliate the little fuckers enough that they lose their "I graduated from Stanford!" attitude. It's annoying. There needs to be a mandatory class right before graduation where they indoctrinate students with the notion that they may not actually know everything, after all :)

At 9:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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