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Texas A&M System grades faculty — by bottom line. An idea whose time has…oh, never mind

Vimal Patel, TheEagle.com [Bryan-College Station, Texas], Sept 1, 2010.

Frank Ashley felt the shifting winds several years ago: As state officials embarked on accountability measures for K-12 teachers, he said, he told his faculty colleagues that public sentiment would eventually demand such measures in higher education.

Now, Ashley, the vice chancellor for academic affairs for the A&M System, has been put in charge of creating such a measure that he says would help administrators and the public better understand who, from a financial standpoint, is pulling their weight.

A several-inches thick document in the possession of A&M System officials contains three key pieces of information for every single faculty member in the 11-university system: their salary, how much external research funding they received and how much money they generated from teaching.

The information will allow officials to add the funds generated by a faculty member for teaching and research and subtract that sum from the faculty member’s salary. When the document — essentially a profit-loss statement for faculty members — is complete, officials hope it will become an effective, lasting tool to help with informed decision-making.

“If you look at what people are saying out there — first of all, they want accountability,” Ashley said. “It’s something that we’re really not used to in higher education: For someone questioning whether we’re working hard, whether our students are learning. That accountability is going to be with us from now on.”

Peter Hugill, the head of the local chapter of a national faculty group, calls the measure simplistic and crude, and views it as an idea spawned from a conservative think tank in Austin that has advocated faculty accountability and has the support of Gov. Rick Perry and the A&M System Board of Regents.

“As being partly paid by the public purse, I believe we owe the public some degree of accountability — I don’t have a problem with that at all,” said Hugill, an A&M geography professor and local president of the American Association of University Professors. “What I have a problem with is silly measures.”

The project, tentatively called “The Texas A&M University System Academic and Financial Analysis,” will be presented to the A&M System Board of Regents, and, when complete, be available to the general public, officials have written in documents.

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