2014 Through the Academe Blog: November

Martin Kich began the month with ruminations on “branding”:

What my institution and others like it aspire to is to have name recognition equivalent to that of the most prestigious institutions in the country, or, failing that, approaching that of the institutions with the most successful athletic programs in the nation. It is a Sisyphean endeavor because academic reputations are built over decades, and our mid-level athletics program is already costing us about $10 million per year in institutional subsidies to sustain it. In order to expand it to compete even with the university of Cincinnati—never mind Ohio State—we would have to devote about a sixth of our current budget to the enterprise.

So, my institution can only aspire to be in the position of Duke University, which is suing the executors of John Wayne’s estate, who operate under the name John Wayne Enterprises, to prevent them from distributing a whiskey under the actor’s well-known nickname, Duke.

The situation of the City College of San Francisco continued into trail, as Hank Reichman reported:

On Friday, five days of testimony concluded in the trial of San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s case against the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), which last year denied accreditation to the City College of San Francisco, with nearly 80,000 students, effective July 1, 2014, a decision that is now on hold pending the results of this trial.  The parties will return to court for closing arguments before Judge Curtis Karnow on December 9.

Brian C. Mitchell, from a different angle than Kich’s, took on university and college “messaging”:

Ultimately, the future of the university will depend on how the message gets delivered. Provosts, deans and talented faculty contribute within the scope of their own responsibilities. But, constituents ultimately want to hear from the president. Surrogates need not apply. Ed McMahon could never be Johnny Carson because Ed didn’t own the brand.

Similarly, you cannot simply turn to a higher education “image” shop to launch comprehensive fundraising campaigns, and let these image masters define your vision. The college or university brand is organic and evolving. The best brand makers demonstrate that you are whom you say and say what you mean.

Peter Kirstein discussed a circuit-court ruling:

Since the lower district court had issued a summary judgment against Professor Meade, the appeals court remanded the case back to the trial court–the district court–thereby, ordering it to consider her complaint in a multiplicity of areas including retaliation for exercising her right of freedom of speech that is protected in the First Amendment.

While Professor Meade has not at this stage won her case, she will get another day in court. She can still fight for the restoration of her position as an adjunct business instructor.

Sister Mary Reap took a look at the need for adult education:

By 2018, 63 percent of all jobs in the United States will require a post-secondary degree. At the current rate that degrees are being conferred, the workforce will be short 3 million degree holders by 2018. Unlike past workforce growth from high school graduates, between 2006-07 and 2019-20 the number of high school graduates is expected to increase only by a total of 1 percent, significantly adding to the shortfall. If this trend continues, average income per capita is expected to decline within the next 15 years.

Following up on Kirstein’s discussion of her case (see above), Robin Meade explained her situation:

I was fired for sending a letter to the League for Innovation in the Community College, criticizing the Moraine Valley Community College administration for treating adjunct faculty as a “disposable resource” and the “chilling effect” on adjuncts who lack job security.

Ulf Kirchdorfer weighed in on the pros and cons of online education:

I am certainly guilty of having expressed dissatisfaction with “online,” mostly about the notion that too often it is seen as a way to lasso many students and corral them under one brand of college in the name of profit, as if it were all about the beef.  I also do not like the standardized icons, courses having to look the same, compliments of templates and learning management systems.  Not everyone wants to have a satchel or an apple sitting on the virtual classroom desktop, put there in what is a strange notion of harking to the good old days, even before most of us went to school, this graphic display in what supposedly is a paradigm shift.

There is, however, one aspect of online education that beats the traditional classroom instruction hands down.  This is the intimate, intelligent, and deep conversation that can occur between instructor and student in a virtual environment.  Ironically, it is accomplished by one of the more basic technological features, email.

Marjorie Heins wrote about the continuing intrusion of outside monetary interests in higher education:

George Mason University’s Institute for Humane Studies, chaired by Charles Koch, has been “a haven for climate change deniers,” according to a report from Mother Jones. It recruits students to work for Koch-funded organizations that have fought climate change initiatives, including the development of clean energy alternatives.

The Koch brothers own the second largest private corporation in the U.S.: Koch Industries, which had $115 billion in sales in fiscal year 2013. Its wide range of enterprises include oil refineries in Alaska, Minnesota, and Texas, and thousands of miles of pipelines.

I provided a review of Stanley Fish’s new book, Versions of Academic Freedom: From Professionalism to Revolution:

Instead of imagining the academy that is an institution of inquiry, education and engagement, Fish sees it as a home for the “job” of research and hones his vision of academic freedom accordingly. He also uses his limited definition of the concept to demolish most of the other “schools” he outlines (he has sympathy only for the second).

Fish writes that “Although academic freedom is celebrated in grand, indeed grandiose, terms, it is at base a guild slogan that speaks to the desire of the academic profession to run its own shop.” For me, there’s an assumption behind this that I just cannot accept, that academic institutions are, at their essence, commercial enterprises.

Karen Craigo offered a poem she wrote on learning that her contract was not being renewed:

To get the sack is to lose

your job. We might also say

canned, fired, given the boot.

My student has the idiom

of the day, and he takes us through

the origin of the term—how workers

would carry a bag of tools

from job to job until they were

no longer wanted, and were handed

their satchel and sent away.

Once again, there was much much more!

Your comments are welcome. They must be relevant to the topic at hand and must not contain advertisements, degrade others, or violate laws or considerations of privacy. We encourage the use of your real name, but do not prohibit pseudonyms as long as you don’t impersonate a real person.