Thursday, May 29, 2008

Professors Who Assign Their Own Books

The University of Utah has just come up with a policy passed by both the faculty and the administration that prohibits its faculty from collecting royalties if they assign their own books to the classes they are teaching. This policy is supposed to help assure students that s professor has assigned a book because it is the best in the field or covers a topic in a particularly important way, rather than because the prof. can make money from it. Utah Policy Would Restrict Profs' Royalties From Books - The Paper Trail (

During all my time in graduate school, only one professor ever assigned his own books to the class. I never suspected he was doing it for the royalties, but at the same time I never thought the books were particularly ground-breaking. One of my other graduate school professors argued against profs assigning their own books stating that you should be getting the professor's view on subject of the book from lectures/discussion and reading the books written by that same instructor did not expose students enough to varying viewpoints of a topic.

I probably lean toward the profs shouldn't assign their own books camp, but I don't think it is that much of an issues. I do, however, believe that the University of Utah's policy overlooks the fact that profs can make $$ off of their classes without assigning their own books. I remember several years ago a publisher offered some history faculty members around $1500 if they would 'review' a textbook and assign it to their classes so they could get student input as well. So even though the Utah policy cuts down the ability of profs to earn a little more money, at the same time it leaves untouched an entirely different method for profs to each cash off the backs of their students.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I'd Like to Exchange My Liberal Arts Degree for Something Useful

Just read a letter (probably fake - but still funny) from an Arizona State University alumni with a B.A. in English, who wanted either a refund for his defective product - which has failed to get him respect or a job - or wanted to exchange his B.A. for a useful degree like a B.S. in science or an MBA.

I quite often get asked what our history majors do with their degrees. Old stand-bys like: go into public history, teach h.s., go to graduate school or law school, work in media/journalism are easy enough to discuss. However, most of our graduates probably end up in the business world and they soon discover that they aren't so unique because many of their colleagues also have B.A. degrees.

In fact, my department chair just did a survey of Fortune 500 Companies and discovered that at least six of the Top 100 CEOs of had been a history major as an undergraduate. This far surpassed the number of humanities/social science majors represented in the study. So while I don't know exactly how useful a B.A. is in English, I think that the B.A. in history can provide a firm foundation for a career in many different areas of employment.

Here are the six Top CEOs with history majors:

Samuel Palmisano, IBM
John Mack, Morgan Stanley
Alan Lafley, Procter & Gamble
Richard Parsons, Time Warner
Kenneth Chenault, American Express
John Faraci, International Paper