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Need opinions on Quant Finance Teaching Position

Ken Abbott

Managing Director
I seek the fourm's collective wisdom on a education-related matter.

In addition to working on Wall Street, I teach at three universities. One is a very highly-ranked private program at a university from which I have received two graduate degrees. The second is an up-and-coming program where I am treated extremely well and from which I have found several great new hires. The third is a state-sponsored program in an urban area. The students there are earnest, but often lack finance backgrounds and require "remedial" instruction on the institutional side. (NB: I'm not trying to be cagey on the names here, if you want to know, you can Google me and figure it out. I'd prefer peoples' responses not be based upon names.)

I enjoy teaching at all three. I don't do it for the money - it doesn't pay that well. I do it because I enjoy it. The third of the three programs I listed pays the least and requires a much greater time commitment (25%). It also is the most inconvenient, requiring my waiting for a late-night train to take me home. I asked them for a faculty parking spot and they refused. I asked again the next year and they refused again, citing policy. Notably, there are no public parking lots open when I would need to enter them (before 7AM), hence the need for access to a card-activated faculty lot. They found several pay lots nearby, but they're either a long walk from the train (which I'd have to take to and from NYC) or unreliable in terms of opening times. I regularly see empty spaces in the faculty lots.

I have learned three lessons from 25+ years of experience in the business. When you're sure you're in the right:

Don't bluff.
Don't negotiate.
Complain twice, then vote with your feet.

I've informed them of my decision not to teach there next year.
I work HARD on behalf of these students, teaching, providing career advice, and landing them interviews at my firm and at those of several friends. I think I deserve better treatment than what I'm getting, particularly because I'm not asking for more money, but simply for a parking space to make my life easier.

I don't think I'm asking for too much. Do you agree or am I being needlessly difficult?
 

Joy Pathak

Swaptionz
My parents have been in their academic life most of their lifetime with my father still a professor in finance/accounting. I have learnt a lot about departmental politics and treatment of adjunct professors whether they are PhD students or practitioners.

I could be very wrong about the university that you are talking about. I did not bother trying to track down which university you are talking about although I was able to make an educated guess from what I know. Majority of the universities out there from what I have been told usually treat the adjunct professors as second rate. This is fueled both by the tenured faculty and the administration. Most of them consider adjunct professors as educators who are 'need' the position rather than doing it for a pure educational reason. Due to this there is almost close to no benefits given to adjunct professors nor are many of their requests even looked at in detail.

Seems like you have tried quite a bit to get a parking pass. I would imagine it should NOT be hard to get a parking pass for an adjunct faculty. If this university was in the middle of New York City and if they HAD a parking lot and HAD empty spots I could imagine them being a bit resistant in giving up a spot, although I think with a little bit of pressure from the program directors and other administration it could be done.

That said, if administration is giving you a cold shoulder it is completely up to you to leave the program. If the program director is trying to get you a spot but it is purely and administrative decision with the director having no control then it is a different scenario as the students will have to suffer because of the administrations fault.

So from my opinion, I would say that if it is a purely administrative decision and the program director and his/her associates have tried their best and gone through all the routes to get you a spot and are completely exhausted now then I would think that is it unfair to students that their administration has caused a good professor to leave.It seems like these students out of the three require the most help and would be left a bit short without you. It would be fair though for you to still leave as your minimum requirements are not being met. You have taught there already and have contributed to the program in the time you were there so there would be nothing wrong.

If the director has shown no or not much support then I reckon you have made the right decision as it seems the program nor the university really cares about the students or their faculty.

You will be fulfilling your duties to education by teaching at the two universities that you will still be staying at.
 

DominiConnor

Quant Headhunter
What would happen if you just parked in the 'reserved' spots ?

I don't believe you're being 'difficult' since what you're asking for doesn't cost them anything.

The most arrogantly useless people that I encounter work in academic administration. Some are excellent working hard for little pay, but the average is wretched.

Contrary to what much of the public think, some bankers do real good in the world, and the 3rd program has the people who most benefit from your help, so I see your dilemma.

Given that you've decided to leave, it seems to me that some boundaries on your behaviour are removed.
Your post here is the basis for a good mail to be sent individually to the governors of the school itself. Since we are dealing with self-important morons blindly following 'policy', it is critical that you name names in your mail.

