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.
The firing of Louis Wozniak by the University of Illinois raises disturbing questions about academic freedom, due process, and the failure of faculty to defend these principles. Normally, the firing of a tenured professor is such an extraordinary event that it involves acts of breathtaking misconduct or total incompetence. This is not the case with Louis Wozniak. In fact, if Wozniak were a mediocre teacher, he would still be working at the University of Illinois. It was Wozniak’s excellence in teaching that led him to be given awards, and then to being fired when he objected to not receiving a teaching award that he had earned.
The Board of Trustees report (pdf link) on Wozniak is startling because of the reasons actually given for his dismissal: causing a student to cry, reporting this fact publicly, and then refusing to censor his website or conversations about it. This, according to the Board of Trustees, was the reason for Wozniak’s firing: “Professor Wozniak engaged in professional misconduct when he publicly disseminated information about a student’s emotional reaction during a private conversation between her and Wozniak.”
Guest Blogger Dr. Elizabeth Keenan teaches music history at Fordham University and Columbia University. With the exception of a one-year VAP, she has been adjuncting since 2007.
I’m an adjunct at two different private universities.* In those positions, I’ve encountered numerous tenured and tenure-track faculty who were allies to adjuncts, and numerous faculty who were not. After Monday’s post critiquing ineffective tenured allies, I want to be a bit more productive than deconstructive. One of the things that I’ve learned from my long years studying feminist activism is that critique has its place, but positive actions should emerge from it.
Here are some handy tips, if you have tenure (or are close to getting it), and you’d like to be an ally: Continue reading
Why is it that we, the lucky ones, try so hard to divorce ourselves from those who have not had the same breaks? Why do we, the tenured ones, look away when we see adjuncts grading papers while sitting in a stairwell? Why do we, the lordly observers, think of ourselves as the master teachers when sitting in on the class of a part-timer who may be teaching at two other schools—and whose sense of our students is probably better than our own? Why do we, with our lovely PhDs, think of ourselves as having “earned” something those poor contingent hires could not—forgetting that our degrees are also a gift from those who financed our schooling and that quite a few of these others also have doctorates? Why do we forget what Phil Ochs tried to teach us so many years ago: “There but for fortune/Go you or I.” Continue reading
On Monday, September 9, Ohio Conference AAUP President John McNay delivered testimony [full text provided below] to the Higher Education Reform Study Committee–a new standing committee started in the Ohio House of Representatives over the summer.
The committee has embarked on a “road show,” traveling all over the state to public and for-profit colleges to discuss a myriad of issues in higher education.
On September 9, the committee met at Columbus State Community College to address the topic of ”Reducing the High Cost of Higher Education.” “Faculty Workload” was a topic listed under that heading.
During his testimony, McNay explained, ”The common assumption is that universities’ costs are so high due to the labor (e.g. faculty) that they have to employ…Yet the most recent data from the Integrated Post-Secondary Data System (IPEDS) reveals that between FY 2002 and FY 2011, Ohio’s institutions spent, on average, 29.5 percent of their operating budgets on total instructional compensation (e.g. salaries and benefits). Over the 10 year period, total instructional compensation declined by 3.9 percent.” Continue reading
While New Faculty Majority appreciates the efforts of the Obama administration to address the critical problem of the skyrocketing cost of higher education and its effects, particularly on the students and faculty who are saddled with crippling student debt, we call on the administration to consider more carefully the full ramifications of the policies it is currently advocating.
Ironically, the majority of the faculty at colleges nationwide work in conditions (making less than $25,000 per year working full time hours) that do not allow them to repay their own student debt, if college teaching is their primary source of income. Like other workers in the US, college instructors have seen their profession turn into low-wage, part-time, unbenefited jobs rather than into respected employment capable of supporting a family. The policies that the president is advocating in his new plan would exacerbate, not alleviate, this problem.
If the president wants to hold colleges accountable, then he should demand that they disclose the numbers and working conditions of the majority of the faculty, and acknowledge the significant research that shows that faculty working conditions are among the most critical factors affecting student success. He would admit that graduation rates are meaningless at institutions where faculty are discouraged from holding the highest standards possible by adjuncts’ economic precarity and lack of access to meaningful due process protections, and by tenure-track faculty’s out-of-control tenure requirements. Continue reading
The Campaign for the Future of Higher Education – CFHE for short – is a GRASSROOTS NATIONAL CAMPAIGN to support quality higher education. It was initiated in Los Angeles, California, on May 17, 2011, by leaders of faculty organizations from 21 states. CFHE’s fifth meeting was held in Columbus, Ohio, on May 17 and 18, 2013.
The mission of this campaign is to ENSURE THAT AFFORDABLE QUALITY HIGHER EDUCATION is accessible to all sectors of our society in the coming decades. This is a time of great change in higher education.
To make sure that these changes are good for students and our country, we need to REFRAME THE CURRENT DEBATE to focus on quality higher education as an essential right for our democracy. Faculty, students and our communities, not just administrators, politicians, foundations and think tanks, need to have a voice to ensure that changes – in emphasis, curriculum, pricing, and structure – are good for our students and the quality of education they receive.
What is at stake is NOTHING LESS THAN OUR DEMOCRACY and our economic standing in the global economy.
The Campaign for the Future of Higher Education is organized around SEVEN CORE PRINCIPLES that must define quality higher education for the 21st century. We believe these principles provide a helpful framework for developing and assessing proposals for innovation or restructuring in the future. 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
Here’s one from The Onion. If you don’t subscribe to their daily newsletter or site feeds or regularly visit their site, you really ought to do so. Sometimes the satire is very close to the reality that it is targeting, but at least you can laugh instead of weeping.
Professor Deeply Hurt by Student’s Evaluation
Leon Rothberg, Ph.D., a 58-year-old professor of English Literature at Ohio State University, was shocked and saddened Monday after receiving a sub-par mid-semester evaluation from freshman student Chad Berner. The circles labeled 4 and 5 on the Scan-Tron form were predominantly filled in, placing Rothberg’s teaching skill in the “below average” to “poor” range.
Rothberg, though hurt by evaluations that pointed out the little globule of spit that sometimes forms between his lips, was most upset at being called “totally lame” in one freshman’s write-in comments.
Although the evaluation has deeply hurt Rothberg’s feelings, Berner defended his judgment at a press conference yesterday.
“That class is totally boring,” said Berner, one of 342 students in Rothberg’s introductory English 161 class. “When I go, I have to read the school paper to keep from falling asleep. One of my brothers does a comic strip called ‘The Booze Brothers.’ It’s awesome.”
The poor rating has left Rothberg, a Rhodes Scholar, distraught and doubting his ability to teach effectively at the university level. Continue reading
I am always amazed how some administrations defend themselves, as Brooklyn Law School Dean Nicholas Allard does, by claiming that the AAUP has somehow authorized their dubious actions. Allard claims that the school’s new policy on “demonstrated incompetence” is a “long-recognized and widely accepted regulatory term supported by the AAUP and others.”
Brooklyn Law School’s new policy defines the term as: “Demonstrated incompetence, including but not limited to, multiple unsatisfactory performance reviews or complaints from supervisors; multiple complaints from students or multiple unsatisfactory student evaluations; sub-standard academic performance; lack of collegiality.”
Because the AAUP allows for the firing of “incompetent” professors, Brooklyn Law School’s administration thinks that it call anything “incompetence” and fire anybody at any time. That’s not how it works.