Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Why Harvard Hates You

Jonathan Rees is on fire.

Using Springsteen's version of "John Henry" as a lead in, he explains how Harvard University is using MOOCs to kill off as many academic jobs as possible.  Here is a taste:

Exhibit A: After the speech I gave in Connecticut last Friday, a Harvard Ph.D. in the audience slipped me an article. It’s from their Arts and Sciences graduate college alumni magazine. The new issue isn’t available online yet so you’re just going to have to trust me here:
“Thanks to technologies like HarvardX, [Grad Students Wen Yu] and [Ian] Miller suspect, there may be fewer professors in the academy in the future, but they will be much better teachers.”
That last sentiment is so perverse, I’m going to have to take it up in a post all its own, but for now just let the total lack of compassion there sink in for a moment. Sure, we’re going to screw over a lot of other grad students, but we’ll be fine! We’re from Harvard! With respect to there being fewer professors in the future, you just know they’re getting that from somewhere.
Exhibit B comes from former Harvard dean Harry Lewis (who talked to that New Yorker reporter, but was not quoted extensively). In this blog post, he absolves his employer for all blame for MOOC-induced professorial unemployment:
In the case of MOOCs (or other ways of chunking online instruction), Harvard could impose burdensome licensing rules in an effort to protect the scholarly professionals elsewhere. (Just as the Wall Street Journal is now Online but hardly Open.) But of course UC would then utilize someone else’s product, resulting in lower quality instruction at UC, perhaps at a higher price. Would we at Harvard then sleep better, knowing that if any philosophers had been laid off in California, it was not because of OUR MOOC?
Someone else is going to destroy your jobs, he’s arguing, so why shouldn’t it be Harvard? “You’re going to die someday anyway, so why don’t I just shoot you now?

In other words, my fellow faculty members who teach at universities with precarious balance sheets (which therefore makes them ripe for “disruption”), Harvard hates you. Not content to be the richest of the rich, they want to get even richer by making your jobs no longer economically viable.

Read the entire post here.