Friday, May 22, 2015

McNay Addresses Senate Higher Ed Subcommittee; Contact Your State Senator

OC-AAUP
May 22nd, 2015

 
On Wednesday, May 20, OCAAUP President John McNay delivered testimony to the Senate Finance Higher Education Subcommittee.

McNay expressed that faculty have grown weary of being scapegoated for driving up costs at Ohio's public colleges and universities. 

He told legislators that less than 24 percent of institutional operating budgets is spent on professors' salary and benefits, also known as "instructional compensation," and that instructional compensation actually has declined by over 4 percent over the last 10 years when adjusted for inflation.

"As college costs have continued to rise, faculty compensation has dipped below inflationary levels. Clearly, other factors need to be examined," he stated. 

College Students Are Not Customers

Slate Magazine
May 22nd, 2015


In what is apparently a vogue of Republican state legislators exercising misplaced vendettas against college professors, Iowa Sen. Mark Chelgren recently made headlines when he introduced Senate File 64, “an Act relating to the teaching effectiveness and employment of professors” at Iowa public institutions.
 Each year, the bill stipulates, any faculty who fails “to attain a minimum threshold of performance” based solely on student evaluations would be automatically fired regardless of rank or tenure. Lest you think that firing professors based on a questionable assessment metric affords them too much dignity, rest assured there is more. Some beleaguered governing body would also publish the names of the five professors with the lowest acceptable evaluations, and the student body would then “vote on the question of whether any of the five professors will be retained.”

Best Practice

Inside Higher Ed
May 20th, 2015


Yesterday, I participated in my university’s Best Practices Forum. My colleague and I presented at a session, I drank coffee and ate lunch with a mix of new and familiar faces, and folks far more powerful than us spoke to us about the importance of why we were there and what we might achieve. The tenor of the day was little different from that of many events at this time on the academic calendar. Folks come together over food and drink to celebrate past achievements and dream of future glory. In short, the Best Practices Forum felt quite a bit like a staff commencement ceremony. I even got a certificate and my photo with our provost at the end of the day.
One of our deans likes to say that community is something we “do.” I would argue that like playing the piano or learning a language, it takes practice. The season of awards, graduations, and retirement ceremonies always reminds me that such gatherings constitute a “best practice,” because we practice our best behavior when gathered for moments of mutual reflection and celebration. 

Jumping in the Deep End

Inside Higher Ed
May 22nd, 2015


Nearly six years ago, I wrote my first column for Inside Higher Ed, discussing the reasons behind my decision to step down as vice provost at the University of Texas at Austin. It was a difficult decision, but looking back at it now, I know I made the right one. Although it took longer than I expected to get promoted to full professor, I am very glad that I was able to finish my book and several other research projects. As I have written in this column, the last five years have been difficult on the family front, losing my mother and several other close family members.
It has also been a difficult time at the University of Texas, with budget cuts and political battles playing out in the pages of this news site and others. Given that I know many of the protagonists personally, it has been hard watching the damage that has been done to the university, and it is my hope that UT will be moving beyond the political battles and that the new president will be able to focus on moving the university forward.

A Professor Tries to Beat Back a News Spoof That Won’t Go Away

The Chronicle of Higher Education
May 23rd, 2015




The Internet rejects almost nothing posted on it. It is a repository of misrepresentations, lies, fabrications, and hoaxes — some of which inevitably target college professors. Just ask the historian Noel Ignatiev.
Ignatiev, a one-time steel worker and Marxist activist best known for his book How the Irish Became White, is currently on sabbatical from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. But according to certain corners of the Internet, he announced his retirement at the end of the semester back in 2013. And that’s just the start of an even taller tale: As a swan song for his career, the story goes, a letter to the school’s paper was not sufficient. Instead, he gave an explosive final lecture in which he called for the destruction of all white people and urged white men to commit suicide.
“If you are a white male, you don’t deserve to live,” he purportedly told students. “You are a cancer, you’re a disease. White males have never contributed anything positive to the world. They only murder, exploit and oppress non-whites.” He then moved on to even more inflammatory territory: “At least a white woman can have sex with a black man and make a brown baby, but what can a white male do? He’s good for nothing.”

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Bernie Sanders Wants to Make College Tuition Free. Here’s Why We Should Take Him Seriously.

