Thursday, December 22, 2005

Vacation break

I'll be out blogosphere for the next several weeks, so have a nice, relaxing break! After the new year, it will be time to get back to work.

Oshkosh Northwestern - Bill would allow faculty, staff unions at UW campuses

Chancellor Wells told the Northwestern editorial board yesterday that he was in favor of allowing faculties to vote on whether to unionize.

This seems to be an increase in support from the article that ran in the A-T on Wednesday.

It is interesting to me that three sponsors of the bill are Republicans. Mike Ellis, however, is clearly not part of the Christianist group down in Madison.

Palmeri predicts that most campuses would unionize. I would imagine he is right, especially in these troubling budgetary times.

Faculty of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains!?

Oshkosh Northwestern - Bill would allow faculty, staff unions at UW campuses

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

UWO's bible thumper policy

Give credit to the A-T again for writing a story about UWO's position on RAs leading bible studies in their rooms

Our student administration announces that they will only declare a policy if someone comes forward claiming to be pressured.

They are carefully remaining ignorant, hoping not to offend the Christianists locally.

Advance Titan Online

Econ attacks make the A-T

The angry e-mails by Kevin McGee made the A-T this week.

The A-T reporter interviewed the attacker and the attackee, so there are a few more juicy details about this little spat.

Advance Titan Online

Literacy: The real crisis of higher education?

As I finish up grading, I felt as though these could have been my words. How is it that students did so poorly on their final exams?

Have I done such a bad job conveying the key information in my courses? What would happen if I gave them the grades that I really would like?

Where have my standards gone???

Inside Higher Ed :: The Lowering of Higher Education

Teach, Don't Preach, the Bible - New York Times

I like this editorial in the NY Times today (registration required). The author argues that the bible deserves a place in academia, in its historical and literary context.

The article is in reference to yesterday's ruling that ID is simply religion, but it fits in quite nicely as well with the discussion that has grown on this blog about religion in the dormitory. It makes a clear distinction between taking a careful, balanced look at one of the most important documents of Western Civilization and forcing one interpretation upon it.

Teach, Don't Preach, the Bible - New York Times

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Collective Organizing for Faculty

Although I am overburdened with grading at the moment, I wanted to post something today. Tony Palmeri has been keeping up on legislation in the Wisconsin Assembly that would give us the right to organize a union.

This is something that is unfortunately necessary, I think, because of the current state of affairs in Wisconsin. We need a strong voice in funding decisions that are being made in Madison. Currently, there is no real advocate for higher education in the state. Besides protecting our own interest, a union would be able to create a loud collective voice to remind our legislators and citizens that the university system here needs to be supported. We have become the whipping boy of the Christianists in Wisconsin and need to figure out a way to organize a defense. A union would help greatly.

I have worked in both unionized and ununionized faculty positions, and the difference was pretty amazing. A faculty union gives us a real voice in governance, not just a forum for complaining and then being ignored (remember our spring petition!)

Note: Please contact me (Palmeri or TAUWP/AFT Staff Representative Kevin Kniffin (kniffin or 800-362-7390 x223) for more information about any of these items.

1. United Council of UW Students endorses SB 452
2. Frequently Asked Questions re Coll. Barg. Rights
3. TAUWP/AFT sees shift in UW System Administration

1. United Council of UW Students endorses SB 452

The United Council of UW Students (the statewide assembly of UW student governments) took unanimous action on December 3rd to support collective bargaining rights for UW faculty and academic staff and to endorse Senate Bill 452. United Council's discussions prior to voting included TAUWP officers Bill Biglow (UW-Oshkosh chapter) and Patricia Goldstein (UW-Milwaukee chapter).

A copy of the United Council resolution is included here (and interested individuals can visit United Council online at their website: <>):

"Approved December 3, 2005

“Support of Collective-Bargaining Rights for UW Faculty and Academic Staff”
Whereas, students support the extension of collective-bargaining rights to faculty and academic staff employed throughout the University of Wisconsin (UW) System; and

Whereas, Senate Bill (SB) 452 extends the “right-to-decide” collective bargaining to UW faculty and academic staff; and

Whereas, all four neighboring states­and 29 states across the nation­extend collective bargaining rights to faculty and academic staff employed at two-year and four-year public higher education institutions; and

Whereas, during a one-year period from March 2001 and March 2002, Faculty Senates at 14 of the 15 UW institutions approved resolutions requesting that the Legislature extend collective bargaining rights to UW faculty and academic staff; and

Therefore be it resolved, the United Council of UW Students, representing 140,000 students on 24 UW campuses, supports the passage of SB 452.

