What should we ask Jonathan Rees about faculty autonomy

What is the future of faculty autonomy?Rees Jon

Tomorrow we’re discussing this topic with Jonathan Rees on the Future Trends Forum (RSVP or log in here).  Jon is a professor of history at Colorado State University Pueblo.  He also blogs at More or Less Bunk, and co-authored a new book, Education is Not An App (Routledge), which is the spur for our conversation tomorrow.

Rees Education is Not an App coverI plan on asking Jon about faculty autonomy in an age of educational technology and austerity policies.  What questions would you like us to ask professor Rees?  Write them in the comment box below!

From the book’s web page:

Education Is Not an App offers a bold and provocative analysis of the economic context within which educational technology is being implemented, not least the financial problems currently facing higher education institutions around the world. The book emphasizes the issue of control as being a key factor in whether educational technology is used for good purposes or bad purposes, arguing that technology has great potential if placed in caring hands.

Vanessa Vaile reminds us of Jon’s 2015 Academe blog post on “Workers Control in Academia.”   See if that stirs up additional questions.

Once again, here’s the link to RSVP or sign in.  And you can find back Future Trends Forum sessions here.

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10 Responses to What should we ask Jonathan Rees about faculty autonomy

  1. VanessaVaile says:

    Did you catch this very interesting thread? Not just Jonathan’s original but comments and conversation, including the branching one. https://twitter.com/jhrees/status/371644704535752705

    Maybe OT but still about higher ed structural issues. I wonder how he sees student debt as related to, playing into faculty and edtech.

    His co-author’s academic freedom and governance take is intriguing, https://www.aaup.org/JAF5/open-access-technology-shared-governance-academy%E2%80%99s-virtual-worlds#.V8brw00rJww

    That ship may have already sailed/sunk. Never did much for non-tenured anyway, hence Don Eron’s emphasis on academic freedom for NTT as a starting point. Would extending it make a stronger tool for faculty autonomy?

  2. brittongm says:

    Hi Bryan:

    We published Jon’s first book on a social history of refrigeration in America, Refrigeration Nation. (Jon is great.) If things slow down, ask him about iceboxes. Second, ask him why the hell didn’t he publish his higher ed book with Hopkins. He’s definitely slipping.

    All the best,


    Gregory Britton : Editorial Director : Johns Hopkins University Press
    2715 North Charles Street : Baltimore, MD 21218 : 410.516.6919
    http://www.press.jhu.edu : Twitter: @gmbritton

  3. emdalton says:

    I’d like you to ask him about this bit from http://moreorlessbunk.net/technology/i-dont-need-your-civil-war/ :

    “I understand the difference between engagement and watching videos all day. Ron Johnson doesn’t understand the difference. Unfortunately, an awful lot of college professors (the ones who rely primarily on lectures to convey the information that accompanies the skills of their respective disciplines) don’t understand the difference either. The issue here is not how best to use videos in instructional settings, this is actually a debate about what education is.

    Yes, I know that some lectures are better than others. Before I gave up lecturing entirely, I took great pains to engage with and watch the faces of the students in my audience. I once had a political science professor back in college who could only lecture staring up at the ceiling. It drove me crazy because I might as well not have been there at all. You could easily have replaced him with the poli-sci equivalent of a Ken Burns video. But, then again, the same thing is true of all us good lecturers too. In my case I think it would have hurt the quality of education in my classroom, but the sad truth is that people like Ron Johnson don’t care about educational quality.”

    Specifically, how does faculty autonomy interplay with the reality that many _faculty_ don’t care about educational quality? After all, it’s not what they are compensated for. How can faculty use their autonomy (to the extent that they have any) to make good decisions about using technology to teach if teaching isn’t their first priority? And to be fair, it’s not what their graduate programs probably prepared them to do, either. The doctoral program I’m currently in requires every PhD student to complete a course about ethics in research, but has no requirements whatsoever to learn about college teaching.

    Despite this, of course, there are many wonderful teachers among the faculty of colleges and universities, and many more who care enough to try to teach well despite their lack of preparation and compensation for good teaching. How can our academic system reward these folks without compromising faculty autonomy?

    • Terrific question, emdalton. Will do.

      • emdalton says:

        One more anecdote: A few years ago, a good friend of mine won a “Distinguished Teaching” award at the land-grant state university where we both worked. The following term he was up for tenure review. At first, they decided to postpone his review to see if a paper he had submitted to a journal was accepted, but even after that paper was accepted, they declined to approve him for tenure, and now he teaches somewhere else (and has tenure there). I think this sort of decision sends a pretty clear message. Those with tenure consider this “autonomy” because academics are the ones deciding who gets tenure in their departments, not administrators from different fields or politicians, donors, the church, etc. But if education is not an app, it is not a hobby to be practiced only in one’s spare time from one’s “real” research job, either. There was a time when “doctorate” meant specifically a license to teach, and not everyone in a field was considered qualified to do so, no matter how expert they might be in the practice….

      • What a sad and resonant story.
        I wonder how much emphasis that campus places on teaching when it advertises to prospective students.

    • VanessaVaile says:

      I’d expand the question and ask how much actual autonomy can faculty realistically expect — how to gain it and keep it without being brought up short for wandering off the reservation. This won’t be the same across the board for all categories of institutions either. In the case of lower division core courses, standardized testing is under serious consideration,

  4. I second emdalton’s question. It’s the thing that drove me out of higher ed, and I was at a supposed teaching institution. But no one there cared much about improving their teaching or better yet, learning outcomes. Instead, of course, they wanted (needed, even) to get research completed and published, which left little time for thinking about teaching.

    Also, I’d say, what does a world in which faculty are held accountable for other work besides research look like? Would you have a process to evaluate that? Would faculty be let go long before going up for review? Is there faculty autonomy now, really, if you’re in a publish and perish world?

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