Monday, July 25, 2016

How Much Can Unions Lift Adjuncts? CUNY Contract Fight Hinges on What’s Good Enough

The Chronicle of Higher Education
By Peter Schmidt
July 25, 2016

The City University of New York’s faculty members are divided over a tentative contract and a longstanding question: Just how much can adjunct instructors expect to gain by belonging to unions?

CUNY’s faculty union, the Professional Staff Congress, says part-time faculty members should celebrate the gains it has made on their behalf in a hard-fought labor agreement. But many part-time instructors and graduate assistants oppose ratification of the new contract, arguing that it represents more of a defeat than a victory.

The agreement, accepted by CUNY’s administration and board last month, would offer many of the university system’s part-time instructors both much more job security and access to health insurance that they previously lacked. It would not substantially increase their pay, however, and would do little to close gaps between their earnings and those of their full-time counterparts.

Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress, last week said her union had "secured an enormous defensive victory" by winning the new contract and the state’s pledge of funds to cover it, especially considering that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, at that point had proposed a steep cut in state support for the university system.

While acknowledging that her union’s leaders view the agreement as far from perfect, Ms. Bowen nonetheless argued that "it is strongly in members’ interest to ratify the contract," because otherwise the union risks losing whatever ground it has gained.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Talking Over the Racial Divide

The Chronicle of Higher Education
By Dan Berrett
July 14, 2016

The students started trying to understand one another by explaining the origins of their names, then conveying their cultural identity in three objects.

Mike, a sophomore criminal-justice major, said his Brazilian parents hoped his name would make him sound more American, "whatever that means," he added, smiling. He sat with his hands in his coat pockets and the zipper pulled up to his mouth on the first day of a course about race here at the University of Maryland, where the goal was to re-examine a lifetime of assumptions in two-hour shifts.

On the second day, Mike brought his objects in a Timberland box, from the boots he started wearing in North Newark, N.J., where lots of black and Hispanic kids did. The objects included a collection of press clippings about homicides in his neighborhood and a photograph of his 5-year-old nephew, Matthew, to help him remember his obligations back home.

Across from him sat Lindi, who grew up in Chevy Chase, Md., a wealthy suburb of Washington. She held up the bow hair clip she’d earned as captain of her high-school cheerleading team; a small box in the shape of Africa, because she had lived in South Africa for the first month of her life; and a Hamsa, a symbol to ward off evil spirits she got on a free trip to Israel for young Jews.
"I didn’t realize how much of a minority I was until I was in the majority," she said of the trip. Back in the United States, she said, she tried to eat out on Easter but found restaurants closed.

On seven Tuesdays this spring, The Chronicle watched as 14 students met in a course dedicated to discussing race, a perennial, at times explosive issue on campuses and across the country. Maryland offers the course as part of an effort to make students more proficient with difference — to help them have thorny conversations on uncomfortable topics, see the value of other people’s experiences, and gain some perspective on their own. At least, that’s the hope. But how potent a tool can talk be?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

As Free Textbooks Go Mainstream, Advocate Says Colleges Should Do More to Support Them

The Chronicle of Higher Education
By Goldie Blumenstyk
July 12, 2016

It’s been a big few weeks for the movement to replace commercial textbooks with free online materials, thanks to the sudden rise of something called the Zero Textbook Cost degree.

In June, 38 community colleges announced plans to make free online materials standard in every course in some degree programs as part of a new effort coordinated by Achieving the Dream. Just a few weeks later, Gov. Jerry Brown of California, a Democrat, signed a 2016-17 budget that includes $5 million for community colleges in the state to create their own ZTC degrees.

Hal Plotkin, a longtime advocate of open education resources, or OER, says the moves could eventually save students billions of dollars. As he argued in a recent commentary, California’s new ZTC program is "easily the most ambitious state-level effort to promote the use of OER in public higher education to date."

Yet while cheering both the California and Achieving the Dream initiatives, Mr. Plotkin, a senior open-policy fellow at Creative Commons USA, argues that college leaders could and should be doing far more to promote the use of free, openly licensed materials, to prevent publishers from treating students "like walking cash registers."

Monday, July 11, 2016

When College Students Need Food Pantries More Than Textbooks

The Atlantic
Emily Deruy
July 9, 2016

As a more racially and socioeconomically diverse body of students pursues college in the United States, schools find themselves responding to more requests to stock food pantries and hand out vouchers for supplies at campus bookstores.