Beau Stafford
United Council of UW Students

Brian Tanner
Legislative Affairs Director
United Council of UW Students"

2. Frequently Asked Questions re Coll. Barg. Rights

QUESTION: Does Governor Jim Doyle support bargaining rights for UW faculty and academic staff?

ANSWER: Yes. As he promised as a candidate, Governor Doyle remains committed to making the needed changes so that faculty and academic staff are no longer denied the basic right to decide in favor or against collective bargaining. His main designee -- Director of Office of State Employment Relations Karen Timberlake -- has taken proactive steps in recent months to help advance SB 452.

+ + + + +

QUESTION: Do other states allow bargaining rights for faculty and academic staff on a campus-by-campus basis?

ANSWER: Yes. Even in Wisconsin's neighboring states, each of which permit faculty and professional staff to vote in favor or against collective bargaining, there are many examples. In the University of Illinois system, not only do the faculties at Urbana-Champaign, Chicago, and Springfield have independent rights, but the law school faculty have a right-to-decide that is independent of others at UIUC.

3. TAUWP/AFT sees shift in UW System Administration

UW System President Kevin Reilly recently acknowledged in a public radio interview that "there are a good number of states now where faculty and [academic] staff are in Unions and they sit beside, in those states, in the universities, the shared governance functions that those states have." Reilly's statement is a significantly positive--and appropriate--shift away from past UW System Administrations that actively undermined and opposed bills like SB 452.

Among the reasons why Reilly's shift is appropriate:

1. TAUWP/AFT members have been working across the State over the past three years to meet with members of the 17-person, Doyle-appointed Board of Regents to introduce them to the subject of collective bargaining rights for faculty and academic staff. Among the points that we have emphasized in these meetings is the fact that collective bargaining rights are available to faculty and academic staff employed on four-year campuses in 29 states and more than 1,100 campuses across the country and each of Wisconsin's four neighboring states
2. Between March 2001 and March 2002, faculty senates at 14 of the 15 UW institutions approved resolutions requesting that the legislature extend the basic right to decide in favor or against collective bargaining. UW-Madison, as the exception in 2001-02, approved a resolution in May 2005 that endorsed the inclusion of several principles that are each accommodated in SB 452.

Reilly made the statement as part of an interview on December 14th on Joy Cardin's Wisconsin Public Radio program.

More information about the UW Oshkosh TAUWP chapter can be found here:

Friday, December 16, 2005

Literacy Falls for Graduates From College, Testing Finds

Here is a depressing study reported in the NY Times (registration required). Students are less literate today after graduating from College than they were a decade ago.

Only 40% were judged proficient and 31% were rated to have high-level skills.

The latest grads read less and spend more time watching TV.

Literacy Falls for Graduates From College, Testing Finds - New York Times

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Two more articles about Reilly's pander

The journal-sentinal ran a longer story yesterday on this topic. You can read Reilly's comments, along with a few republican legislators, to whom he was pandering.

JS Online: UW president speaks up on Bible study controversy

The Capital Times ran an editorial against pushing religion on the UW campus:

Edward G. Young: University employees shouldn't push religio

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Chancellor Reilly says RAs should be able to lead bible studies

Reilly, in an apparent suck-up to Christianist legislators, says that he personally thinks RA led bible study in the dorm is ok by RAs.

No need to be welcoming or inclusive if you are supervising dorm activities--go right ahead and prostyletize!! "Need help? Why don't you join the bible study, then I'll be interested. . ." says the Reilly's new kind of RA for Wisconsin.

The written policy is yet to come, and Reilly claims it will be difficult to translate his sentiment. I imagine that this policy will be saner, but Reilly is hoping to gain some Christmas goodwill from the radical right.

