On Nov. 14, 2013, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign engineering professor Louis Wozniak had his tenure revoked and was dismissed by a unanimous vote of the Board of Trustees. Illinois Academe invited him to tell his side of the story, and this essay is reprinted from the Fall issue.
By Louis Wozniak
This is not about a 52-year veteran of the University of Illinois with the dubious distinction of having been recommended by President Easter to the Board of Trustees for revocation of tenure and dismissal. Having defended convincingly at all faculty-staffed committees, and to have their recommendations unheeded by administration, this is about faculty “shared governance” that has degraded to an oxymoron.
Guest blogger Jeanne Zaino is professor of political science and international studies at Iona College.
In his provocative and deeply depressing The Last Professors Frank Donoghue warns that corporate logic has taken over the academy. His findings are confirmed by Andrew DeBlanco who, in his award winning College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be not only bemoans the demise of liberal arts education, but attributes it to several factors including the “commercialization of American higher education.”
Tellingly neither Donoghue nor DeBlanco call on humanists to rise up. Nor do they offer any real hope that the liberal arts generally, or the humanities in particular, can be resuscitated. Far from a call to arms, these books are elegies, laments, requiems. As Donoghue writes, “the conditions to which many seek a return – healthy humanities departments populated by tenure-track professors who discuss books with adoring students in a cloistered setting – have largely vanished.” Humanists, he goes on to predict, will in time “become an insignificant percentage of the country’s university instructional workforce.” In just a few generations they will have disappeared from all but the most affluent and vaunted of universities (where they will largely be seen more like relics and vestiges of a past life).
If we need any more proof that Donoghue and DeBlanco are right, just consider the news out of Elizabeth City State University. ECSU, a historically black college in North Carolina, recently announced that seven of its undergraduate majors may be abolished due to low enrollment. Among those designated as ‘low productive’ – history, physics, and political science. Three disciplines which have long been deemed essential to a well-rounded liberal arts education. Continue reading
On Monday, the Columbus Dispatch reported that Governor Kasich has appointed Gordon Gee, President Emeritus of Ohio State University, to “lead a study looking for ways to make college more affordable and relevant for Ohio students.”
More specifically, Gee will “spend the next year working with other college presidents, K-12 education leaders, and the business community to come up with ways to tie education to potential jobs and to find ways that students can save money while they work toward those goals . . . ‘Quality and cost are the biggest issues facing students who are struggling with increasing tuition and fees, rising student-loan debt, and stagnant graduation rates,’ Kasich said. ‘If the status quo remains in effect for higher education over time it will crumble, and I’ll tell you why: It costs too darn much to go to school,’ he said. ‘Mothers and fathers and students—young men and young women— they’re getting tired of this.’”
Indeed, Kasich “warned that if Ohio’s schools do nothing to prove their value, they will become like the churches in Europe: big buildings with few people as students increasingly turn to less affordable options such as online colleges. . . . Innovation will take a new way of thinking, Kasich said. Gee is the best person to lead the effort because of his experience leading five colleges.” Continue reading
At this point, no one can deny that higher education has changed seriously over the last few decades. Call it corporatization, or administrative bloat, or any other name, but the symptoms are clear: more administrative control over things that had been the faculty’s. Faculty governance becoming a mere rubber stamp for administrators’ proposals. Less funding for teaching and research, more funding for new dorms, student centers, and gyms. How did this happen? And did we notice these changes at the time?
Leslie Bary tries to make sense of the “new university,” especially the role that faculty governance can play in undoing some of the damage. She writes:
We should learn to see clearly where we are, so that we can be effective as we take up once again—yes, take up once again—the “unified” role of the faculty member. We should take up once again the responsibilities deconstructed out of us. We should work to strengthen what is left in the university that is genuine, which is to say everything that is more than a semblance or a marketing maneuver.
Read the full article here.
The September-October issue of Academe has just been posted (and will be in your mailboxes soon). In the issue, Rick Perloff looks at the campaign to unionize Cleveland State University twenty years ago, and William Vesterman looks even further back—to turn-of-the-century economist Thorstein Veblen—to learn lessons about the university today. Leslie Bary uses the benefit of hindsight to see just how much power has been taken from the faculty, and Silvio Laccetti looks at his own past, by visiting many of his students from the breadth of his career.
Meanwhile, anyone interested in copyright and intellectual property should check out Joe Moxley’s article about open textbook publishing, and Helena Worthen looks at a survey of faculty teaching online courses. Rounding out the features, Adrianna Kezar and Daniel Maxey make the argument that disciplinary societies can be crucial players in the struggle for better conditions for contingent faculty.
The issue also features our regular columns, book reviews, and a profile of the Merrimack College AAUP chapter. So take a look, and be sure to leave a comment if an article catches your eye.
Last week, President Obama released a higher education reform proposal, citing the goals of making college more affordable and reining in student debt.
While the AAUP applauded the President for raising these concerns - ones that we share – AAUP President Rudy Fichtenbaum called the plan “little more than a version of the failed policy of ‘No Child Left Behind’ brought to higher education.”
