Prince George's faculty unhappy with customer-service badges
Community college professors don't always get the respect afforded to their counterparts at four-year universities.
That may explain why faculty at Prince George's Community College have not warmed to a campus-wide initiative that asks them to wear name badges and little white cards that ask, "Have we served you well?"
"It's the Walmartization of higher education," said Earl Yarington, an associate professor of English, venting in a summer 2010 issue of Academe, the journal of the American Association of University Professors.
The badges appeared in fall 2009, part of a new electronic system for identity and access on campus, according to college leaders.
At the time, a college committee was recommending "that we needed to be paying more attention to providing quality service to students," said Sandra Dunnington, vice president for academic affairs.
One idea was to clearly identify every college employee, so students and visitors would "know to whom they're speaking," she said.
Employees were encouraged to hang the new name tags around their necks, tucked within clear plastic sleeves along with a white card bearing the new customer-service slogan.
The question - Have we served you well? - is being posed by community colleges nationwide. The sector is re-assessing relationships with student-consumers, partly in response to rising competition from for-profit and online higher education alternatives.
(For what it is worth, the available evidence suggests that Prince George's Community College actually serves its students rather well. In a recent post, I published data on student engagement for several Washington-area community colleges from a respected national survey, and PGCC had the highest marks of them all.)
But for some on the Prince George's faculty, the new badges screamed big-box retailer.
"The language on the badges seemed to imply that education was a product," said Mike Gavin, an associate professor of English and president of the Faculty Organization at the Largo college, which serves about 20,500 for-credit students.
He hastened to add, "Many of those who do not wear the badges still believe that the motives of those who created them were genuine and good."
Gary Rhoades, general secretary of the national faculty organization, said the badges struck him as "more like a p.r. stunt than a serious investment in the conditions that would enhance student success. Students are not simply consumers or customers
who are being delivered a service, they are students, being educated."
In response to mounting complaints at the Prince George's school, someone in Human Resources issued an edict: aggrieved employees could simply remove the solicitous white cards. Tumult died down.
A year later, Dunnington and Gavin estimate perhaps half the faculty wear their badges and that some smaller number still carry the little white cards.
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Daniel de Vise
| January 10, 2011; 9:25 AM ET
Categories: Administration, Community Colleges, Labor, Marketing | Tags: PGCC faculty reject name badges, community college faculty badges, faculty reject nametags, professors protest wearing nametags
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