Universities have different reasons for offering students emergency help when things go wrong unexpectedly. Some of them are humanitarian. But, as a new report from NASPA: Student Affairs Professionals in Higher Education points out, many colleges are creating emergency-aid programs in part to increase graduation rates, particularly among first-generation, low-income students, and students of color, who make up a growing number of college goers but often drop out at higher rates than their white and affluent peers.

NASPA looked at 523 schools across various sectors of the higher-education landscape—public and private, two-year and four-year colleges—surveying vice presidents for student affairs and financial-aid directors. While nearly 75 percent of respondents said their school had some sort of emergency-aid program, most also said that need outpaces resources, and few actually use data to figure out which students are most at risk of quitting, in part because they’re already overwhelmed by requests.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Student Activists Bring Demands to the Table. Not Everyone Leaves Satisfied.

The Chronicle of Higher Education
By Arielle Martinez
July 8, 2016

hen Patrick Elliott came to Claremont McKenna College last fall for his freshman year, tensions at the private liberal-arts institution were reaching a boiling point. In November protests over the college’s racial climate — including two hunger strikes — erupted on the campus, eventually leading to the resignation of the dean of students.
Those efforts "sparked a ton of conversation," said Mr. Elliott, a rising sophomore who is now chair of the diversity and inclusion board for the student government, the Associated Students of Claremont McKenna College. "It sparked a lot of dissent, but it provided CMC with the catalyst to have these conversations."

Mr. Elliott is a member of a steering committee for the college’s Personal and Social Responsibility Initiative. He and other students on the committee — which also has representatives from the faculty, staff, administration, and Board of Trustees — work with administrators to develop new diversity projects on the campus.

Now the administration is confronting the challenges of meeting student demands. While administrators stress the importance of compromise, patience, and careful planning, some students say there isn’t enough communication on what the college is doing to promote inclusivity.

Claremont McKenna is far from the only campus that is grappling with months-old student demands; dozens find themselves in similar situations. But the small Southern California campus was one of the first to begin responding to its students’ cries for better inclusivity. The slow negotiation that ensued illustrates just how difficult it will be for students and administrators across the country to satisfy everyone involved.

Friday, July 1, 2016

A New Argument for More Diverse Classrooms

The Chronicle of Higher Education
By Emily Deruy
July 1, 2016

Perhaps no U.S. education secretary has had more personal experience with the power America’s public-school system has to lift up students who have the odds stacked against them than John King. At least when it works as intended.

A Puerto Rican and African American whose parents had both passed away by the time he was 12, King has repeatedly credited New York public schools for saving his life and shaping its trajectory. King attended P.S. 276 in Canarsie and Mark Twain Junior High School in Coney Island, at the time both diverse schools that exposed him not only to high-quality curriculum, but to students and teachers from backgrounds and cultures wildly different from his own.

“As a kid, it gave me a sense of different cultural experiences that people had and different traditions that people had, and as a parent, that has been an important part of thinking about the schools for my daughters,” King said during an interview at his Washington, D.C., office.

On Friday, Secretary King will call on parents and teachers at the National PTA Convention in Orlando to create diverse schools where students of all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds have access to good teachers and learning opportunities like he did. “Like math and reading, like science, social studies, and the arts, diversity is no longer a luxury,” King will say. “It’s essential for helping our students get ready for the world they will encounter after high school and, increasingly, throughout their lives.”

Research has long suggested that all students benefit when they attend diverse schools. But many schools remain largely segregated and those that serve children of color tend to have less-experienced teachers, fewer advanced courses, and resources stretched thin. And while more than half of the nation’s students are now children of color, more than 80 percent of teachers are white, and the majority are female.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

AAUP Rethinks How It Fights Governing Boards

The Chronicle of Higher Education
By Peter Schmidt
June 28, 2016

When the nation’s leading defender of faculty rights decides to rebuke a college, its precise language may leave close observers scratching their heads. Why, for instance, did it vote this month to sanction the University of Iowa over its controversial presidential search, instead of the board, which it explicitly identified as the bad actor?

The answer: It has long believed it has no other choice.

