Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Professors Grow Weary of Idea That Technology Can Save Higher Ed

U.S. News
December 12th, 2014

After a full day of teaching at Boston College, Karen Arnold had to find time to read her students’ contributions to an online discussion board. Each was required to write at least one post, and, as usual, they seemed to have waited to do it until the night before the deadline.
“They would just blather something,” said Arnold, who teaches higher education and educational administration. “They didn’t have a conversation. It was more like a hoop-jumping exercise.”
That was around 2008, and Arnold has avoided assigning online discussions ever since.
Like other faculty nationwide with memories of failed experiments such as these, she’s pushing back against the widespread notion that technology can necessarily improve teaching and cut costs.
“We are fooling ourselves that we’re getting more efficient,” she said.

Ruling Lets Work Email Be Used to Organize Unions

New York Times
December 11th, 2014


In a decision that could affect millions of workers across the country, the National Labor Relations Board ruled on Thursday that employers could not prohibit employees from using their company’s email to communicate and engage in union organizing on their own time.
The 3-to-2 ruling overturned a decision made in 2007, when Republicans held a majority on the board, that had forbidden such use of email.
Calling that ruling “clearly incorrect,” the current majority noted how technology had transformed daily habits. “The workplace is ‘uniquely appropriate’ and ‘the natural gathering place’ for such communications,” the board wrote, “and the use of email as a common form of workplace communication has expanded dramatically in recent years.”
The board did carve out an exception, saying that in special circumstances, employers might be able to create an overall ban on nonwork use of email if they could show it was necessary for productivity or discipline. The board said that as long as workers were allowed to send non-work-related emails, then employers could not bar the messages from being about union organizing.

Read more here

The ‘Job Market’ That Is Not One

The Chronicle of Higher Education
December 15th, 2014

This year marked the 25th anniversary of the most infamous academic-labor study of all time, "Prospects for the Faculty in Arts and Sciences." The study, led by William Bowen, then president of Princeton University, set itself the task of projecting "demand and supply" for faculty a full quarter-century into the future—forecasting the so-called job market right up into our present decade.
Contrary to the widespread knowledge of permanent retrenchment and adjunctification, the study projected that a huge "undersupply" of people holding doctoral degrees would manifest by 1997. However, nothing of the kind transpired. In reality, the perma-temping of the faculty continued on the same steeply upward trend line as before.
The Bowen study’s misreading of the future raises two questions. What was wrong with the assumptions guiding it? And why did an effort with so many flaws receive such an uncritical greeting? The answers remain surprisingly relevant.
- See more at: http://m.chronicle.com/article/The-Job-Market-That-Is/150841/#sthash.EByc2MUV.dpuf


This year marked the 25th anniversary of the most infamous academic-labor study of all time, "Prospects for the Faculty in Arts and Sciences." The study, led by William Bowen, then president of Princeton University, set itself the task of projecting "demand and supply" for faculty a full quarter-century into the future—forecasting the so-called job market right up into our present decade.
Contrary to the widespread knowledge of permanent retrenchment and adjunctification, the study projected that a huge "undersupply" of people holding doctoral degrees would manifest by 1997. However, nothing of the kind transpired. In reality, the perma-temping of the faculty continued on the same steeply upward trend line as before.
The Bowen study’s misreading of the future raises two questions. What was wrong with the assumptions guiding it? And why did an effort with so many flaws receive such an uncritical greeting? The answers remain surprisingly relevant.


'The History of American Higher Education'

Inside Higher Ed
December 16th, 2014

American higher education today looks nothing like it did a few generations ago, let alone at the founding of the country. A new book, The History of American Higher Education: Learning and Culture From the Founding to World War II (Princeton University Press), explores how colleges evolved. The author is Roger L. Geiger, who is distinguished professor of higher education at Pennsylvania State University. His previous books include Tapping the Riches of Science: Universities and the Promise of Economic Growth and Knowledge and Money: Research Universities and the Paradox of the Marketplace.
He responded via email to questions about his new book.

One Course Without Pay

Inside Higher Ed
December 16th, 2014

When it comes to first-year writing courses, how many sections are too many for one instructor to teach? Full-time, non-tenure-track faculty members at Arizona State University say five per semester, and they’re protesting their department’s plan to increase their teaching load to that number (up from four) each term, starting next fall. They say they’re worried the service work they’ll give up in exchange for the extra course won’t be taken up by tenure-line faculty, and that they won’t be able to give needy students the same level of attention.
In effect, the university has just increased instructors' teaching workload by 25 percent, without offering an extra dollar for the effort.
Faculty advocates agree that the planned course load is too much, and that it’s another example of an institution asking some of its most vulnerable faculty members to do more with less.
Arizona State, meanwhile, says the change is necessary to address a budget shortfall.