JS Online: DayWatch

Friday, December 09, 2005

Regents discuss problem of high tuition

At a regents meeting yesterday, they discussed the problems of increading tuition. No action was taken.

The Northwestern reported this story on the front page, but I couldn't quite figure out why until I read this longer story from the UWMadison paper.

The Badger Herald - University of Wisconsin-Madison

Student letter in the Northwestern

I also should make note of a letter written by 3 college students that appeared in the A-T on Wednesday and the Northwestern yesterday. They were writing to complain about the 14 billion dollar cut in aid to college students made by congress. I heartily agree with their position. I hope that we will see some sort of political shift away from attacking higher education on all fronts.

Congressional cuts endanger UWO students

As many students can confirm, tuition is going up and so is the standard of living. In the 1989-90 academic school year at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, total tuition was $1,689. In the 2005-06 academic school year, the tuition jumped to $4,981. This doesn't include room or board. On Nov. 18, the U.S. Congress again slammed the door on college students. By a vote of 217-215 Congress passed the largest cut to student loans in the history of federal programs, cutting $14.3 billion. According to United States Student Association Vice President Jennifer Pae, "Many students can barely manage their current loan debt and increasing the typical student's loan debt by an added $5,800 will only make the students suffer."

As citizens of Oshkosh, we can say that the job market in our community isn't vast. Employers are looking for college degrees or a master's degree and experience. This requirement of major companies is very understandable; however, why then the lack of support for our students? As is, we are hardly able to work a job to cover the standard of living and attend all our classes.

We're not here to complain or gripe about being a student, nor asking you to take action. However, we want to point out the fact that poverty is on the rise, so are the responsibilities of being a student. Society has an expectation that we need to have a degree in order to hold a well-paying job and maintain a decent living without going below the poverty line. Please take a look at our community and think about what is going to happen if the 11,059 current UWO students continue to fall below that line.

Dan Scoville, Katie Seibel, and Teresa Gedko Oshkosh

State schools turn to part-time professors

I have provided a link from another newspaper, but the Northwestern decided to run this AP story today.

This is one of the key issues in higher-education today--universities are becoming institutions where courses are taught by part-timers with absolutely no job security.

It is corrosive to the atmosphere, both educational and intellectual, for academia across the country.

My sense is that Oshkosh has not gone down this path too far, but has increasingly turned to full-time, contract teachers instead of replacing tenure-track lines. While this is a step up from the part-time world, it still is very troubling.

State schools turn to part-time professors

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Responses to posts begin to fill the list

A few excerpts:

"This is the most egregious and unprofessional series of ad hominem attacks I have ever observed."

"my take on this suggestion is to "get on with it" and and use other more appropriate channels to air such concerns."

"Your most recent posts give the appearance that you are determined to conduct a public pissing match with the Dean, and that you are using your mentee as a means to that end. "

"Michael has dealt with bizarre assaults in the past, and I trust he'll have no problem putting this one in perspective. But I do worry about a mentee who is looking more and more like a pawn in a senior faculty member's game (or like the poster child for attacking an administrator)."

The attacks from an Econ professor continue!

It just gets better! As if the first post wasn't enough: the vicious attack on Zimmerman continues. He claims vendetta because Zimmerman insists that the faculty member publish new research. He offers inuendo about how "we all know" that Zimmerman deceitfully influences decisions around COLS.

One can debate the merits of Zimmerman's recent enforcement of publication for research release, but that is the most civil part of the note. It goes off the deep end by proclaiming rumors as the truth about Zimmermans reign of evil (my own words, though close to the ones used in the letter).

Has this person gone off their meds? What sort of response does he expect from anyone? Does he expect some sort of uprising? Why is he making such claims on the public listserv? Has this agreved party consented to this line of "defense?" Has our "mistreated" colleague filed a grievance according to established procedures?

One has to imagine that he wants to test the limits of the rules governing free speech by faculty members. How nasty and bitter can you publicly be without being chastised (or worse) by the administration? When does mudslinging end and slander begin? Can we increase the speed of transfer and send these people over to the college of business before they start frothing at the mouth?

My earlier email statement of the story was based upon what I was told by my mentee. Had it been the only example of his being singled out by the Dean, I might not have believed it either. But it was not.