In his statement, Fichtenbaum distinguished between the “costs” and the “prices” of higher education, highlighting tthat while costs in higher education are growing rapidly, they are not growing as quickly as tuition prices.
The growing tuition prices have been driven by drastic declines in state support, as well as massive growth in administrative spending. The President’s plan fails to acknowledge these root problems.
While President Obama promised to consult with colleges and universities in rolling out his plan, Fichtenbaum noted that means communicating with university presidents and not the faculty.
As a result, a White House petition was initiated to ask the President to consult with college and university faculty about higher education reform. The petition requires 100,000 signers in order for the White House to respond.
Please click on the link, sign the petition, and share widely via e-mail and social media.
An “On the Issues” post from the Campaign for the future of Higher Education [http://futureofhighered.org]
We like to think experts who weigh in on the direction of American higher education are steeped in researchabout what works and have real-world experience with actual students. We like to assume that elected officials, who are accountable to the public, listen to those experts—particularly those who labor in the educational “trenches”—when they make their decisions.
Increasingly, however, as details in a recent series of articles in Inside Higher Education suggest, it’s foundations, like the Gates Foundation with its $34 billion in assets, that are driving the policy train.
What’s the problem with this kind of philanthropy—especially in times when public monies for higher education have been slashed?
One critique was advanced recently by Peter Buffett who suggests that foundations and philanthropists actually advance solutions that cement in place the fundamental problem they are trying to solve, inequality-induced scarcity.
There is also the problem of lack of accountability. The American public didn’t vote philanthropists (or their policies) in, and they can’t be voted out. Continue reading
Note: This article was published earlier today on Raging Chicken Press. An excerpt appears below. You can read the full article by clicking the link at the end, or you can go to the original article now by clicking here.
Last week, Clarion University announced what it called a “bold, ambitious workforce plan” that will result in the elimination of over 40 jobs, including 22 faculty. This is only the latest blow to a Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) university in a state that seems hell bent on gutting public higher education. This past May, Raging Chicken Press reported on plans to retrench – that is, fire – faculty members at East Stroudsburg University and the long battles with austerity-minded administrators at Kutztown University is a familiar story to our readers.
What sets the move at Clarion apart from previous PASSHE cuts is that it may be the lead example of “transformation” at state universities championed by the system’s Board of Governors. PASSHE’s last Chancellor, John Cavanaugh, released a new vision for PASSHE in November 2010 called simply enough, “PASSHE Transformation.” That document laid out in general terms PASSHE’s intention to take the 14 university system in a different direction:
The vision includes four major components, all grounded in the need for transformation: (a) how, when, and where learning occurs; (b) how the resources necessary to ensure learning are pursued, retained, and sustained; (c) how our universities relate to their various communities; and (d) how we partner with the Commonwealth to create and deliver a shared vision for the future. Only through transformation, grounded in a thoughtful reexamination of our historic emphasis on high quality student learning opportunities, will our success be assured during these very difficult economic times [bold in original].
The following statement was made yesterday by the Purdue AAUP about plans to cut faculty positions at Purdue Calumet. An hour after the AAUP statement was released, the chancellor sent a memo expressing hope that the cuts can be rescinded.
Faculty Terminations at Purdue Calumet
The recent announcement of faculty terminations by the Administration at Purdue Calumet is extremely troubling. These terminations do not appear to have been conducted with the proper faculty input, in contradiction to the concept of shared governance. The timing of this announcement, coming in the week before the academic faculty return to teaching, under scores this apparent lack of shared governance. The justification for terminating faculty has centered on Purdue Calumet’s claim of financial difficulties. The faculty has yet to be able to confirm this assertion, as the administration seems reluctant to share financial information. However, while claiming that they are in such dire financial trouble they must lay off instructors, lecturers, and tenure track faculty, Purdue Calumet is actively hiring more administrators, increasing funding to the athletic program and hiring fitness assistants.
Earlier this week, I was one of the 13 million American television viewers—along with uncounted millions of viewers in 200+ other countries–who tuned in to the Discovery Channel to watch Nik Wallenda walk across a gorge of the Grand Canyon on a two-inch steel cable. He carried a 30-foot-long balancing pole that weighed a little over forty pounds, and he wore no safety harness. Before starting the walk, he spoke very casually with the representatives of the Discovery Channel, indicating that they should let him know when they wanted him to start, and as if to provide a counterpoint to the extraordinary thing that he was about to attempt, he wore a blue t-shirt and somewhat faded, baggy blue jeans. In fact, during the walk, as the jeans flapped between his lower legs, I thought that he probably should have chosen some sort of tights, instead of the jeans, simply for reasons of freedom of movement and safety.
For the 22+ minutes that he was crossing the canyon, the camera angles shifted among close-ups of him and of his feet gliding slowly, step by step, along the wire, views from either side of the canyon that conveyed how far out into the thin air he was moving, views from the bottom of the canyon that conveyed how far he would plummet if he lost his balance, and dizzying panoramic shots that made the canyon walls seem to whirl by him, conveying how difficult it actually was for him to maintain any fixed sense of perspective. Continue reading