The Court Is Now in Session: Professor Discourse on Student Attrition
This article presents the results of a discourse analysis of semi-structured interviews with professors from nine Russian universities. This analysis focuses on narratives of student attrition and its causes and reveals the generally accusatory nature of the professor discourse. All the narratives can be integrated and described in terms of the metaphor of the trial. In its most obvious form, the accusation that students are to blame for attrition is developed as a type of discourse that can be called prosecutorial, but it can also be developed in speeches resembling those made by defense attorneys and judges. These three types of discourse build figurative barriers between the university and professors, on the one hand, and students, on the other hand. These barriers encourage professors to feel uninvolved in student attrition. Not one of the three discourse types articulates the university's mission or problematizes the principles and goals of its activities. We suggest that the “bad student” discourse reflects some real problems associated with the massification of education and inevitable changes to the student body. An analysis of the professor discourse allows us to hypothesize that their response to these changes is limited to stating the problems and disassociating themselves from them. The construction of figurative barriers may result in professors' self-distancing not only from students, but also from the changes affecting the education system. Such self-distancing complicates the process of adapting to these changes and makes it difficult to control.