Central to the current controversy about Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks is the fact that Snowden was a “private contractor.” In fact, over this past weekend, various commentators have asserted that 30% to 70% of the national security personnel are now “private contractors”: that is, employees of corporations—and typically multinational corporations—and not of the federal government. Whatever the percentage actually is, it is unarguably high and raises security issues that make the Soviet penetration of our nuclear-weapons development and even the current accusations of Chinese hacking of our cybersecurity seem relatively straightforward and containable issues.
That much of the massive spending on Homeland Security in the decade since the September 11 attacks has gone to corporations is not surprising, but what will surprise most Americans is that not just the production of security tools but a great deal of the actual security work has been contracted to corporations.
The situation is even worse on the military side. In 2008, there were 154,000 “private contractors,” or security forces, in Iraq and 152,000 American military personnel there. Likewise, in 20111, at the height of our military involvement in Afghanistan, there were 190,000 “private contractors” and 172,000 military personnel stationed there. And these numbers do not include several substantial categories of “private contractors” that have proven to be much more difficult to track. Continue reading
On June 15, the American Association of University Professors at its annual meeting voted unanimously to place National Louis University of Illinois and Southern University, Baton Rouge on its list of censured institutions for violations of academic freedom and tenure.
AAUP First Vice-President Henry Reichman declared, “What happened at National Louis was ominous.” The AAUP report on National Louis University described the administration’s actions as “The Decimation of the Full-Time Faculty.” The administration discontinued fourteen degree and certificate programs and four College of Arts and Sciences departments, and terminated the appointments of 63 faculty members, including 16 with tenure. According to the AAUP, “The committee was particularly struck by how quickly experienced members of the faculty, many of them with decades of service to the institution, had been replaced by a cadre of part-time faculty members with weaker academic credentials.” These actions all took place without declaring any financial exigency, and National Louis largely replaced the fired faculty with lower-paid adjuncts.
Southern University, Baton Rouge fired 19 tenured faculty in response to financial exigency, violating the AAUP’s standards. The AAUP report noted, “decisions about which appointments to terminate were made without faculty involvement or the opportunity for a hearing before a faculty committee for those who received notice.”
The AAUP also voted to remove two institutions from the censure list, St. Bonaventure University and Our Lady of Holy Cross College.
The AAUP approved a Constitutional Amendment which will move the AAUP from an annual election system to a biennial election system, and council terms will go from 3 years to 4 years. The Amendment also changed the name of the AAUP’s leader from General Secretary to Executive Director.
The AAUP also passed a resolution expressing support for the Bank on Students Loan Fairness Act to reduce the interest rate on student loans, a resolution outlining the principles a college president should uphold, and a resolution calling for repeal of CUNY’s Pathways curriculum.
Earlier this year, I posted a review of Saving Higher Education: The Integrated, Competency-Based Three-Year Bachelor’s Degree Program. The book describes an alternative to the two most common “three-year” baccalaureate programs: the Accelerated model and the Prior Learning model. In the Accelerated Model, students essentially take overloads and full summer loads in order to complete four years of work in three years. In the Prior Learning Model, students receive credit not just for transfer credits but also for work and other experience, allowing them, in effect, to start the baccalaureate program with something close to the equivalent of a year’s credits “earned.” In contrast, in the Integrated, Competency-Based Model, developed by the authors who are faculty members at Southern New Hampshire, great pains are taken to eliminate “redundancies” in the curriculum: that is, students are expected to demonstrate a set of competencies or skill sets that are among the learning outcomes of a given program, but class time is not given over to repeated work on those competencies when they recur across courses within a program. Continue reading
This is a re-post from the On the Issues blog maintained by the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education [http://futureofhighered.org/].
After a brief experiment in charging tuition, Germany—the strongest economy in Europe and one of the strongest in the world–is abolishing fees at its colleges and universities.
As quoted in a recent article in Inside Higher Ed, supporters of the move argue that “’higher education is a human right’” and should be “’equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education.’” Continue reading
A cluster of recent articles has addressed the growing issue of access to higher education for students from poor and working-class backgrounds.
