Baruch's great diversity robbery
Published: Monday, March 7, 2005
Updated: Sunday, February 15, 2009 02:02
In May 2002, The New York Times reported that Baruch had hired 20 new “rookie” professors (with plans to recruit 22 more) in an ambitious strategy to leapfrog Baruch into the U.S Top-25 business schools. With their elite-school pedigree, Baruch’s plan was to unleash their rookie greyhounds on a publication binge that would catapult the school into the Big Time. Once Baruch makes prime-time, alumni pride would blossom, headhunters would go gaga over our graduates, and Baruch’s coffers would spill over with donor gratitude. The Accountancy Department, the locomotive of the College, was to play a leading role in this Quest for Excellence.
Rookies don’t come cheap. Hiring rookies from Ivy League schools forces Baruch to super-size their salaries to more than double that paid to their own seasoned, tenured faculty. Super-sizing a single rookie over five years costs the college an extra $350,000. For 20 rookies it costs $7 million, and for 40 rookies it’s $14 million. These figures nearly double if we include the tax-levied salary and benefits. The burning question is: “Who in Baruch College is getting the bang for these Big Bucks?”
One bonus that rookies offer Baruch is more faculty diversity. In a previous article, I showed tenured accounting faculty to be overwhelmingly white and male (82%). Table 1 shows what happens if we add in the new untenured rookie faculty.
Not a pretty picture. But let’s look on the bright side. If every rookie made tenure, then this would help redress the absence of faculty diversity that confronts students in the classroom. A student’s chances of meeting a male would fall from 88 percent to 75 percent (but the chances of meeting a Black or a Hispanic remain the same as for meeting an Extraterrestrial).
Unfortunately, the chances of a rookie gaining tenure are remote (and so therefore is the likelihood of them buffing up the diversity shambles of the existing faculty). To get tenure, rookies need two big hit publications (plus a couple of minor publications) in the first four years of their tenure track. Not even seasoned tenured faculty publishes at that rate. The dirty secret (finessed at the rookies’ job interview) is that Baruch’s tenure track is much too short to give time for their publication eggs to hatch. The rookies are victims (not winners) in Baruch’s Top-25 game. Joining Baruch is like being awarded an expensive exploding cigar. At the end of four years, the cigar blows your head off.
The parlous state of College finances further compound rookie woes. Imprudent investing by the Baruch College Fund has downsized the nest egg and increased pressure to find savings. Super-sized rookies are fair game for cost savings (because ‘they are not publishing!’) If it isn’t the rookies who are making whoopee, who exactly is getting the bang for these tax-levied millions?
Perhaps the College itself is making the headlines with a flood of top-notch journal publications? Unfortunately this isn’t so. Not only are the rookies finding Baruch’s midget-tenure track too short to deliver, but Baruch is also discovering that the rookies are not the publishing Blue Bloods they thought they were. Baruch assumed hiring rookies from supervisors at ‘top’ schools would buy inside-track access to publishing in top-tier journals. But not all rookies are equal; especially when they step down to work at Baruch. A rookie that, in contrast, ‘steps-up’ to work at (say) Harvard can use her Harvard imprimatur to secure a top-draw co-authorship with her top-draw supervisor.
Well-connected top-draw supervisors won’t squander their big-hit publication chances by co-authoring with an ex-student now laboring at bottom-draw Baruch. Why risk losing valuable “Capital” by pitching with a Baruch rookie, when you could put your chips on the Cadillac with a logo from Harvard, Yale, or Chicago? The record speaks for itself. To date, no Baruch accounting rookie is even close to a “Two Big Hits” prize. As the Top-25 dream mutates into a nightmare, surely we must ask whose ox is being gored by pursuing this financial meltdown?
Perhaps rookies bring exceptional teaching talents to the classroom? Unfortunately not! Knowledge of accounting is absolutely irrelevant in recruiting at Baruch. The department has an entire drawerfull of job applications from excellent teachers (CPAs and PhDs). Most don’t even receive an acknowledgment of their job application. In one year, the department allowed five vacancies to remain unfilled because they couldn’t land a rookie (notwithstanding a full filing cabinet of applications from competent candidates).
The department prefers to brag that the quality of its student intake is now among the highest in CUNY. Yet CPA exam performance of Baruch students is one of the most dismal in the City. In 1993, 22 percent of Baruch’s first-time test takers were successful. Baruch topped the list of all six schools in the New York area. By 2001, the Baruch’s pass-rate had fallen to 8 percent and was bettered by Pace, Fordham, Queens and Brooklyn. If the quality of student intake is at an all-time high, and their output performance is disgraceful, where to put the blame? Are these horrendous results due to dumb students or dumb faculty?
The problem is that rookies aren’t hired to teach accounting. Their prime directive is to publish or perish. Rookies have little accounting training; their forte is research in market economics. At best, they arrive at Baruch after practice in teaching a couple of recitation classes in accounting. Rookies aren’t required to hold a CPA, and when released into a Baruch classroom, they are often just one chapter ahead of students. This, together with deliberate understaffing by the department, goes a long way to explain this miserable performance.