The American Association of University Professors imposes a penalty known as "sanction" against colleges for violations of shared governance, but its bylaws preclude it from directing sanctions at governing boards, no matter how responsible they might be. It imposes a separate category of penalty, "censure," for violations of tenure or academic freedom. With censures it has the option of directing the rebuke at the board, but it almost always opts to censure the college itself if administrators have any culpability.

Experience has taught the association that governing boards will shrug off its warnings and reprimands unless they’re convinced that their actions will cause a college to suffer from being on the AAUP’s lists of censured or sanctioned institutions.

Recent developments, however, have prompted the AAUP to begin reconsidering how it challenges boards.

The weaknesses of its current approach came into focus at its annual meeting here this month. Top officials of the association bemoaned how it is struggling to fight off increasingly common board overreach in colleges’ affairs, and heard faculty leaders at the University of Iowa protest the AAUP’s sanction of that institution for the actions of a statewide governing board.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Something Strange Indeed

Inside Higher Ed
By George A. Nation III
June 27, 2016

In U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s 4 to 3 majority opinion in Fisher v. University of Texas, in which he upheld racial preferences in college admissions, he recalls that the court has said that enrolling a diverse student body “promotes cross-racial understanding, helps to break down racial stereotypes and enables students to better understand persons of different races.” Equally important, according to the court’s previous decisions, “student body diversity promotes learning outcomes and better prepares students for an increasingly diverse workforce and society.”

Unfortunately, Justice Kennedy’s decision significantly undermines the very goals the court hopes to achieve. Also unfortunate is that his memory is conveniently selective: he seems to have forgotten much of what he himself wrote in 2013’s Fisher I decision.

That’s a shame, because the country seemed ready to finally put an end to government discrimination on the basis of race and to have it start judging all people on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, as Martin Luther King Jr. admonished. The court has long suggested racial preferences in admissions were temporary, and in Fisher I, Justice Kennedy set the stage to finally end them. In that opinion, he wrote: “Judicial review must begin from the position that ‘any official action that treats a person differently on account of his race or ethnic origin is inherently suspect.’”

Thursday, June 23, 2016

3 Key Takeaways From the Supreme Court’s Decision on Race-Conscious Admissions

The Chronicle of Higher Education
By Andy Thomason
June 23, 2016

To many observers, the Supreme Court’s 4-to-3 decision on Thursday that upheld the use of race-conscious admissions at the University of Texas at Austin came as a surprise.

Even inside the court, it seems: “Something strange has happened,” wrote Justice Samuel A. Alito in the first line of his dissent, “since our prior decision in this case.” In 2013 the court ruled that a lower court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, had not applied enough scrutiny to Austin’s admissions program, and ordered it to revisit the case. The appeals court then effectively affirmed its prior decision. That judgment was appealed once again to the Supreme Court, which heard arguments in December.

Some Supreme Court cases were expected to deadlock after Justice Antonin Scalia, a vocal critic of affirmative action in admissions, died in February. But his death was not expected to alter the outcome of the Texas case because Justice Elena Kagan had recused herself. During her time as U.S. solicitor general, Justice Kagan had been involved with the Obama administration’s submission of a brief supporting the university. Her recusal left just seven justices to decide the case.

Many observers expected a 4-to-3 decision striking down the Texas policy, with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy serving as the swing vote. Instead, he wrote the majority opinion in the case, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, No. 14-981, which upheld the policy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Turmoil Raises Specter of Faculty Exodus From Public Colleges

The Chronicle of Higher Education
By Lee Gardner
June 19, 2016

State budget crunches and political turmoil have set off rumblings about a mass faculty exodus from public colleges in some states. High-profile defections stoke the rumors. But have professors really fled in droves?

It appears they haven’t. But the threat of departures has led to plenty of maneuvering behind the scenes, and to other consequences as well.

Many public colleges in Wisconsin, where legislators stripped tenure protection and $250 million in support, and in Illinois, where a state-budget impasse has left campuses in the lurch, didn’t lose substantially more faculty members to other institutions than in previous years.

But even if most professors are staying put, many have considered leaving. Some have quietly entered the job market, and others may soon follow. Meanwhile, universities elsewhere have escalated efforts to lure top scholars away from besieged competitors.

Faculty turnover is a fact of academic life, but the forces squeezing public colleges in several states make the jockeying for jobs a little more charged this time. Departures have further dimmed already low morale, even at prestigious flagships. And with budgets trimmed to the quick, especially at regional universities, the loss of professors who may not be replaced is felt deeply.