Slate Magazine
May 21st, 2015


A couple of years ago, I wrote an article joking that the United States would never eliminate tuition at our public colleges unless Bernie Sanders "somehow leads a Latin American-style coup down Pennsylvania Avenue." Today, I feel the tiniest bit prescient. The socialist senator from Vermont and long-shot Democratic candidate for president just announced that he would introduce a bill designed to make state schools tuition-free for all, in part by passing a tax on financial transactions, including stock, bond, and derivatives trades. So, if he ever does get around to that government overthrow, we now know where the future of higher education lies.

Who Will Listen?

Inside Higher Ed
May 21st, 2015


For some students, Twitter isn't just a space to vent.
Students frustrated with the slow pace of administrative responses to issues on campus are taking more drastic measures, going public on social media or sharing their stories with members of the media before officials can present their own solutions. And while the publicity does create an image issue for the institution and sometimes gets results, officials say answers to students’ problems are often already in the works even before the issue becomes public and the added pressure doesn’t change their plans.
When nursing students at Hudson County Community College found themselves charged an extra $450 in April, they were outraged. The students, 90 percent of whom receive some form of financial aid, went to local New York news channel PIX 11, which in turn sent media requests to the college. Four days later, the college announced it would absorb the additional cost, attributing it to a billing error due to a computer glitch.

Widening Wealth Gap

Inside Higher Ed
May 21st, 2015


When Harvard University’s endowment fell by more than $10 billion during the 2008 financial crisis, it was a blow to the institution. But a lot of college presidents across the country considered the loss -- and the remaining $26 billion in Harvard’s endowment -- and thought that perhaps there were worse problems to have.
Harvard’s endowment has since rebounded. The university has cash and investments of nearly $43 billion, and is the wealthiest college in the country by more than $10 billion. Harvard is part of a prestigious pack of the 40 wealthiest universities in the country, which hold two-thirds of all the wealth among the 500 colleges rated by Moody's, which rates institutions that are financially sound enough to trade in public markets.

Bible-College Professor Leaves Job After Criticizing Church Over Sex Scandal

The Chronicle of Higher Education
May 21st, 2015

A professor at a small Bible college in Florissant, Mo., who has been a vocal critic of a local church’s handling of a sex-abuse scandal said the matter had prompted him to resign from his job at St. Louis Christian College, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
The professor, Douglas Lay, had been a member of the First Christian Church of Florissant, which has close ties to the college, according to the newspaper. He and others in the church’s congregation argued that church leaders had mishandled allegations against a former youth minister who pleaded guilty to charges of statutory sodomy.
In a letter to the college’s president, Mr. Lay said he was departing “in recognition of the difficult position this whole situation places you and the institution in.” The church’s pastor told the newspaper he had just learned of the resignation and had little knowledge of it.

Don’t Let Mean People Destroy Your Career

The Chronicle of Higher Education
May 21st, 2015



A professional organization on my campus recently offered me an opportunity that was hard to resist: the chance to speak to emerging leaders on the topic of my choice. I proposed the title “Don’t Let Mean People Destroy Your Career” and set to work crafting the “TED-like” talk they wanted.
I was excited about the topic because I have been both a target and an unwitting protector of mean people in recent years and I thought this would be an opportunity to think through some of the mistakes I have made in dealing with them.
I began my talk by listing some of the attributes of mean people. I noted how they tended to steal credit, talk trash, cut in line, hog resources, and intentionally give out misinformation. I described their propensity to criticize with vigor and abandon in order to demonstrate their superiority and everyone else’s unworthiness. I acknowledged that my list was incomplete but would suffice for the purposes of our discussion. I wanted to focus, not on what it’s like to be the target of mean acts but rather, on our responsibilities as leaders when we discover that we have a mean person reporting to us.

A professional organization on my campus recently offered me an opportunity that was hard to resist: the chance to speak to emerging leaders on the topic of my choice. I proposed the title “Don’t Let Mean People Destroy Your Career” and set to work crafting the “TED-like” talk they wanted.
I was excited about the topic because I have been both a target and an unwitting protector of mean people in recent years and I thought this would be an opportunity to think through some of the mistakes I have made in dealing with them.
I began my talk by listing some of the attributes of mean people. I noted how they tended to steal credit, talk trash, cut in line, hog resources, and intentionally give out misinformation. I described their propensity to criticize with vigor and abandon in order to demonstrate their superiority and everyone else’s unworthiness. I acknowledged that my list was incomplete but would suffice for the purposes of our discussion. I wanted to focus, not on what it’s like to be the target of mean acts but rather, on our responsibilities as leaders when we discover that we have a mean person reporting to us.
- See more at: https://chroniclevitae.com/news/1013-don-t-let-mean-people-destroy-your-career#sthash.CS5rUQ3M.dpuf

