AAUP Report on University of Northern Iowa

The AAUP has issued a report on the University of Northern Iowa (pdf), finding that the university had “no legitimate basis, financial or otherwise” to terminate faculty appointments and failed to follow its own policies. UNI president Ben Allen has issued a response to the AAUP report. You can read coverage of the report in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Des Moines Register, andthe Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier,

Merry Christmas

While I was reading Stanley Fish’s New York Times article “Religious Exemptions and the Liberal State: A Christmas Column” all I could think of was a comment Bill O’Reilly made at the beginning of the month, claiming Christianity as a philosophy, not a religion–and of an experience of mine as a young man.

Fish discusses Brian Leiter’s book Why Tolerate Religion, which poses the questions:

Does the undoubted centrality of religion in the lives of its adherents suffice to justify exempting it from generally applicable laws? Should religion enjoy a special status that merits a degree of solicitude and protection not granted to other worldviews or systems of belief?

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College… Without a Safety Net

As a teacher at a college with a student population made up primarily of minorities, immigrants, and/or first-generation college students, an article in today’s New York Times hit home. By Jason DeParle, it is titled “For Poor, Leap to College Often Ends in a Hard Fall.” One of my greatest frustrations, and one I constantly work to overcome, arises from a situation DeParle describes succinctly:

With little guidance from family or school officials, college became a leap that they braved without a safety net.

I’ve long felt there’s something wrong with how “we” treat (and, quite frankly, profit from) students struggling to get a toe-hold in the middle class. We take their tuition (often forcing them into debt) on a promise of great future rewards, but we provide them with no clear swing to those rewards and no soft landing for those who, for one reason or another, don’t reach the other platform.

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The Nature of Faculty Representation – Against Confidentiality

This week, the AAUP’s Committee on College and University Governance released a draft statement, entitled “Confidentiality and Faculty Representation in Academic Governance”, which in part originated with the following presentation that I have given at several state conference meetings over the past year.

A couple of years ago, I served as chair of a committee that advocates for faculty and staff on issues related to health insurance on my campus: the Health Care Advocacy Committee. For several years, the primary issue that this committee dealt with was retiree health insurance and its effect on the university’s balance sheet because of accounting rules categorizing the benefit as an “unfunded liability.” The committee was provided with actuarial analyses, including some different scenarios for making changes to this benefit. These analyses, which contained no information about individual faculty or staff members, were provided to the committee under the condition of confidentiality. The main reason that was cited by the administration for requiring confidentiality was that, because the proposals were still in a preliminary stage of consideration, sharing them across campus could lead to faculty or staff being “overly concerned” regarding the details of a proposal that was, perhaps, not even going to be seriously considered. Because of significant pressure by the board of trustees, the plan subsequently adopted by the university completely disregarded the views expressed by members of the committee. At a subsequent faculty meeting, a faculty member asked the president of the university whether an open forum scheduled on the topic of retiree health insurance was going to provide an opportunity for faculty and staff to comment on the proposed changes. The president replied that he had already “consulted” with the relevant committees, so the purpose of the open forums was simply to inform. I distinctly remember my colleague protesting that it was illegitimate to claim that there had been faculty consultation, given that the information provided to the committee had been provided under the condition of confidentiality, thus preventing the faculty representatives to the committee from consulting with their constituents.

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Contrary to Arguments by Hardcore Open Education Advocates, Creative Commons NC ND Is A Valid License for Academic Authors


Various talented folks and communities (e.g., the Open Knowledge Foundation and QuestionCopyright.org) believe Creative Commons should retire its NC ND clauses.  Students for Free Culture argue the NC clause is “completely antithetical to free culture (it retains a commercial monopoly on the work).”   Timothy Vollmer  asserts the NC ND clauses should be renamed ““Commercial Rights Reserved” because this license fails to “provide for all of [these] freedoms:

  • “the freedom to use the work and enjoy the benefits of using it
  • the freedom to study the work and to apply knowledge acquired from it
  • the freedom to make and redistribute copies, in whole or in part, of the information or expression
  • the freedom to make changes and improvements, and to distribute derivative works”

Clearly, adopting an NC or ND clause is less free than adopting a CC 3.0 SA license, which permits, for example, users to benefit commercially or produce derivative works.  However, this doesn’t mean a CC 3.0 NC ND is not a free license.  In fact, rather than retiring the CC 3.0 NC ND, I think Creative Commons should affirm these clauses for academics.  There are a good many situations where CC 3.0 NC ND is an ideal license.

