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Electronic Design

How To Improve Our Universities: Or, The Tale Of Two Frauds

The United States has better graduate education than anywhere in the world, especially in science and engineering. But our undergraduates are the victims of two frauds.

One fraud is engineering professors' delegation of teaching to graduate student "teaching assistants" (TAs). Instead of table waiting, TAs teach to pay for their graduate school education. Any victim of this process knows that miserable teaching results.

The other fraud is the way that parents' and taxpayers' money is diverted. They intended to use it to pay for teaching their children. It extends, though, to cover professors' expenses for scientific research and publishing costs. Getting published helps only their own professional advancement in the engineering industry. But it contributes to the increasingly extortionate undergraduate tuition.

This misappropriation of public money applies primarily to state universities. In so-called private universities and colleges conditions vary, as does the amount of public money contributed. Still, my personal experience proves these violations occur in some private universities. Others concur.

Boards governing these institutions are responsible for stopping the frauds. If you or I assigned a technician to do a job for which we were paid, while we worked on a private enterprise, we would go to jail for fraud. Our universities take this practice for granted.

What should we do about it? We should pay teachers only for the teaching they actually do. It is acceptable for a professor to teach engineering only part time, but that professor's salary should be proportional to the hours he or she works. We must forbid that classes be taught by "teaching assistants."

Finally, we should clearly distinguish research budgets from teaching budgets. Universities that want to pay for scientific research should identify and fund it separately, not make undergraduates foot the bill. If a professor sells a grant to the federal government, then the grant should pay for that professor's time and the use of university facilities.

The faculties will squall bloody murder, but what's more important is that students will get the quality of engineering education for which we pay. We will finance only that education. Our communities too will benefit from that engineering instruction, which is why they pay for it.

That leads to the definition of treason:

Lenin said, "The capitalists will sell us the rope with which to hang them."For once he was right. Here we note some American sellers of hangman's rope:

  1. Our manufacturers of weapons, weapons materials, and weapons factories. Their managers have businesses to run, manufacturing and selling rope. They don't do foreign policy. Our State Department permits this.
  2. Our own armed forces. They teach our potential hangmen how to use the rope they buy from our manufacturers. Our State Department says they should.
  3. Our universities. They are businesses selling courses in science, engineering, and management. Potential hangmen are taught how to make their own rope.

Both state and private universities are called "not-for-profit" by the IRS. Creative accounting hides the large profits from these course sales. There also are grants and endowments from those grateful rope buyers.

The United States is the largest seller of hangman's rope in the entire world, both to probable friend and to probable foe. Business is business.

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