Also, I assume there is some sort of student newspaper or website staffed by students who will be really pissed at this situation, and would love to carry this story.

I would bet money that you aren't the only person they've jerked around, and a standard response of people with more power than brains is "you're the only one who complains".

I have to be straight that I expect that to fail, but you will have least hurt the position of these jobsworths, which might help them to be more reasonable in the future.

Since there are other programs, which help those who don't have our advantages, maybe you switch to one of those ?
 
if it is a university policy then you can't do anything. the problem is, if they give a parking spot to you then they have to give it to all adjunct professors
 

DominiConnor

Quant Headhunter
@Marina policies are not handed down by God. They are made.

Also, Ken should ask to see a copy of the policy, on paper.

Because 9/10 when some fatuous bureaucrat says "it's policy", the policy is rather different.

When they say "it's policy" what they actually mean is "I don't want to, and you aren't someone who will do anything for me".
 

bob

Faculty (Undercover)
It doesn't sound to me as though you're being difficult. Given the value you provide for the program, it seems perfectly reasonable to ask for a form of compensation that they can provide you without incurring additional cost.

More to the point, it sounds to me as though you take the welfare of the program's students more seriously than the administrators do. I've had occasion over the years to teach or train in situations like this, where the decision-makers' priorities are clearly skewed. On the one hand, my core impulse to help always led me to want to make the best of a bad situation and do whatever I could for the students and teachers who were stuck there.

In the end, though, I always found that the results were not exactly what I expected. To wit:
(1) Either actively or passively bad administrators usually find other ways to screw their students / teachers even if I'm there to close one particular channel for that behavior.
(2) Being involved with them puts you in the situation of having to defend or explain the bad behavior, and in some way makes you complicit in it.
(3) Helping to keep a bad system going can only delay the inevitable--and desirable--outcome that it either dies on the vine or comes to be cared for by new people who may turn out to be as passionate as you are about doing their jobs the right way.
 
Ken made his decision so it's water under the bridge now. Too bad it's the program's loss.
I have a feeling that Ken cares a lot about the students in that program and he feels a bit unease about his decision.
Ken obviously does not need me to tell him that this is all about business and it's not productive to work in an environment so constrained that one has to complain repeatedly.

One should not work in that circumstance even at a high-paying job, let alone in one that pay a symbolic amount of money. Many schools would pay their adjuncts a few thousand dollars per course, citing "university policy". Other programs would work around the system to pay substantivity more.

I met many "practitioners" teaching in various quant programs in NYC. It's often the case that the money they get paid for teaching is ridiculously little compared to at their day job.

Why do they do it then, you ask?

There are several reasons. At the risk of generalization, you can boil down the motivation of these practitioners into several groups.

One is to be associated with a brand name university. The schools know this as well. So you will see schools use this leverage to get people for a fraction of what they should be paying had they been less well-known names. You would see people come and go as if it's a revolving door. Judging by the amount of money each student pay these programs and pay these adjunct, it only makes sense that these people don't do it for the money aspect.

Another group of practitioners do it because they love interacting with the students and they help the program placing many students. These kind of practitioners keep coming back year after year because the students love them and the programs treat them like their valuable assets. Face it, you would be a fool to treat badly those that besides teaching, also hiring many of your students.

And then you have another group of practitioners who are alumni of the program or someone associated with the program trying to land a hand.

Like Bob mentioned, when you throw in the complex political system of academic, you have all kind of result, some turns out spectacularly bad for well known names or wonderfully good for others.

My personal judgment if a program is worth attending is that whether the administrator, the schools put their students' welfare or their interest first and foremost.

Some administrators will ask "what do I get if I do this", instead of "how do my students benefit if I do this". For many programs, the administrators gain nothing financially, politically, personally by making it better. It doesn't matter if their programs have 100 or 1000 applicants. The extra money goes to the coffer of the university without being channeled back to the programs so there is absolutely no incentive to improve your program for a fixed salary.

Are we surprised that this sounds just like the cold blood corp world? We should not. And for prospective students, this is not something they would expect to know.

As I said, this is how I personally judge a program, not by their acceptance rate, average salary, avg GRE but by their philosophy and how they treat their students and lecturers (by that extension, anyone that helps their program).

