2014 Through the Academe Blog: February

This review of the past year, month by month, started with January, found here.

A guest post by Cecil Canton toward the beginning of the month describes the “cultural taxation” faced by faculty from underrepresented groups, “a way to describe the unique burden placed on ethnic minority faculty in carrying out our responsibility for service to the university.” This provides a warning that all of us should take seriously:

It is a stealth workload escalator for faculty of color. And like stress, it can be a silent killer of professional careers and aspirations.

John K. Wilson posted on an attempt by Maryland’s legislature to penalize organizations boycotting Israel. He writes of the chilling implications of the bill:

The Maryland bill also goes beyond academic boycotts to include support for any kind of boycotts. The bill in section (B) refers only to academic boycotts, but section (C), which is the real enforcement provision, covers any resolution regarding any kind of boycott of a country.

The power of the state to control not only academic freedom but freedom of speech and action would only grow through legislation of this nature.

Martin Kich examines the lack of educators in positions of responsibility for education within the Obama administration. He writes:

It is critical that President Obama begin to add the voices of actual educators to the discussions about national higher-education policy. By actual educators, I mean faculty who have stayed in the classroom, who have invested themselves in the futures of their students and their institutions, and who have an acute understanding of the challenges that those students and institutions are confronting.

It is also time to move things to the middle, to insure that national higher-education policy addresses the needs of and fosters, rather than frustrates, the aspirations of the majority of students who attend colleges and universities that are never going to be elite but that are very much fulfilling their educational missions.

Much of American education, these days, is being directed by people with no real experience as educators–not just at the college level, but in k-12, too. The implications for American education are frightening.

AAUP President Rudy Ficbtenbaum testified in Colorado on a bill compensate adjuncts proportionally to full-time faculty and his words were reproduced on the blog. He said:

The bottom line is that faculty members’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions. Thus, we must reach the inescapable conclusion that with the growth of part-time faculty, particularly at two-year public institutions, learning conditions for our students have deteriorated. This deterioration has nothing to do with the qualifications or dedication of part-time faculty. Rather it stems from a system which has misguided priorities, a system that does not make instruction its top priority.

This point should be pounded home again and again.

Having watched with concern the growing reaction to boycotts of Israel, I posted:

Whatever you might think of the American Studies Association’s stance on boycotting Israel, the attempted legal “remedies” have to be seen as worse. Pro-Palestinian, pro-Israel, or a pox on both houses… it shouldn’t matter. The implications for academic freedom carried in the various bills should bother anyone who cares about this great tradition of our universities.

“Consequent nonsense,” I called it, but it is nonsense of a dangerous sort, as Wilson soon pointed out, describing a “Protect Academic Freedom Act” that:

is so broad that it would not just ban expressing support for an academic boycott, but any college putting limits on exchanges with Israeli institutions. If a university in any way restricts a student exchange anywhere in Israel (say, due to fear of terrorist attacks by Palestinians), it would violate this amendment. (Ironically, if the State of Israel is defined to include the occupied territories, then any college that rejects an exchange with a Palestinian university because of safety concerns or due to the travel restrictions imposed by Israeli authorities, would also be in violation of these rules and have all federal funding cut.)

Brian C. Mitchell, in looking at how students are recruited to American colleges and universities, asks some quite pertinent questions:

Isn’t there a higher purpose that established why American colleges and universities are tax exempt?  Isn’t it the duty of higher education leadership to prepare for demographic shifts by breaking out of admission practices and patterns before consumers vote with their feet and look elsewhere?

In the end, isn’t it about what’s best for the student?

We all should be striving to examine our answers.

Kich shares his thoughts on whether we in the AAUP need to begin thinking more globally:

Coincidentally, as I have been collecting materials for this blog, I have become much more acutely aware that the challenges that we are facing as faculty at American institutions are not unique to our country—that those challenges are not only being confronted by faculty in nations around the globe but they are often complicated by socio-economic, political, and cultural factors that make them much more difficult and even hazardous to confront.