A month or two ago, my mentee submitted a Curriculum Modification Plan for the next three years. In it he listed two articles in refereed journals (J Human Res., Fall 2003; J Applied Econometrics, Winter 2004) that he has published in the three years since he's been here, as well as a Graduate level textbook on which he is a contributing author and for which he wrote a solutions CD that solves all the problems in the book.

Dean Zimmerman only provisionally approved the plan, i.e. for 1 year only, because "you have not published any of the work from your previous modification in a refereed journal." So (a) apparently the two refereed publications don't count, because while they were published in the last two years, the work on them was not entirely done within the past two years, and (b) the contributions to a textbook were "not published a refereed journal."

It's bad enough that the Dean has more than once refused to give him credit for those two publications, inaccurately claiming that they were "already in press when he was hired." True, most of the work on them was done while he was a Graduate student, but where in the Handbook does it say that only research produced after coming here is scholarly achievement? How can the Dean arbitrarily impose this interpretation of scholarship on a third year faculty member, when it clearly makes it virtually impossible to demonstrate scholarly achievement in the first few years? And does the Dean apply this interpretation uniformly to all junior faculty, or only to those in departments he has targeted?

Far worse however is the Dean's disingenuous refusal to count the contributions to a Graduate textbook, on the pretext that it was not published in a refereed journal. Where in the Handbook is scholarship limited to journal publications? When did textbook publications cease to be considered scholarly? Or is this almost certainly a case where the Dean has chosen to impose on an Economics junior faculty member a discriminatory standard that he does not impose elsewhere?

Despite three publications in his first three years here, my mentee has been threatened with an increased teaching load unless he publishes another article in the next 10 months. Is it a surprise that he feels he has a target on his back? Is it a surprise that, when the Dean made disparaging remarks about himself as a "tree killer" and his work as "drivel," he took those remarks seriously?

(Interestingly enough, while the Dean denies making those statements, Maureen Winkler, not know the background or the fact that my mentee has family member who are loggers, thought the statements were in jest. I can assure all of you that, given the way the Dean has treated his scholarship so far, my mentee did not take the Dean's disparagements lightly.)

We all know that this is not an isolated incident. We all know that the Dean routinely oversteps bounds. And we all know that we routinely let him get away with it. For years, he tried to force junior faculty to provide him with all their written student comments, despite the fact that on the Handbook as adopted through faculty governance can specify what needs to go into personnel documents - and most of us let him get away with it.

We all know that he interfered with the Art Departments selection of a chair, despite the fact that our Handbook specifies no role whatsoever for the Dean in that decision - and we let him get away with it. We all know that he refused to allow Philosophy to interview their top job candidate, stepping well beyond his authority in hiring decisions decision - and we let him get away with it.

So let me ask a simple question - when is this BS going to stop? I have no intention of letting the Dean railroad my junior colleague out of here, and I'm putting everyone, the Dean especially, on notice of that fact. But am I really the only one willing to stand up to this nonsense? Is everyone so cowed that they will be the next target of Dean Zimmerman's arbitrary and capricious authority, that you are all willing to accept his vendettas as normal?

Or have we finally reached a point where enough is enough?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Third-Party Description of the Scene

The third party who was witness to the exchange testified on Zimmerman's behalf. It looks like the hotheads in the econ department have publicly demonstrated why Zimmerman would be glad to be rid of them. It makes you wonder why the business school would want these people in their college!

I was sitting here and participating in the conversation you mention between Dean Zimmerman and your mentee. Dean Zimmerman did say something about killing trees; to me, it was clearly a joke. If you could see the stack of paper that has come through this office for Faculty Development you would think the same thing. In fact, it may actually have been me that made the statement.

Dr. Zimmerman did ask about your mentee's research and was surprised to hear that he was moving to the agricultural rather than continuing in the logging research. Your mentee talked about the logging research findings and how the DNR was using the information and Dr. Zimmerman responded with positive and complimentary statements. The conversation ended with Dr. Zimmerman wishing the professor luck with his proposal. Never in the entire conversation did the word DRIVEL appear. I was impressed that Dr. Zimmerman remembered what the mentee's previous research was. To me (and remember I was here also), the conversation was pleasant, upbeat and supportive. Your mentee did not appear to be hurt or upset by this conversation.

