Friday, September 4, 2015

“I Wanted to Give Them Something to Hide Behind”

Slate
September 4th, 2015


The sentiment behind artist and adjunct professor Dushko Petrovich’s new venture Adjunct Commuter Weekly is that the hundreds of thousands of part-time professors who commute between multiple campuses to make ends meet are a prime demographic for their own niche publication. It’s a need currently unfulfilled (in this former adjunct’s humble opinion) by any mainstream publications, partly because discussion of adjunct issues is often quickly overtaken by realpolitik talk about supply and demand and aggrieved tenureds who want to redirect the conversation to their perspective.
Adjunct Commuter Weekly began as a Kickstarter venture, bringing in enough money for Petrovich—who currently lives in Brooklyn and commutes to teach in New Haven, Providence, and Boston—to produce an entire debut issue in print: How vintage! He’s now re-launched the publication online as ACW, a Web magazine where adjuncts will find news, opinion, sample syllabi, interviews, memoir-essays, poetry, and even recipes, all produced to serve the commuting adjunct specifically, and all created by commuting adjunct professors. The website is also a multimedia affair, soon to feature podcasts about adjunct issues (recorded from Petrovich’s “office”; i.e., his car), and an ingeniously useful ride-sharing app.

Unpopular Pick

Inside Higher Ed
September 4th, 2015


Come November, the University of Iowa will have a businessman with little experience in academe at its helm -- and many faculty members and others in Iowa City aren’t happy about it.
The Iowa Board of Regents on Thursday unanimously appointed former IBM senior vice president Bruce Harreld as Iowa’s next president, despite outspoken criticism of Harreld as lacking the necessary qualifications to lead a university.
Harreld was one of four publicly announced finalists for the position and the only one without experience in higher education administration. He is a consultant who formerly worked as an executive at IBM, Kraft General Foods and Boston Market Company restaurants. His higher education experience is limited to eight years as an adjunct business professor at Harvard University and Northwestern University.

How the U. of Missouri Became a Hotbed for Graduate-Student Activism

The Chronicle of Higher Education
September 4th, 2015

On a recent Sunday evening, nine graduate students at the University of Missouri at Columbia met in a cramped room on the third floor of Ellis Library. They were leaders of the newly formed Forum on Graduate Rights, and after two weeks of organizing protests and jousting with the administration over the working conditions of graduate students, they were catching their breath and plotting their next steps.
The forum came together last month, somewhat spontaneously, to fight a university move to cut health-insurance subsidies for graduate students. In the wake of a public outcry, the administration reversed the decision, if only temporarily, and now the forum and other graduate students are figuring out how to turn the newfound grass-roots activism on the campus into a sustained campaign. Their goal: Make graduate-student needs a top priority for Missouri administrators.
They argue that the university has long neglected them and cite a list of complaints: the closing of a child-care center, the elimination of student housing, and low Ph.D. stipends. They argue, for example, that the minimum stipend, of about $12,000 a year for a graduate assistant fellowship, is far from adequate and falls below what most major research universities offer.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Administration Vacation

The Chronicle of Higher Education
September 2nd, 2015

Although the higher education landscape offers an endless stream of issues to worry about — budgets, enrollments, degree completion, adjunctification — nothing in the current climate worries me more than the seemingly unbreachable chasm between many faculty and administrators.
That breach is so well known that it seems to require no explication or explanation, and can just be referred to in quick throwaway stereotypes: Administrators are soulless robots, faculty are entitled divas. Each side blames the other for being too pushy, too obstructionist, and too damned expensive.
There’s plenty to be said about the 40-year history of how we got to this place, and the news does not lack for examples of (yes) bad administrators and (yes) problem professors. But the fact is, we are now a house divided. What many campuses could use, it seems to me, immediately and practically, is a program that introduces faculty members to the real work of administration (which is significantly less soulless than some faculty envision) and the individual humans that conduct that work (read about one such program here). Similarly, we need a program that puts administrators, at least occasionally, in the role of faculty — not just observing and evaluating teaching (which is comparatively easy), but themselves engaging in the labor that they’d purport to manage and judge.