In just the last two decades, digital communications have truly transformed almost every human endeavor, including higher education. Digital communications have enabled me to develop close professional relationships with faculty on several other continents, to collaborate fairly effortlessly with those faculty on scholarly projects, and to begin to develop a sense of the potential in a truly global community of scholars.

Is “American” too narrow for today’s academia?

Gwendolyn Bradley shared a link to a video about HB14-1154 in Colorado (the bill Fichtenbaum testified about) and included this:

HB14-1154, the Community College Pay and Benefits Equity Act of 2014, will provide equal pay for equal work for Colorado community college faculty. Currently, many community college teachers in Colorado are on food stamps, qualify for indigent health care, and receive their food from food banks. Under the bill, all faculty will receive pay and benefits under one salary schedule. This AAUP legislation has been endorsed by AFT Colorado, SEIU Colorado, AAUW Colorado, the Colorado Education Association, 9 to 5, FRESC, and the New Faculty Majority. It passed through the House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee on February 3, and will appear before the Appropriations Committee within the next few weeks.

Reflecting my concern over the imposed standards, Common Core State Standards, I offered this:

Suffice it to say that CCSS, at least in its ELA component, was not crafted by teachers experienced in the contemporary classroom, either high school or college. Its birthseems to have been in Gates Foundation back rooms or, at least, with Gates money as the midwife. Russ Walsh shows pretty definitively that it did not come from any of the constituencies most directly involved, teachers, principals, professors, college administrators, parents or students themselves. (Read Diane Ravitch’s blog, where I found the pieces linked to here, if you want to keep up with the various commentaries on CCSS). The New York Times, like all of the CCSS supporters, has no problem with this, but urges New York State’s governor Andrew Cuomo to continue his (mindless) support of CCSS, his attempt to ram it down the throat of the state’s schools. All CCSS supporters seem to believe that decisions about what constitutes appropriate standards, what makes a student “college ready,” and who should be in charge of instituting changes should come from “the top,” from politicians and the foundations that fund them.

They are wrong.

Walter Breau analyzed  “creative disruption” and MOOCs, concluding:

It is too early to say whether MOOCs are an innovator’s dilemma, innovator’s disaster, or just another type of online learning platform that will continue to improve and complement, but not supplant, the traditional model of higher education. But certainly, even though the hysterical rhetoric of MOOCs has died down, it is still advisable to keep an eye on the online technological and pedagogical experiments that are taking place in and out of traditional higher education, and that will only continue to improve.

Kevin Mahoney described how Pennsylvania’s legislator wanted to set the stage for the dismantling of the state system of higher education PASSHE):

But, even more importantly for those who would like to dismantle PASSHE altogether, as the number of “financially sound” universities leave PASSHE, the remaining universities will be weakened by retrenchment, declining enrollment, and bad publicity. That will increase the power of management to impose whatever draconian measures they wish in future contract negotiatons and will provide state legislators with powerful ammunition to dismantle the state-system altogether.

Among the many other stories touched on in posts during February was an update by Hank Reichman on the situation at the City College of San Francisco:

It has been some time since I’ve reported on the fight to save City College of San Francisco (CCSF).  As readers will recall, last summer the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) announced that it would terminate CCSF’s accreditation as of July 2014.  (See my original post of July 8 and subsequent posts onJuly 13, August 13, and November 8.)  Several recent developments highlight the importance of this fight.

First, on January 2, a San Francisco Superior Court judge granted a key aspect of a motion by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera to enjoin the ACCJC from terminating CCSF’s accreditation in July.  Under terms of the ruling Judge Curtis E.A. Karnow barred the ACCJC from finalizing its planned termination of City College’s accreditation during the course of the litigation, which alleges that the private accrediting body has allowed political bias, improper procedures, and conflicts of interest to unlawfully influence its evaluation of the state’s largest community college.

There was much more going on during the month of February, but the above is a substantial taste.

Coming soon: March!

One thought on “2014 Through the Academe Blog: February

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