Increasingly, faculty at for-profit colleges and universities (FPCUs) work without the protection of academic freedom that faculty at traditional colleges and universities deeply value, and this impacts the quality of instruction that students receive. Infringements on academic freedom at FPCUs include extreme monitoring, autocratic governance, and prescribed content with little to no tolerance for faculty input. When this happens, the role of faculty is reduced to content delivery and assessment, which undermines authentic teaching and learning.
Time and time again, FPCU faculty report that Program Directors are intrusive. Kevilina Burbank chronicled her teaching experience at a for-profit chain school that is now closed and recalls an uncomfortable monitoring experience with her former PD:
He walked with me to my first class of the term. I thought we were just chatting, but no; he came in, introduced himself as Dr. Smith, and just stood there at the front of the class. I looked at him with a sort of ‘What are you doing?’ look. He told me to just start teaching. I did. He came to a total of three classes that week. And he did the same thing. It seemed very strange to me, as though he was asserting some kind of control rather than observing.
Most educators would agree that this behavior is excessive and intimidating, and this is one reason why faculty members have to lead the fight to reform FPCUs, bring this issue to the public, and argue for best practices that lead to student success. Without meaningful access to academic freedom, faculty are silenced and students suffer the consequences.
Let’s not forget that FPCUs “seek to provide effective curricula in efficient time formats in order to turn a profit,”(1) but when schools are run like factories faculty autonomy is undermined and quality education is compromised. It’s imperative that faculty shine a light on the conflict of interest that exists when profit motives trump quality education at the expense of faculty and students.
When faculty come together to take action things will change for the better. It’s time to push back against schools that prioritize revenue over pay equity and working conditions that lead to student success. Together, FPCU faculty can raise standards and connect with faculty activists in the Faculty Forward Network who are fighting to reform higher education.
- For-Profit Colleges and Universities: Their Markets, Regulation, Performance, and Place in Higher Education. Stylus Publishing, 2010. Pg. 80.