Monday, June 20, 2016

AAUP Rebukes Universities for Their Boards’ Actions

The Chronicle of Higher Education
By Peter Schmidt
June 19, 2016

Leaders of the American Association of University Professors described many of its members as under assault by neoliberal, bottom-line-focused college governing boards as the group voted on Saturday to denounce several institutions for trampling faculty rights.

"The attacks are not going to stop," Howard J. Bunsis, chairman of the AAUP’s Collective Bargaining Congress, warned here at the association’s annual conference. The threat to tenure, shared governance, and academic freedom, he said, "mostly comes from those boards of trustees who come from different worlds than we do," representing business interests rather than academe.

Frustration with boards’ disregard for AAUP guidelines was a common theme in several of the group’s votes to censure or sanction college administrations. Some of the association’s members voiced frustration that its bylaws require it to direct such votes at institutions rather than the boards that oversee them.

For example, in unanimously voting to censure the University of Missouri at Columbia for the firing of a controversial professor without adequate due process, the AAUP noted that she had been dismissed by the University of Missouri system’s Board of Curators, under pressure from state lawmakers. Similarly, in unanimously voting to sanction the University of Iowa for a lack of faculty involvement in its presidential search, the AAUP noted that its rebuke was "primarily directed against the Iowa Board of Regents," which picked the new president. The board also oversees Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa.

Distrust in the University of Illinois Board of Trustees prompted the AAUP to put the brakes on an effort to lift a censure imposed on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign last year over its treatment of Steven G. Salaita. Its decision to pull back came after Harry H. Hilton, president of the AAUP chapter on that campus, warned from home, in a statement relayed by an Illinois colleague, that lifting censure too quickly would remove any incentive for the trustees to adopt new faculty protections proposed by the campus’s University Senate.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Orlando’s Colleges Offer Solace in the Wake of Tragedy

The Chronicle of Higher Education By Beckie Supiano
June 14, 2016

Colleges in and near Orlando, Fla., have spent the past two days responding to the mass shooting that left 49 people dead and 53 wounded there over the weekend. Presidents released statements of condolence, while their campuses provided counseling services, organized blood drives, and planned memorials.

Many young adults were among the victims of the attack, which began at a gay nightclub at about 2 a.m. on Sunday morning. The city was still releasing their names on Monday, but several had been identified as college students in news reports, and at least one student’s death has been confirmed by his college.

As the victims’ names were released, the student-registration staff at Seminole State College cross-referenced them with those of the college’s students, said Mark R. Richardson, Seminole State’s communications manager. They found one match on Sunday: Luis S. Vielma, who was studying emergency medical services before he died in the attack.
The college has not yet planned a memorial for Mr. Vielma, but the student government or alumni association may organize one, Mr. Richardson said.

Representatives of several other area colleges said that they were also monitoring the list of names to find out if their students were among the deceased.

It may take some time for the colleges to determine just how many students, faculty, staff, and alumni were present during the shooting or lost a loved one in it. In the meantime, they are working to provide students with support, and also give them a chance to help by offering solidarity and donating blood.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Tragedy in Orlando

Inside Higher Ed
By Scott Jaschik
June 13, 2016

He was among many in academe thinking about the 50 victims of Sunday morning's mass murder at a gay club in Orlando. Only a minority have been identified, but they include two whom press reports have identified as students: Juan Ramon Guerrero, whose family members told the Associated Press that he recently started attending the University of Central Florida, and was very happy to be there; and Luis Vielma, who worked at Universal Orlando and whom The Orlando Sentinel reported was studying at Seminole State College of Florida and planned to become an EMT. Both Guerrero and Vielma were 22.

John Hitt, the University of Central Florida president, released a statement Sunday -- before victims started to be identified -- in which he described how "painful, frightening and infuriating" the attack on the club has been for many at the university, and how he expected many there to have connections to victims.

"In time, I expect we all will know someone affected. A friend. A sister. A partner. A co-worker. To the victims of this attack -- and their loved ones and friends -- I offer the sincere prayers and hopes of the entire UCF family," he wrote. "Earlier today, I extended to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer all of the university’s resources to help our community. To start, on Monday UCF will host a blood drive on campus. I hope you will join me there."

The university announced Sunday that it was providing additional counseling and police services in the wake of the shooting.