Yes, I do work hard enough

Okay, maybe I actually spend too much time blogging (but, I suppose we could see that as “teaching” to a broader audience.  Or not).  Anyway, this Op-Ed in the Post arguing that too many college professors are overpaid for not enough teaching is just horrible.  Whatever academic experience David Levy has had it sure seems nothing like mine.  To wit:

Though faculty salaries now mirror those of most upper-middle-class Americans working 40 hours for 50 weeks, they continue to pay for teaching time of nine to 15 hours per week for 30 weeks, making possible a month-long winter break, a week off in the spring and a summer vacation from mid-May until September…

An executive who works a 40-hour week for 50 weeks puts in a minimum of 2,000 hours yearly. But faculty members teaching 12 to 15 hours per week for 30 weeks spend only 360 to 450 hours per year in the classroom. Even in the unlikely event that they devote an equal amount of time to grading and class preparation, their workload is still only 36 to 45 percent of that of non-academic professionals. [emphasis mine].  Yet they receive the same compensation.

This is so stupid on so many levels.  Fortunately, I came across this terrific rebuttal by Robert Farley.  I especially love that he uses that beloved frame of mine: lying or stupid:

Right; the reason for the increase in college tuition is “insufficient teaching schedules,” not the massive increase in administrative costs. This is helpful; we now know that David Levy is lying about cause and effect, and can adjust our expectations for the rest of the op-ed. This is aggravated by a second (obvious) fallacy; the “insufficient” teaching time is almost invariably made up for by cheap, temporary, low cost adjunct faculty, lecturers, and grad students. Having senior faculty double their teaching load wouldn’t have faculty costs; it would simply push out the very low cost workers we now hire to fix the “shortfall.”…

Okay, so two possibilities. The first is that Levy is too stupid or ignorant to appreciate that faculty positions at most private universities and “state colleges” do in fact include research requirements, and that salaries at institutions that don’t have a research requirement are considerably lower than those at research institutions. I’ll allow it’s possible that the man is either a moron, or is ignorant of the basic structure of the profession. The other (more likely) possibility is that he’s simply lying, and expects his audience to know nary a thing about the actual structure of faculty compensation in the United States.

As I understand it, my contract is fairly common for my field; 40% teaching, 40% research, 20% service. Do the math; this means that 60% of my job performance is evaluated on terms other than teaching. I’m at an R-1 university, but I’ve seen a lot of contracts at other schools that are similar, and at schools where the research load is less the teaching load is heavier. Indeed, at UK it’s not uncommon for non-tenure track Lecturer positions to include service and research requirements, above and beyond a much heavier teaching load…

In case you’re wondering, 12-15 hours per week is a 4:4 load or a 5:5 load; I have NEVER encountered anyone able to undertake such a load on less than fifty hours per week of actual work. Indeed, I’d guess closer to sixty hours. I simply cannot believe that Levy is ignorant of this; he’s just lying. He wants his readers to believe that an assumption of 1:1 inside-outside the classroom is standard, which is simply absurd, even if faculty do their best to ignore student e-mails and grade completely through scan tron. And it should be noted that research and service requirements are ON TOP OF THIS load.

Thank you Robert Farley!  I would’ve simply said the same things less thoroughly and less artfully.   Shame on the Post for publishing such crap.  (Then again, their Op-Ed page is the home of Krauthammer).

In a totally different vein, I also thought Ygelesias‘ take was interesting (mostly because I think he’s wrong):

The basic issue isn’t that professors are lazy, it’s that they’re workingunproductively. As you can see above, real output per employed person in the United States has skyrocketed over the decades even as annual hours worked per employed person has fallen.

That’s how you make progress, not by “working harder” but by working more productively. Journalists, for example, can write articles much more quickly in 2012 than was possible in 1962. It’s much easier to edit text on computer than on typewriter, it’s much faster to find phone numbers on the Internet than by flipping through paper books, it’s much easier to leave messages for people or see what calls you’ve missed, it’s possible to communicate with sources and colleagues via email and IM, you can look data up on FRED, and so forth. Professors have access to most of these same tools and they use them and relates technologies to conduct their research much more efficiently (looking up old articles on JSTOR instead of digging through a library, collaborating with coauthors in other cities over email) but they haven’t succeeded in becoming much more efficient at teaching.

Yglesias makes the error of equating “teaching” with time spent in the classroom.  In fact, all those great tools for making research easier also make time spent preparing for class more productive.  For example, in preparing my health care policy lecture recently, I took information from all sorts of great sources all over the internet and assembled them quickly in a compelling visual presentation.  I cannot even imaging doing something half as good in twice the time, pre-internet.   That said, the Levy Op-Ed is still horrible.

Plea Bargaining and originalism

Let’s just stick with this Supreme Court theme today as I want to mention a really nice post Kevin Drum wrote last week about the Supreme Court’s surprising and surprisingly good decision to hold that a defendant’s right to decent legal representation extends to plea bargains:

Conservative Supreme Court justices really, really hate the idea that we live in the 21st century:

Defendants in criminal cases have a constitutional right to a competent lawyer’s advice when deciding whether to accept a plea bargain, the Supreme Court ruled, providing a significant expansion of rights that could have a broad impact on the justice system.

“Ours for the most part is a system of pleas, not a system of trials,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said for the majority in a pair of 5-4 decisions. Noting that about 97% of federal convictions and 94% of state convictions result from guilty pleas, Kennedy wrote that “in today’s criminal justice system, the negotiation of a plea bargain, rather than the unfolding of a trial, is almost always the critical point for the defendant.”