Zimmerman Quick Response

Dean Zimmerman asserts that it was all in good spirits and can not understand how the conversation could have been interpreted in the way that it was. This makes much more sense than the accusations flung in the earlier letter, especially since no one has gone on to suggest ANY repercussions from any of these claims that have been made:


Typically, I'm not excited about engaging in the sort of discussion that . . . has initiated. However, his charges are so outrageous that I feel obligated to respond. Simply put, the conversation he reports below never took place. What did take place was a conversation, with a third party present, about the faculty member's research. We talked for a bit about his past research, which I praised. I learned how that research was being used by the DNR to help create better policy in the state. We talked for a bit about the fact that the current submission to the Faculty Development Board was on a slightly different topic, more on agricultural issues than on forestry. I wished the faculty member luck with his submission. The only comment on tree killing was a reference to the fact that the counter upon which the faculty member placed his submission was already stacked with hundreds of pages from other submissions, all submitted in hard copy.

I said absolutely nothing derogatory about the faculty member's research. I have checked my recollection of the very pleasant exchange with the third party who was present and my views have been fully confirmed.

The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh has procedures in place to raise issues of discrimination. If anyone feels that I have acted in a discriminatory fashion, I urge her/him to follow those procedures. Attempting character assassination on the the COLS Bulletin Board does not seem a productive way to proceed.

. . . . ends his missive by writing, "I'm sick and tired of Dean Zimmerman using his authority as Dean to push his own narrow policy agenda, to reward his pets, and to punish anyone that fails to kowtow to him. It's time for it to stop." Frankly, I have no idea how he has come to such a conclusion. All I can do is to repeat what I said above: If people feel that they've been treated unfairly, they should pursue a solution as outlined in our Faculty and Staff Handbook.

Economist Outraged at Dean Zimmerman!

I just have to post this message which came across the COLS list a few minutes ago. An outraged economist is shocked to find out that environmentalist Dean Zimmerman is against logging. Even worse, he had the gall to mention his feelings to the economist who studies the topic! We all know Dean's are not allowed to have opinions, and if they are, they should never mention them. It might damage someone's self-esteem. . .

Perhaps the next letter will explain how this comment has led to punishment. How many grants has the person been refused? How many times has he not been given merit raises? How many times has his research release not been approved? How did Zimmerman ever approve the hire, if he is so discriminatory?

Just another whine from the poor, mistreated economists who can only find solace in the arms of another college!

Here is the letter:

Last week, a probationary faculty member in my department, to whom I am mentor, was dropping off some Faculty Development Grant proposals in the COLS office. He happened to run into Dean Zimmerman there.

Apparently Zimmerman, after looking at this faculty member's proposal, noted that this faculty member's previous research had to do with the way the state auctions off logging rights in the state forests. Zimmerman then called this junior faculty member a "tree killer", and then asked him whether he really "tried to published this drivel".

My mentee was shocked by what the Dean said to him about his research. I'm not shocked; I'm outraged. The Dean was 100% out of line, making prejudicial statements about a young faculty member's research, especially because the Dean's statement had nothing to do with the academic rigor of that research.

Rather, it only seems to reflect the Dean's personal view of appropriate environmental policy. And to the best of my knowledge, adhering to the Dean's political philosophies is not specified in the Faculty and Academic Staff handbook as a criterion for tenure or renewal.

My mentee's research on logging is in fact intellectually rigorous, combining auction theory with imperfect and asymmetric information, not that the Dean knows anything about either of those. And it has important policy implications for the DNR, because it shows how, by altering their bidding procedures, they can protect the state's taxpayers from being underpaid for their logging rights. Maybe the Dean considers such policy results "drivel," but I doubt our state's taxpayers would.

I'm sick and tired of Dean Zimmerman using his authority as Dean to push his own narrow policy agenda, to reward his pets, and to punish anyone that fails to kowtow to him. It's time for it to stop.

Professor beaten up for criticizing intelligent design

How about this story out of Kansas--a Religious studies professor who wrote some insulting e-mails about religion was beaten up as he drove last week!