Published in The Atlantic, Jordan Weissmann’s “How Colleges Are Selling Out the Poor to Court the Rich” opens with an assertion that is absolutely true but will come as a major surprise to most Americans: “Neat fact: If the federal government were to take all of the money it pours into various forms of financial aid each year, it could go ahead and make tuition free, or close to it, for every student at every public college in the country.” Weissmann then references an earlier article in which he addressed the exploitation of federal student grant and loan programs by for-profit colleges and universities whose revenue derives largely, if not almost entirely, from those programs. Here, he shifts his attention to the ways in which federal grants and loans to less economically well-off students are being used by a growing number of private and public colleges and universities to offset tuition reductions for students from affluent backgrounds. The private institutions are typically those with small enrollments and limited endowments. Most of the public institutions are in eight states in which the model of “high tuition/high aid” provided by elite private institutions has been implemented, largely unsuccessfully, to offset steep declines in state subsidies. In the mid-1990s, private institutions provided almost twice the amount of need-based as merit-based direct aid to students. Academically gifted but less economically well-off students often received enough aid directly from these institutions to cover most of the costs beyond the grants and loans provided through federal programs. Today, they are receiving less direct aid from the institutions, and those funds are being spread out to cover more modest financial aid offers that might entice more affluent students to enroll. In a recent study of almost 300 institutions at which 25% or more of the students receive Pell grants, Stephen Burd of the New America Foundation demonstrates the dramatic shift from need-based to merit-based aid in this way: the out-of-pocket cost to students receiving Pell grants is now almost exactly the same as the direct institutional aid provided to more affluent students in the “merit” category. Nationally, private institutions now provide more merit-based than need-based direct aid to students, and that trend is being replicated at an increasing number of public institutions. Continue reading
On May 10th, CUCFA President Robert Meister sent the following open letter to Coursera founder Daphne Koller:
Can Venture Capital Deliver on the Promise of the Public University?
An Open Letter to Daphne Koller,
Co-Founder and Co-President of Coursera and Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University
Dear Professor Koller,
Because I share your vision of creating a world in which all have access to an excellent and empowering education, I would like to propose a new online course for you to make freely available through the Coursera platform. Its title is “The Implications of Coursera’s For-Profit Business Model for Global Public Education.”
The goal of the course will be for the students enrolled in it to understand the real relation between Coursera’s visionary mission—“to offer courses, in partnership with the worlds’ top universities, to everyone for free”—and the logic of the strategic business plan that led Coursera to be named “The Best Startup of 2012” by TechCrunch last January.
You and your company’s compelling pitch to consumers suggests that the private sector–that is, venture capitalists and not taxpayers–can deliver a more equal world in which income will be based on the skills and knowledge people actually acquire rather than the artificial scarcity of credentials for which they are eligible and can afford to pay. It is natural to hope that in this more equal, and also more productive, world incomes could rise for everyone willing to acquire the necessary academic knowledge and take the tests to prove it. This, in fact, was exactly what was promised by the original California Master Plan for Higher Education using taxpayers’ money when it was adopted in 1960.
My proposed Coursera course will ask students to discover for themselves how and why John Doerr, and your other Venture Capitalists, are willing to provide an even greater abundance of knowledge in the service of greater economic and social equality than is the State of California, which clearly has the means to spend much more than it has cost your company to reach a worldwide enrollment in the millions. Continue reading
Although I live in a very Republican area and the candidates for whom I have voted have almost never won, I have almost never failed to vote. And I have never voted against a school levy—or for that matter a levy to support city or county parks or other civic improvements.
But I did not vote yesterday because if I had voted, I would have voted against several school levies, a parks levy, and several other levies meant to cover shortfalls in the city and county budgets.
I would have voted against all of those levies because the shortfalls that they are covering have been created by dramatic reductions in the state allocations to local governments and school districts.
Over the last biennial budget, state funding for local governments in Ohio was initially cut 75%, an unsustainable reduction given that many local governments had relied on the state for 60% of their revenue. So the cuts have been mitigated somewhat in subsequent amendments to the budget–for the most part, not repealed but simply spread out over the next biennial budget. Funding for school districts was cut 18%–10.5% in the first year and 7.5% in the second. (It is not a coincidence that the Kasich administration’s first biennial budget was passed in conjunction with Senate Bill 5. That bill would have gutted the union rights of public employees, while the budget decimated the membership of the teachers’ unions–largely OEA- and OFT-affiliated–and AFSCME.)
These cuts were, however, supposedly necessitated by a much-advertised $8 billion to $10 billion shortfall at the state level, which over the course of the 2010 gubernatorial campaign and the first six months of Governor Kasich’s first term somehow shrank to a $1 billion to $2 billion shortfall. Continue reading
Reviews of Recent Books Concerning Current Issues in Higher Ed: No. 6
Donoghue, Frank. The Last Professors: The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities. New York: Fordham U P, 2008.
