Rutgers Faculty Opposes “Academic Inquiry”

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

Academics generally resist most attempts to invade their sanctum. Nevertheless, although they may share an elastic definition of “scholarship,” they do make legitimate points about arbitrary efforts to solve the often real crises in higher education.

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“Use of a proprietary database that purports to show the publications, citations, books and grants awarded to a professor provides far too limited a perspective on faculty achievement and creates the potential for career-ending errors, according to David M. Hughes, professor of anthropology and president of the faculty union AAUP-AFT at Rutgers,” Wright State University Professor Martin Kich reported last month on The Academe blog maintained by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). “The same data applied to academic disciplines could lead to poor decisions on programs available to students and should not be used, according to a resolution approved by the faculty of Arts and Sciences Monday, December 14.”

“Hughes and the rest of the School of Arts and Sciences faculty voted to approve a resolution and is calling on Rutgers management to exclude the use of data provider Academic Analytics ‘legally, explicitly, and comprehensively across the Rutgers system.’ Rutgers has been using the database since May 2013, paying $492,500 over four years for the service.” Kich does not mention how much Rutgers pays its faculty.

“Under the terms of the contract, faculty members do not have access to the data,” Kich observes. Arguably, they should.

“Hughes filed an open public records request to access his personal record in the system and found multiple mistakes,” Kich notes. “In addition to the potential for error, ‘The entirely quantitative approach conflates apples and oranges and runs roughshod over the nuanced peer judgment so characteristic of Academia thus far,’ said Hughes.”

“Professor of Latino and Hispanic Caribbean Studies and Comparative Literature Yolanda Martinez-San Miguel identified how Academic Analytics assesses publications in international venues, or rankings of scholarship in smaller, emerging fields, or interdisciplinary programs as a concern. ‘The faculty thinks that scholarship should be assessed by peers based on the quality of the content and not on the numerical value assigned to a particular journal in a particular field,’ she said. ‘Rutgers should have consulted its faculty before signing a contract with this company.’” Academics are accustomed to having such veto power: One could trace a multitude of the ills that afflict higher education to this academic privilege.

“Rutgers AAUP-AFT represents more than 6,600 faculty, including full-time faculty who are tenured, tenure-track, and non-tenure track (state- and grant-funded), graduate students who work as Teaching Assistants and Graduate Assistants, Part-Time Lecturers, Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) Counselors, Postdocs, and Winter Session and Summer Session Instructors,” Kich writes.