Fixing Grad School

Inside Higher Ed
September 3rd, 2015


Talk about graduate school being broken is beginning to sound like a broken record: Yes, it’s too focused on preparing students to become the tenure-track professors that populate academe’s endangered species list. Yes, the better part of a decade is probably too long to spend as an apprentice, forgoing a living wage and likely accruing debt. And yes, too many people never finish.
So now what?
 Get to the root of the problem and work upward, argues Leonard Cassuto, a professor of English at Fordham University, in his new book out this month, The Graduate School Mess: What Caused It and How We Can Fix It (Harvard University Press).
“If the problems with graduate school are a tree, a lot of people are fixated on this branch or that branch,” Cassuto said in an interview. “But you can’t fix the branch if the trouble is in the roots of the tree. And in graduate school, there are a lot of common problems that go down to the roots.”

What Exactly Does the Education Dept. Say Michigan State Did Wrong?

The Chronicle of Higher Education
September 3rd, 2015

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights said on Tuesday that a “sexually hostile environment” had existed at Michigan State University for some students and employees during a federal investigation into sexual-assault complaints there. And the way the university handled reports of sexual assaults, the office said, “may have contributed to a continuation of this sexually hostile environment.”
But at the heart of the department’s 42-page letter outlining its findings is an illustration of just how difficult it can be for colleges to comply with the beefed-up interpretation of the federal gender-equity law known as Title IX. That demonstration comes in the form of the two cases that sparked the investigation.

Federal Plan to Modernize Medical Trials’ Rules Would Be Boon to Universities

The Chronicle of Higher Education
September 3rd, 2015

After more than four years of work, the finish line appears to be in sight for a governmentwide process to modernize the rules governing human participation in medical trials. The results appear to offer substantial benefits for many university researchers.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a 519-page set of regulations on Wednesday, the result of work with 15 other federal departments and agencies dating to 2011. The document represents the first comprehensive overhaul of the regulations in three decades.

CCSF was right all along about accreditors

San Fransisco Examiner 
September 1st, 2015

Oh, what a difference three years can make.
In that blink of an eye, the public went from telling City College of San Francisco to shut up and take its medicine, to rallying at its side and calling out its accreditors as bad actors.
The newest calls against the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, the group that almost closed CCSF, are doozies.
Written by the state community college chancellor’s office’s Task Force on Accreditation, the report says the accreditation process that almost killed CCSF was riddled with problems.
“In private, most of the things in that task force’s report were under discussion long before 2012 and 2013,” said Alisa Messer, former head of City College’s teacher union, the AFT 2121. “People said, ‘Don’t say those things in public, or they’ll come after you.’”
Among its failings in dealing with CCSF, according to the new report, the ACCJC emphasized compliance over identifying paths to improvement, gave unclear expectations for corrections, was not transparent, provided inadequate training to its staff, and was inconsistent with federal guidelines.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

How to Be an Adjunct (and Also a Cliché)

The Chronicle of Higher Education
September 1st, 2015


Get a master’s degree.
Try to be anything else. A writer for any local magazine. The assistant manager at a nonprofit. A grocery-store florist. Dog walker. Cat behavior specialist. Wizard.
Tell your mom you can’t find a job. She tells you that’s impossible because you are the most educated person in your family. You don’t talk to her about this anymore.
You remember one of your community-college professors told you that you’d make a good college professor. You decide to give it a shot. You email that same professor, and he refers you to an administrator who, he explains, oversees almost every department at this community college. That isn’t outrageous yet. It will be, someday.
Teach composition courses even though you have absolutely no desire to teach composition and no training in composition. Tell the administration that. Every semester ask the department chair if you can teach something else. Don’t even get formally turned down; just ignored. Keep teaching composition.

A Controversial Search

Inside Higher Ed
September 2nd, 2015


A nontraditional candidate. Concerns about faculty input. A lightning-quick final round of interviews. Each of these factors is present in the hunt for the University of Iowa’s next president, a search that is underscoring tensions common today over executive searches in higher education.
The Board of Regents that governs Iowa’s three public universities is in the process of interviewing four finalists for Iowa's top spot and is expected to make its choice on Thursday, just 24 hours after the last finalist’s campus visit.
Sally Mason, Iowa's president for eight years, retired last month. The search for her successor has many faculty members concerned about the transparency of the process and the choice of a finalist with limited academic experience.