Optimizing adjuncts in higher ed

University Business
December 16th, 2014


Higher ed’s reliance on adjunct faculty, hardly a secret anymore, has gotten much scrutiny in the past few years.
Institutions of all types benefit from the fact that adjuncts—provided they don’t become eligible for health benefits by working more than 30 hours a week—can be employed for a fraction of the investment needed for full-time faculty. In fact, many schools now include a large contingent of part-time faculty as routine business practice.
The number of adjuncts employed nationwide has increased by more than 160 percent over the past two decades, according to the U.S. Department of Education. At the same time, colleges face growing concerns that the needs of adjuncts, as well as their potential to contribute more fully to student success, are being overlooked.

Fired Faculty Activist Settles Lawsuit Against Community College in Texas

The Chronicle of Higher Education
December 16th, 2014

A tenured professor who was fired from his job at the College of the Mainland after years of clashing with the administration has settled a lawsuit against the Texas institution, the Houston Chronicle reported. Neither side disclosed the terms of the settlement.
The professor, David Michael Smith, had accused the college of retaliating against him for filing two previous free-speech lawsuits and helping colleagues challenge the administration’s actions. The college said he had been dismissed for insubordination and for harassing his peers.
Mr. Smith told the newspaper he was “certain” there would be additional lawsuits unless the administration was more willing to work with employees and students. Beth Lewis, the college’s president, said there was “no merit” to Mr. Smith’s assertion that the administration did not tolerate dissent.

Faculty Leaders Try Their Hand at Running a College

The Chronicle of Higher Education
December 16th, 2014

Their relationships are often characterized by skepticism, mistrust, or, in the worst cases, outright antagonism.
The divide between administrators and professors is legendary in higher education, where the model of shared governance seems to fuel tensions as often as it resolves them.
Does some of the problem boil down to simple misunderstandings, or a lack of understanding? Could training help?
That’s the idea behind an annual institute for rising faculty leaders started by Richard A. Detweiler, president of the Great Lakes Colleges Association and president emeritus of Hartwick College. Over a weekend, more than two dozen professors from the 13 small private colleges that make up the association attend a workshop designed to educate them about how their institutions run and what it is like to lead them. Now in its ninth year, the Academic Leadership and Innovation Institute includes briefings about how various stakeholders, including students, donors, and trustees, view a college. The participants compare their colleges’ concerns. And they go through exercises designed to better their negotiation skills so they can help their colleagues back home find common ground, whether in departmental turf wars or institutionwide crises.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Big-Data Scientists Face Ethical Challenges After Facebook Study

The Chronicle of Higher Education
December 15th, 2014


Though it may not feel like it when you see the latest identity-affirming listicle shared by a friend on Facebook, we are a society moving toward evidence. Our world is ever more quantified, and with such data, flawed or not, the tools of science are more widely applied to our decisions. We can do more than observe our lives, the idea goes. We can experiment on them.
No group lives that ethos more than the life-hacking coders of Silicon Valley. Trading on Internet-wired products that allow continuous updates and monitoring, programmers test their software while we use it, comparing one algorithmic tweak against another—the A/B test, as it’s known. As we browse the web, we are exposed to endless manipulations. Many are banal—what font gets you to click more?—and some are not.

Union Advocates Applaud Recent NLRB Decisions

Inside Higher Ed
December 15th, 2014


Union advocates applauded two decisions by the National Labor Relations Board last week, one of which protects the right of employees using work email for union communications. The other decision revises rules for union elections and could shorten the union election process. In the first case, that of Purple Communications and Communications Workers of America, the board ruled that employees communicating with each other on work computers – but not on work time – are free to discuss union activity. The decision did not address communication with non-employees, however.
Aaron Nisenson, chief counsel for the American Association of University Professors, said via email that the decision as it pertains to higher education has particular relevance to faculty members, who frequently communicate via email. “The ability to use email to communicate is essential to faculty, particularly contingent faculty, who are often dispersed and may not be able to speak directly to each other regularly,” he added.

The Perils of a M/W/F Class

The Duck of Minerva
December 5th, 2014


Greetings, fellow Duck readers.  I realize I’ve been MIA this semester – DGS duties and ISA-Midwest stuff took too much of my non-research time.  Another factor in my absence, however: a Monday Wednesday Friday schedule. And, it sucked.[1]  Like large-tornado-near-my-hometown sucked.  Today marks the last Friday class of the semester – thank god.[2]  Even though I should be getting back to research this morning, I wanted to write a little bit about why I think 50 minute/3 day a week classes should be banned in our discipline.