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When Is Disruptive Change Good for a College?

In my last post, I wrote on the need for a comprehensive redesign of the collegiate business model.  The numbers don’t work, the model typically addresses incremental budget adjustments at best, and the bureaucratic “mom and pop” shops who administer the budget at many colleges inhibit broader cooperative partnerships that can hold down costs and open the campus to new relationships beyond the college gates.

There are two culprits.  The first are administrators who assume their responsibilities only partially prepared for the job.  The second are trustees who sit as stewards and who often allow business practices to occur that they would not sanction in their day jobs.  Boards often fall back on an assumption that higher education plays by its own rules, even when these rules no longer make sense.

For these reasons, college and university governing boards must become more sophisticated in anticipating which business models will provide the most opportunity to differentiate and support the academic program.   These models must enable faculty who incubate great ideas but lack an understanding of the financial mechanisms, protocols and bureaucracy to implement them.  The inability to translate faculty needs into administrative support to “close the deal” stops much of the best innovation occurring at college and universities dead in its tracks.

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Student Debt, By the Numbers: Part 6: Factors—For-Profit Higher Ed

Sources: National Center for Education Statistics, Bloomberg News, Chronicle of Higher Education, Blumenstyk and Fuller

Number of post-secondary institutions newly accredited between 2005 and 2009:  483.

Percentage of post-secondary institutions newly accredited between 2005 and 2009 that were private for-profit institutions:  77%.

Percentage of total accredited post-secondary institutions in the U.S. that were private for-profit institutions in 2009:  26.2%.

Percentage of students in post-secondary institutions enrolled at private for-profit institutions in 2010:  9%.

Percentage increase in enrollments at private for-profit institutions between 2005 and 2009:  235%.

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Off Topic? Yes, But Unless We Get Away from Guns, Education Is Meaningless

During the presidential campaign, Ann Romney said, “I’m hearing from so many women that may not have considered voting for a Republican before, but said, ‘It’s time for the grown-up to come, the man that’s going to take this seriously, that’s going to take the future of our children very, very seriously’.”  Except for the political party, she got it exactly right. I only hope that Obama who, right now, is behaving like a grown-up in reaction to Friday’s killings, continues to. The Republicans, including Mitt Romney, certainly have not.

The craze of gun ownership, especially high-powered weapons of no purpose but killing humans, is childish. Those who enable it cater to children and abandon the responsibilities of adults. Spoutings in the wake of the killings, such as Mike Huckabee’s comment that the killings happened because we “removed God from our schools”:  Nonsense. Any adult knows that the killings happened because we have too many guns, too high powered, and too easily available. Only a child, and a willfully ignorant one at that, can believe otherwise.

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Truly Responsible Gun Ownership as a Way to End the Carnage

No one can credibly claim that semi-automatic and automatic weapons are useful for hunting or even that they are necessary for self-protection. A handgun with six to eight rounds in it ought to be enough to deter a criminal attacker, or even attackers, in almost every instance.

But if anyone proposes that assault weapons ought to be banned, the proposal will reinforce the Far-Right fantasy that Big Government—and President Obama in particular—exists primarily to take guns away from private, law-abiding citizens. The NRA will pour millions of dollars into targeted campaigns to remove from office every legislator who voted for such a bill, but especially those legislators in states with moderate to high levels of gun ownership.

So, instead of a ban on assault weapons, here is what I would propose: legislation that emphatically reinforces the concepts of personal responsibility and responsible gun ownership.

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“Right to Work” Is an Insult to Intelligence, Addendum

In my original post under this title, I pointed out that the proponents of “right to work” never directly address questions about how “right to work” improves workers’ wages, benefits, or working conditions. I rhetorically asked who can possibly believe that a worker–in particular a worker receiving low to average compensation–can negotiate more effectively as an individual than as part of a bargaining unit.

I also emphasized the fundamental unfairness in an element of all “right to work” legislation: namely, that workers who choose not to join unions, who choose not to pay “fair share” dues, are not only covered by union-negotiated contracts but are also entitled to union representation—and are even empowered to sue the union for inadequate representation.

I believe that that is precisely the sense of “entitlement” about which the Far Right is always complaining.

Nonetheless, I would like to extend both points in this post to show how the case for “right to work” is layered with very purposeful misrepresentations that inevitably become outright lies.

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