How Should a Professor Be?

Inside Higher Ed
September 2nd, 2015


Academic fads come and go; administrators do, too. Buildings are torn down and new ones go up. Students seem to keep getting younger. Throughout these fluctuations, one thing about college life remains constant: professors are in the middle of it all. And in the middle, there can be a lot of pressure. From one side, there’s the administration, which must account for bottom-line finances and ultimately decide what programs are maintained, invested in, rightsized or cut. From another side, there are the students (and their parents) who, justifiably or not, are seen as customers who are always right -- or at the very least, customers who have paid for and deserve a good product. (Yes, for better or worse, education is a product and professors are its producers.) In the push-pull of these forces, professors are often left to their own devices. But what are these devices? What strategies are helpful in the daily work of teaching, research and university service? Put simply: How should a professor be?

Shift in Focus

Inside Higher Ed
September 2nd, 2015


Seven months ago free community college was the higher ed policy idea with the most buzz, with everyone from President Obama to families with no college experience talking about the appeal of eliminating the cost of tuition.
Yet movement on two years of free tuition has only happened at the state and institutional level. The national conversation -- particularly in the Democratic presidential race -- has shifted instead to the debt-free movement as concerns over the student loan crisis at four-year public institutions has grown. The bulk of this conversation has shifted from getting more people into higher education, like through community colleges, to the best way to help those coming out of college with as little debt as possible.
But the shift doesn't seem to bother advocates of two-year free community college initiatives, who don't see either idea as divorced from the other.
“I don't think it's as clear-cut a distinction,” said Morley Winograd, president and chief executive officer for the Campaign for Free College Tuition, which is a nonprofit group. “Over all, even though there are lots of differences of opinion about the right way to approach college affordability, the fact that people are embracing and debating how to do something about it is great.”

Ban on Banning Words

Inside Higher Ed
September 1st, 2015


Washington State University on Monday announced that it would not allow instructors to make "blanket" bans on the use of certain words or phrases in class, even if those words and phrases offend people. Further, the university said that instructors could not punish students for use of such words or phrases.
The announcement followed a barrage of criticism of the syllabus for Women & Popular Culture, a women's studies course, that banned specific words and phrases and set out punishments for their use.

Fired for Being Profane

Inside Higher Ed
September 2nd, 2015


After 18 years of service, 24 peer-reviewed articles and the creation of a new-teacher education program, Teresa Buchanan was sailing toward promotion to full professor of education at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge. Did a few swear words and sex jokes really derail her career? That’s what the American Association of University Professors alleges in a report out today. The report makes it unlikely that the university, which earlier this year was close to moving off AAUP’s censure list for past concerns about its commitment to academic freedom, will do so anytime soon. But the university accuses AAUP of misinterpreting the principles at play in Buchanan’s case, ignoring the way she allegedly treated some students, and of betraying its own values.
“Obviously there are institutions where one person says a dirty word and everybody faints, but those places don’t really exist anymore,” said Jordan Kurland, associate general secretary of the AAUP. “The everyday language in the average administration building is far worse than Buchanan at her worst.”

Where Scott Walker Got His Utilitarian View of Higher Education — and Why It Matters

The Chronicle of Higher Education
September 2nd, 2015


In the spring of 1990, Scott Walker, then a senior at Marquette University, decided to leave college before finishing his degree. A job in finance had opened up at the American Red Cross in Milwaukee, and Mr. Walker, now the governor of Wisconsin and a Republican candidate for president, leapt at the opportunity. "Certainly, I wanted an education for more than a job," he has since said, "but my primary purpose was to get a job."
It’s impossible not to consider that statement when regarding the governor’s recent gambits in higher-education policy.
In January, when Governor Walker released his proposed budget for the next two years, he put the finances and mission of Wisconsin’s university system front and center. He recommended granting the system autonomy from several state regulations, but as part of the deal he proposed to cut $300 million from the University of Wisconsin budget over two years while freezing tuition. In addition, he pushed to remove protections for tenure and shared governance from state law.