Saturday, May 20, 2006

Remaining Employed in Higher Education

Background: The West

The Major Institutions of Higher Education

Go to a major university such as Oxbridge or a wealthy US university, and all the permanent staff are famous in their fields. I was visiting Oxbridge once, and was told that one obscure looking professor was one of the world's foremost experts on knots. Not knowing anything about knots myself, I hadn't heard of him, but I understand that everyone who is up in knots has.

At a major state university in the US, I saw two professors playing bluegrass music, and was told they are two of the world's top quantum mechanics. All the quantum owners whose quanta are them giving trouble know that they can't go wrong letting one (or both) of these two look under the bonnet.

Type any of their names into Google (or into the library list of scientific publications) and a long list comes out, not just of what they've written, but of all the people who have used what they've written as the basis of further scientific research.
The Minor Institutions of Higher Education

But, as one goes down from the top universities, they have the same charter, but not the same staff. No one has ever heard of any of their faculty, since any faculty that acheive fame are approached by one of the top universities and offered a huge pay rise and a top quality laboratory (or First Folio, or Gutenberg, or Michelangelo, or original Bach manuscripts, or whatever the faculty is famous in) to work with. So, at the end of a brief probation, the Dean has to say that half his probationers are world famous in their fields, with a huge list of well known publications, and that the other half aren't. How the Dean decides isn't clear, but the ones not declared famous are fired, even though no one has heard any less of them than of the ones declared famous. The 'long list of well known publications' must remain classified, part of the employement record that must be respected under the employees right to privacy. Strangely, looking in Google or the library list of scientific publications, one can't find any of these 'famous' faculty. For the probationary faculty, the system makes for an exciting probationary period at the second (and third) tier institutions of higher education.

Introducing the Western System in the UAE

A Dubai institution called all its faculty in last January and announced that they would be adopting the Western (third tier) model: any faculty members not world famous by this June would be dismissed (or at least have their pay docked by a third). So Fahad called me and asked me to write an article with his name on it, get it published in a famous scientific journal, and send him the acceptance letter. Like the 'Phantom of the Opera,' I would do all the work but get no credit for the article. Fahad, unfortunately, didn't have any time to work with me on this: I would get paid for the work, and he would get famous.

I have written more than 20 scientific articles in my life, only they (almost) all got rejected. How Fahad expected me to make him famous by this June, I do not know, nor did he say how much he was willing to pay (about the same as they paid the 'Phantom of the Scientific Paper,' in the novel, not adjusted for inflation, I imagine).

Fahad's Dean kept calling him saying, 'I need to see the acceptance letter from some famous scientific journal. Or else.' And Fahad kept calling me.

Only I had my own deadline two weeks ago, and if I missed it, I wouldn't get paid. Then I had a terrible cold. Once the deadline was met and the cold in remission, I tried to call Fahad and offer to help, but he wouldn't answer if he saw it was me calling.

So I called Majid, a friend of Fahad, and said I could help now. Majid had offered to help Fahad when I said I couldn't, but when he found out what Fahad wanted, he respectfully declined. I suggested to Majid that just he and I should get together, without Fahad.

About 10:00 p.m. that same night, Fahad called and said he wanted to get together if it wasn't too late. I was in pajamas, so I said, 'I'm afraid it's too late tonight, perhaps another night.' 'But Majid is here, and so is everyone else. We'd really like you to come.'

I declined.

Then Farook called. Apparently, Farook was with them all at Fahad's. Farook had tried to get the group to buy a property (not for sale to foreigners, only to Citizens), and they had insisted I join them in at least looking at the property, but I had refused. Farook and Fahad still want me to invest in the property, they're both convinced I can be persuaded. Farook said he'd call later this week and we'd get together.

Since I have no further deadlines at this point, the week might prove interesting.


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