A Forum for Race Dialogue in American Higher Education

The following is a guest post by Dr. James Pappas. Dr. Pappas serves as Vice President for University Outreach, Dean of the College of Liberal Studies, and Professor at the Departments of Educational Psychology and Liberal Studies at the University of Oklahoma.

From May 29–June 2, 2012 in New York City, the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) is  hosting national experts, professors, students and other academic professionals to assess past progress and to identify new directions in the understanding of race and ethnicity in American higher education.

Key discussions at the conference will focus on the changing nature of minorities in the aftermath of the Obama presidency, particularly the trend for minorities to claim multiple communities of identification, and on new racial coalitions that are forming and how they are impacting education and the work force.

Continue reading

“Chronic Illness And the Academic Career”

More than half of all Americans have experienced some form of chronic illness. In a new article for Academe, Stephanie A. Goodwin and Susanne Morgan look at how chronic illnesses affect faculty members. Because such illnesses can have no symptoms visible to others, many faculty members can be unaware that some of their colleagues have such conditions. “Chronic Illness And the Academic Career” explains why some faculty choose not to disclose their illnesses to their coworkers, and suggests ways to improve conditions for those faculty who have chronic conditions.

The article touches on many of the issues brought up in a recent AAUP report, Accommodating Faculty Members Who Have Disabilities.

“Curriculum for Sale”

North Carolina multimillionaire Arthur Pope has been using his wealth to influence the state’s politics and policy for years. In the May-June issue of Academe, Hassan Melehy, a professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, explains how Pope uses his wealth to fund foundations which push for more and more conservative influence over education. On the one hand, Pope funds political candidates who promise to cut public education funding; when schools are faced with budget shortfalls as a result, his education foundations step in to offer to fill the gap—on their own terms. A favorite of the Pope organizations is to promote “Western Culture” programs, under the theory that universities are no longer teaching such writers as Plato or John Locke (a favorite of Pope’s). Melehy carefully picks apart Pope’s logic, showing that not only do students have plenty of exposure to western history and culture, but also that many of these philosophers advocated a sense of community and shared commitment abhorred by the various foundations Pope supports. Read the full article on Academe’s website.

“Fine Print, Restrictive Grants, and Academic Freedom”

As we all know, universities around the country are in financial trouble. Many states have been cutting funding to their public universities, forcing the schools to do more with less. So it’s understandable that administrators would be on the lookout for new sources of funding—including wealthy donors. In “Fine Print, Restrictive Grants, and Academic Freedom,” Kent S. Miller and Ray Bellamy discuss the controversy that arose when the Charles Koch Foundation gave a major gift to Florida State University—with major strings attached.

In 2007, the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation gave FSU $1.5 million to start programs within the economics department that would promote the Koch brothers’ extreme-free-market ideology. Bellamy and Miller point out that this donation wasn’t a “gift” in the traditional sense, because the Foundation imposed numerous conditions on the donation. The Foundation would appoint a board of advisors that would determine which faculty would be funded and would review the work of the professors within the program. Many observers feared that the Koch Foundation was essentially buying control of part of the economics program.

As universities’ finances continue to struggle, stories like this one could become more common. Read the full story in Academe and learn how to make sure a situation like this doesn’t develop on your campus.

“When Billionaires Become Educational Experts”

How much influence should wealthy donors be able to buy? Kevin Kumashiro looks at the question is “When Billionaires Become Educational Experts,” in the May-June issue of Academe. Kumashiro examines the history of two groups, the Philanthropy Roundtable and the Business Roundtable, which have had outsized influence in education policy from their founding in the 1970s through the present day. As Kumashiro explains, many of the major reforms in public education, including the increasing emphasis on “standards-based reforms,” are the result of careful strategy by these groups and their intellectual progeny. Read the whole story here.

“The Price of Philanthropy” – May-June 2012 Issue of Academe

When does philanthropy cross the line? That’s the question we are looking at in the newest issue of Academe, now posted online.

Over the next few days, I’ll be highlighting a few of the feature articles, but before I do, I wanted to talk about the issue as a whole, because I think it’s a particularly good one. The theme is “The Price of Philanthropy.” What happens when outside groups donate money to colleges and universities with the expectation of getting something in return? When is such reciprocity generally accepted—say, naming a building after a donor—and when is it not—say, requiring the school to assign certain books or insisting on control of the curriculum?

The background, of course, is that schools around the country are in financial trouble, making large gifts even more appealing. And if those gifts come with strings attached, well, they can be overlooked for the sake of finances. In fact, one administrator quoted in this issue says that it would have been irresponsible not to accept the gift in question. And don’t all gifts come with some kind of expectation? Shouldn’t donors have a say in how their money is used?

You can see that these questions can get very tricky, very fast. The articles in the May-June Academe will help sort through them, and help you watch out for potentially similar situations on your own campus. It’s a fascinating and highly relevant topic—click here to read the issue.

Why Idaho State’s Administration Fired Me

By Leonard Hitchcock, Professor Emeritus, Idaho State University

Idaho State University (ISU) is currently under sanction by the AAUP. Details of its case are available online, in one of the AAUP’s investigative reports for 2011 (pdf). My own case is essentially a footnote to that report.

Continue reading

Interview with Rudy Fichtenbaum

Rudy Fichtenbaum, a professor at Wright State University, was elected the next president of the AAUP last month. John K. Wilson interviewed Fichtenbaum via email about his goals for the AAUP.

John K. Wilson: A headline about your election on InsideHighered.com asked, “Is the AAUP about to change course?” Is it? In what direction?

Continue reading

Tennessee Legislators Attack Religious Freedom and University Autonomy

In an example of terrible legislation, the Tennessee House and Senate this week approved a new law (if it’s signed by the governor) compelling public universities (and the private Vanderbilt University) to allow student groups to discriminate against students based on religious beliefs and private behavior. It’s an attack on the religious liberty of individuals, and a violation of university autonomy.

Continue reading