‘We Need to Take a Look at the Data’: How 2 Persistent Grad Students Upended a Blockbuster Study

The Chronicle of Higher Education
May 21st, 2015

This week David Broockman received his doctoral degree. He also helped persuade one of the most respected political scientists in the country to ask a prestigious academic journal to retract one of its most buzzed-about studies from last year.
The study, published in Science, purported to show that short conversations could change people’s opinions about same-sex marriage, and many leading news outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, wrote about it.

New Graduates Test the Promise of Competency-Based Education

The Chronicle of Higher Education
May 21st, 2015

After 19 years climbing the career ladder in Fort Worth’s city government, Jolene G. Applegate was stuck.
She had risen as high as acting manager but kept getting passed over for promotions. She knew why. Even though she’d earned 90 credits (at three different colleges), she didn’t have a credential to show for it. Without an associate or bachelor’s degree, she rarely got a second look from hiring managers.
"I couldn’t go as far as I wanted," she said, "because of that piece of paper."
Last year a newspaper article caught Ms. Applegate’s eye. It described a new bachelor’s-degree program at Texas A&M University at Commerce designed for people who’d racked up college credits but no degree. By that time, she had earned 120 credits and an associate degree, but with this program, even while holding down a job and juggling family commitments, she could keep going.

Professors Face Long Odds in Court Battles Over Speech Rights

The Chronicle of Higher Education
May 21st, 2015

Appeals to the principle of academic freedom may sway campus debates over speech, but college instructors might want to think twice before using them as the basis of lawsuits against their employers.
An analysis of 50 years’ worth of court rulings in faculty members’ First Amendment lawsuits against colleges has found that the instructors lost a solid majority of the time, and their prospects of winning declined as disputes dragged on into appeals courts.
Moreover, the study of more than 200 federal and state court decisions found, only a handful of court rulings hinged on the academic-freedom definitions and standards published by the American Association of University Professors and widely used by colleges. Being censured by the AAUP appeared to do little to make colleges vulnerable to First Amendment lawsuits.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Did an oil tycoon try to get researchers fired?

CBS Money Watch
May 20th, 2015


Here's a story that's shaking up the Oklahoma oil patch. Oil tycoon Harold Hamm pressured the University of Oklahoma to fire scientists that published research linking the more than 400-fold increase in earthquakes in the Sooner State to activity from the oil and natural gas industry, according to Bloomberg News. Officials in Oklahoma, however, claim that Hamm didn't act on his threat.
The Bloomberg story quotes from an email, obtained through an open public records act, that quotes Larry Grillot, the dean of the University of Oklahoma's Newbourne College of Earth and Energy, saying "Mr. Hamm is very upset at some of the earthquake reporting to the point that he would like to see select OGS (Oklahoma Geological Survey) staff dismissed." Hamm also indicated to Grillot that he was "would be very interested and would be willing to sit on your search committee" for a new director.
According to school officials, Grillot never forwarded Hamm's request to University of Oklahoma President David Boren, a former U.S. senator and governor who sits on the board of Continental Resources (CLR), the oil and gas company where Hamm is chairman and chief executive.

"Low Hanging Fruit" for Respecting Adjuncts

Inside Higher Ed
May 20th, 2015


A recently published study, “Supporting the Academic Majority: Policies and Practices Related to Part-Time Faculty’s Job Satisfaction,” revealed that while the vast majority of adjunct faculty suffer from underemployment, one of the things they most want is “respect.”
No one who has been an adjunct or involved with issues of adjunct labor was surprised by the findings. A career as full-time “contingent” as opposed to part-time “adjunct” faculty at four different schools, I know the experience of working with and without respect from the institution and the people within it, and it makes a significant difference.
While I firmly believe that converting more low-paying, part-time adjunct positions to decent-paying, full-time positions is quite probably the shot of penicillin that cures the problem of respect, failing that, over time I’ve come to see a few things as “low hanging fruit,” when it comes to demonstrating the respect that adjunct faculty want and deserve.