In this seminal work of the corporatization of American universities, Frank Donoghue offers a much longer historical view than most other authors focusing on the topic. Some have started in the mid-1970s, when economic recession and the “Rust Belt” decline of American manufacturing and working-class economic security, along with post-Baby Boom demographics, created new fiscal pressures on our universities. Others have looked back to the late 1940s, when the G. I. Bill eliminated many previous socio-economic obstacles to a earning a college degree and drove the very rapid expansion of our universities–the public university systems, in particular. But Donoghue starts in the post-Civil War era, when the establishment of most of our land-grant universities marked the beginnings of the modern university in America. He not only historically delineates the tension between the proponents of utilitarian education and the proponents of “liberal arts” education, but he emphasizes that, from the beginnings of the modern American university, this tension has been inherent in our shifting conception of the core mission of our universities. The Gilded Age and the Roaring Twenties marked previous high points for the proponents of utilitarian education, and it is hardly surprising that at the turn of this century, as the nation seems to have settled into a second Gilded Age, the proponents of utilitarian education have once more moved into the foreground. Unlike most critics of the increasing corporatization of our universities, Donoghue does not, however, view this as a cyclic phenomenon. Instead, he believes that most colleges and universities have already passed a tipping point and are moving inexorably toward an increasingly corporatized state in which the humanities and social sciences are being reduced from major disciplines within the curriculum to basic skill sets and diversions for dilettantes and subversives. Continue reading
If you haven’t read the letter from the San Jose State (SJSU) Philosophy Department to Harvard’s Michael Sandel about his “Justice” MOOC through MIT and Harvard’s edX program, you really should. I think it might become a classic document in the history of the long, slow decline of American Higher Education. For one thing, it’s interesting because it may be the first sharp published criticism of someone who’s decided to teach a MOOC. [I've written about that here.] But it’s also the first serious public attention that I’ve seen given to what I’ve called the academic freedom crisis of the twenty-first century.
To summarize, the philosophers at San Jose State don’t want Sandel’s MOOC to be given for credit in their department or at their university. It’s not that they’re opposed to online instruction. It’s that they think they should be the ones doing the instructing, not a Harvard professor on tape through a computer. “In spite of our admiration for your ability to lecture in such an engaging way to such a large audience,” they write:
we believe that having a scholar teach and engage his or her own students in person is far superior to having those students watch a video of another scholar engaging his or her students. Indeed, the videos of you lecturing to and interacting with your students is itself a compelling testament to the value of the in-person lecture/discussion.
The philosophers go on to note that the ability of a professor to control the content they provide is a fundamental part of what it means to be a college professor:
When a university such as ours purchases a course from an outside vendor, the faculty cannot control the design or content of the course; therefore we cannot develop and teach content that fits with our overall curriculum and is based on both our own highly developed and continuously renewed competence and our direct experience of our students’ needs and abilities.
To use the language of education technology, they do not want to be “unbundled.”
This piece is reposted from the “On the Issues Blog” maintained by the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education: http://futureofhighered.org/on-the-issues/ If you are looking for faculty-driven commentary on current issues in higher education, you should consider adding the “On the Issues” blog and the CFHE website to your links page.
MOOCs may prove to be another “bubble” like the online for-profit universities are proving to be, but their widespread adoption could be a much bigger threat to higher education than the University of Phoenix and Kaplan University ever were or will be.
In “Teaching by Hand in a Digital Age” (Chronicle of Higher Education Blogs March 11, 2013), Joseph Harris persuasively makes the case that the lack of instructor-student interaction is the fundamental failing of MOOCs—and a failing that will be especially noticeable in writing courses. Despite dubious claims that robo-readers can evaluate student writing as effectively as human readers, robo-readers clearly cannot interact in any meaningful way with the student writers themselves. They cannot give those writers a sense of the nuances in a human response to their work, a sense of how the expression of their ideas fits within broader patterns of personal and professional communication.
Harris compares MOOCs to textbooks. But MOOCs are more like digitally jazzed-up, televised courses than they are like textbooks: that is, they permit a student to be even more passively engaged than a textbook does, and they will be effective for an even narrower percentage of learners than the online degrees offered by the for-profit universities that, like the competency-driven Western Governors University, have emphasized the importance of advisers over faculty. Continue reading