  • Let’s take a lesson from the educators: longer class periods that do not meet as often have some advantages for climate and learning.
My significant other, who teaches middle school science, has taught in schools where class periods are 40, 50, and 90 minutes in length.  And, my SO’s preference is strongly for longer class periods.  This preference is in line with a lot of the peer-reviewed research on block scheduling (one of the ways where students have longer class periods that do not meet as often in secondary schools).  Zepeda and Mayers (2006) reviewed 58 previous academic studies on the issue and, although they find very inconsistent results across the studies, they do find that there were improvements in “student grade point averages” and “school climate” when students were on block schedules. Queen (2008)’s handbook  on the topic also reviews the academic literature with a positive take–away point for block scheduling. There are a lot of new dissertations on the topic, however, with very different results across disciplines.  Although I’m not an expert on the topic, the logic that longer class periods allow for more diversity in teaching techniques makes a lot of intuitive sense.

Yik Yak Take-Back

Inside Higher Ed
December 15th, 2014

In the stressful final days of a long and trying semester, Colgate University professors wanted to spread some love. To get the message across, they turned to a social media scene frequented by students but foreign to many professors.
They set out to take back Yik Yak by flooding the anonymous social media app with happy thoughts.
Yik Yak -- like the many “confessions websites” before it -- is associated with campus-specific hateful comments and cyber bullying.
“It started there, and we wanted to end it there,” said Eddie Watkins, an associate professor of biology at Colgate.
Racist comments on Yik Yak were responsible in part for tensions at Colgate in September that led a group of students to stage a multi-day sit-in to protest the university’s lack of diversity. Insulting -- and at times threatening -- comments reappeared on the app's Colgate page (and elsewhere) in recent weeks as people across the country have organized to protest grand jury decisions in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of police.

Spelman College Suspends Professorship Named for Bill Cosby

The Chronicle of Higher Education
December 15th, 2014

Colleges and universities with ties to Bill Cosby have in recent weeks been distancing themselves from the embattled comedian. On Sunday, Spelman College joined their ranks. The historically black women’s college released a statement saying it was suspending the endowed professorship named for Mr. Cosby and his wife. The short statement reads:
“The William and Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Endowed Professorship was established to bring positive attention and accomplished visiting scholars to Spelman College in order to enhance our intellectual, cultural, and creative life; however, the current context prevents us from continuing to meet these objectives fully. Consequently, we will suspend the program until such time that the original goals can again be met.”
The professorship was established with a $20-million gift from Mr. Cosby to the university in 1988. The comedian has been accused by at least 20 women of sexual assault.

Petition to reverse cuts drafted by AAUP member

The Free Press
December 10th, 2014


A petition has been published online representing the wishes of scholars and teachers all over the world to reverse the cuts and restart the process of addressing USM’s projected $16 million budget deficit. So far the petition has over 300 signatures on it.
This petition comes as a response to the recent sanction by the American Association of University Professors, that casts USM as an institution that blocks access to academic freedom. According to AAUP members like Howard Bunsis, an accounting professor from the University of Eastern Michigan, USM’s administration has violated guidelines that were set out in their statement of principles on academic freedom and tenure.
Bunsis also believes that the elimination of five academic programs and 50 faculty members was implemented as a way to raise money for the metropolitan rebranding instead of to combat the budget deficit. The petition letter states that the rationale behind the cuts should be questioned citing USM’s solid reserves, annual operating cash surpluses and a very high bond rating.
According to the signers of the petition, the term “metropolitan university” is just an ambiguous buzzword and USM may actually be in strong financial condition.

Board of Governors review University issues, AAUP-AFT stages protest at meeting

The Daily Targum
December 9th, 2014

The semester’s first Board of Governors meeting, held two months ago at Rutgers-Camden, was a quiet affair. Of the several rows of seats, only the first was filled.
At the semester’s second and final Board of Governors meeting, held Dec. 9 at Winants Hall on the College Avenue campus, members from the Rutgers chapter of the American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers shouted rally cries. Almost every seat was filled by a protester.
The AAUP-AFT members’ clamoring could be heard from outside Winants Hall: “What do we want?” they chanted. “Fair contracts. When do we want them? Now.”
The protestors toted large red and white signs displaying messages such as “President Barchi: Fair contracts now,” and “Rutgers works because we do: Bargain in good faith.”