Q: When is faculty not faculty? A. When universities privatize teaching

BGSU (my august employer) is once again privatizing teaching.  This time, it’s flight instruction for the College of Technology’s aviation program.  In this case, a company call North Star will be building and maintaining facilities and doing flight instruction; BGSU faculty will continue the classroom functions, credentialing, etc.  There are the usual quotes from bigwigs about “strategic collaboration” and “increase enrollment.”  But there’s something fishy, too: the claim that “there is no change in faculty lines with this system.”  How can it be that BGSU will no longer be providing instruction, but there will be the same number of faculty lines?  By not admitting who is faculty, and who isn’t.Let’s start with an assumption that I hope will meet with general agreement: someone who teaches at a university or college is a faculty member.  Of course, there are many gradations: many administrators teach a course from time to time, some professionals teach one or two courses because of their particular expertise, and so on, whom we might not call faculty.  But if something walks like a duck faculty member and quacks like a duck faculty member, maybe it’s really a duck faculty member.

The reason why they’re not faculty members according to BGSU in this case is that, as with most privatization schemes, BGSU will outsource their jobs so that some private company can pay them less and skim the profit.  The BGSU Aviation Studies faculty & staff page (I’m attaching a screen shot of today’s) lists twelve flight instructors. Maybe BGSU prefers not to call these “faculty lines” to avert bad publicity, but BGSU has long had a tin ear when it comes to public relations of this sort, so I don’t think that’s it.  Rather, the key is that, according to acting College of Technology dean Venu Dasigi, “The only difference is that BGFC hires and pays the flight instructors, working in close collaboration with the University.”  In other words, fewer benefits, less job security, etc.

Why is that my assumption?  I’m happy to be proven wrong on this, but it’s hard to figure out how North Star would make a profit providing the same service as a non-profit (BGSU) without reducing costs.  Some of those costs might be in flight maintenance.  But most of those costs are in personnel.

Whatcha thinkin'?

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