Lazy, greedy academics?

Marc Coleman, of Newstalk radio, just recently invited me to appear on his radio show – unfortunately I had to decline as I was genuinely unavailable; but that’s maybe as well, because I am going to have to take him to task here.

In this last weekend’s Sunday Independent, he wrote an article in which he praised the response of private sector employees (but more particularly, his own response) to the economic crisis, and compared that unfavourably with what was going on in the public sector. He had a more specific target: academics in the university (which we won’t name here, but you can read it up) where he does some part-time teaching. He teaches 80 hours per year, he says, and gets paid a modest four figure sum for his troubles. But what about the people who have full-time jobs in the same college? Well, this apparently:

‘… Full-time lecturers elsewhere in [the college] who do less lecturing each year can earn salaries of €90,000 or higher. And some do no lecturing whatsoever (and the standard of their research is highly questionable).’

Okaaayyy. But it’s worse than that, much worse. While he slaves away at the academic coalface in this unrecognised way (except by the students, who love him to bits in their assessment), what do the college authorities (damn them) do? This:

‘Despite that, [that college] can drop my course in order to save money to fund the huge salaries of lecturers who need not do any lecturing, cannot get fired and who often spend three summer months of the year doing nothing.’

The trouble is that someone is bound to believe all this, and before you can say ‘HEA funding formula’ will be pressing for even greater cuts so that these layabout academics will be forced to relinquish their gold-plated BMWs and swimming pools and join the ‘real world’, wherever that is.

Of course I am not suggesting that nobody in the universities under-performs. I am not suggesting that academics should be protected from pay cuts at the current time. I am not suggesting we shouldn’t be accountable for the money we spend. But I am suggesting that the caricature painted in this article is rubbish. The overwhelming majority of university staff work very hard indeed, don’t abuse the system (any system), take few holidays and get no special benefits. And they are the people whose continuing hard work will be decisive – if we let it be that – in Ireland’s recovery.

Come on, Marc, maybe it’s time to stop dumping on academics and university staff.  Or if you must dump on them, do it with the facts. If you can.

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6 Comments on “Lazy, greedy academics?”

  1. Aoife Citizen Says:

    On a related note does anyone know how I can get a prescription for modafinil?

  2. Richard Says:

    Nothing like a recession to bring out the angry young men. Armed only with gross generalisations, a basket full of shoulder chips and the kind of false humility you only find behind the microphone at a U2 concert, brother Coleman is sticking it to those fat-cats in the public sector. Best keep your head down Ferdinand!

  3. kevin denny Says:

    Is this the same Marc Coleman who wrote a book about the economy c. 2007 called “The best is yet to come”? What does he teach, by the way, forecasting?

  4. Iainmacl Says:

    hah . what an interesting post to read just after I got in at 10pm after running another evening class. 8:30 am to 9pm today – 6 hours teaching and the rest meetings.

  5. Jacob Says:

    Yea and I’m sure that all the defenders of academics aren’t other academics. (I’m sure they don’t have any part whatsoever in our current crises considering their Puritan like work ethic.) HA!

    Funny how Mr. Coleman’s account of academics sounds exactly like what I experienced here in the United States at “one of the top 50 universities in the world”.

    You’ve got it all backward. There are certainly good professors, saintly ones even but the “overwhelming majority” don’t work a tenth as hard as the rest of us who make a third of what they do. That makes no sense and I’m extremely unsure whether 70-80% of them actually even contribute to any thing in any way. Nothing that I can think of besides perhaps a bit of value as some kind of “make-work” program, like how high school keeps kids off the streets and out of the workforce.

    What academics do is invaluable, but the “uneducated masses” have never been incapable of disposing of and replacing worthless academics with more useful ones. Beware. I know very few of you have encountered much authentic history, but this is one of those occurrences that has a way of repeating itself when a public utility has become so corrupt, decrepit and even malevolence towards any kind of critique of itself or outside help to make a change for the better (always vigilant union lawyers insure such ugly words are never heard by such refined ears).

    I think we’re swinging back around to one of those anti-technocrat eras that most of you probably aren’t even aware happened.


  6. Reblogged this on Ladylecturer and commented:
    Love this article…and unfortunately, Forbes magazine thinks our profession is the least stressful job of 2013. The reality of academics I wrote in my last blog entry.


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