The ruling drew a sharply worded dissent from Justice Antonin Scalia, who took the unusual step of expressing his disagreement in the courtroom….“Until today, no one has thought that there is a constitutional right to a plea bargain,” Scalia [said].

Well, there’s still no constitutional right to a plea bargain. It’s at the discretion of the prosecutor, the same as it’s always been. But Kennedy has this one right: in 1787, the “criminal prosecutions” mentioned in the Sixth Amendment were all jury trials. In 2012, virtually all criminal prosecutions are plea bargains. Like it or not, times have changed, and for the vast majority of defendants it’s the plea bargain that’s effectively their trial…

This case really seems to capture the bankruptcy of judicial originalism in a nutshell. Scalia and his fellow conservatives just can’t stand the idea that constitutional rights are necessarily going to evolve as the nature of society evolves. So they stamp their feet and pound their fists and insist that, by God, a trial is a trial even if only 3% of modern-day defendants ever actually get one. Their starry-eyed attachment to a gauzy vision of 18th-century virtue is puerile at best and actively malign at worst.

Couldn’t have said it better myself (actually quite sure of that, I love “puerile at best and actively malign at worst”).  Nice to see Kennedy on the right (i.e., left) side here.  I just really don’t get why so many conservatives seem so wedded to a “tough on crime” approach even in the face of actual injustice.  If you are offered a plea bargain and your attorney doesn’t even tell you about it, it’s pretty clear that you’ve not had competent representation.  That is, unless you live in Scalia’s world where there’s nice black and white clarity that all accused criminals are bad guys.  Once again, I utterly fail to see his much-purported judicial brilliance.

Photo of the day

Here I was thinking I didn’t have anything for today’s Photo of the Day when I stumbled across this NYT series on Russian girl soldiers:

And I even resisted the temptation of the gas mask photo (yes, there was one, but you kind of lose the cool aesthetic when you can’t tell they’re girls).

Politics and the SC Health Care decision

With the Supreme Court hearing oral arguments on health care reform this week, it is a great time to read Dahlia Lithwick’s great piece on how ultimately political this all is:

The first proposition is that the health care law is constitutional. The second is that the court could strike it down anyway. Linda Greenhouse makes the first point more eloquently than I can. That the law is constitutional is best illustrated by the fact that—until recently—the Obama administration expended almost no energy defending it. Back when the bill passed Nancy Pelosi famously reacted to questions about its constitutionality with the words, “Are you serious?” And the fact that the Obama administration rushed the case to the Supreme Court in an election year is all the evidence you need to understand that they remain confident in their prospects. The law is a completely valid exercise of Congress’ Commerce Clause power, and all the conservative longing for the good old days of the pre-New Deal courts won’t put us back in those days as if by magic. Nor does it amount to much of an argument.

So that brings us to the reallyinteresting question: Will the Court’s five conservatives strike it down regardless? That’s what we’re really talking about next week and that has almost nothing to do with law and everything to do with optics, politics, and public opinion. That means that Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion in theRaich medicinal marijuana case, and Chief Justice John Roberts’ and Anthony Kennedy’s opinions inComstock only get us so far. Despite the fact that reading the entrails of those opinions suggest that they’d contribute to an easy fifth, sixth, and seventh vote to uphold the individual mandate as a legitimate exercise of Congressional power, the real question isn’t whether those Justices will be bound by 70 years of precedent or their own prior writings on federal power. The only question is whether they will ignore it all to deprive the Obama of one of his signature accomplishments…

The challenges to Obama’s health care initiative didn’t begin in the conservative legal academy. They didn’t even really blossom in the conservative legal media or think tanks. The real energy of these challenges arose out of those Tea Party town halls throughout the summer of 2010, in response to a longing to return to constitutional values, states’ rights, and ideas of individual liberty that have been dead for almost a century. That isn’t to dismiss the validity of the passionate public opposition to this law, or even to denigrate the truly heroic efforts of Randy Barnett, the Cato Institute, or the millions of Americans who deeply believe that this is a case about liberty, broccoli, and the short hop from the individual mandate to federal tyranny. It’s simply to say that it’s no accident that these cases were filed by state attorneys general and governors swept up in political currents, willing to make novel arguments in the form of what was always a constitutional Hail Mary pass. It’s no accident that until the lower district courts started striking down the act, none of the challengers really believed that they could succeed. And it’s no accident thatthree of the most influential and well respected conservative jurists in the land have ruled that of course the law is constitutional, even if they hate it as a policy matter. It’s no accident, either, that Charles Fried, Reagan’s Solicitor General and Harvard conservative legend, said in an interview with Dan Rather Reports this week the case would be decided 8-1—in favor of the law. The conservative legal elites don’t believe in the merits of this challenge, even if the public does.

If someone hasn’t done it already I would love to see a comprehensive timeline of opposition to the ACA based on it’s constitutionality.  Lithwick certainly suggest that you weren’t seeing much till well after the law was passed.  That certainly jibes with my own recollections (but of course I’m not reading conservative legal blogs every day).  If this law was really so obviously unconstitutional how come the likes of George Will, Charles Krauthammer and presumably all of Fox News didn’t figure that out until well after the law was passed?

You may not like it, but if the government can regulate how much wheat you can grown for your own personal consumption (Wickard v. Filburn), they most certainly can levy a tax (I know, they keep on insisting it is a “penalty” for political reasons, but a “tax” by any other name…) if you fail to purchase health insurance.

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