How do you know if a program cares about their students? Do the administrators put on extra work to get things done for their program? Do they spend after-office hours to email/call on your behalf? Are they willing to fight the school system on the program and your behalf? Are they spending most of their time promoting their own interest or yours?

Losing a valuable asset to the program over a parking lot is pathetic but this can be indication of deeper problems ahead.
 

billy d

Baruch MFE, Class '11
I feel that anyone in your shoes would have made the same decision. As a student representative of my class, I have to deal with many administrators that seem to over abuse the power their position gives them over other people. Of course, a student is a lot different than full-time faculty, but is a lot more similar to adjunct faculty, just because they think you need them not vice versa. They do not care to investigate or simply ask what value do you or your teaching adds to the school and treat you as if they do not want you. Most of the times, it is because they do not want to get out of their way to help anybody unless they know them very well. They just want to do the least possible work, or at least that is the sense they give. Sometimes they make me feel that these people are hired based on that characteristic.

Is there a solution? I believe Ken you have realized that at the school or schools where you will be teaching next year, there is somebody that you could always go to and he/she will always be willing to help at anytime especially with something so reasonable which is of zero cost to the department or school. In this case you can avoid speaking directly to the administrators and you are more likely to be treated as you deserve.

It is said, that you need to lose somebody, in order to appreciate his/her value. This saying might apply to their situation.

Last but not least, you now get to invest more time and effort in your other students and your family:)
 
In my former life, I taught in an Engineering certificate course, so I have experienced the joy of teaching to eager souls and the hardship of dealing with unreasonable admin staff....

The "policy" issue may or may not be a true cause...sometimes it only needs a bit of extra work to arrange something, but the staff are not willing to move their....

Anyways, I do believe policies are there for some reason, HOWEVER, there is always some leeway for maneuvering around any given policy...I guess (but maybe I am wrong) most full-time faculty members work on kinda 9-5 time frame...given the after hour working time for practitioner adjunct instructors, it should be possible to "allow" (even if not officially allocate) parking in faculty spots...It shows a level of respect for those who contribute to the school as Ken does. When they do not recognize the value of their adjunct faculty (or even full time faculty for that matter), it is their loss as people walk away.

Therefore, IMO, the decision is very sensible and I am sure there always will be other teaching opportunities with more amenable circumstances.
 

DominiConnor

Quant Headhunter
AlgoCan raises a most important point.
I'm a student of why people quit their jobs, and lack of Respect is one of the most common core motivations for saying enough is enough.

Respect can of course be expressed through money, and I'm no so naive to say this doesn't matter.

But actually low money is typically a symptom of a lack of respect. Some outfits don't have much cash of course, but if we look at ratios rather than absolute amounts, we see that the head of a firm or state owned body that says it can't pay people well earns a larger ratio compared to the average worker than (say) Goldmans or BP.

At many places of education the area reserved for administrators is a much nicer environment that that of anyone who does something useful.
My old school is not immune.
It is set in one of the most deprived areas of Europe, but is also right next to the financial district, so the government thought it would be a good place to site their regional hub to help smart poor kids progress academically. The mindless scum who my school set to this task found answering the phones to be to too much effort, and email to be as easy as building their own warp drive. It took 18 months for me to get hold of them, using resources that varied from escalating it to the government department, and in one instance getting someone to periodically knock on their door to see if the damned bimbo in charge actually visited her office.
Their (our) head of alumni relations explained to me why she was flatly refusing to help in my alumni events that I now run, apparently she "doesn't like talking to people".
 
I always find it ridiculous that in academia people are proud to be bad at administration. I remember a PhD interview once where it took me weeks to get an interview with the guy and when I finally did he said "You need to send me an official application etc.", to which I replied I already had, and then he said "Oh it's probably in this big pile of forms here then" and pointed to a foot high pile of PhD applications and then remarked "I'm pretty bad at looking at these forms, haha" as if it was something to be pleased about. What people in academia don't realise (and that those in the real world do) is that success in life is about getting things done, and in academia I've often found the mentality to be the complete opposite - if at all possible, do nothing. Good riddance to them, you don't owe them anything, and they clearly don't care enough about you or your time. There is charity and then there's taking the piss, and in my opinion they're doing the latter. Leave with a clear conscience.
 
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