A new analysis of faculty productivity data from the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University-College Station argues that the institutions' employment practices resemble “a Himalayan trek, where indigenous Sherpas carry the heavy loads so Western tourists can simply enjoy the view.”
The author of the study is Rick O’Donnell, the controversial former adviser to the University of Texas System whose previous writings questioning the value of academic research helped ignite a debate about the future of the state’s higher education systems.
After settling with the UT System last month following a threat of a lawsuit over the terms of his abrupt termination, O’Donnell told The Texas Tribune that he intended to remain involved in that debate in Texas. Clearly, he means it.
In his analysis, O’Donnell divides faculty into five categories: “dodgers,” “coasters,” “sherpas,” “pioneers” and “stars.”
In this system, coasters have low teaching loads and very little externally funded research. Dodgers are the most extreme segment of coasters. Sherpas have high teaching loads and low research funding. Pioneers have the inverse of that. And stars have both high teaching loads and high levels of research funding.