Inside Higher Ed :: Under Attack -- Literally -- in Kansas

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Conservative Academic who claimed bias practiced deception

I blogged this story a few months ago--about a conservative law professor who hit Bill O'Reilly with his claims of bias in the academy. As he drew more scrutiny to himself, parts of his story fell apart.

Unfortunately, more than anything, it shows how easy it is for the unscrupulous to get ahead in academia. So much of a person's history and work is taken on faith, leaving all sorts of avenues for deception. . .

Inside Higher Ed :: Web of Lies

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Bible study conflict escalates to national issue

The Journal-Sentinal ran a story about the Eau Claire conflict today, claiming that Eau Claire students aren't that interested. It does end with an anecdote of a student being pressured by an RA after refusing to join a bible study:

JS Online: Bible study conflict escalates to national issue

Welcome Northwestern Readers

I was surprised to see my blog listed in the print edition of the newspaper this morning. Now that I am in print, there may be all sorts of new readers.

If you are someone who dropped in because of the Sunday paper, leave me a comment. I would be interested to know if the printed word lures more people to the blog than the electronic link on the Northwestern's website. . .

Friday, December 02, 2005

COLS referendum results

Faculty of the College of Letters and Science recommends approval of the move of the Department of Economics from the College of Letters and Science to the College of Business Administration, as requested by the Department of Economics.

Approve __134_____ Do not approve __48____

University suspends Bible study ban

New Developments in a story I posted earlier -- UW Eau Claire's attempt to stop resident assistant from leading bible study ends for now.

There was no policy in writing, so it could not be officially enforced. Now, the system will write new rules governing these sorts of questions.

The question remains: should resident assistants, paid for their work helping students in the dorms, be able to lead bible studies in their rooms? Does it hurt their position as an accessible resource for students in the dorms? Will students of different faiths be able to feel comfortable when the person tasked to help them through the vagaries of college life suggests that the best way to do it is to abandon their own beliefs for his?

St. Paul Pioneer Press | 12/01/2005 | University suspends Bible study ban

This story in the Badger herald discusses how the issue is handled throughout the Big 10.

ADDED 12/4: Jody, in comments below, from the sidestreet added her own information about the story and her commentary at this link

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Gossip about the Econ Department

I heard an interesting tidbit today about the econ department and their relationship with Dean Zimmerman.

Apparently, the most significant disagreement between the two of them was over money that came from the business school for some courses taught by members of the department. They wanted the money for the department, but Zimmerman kept it. Thus, the sentiment was that Zimmerman "stole" this money from them. I suppose that if I were more in the loop, I would have known about this particular incident earlier. It does clear up the rationale behind the push, though.

Now they want to collect the money directly, by becoming part of the College of Business.

The referendum is now over, so we'll see if there is a big groundswell of support within COLS for affirming the right of any department upset with the dean to leave the college.

I am convinced it is a quite ludicrous proposition, but the distrust and anger apparently runs deep . . .

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Eau Claire student fee would fund pay raises

Tony Palmeri posted this link to the COLS list--students at Eau Claire make a nice symbolic gesture to support their professors by offering to help with salaries out of their own segregated fees.

This is part of a broader discussion on our list about the misperceptions about faculty salaries in the UW system. The public and the legislature operates under the assumption that we are making big bucks. Outside of a few high fliers at Madison, we make a decent living, but we are never going to get rich being college professors.

The life of the mind drew us, not the financial incentive. Administrators and legislators both like to take advantage of our idealism . . .

JS Online: Eau Claire student fee would fund pay raises

Wisconsin Supreme court rules on Marder case

Our supreme court ruled yesterday that most of the rules in the Marder case were properly followed. It returned the case to lower courts, however, for an investigation of whether "new facts" were added during a discussion before the board of regent's consideration of his appeal.

I haven't followed this case closely, but TAUWP has been supporting Marder and using him as an example of administrative power out of control for years.

Inside Higher Ed :: Tenured Professor's Firing (Largely) Upheld

Here is the supreme court brief and a story from 2001 about the Marder case that appeared at the Chronicle of Higher Education

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

For Profit College To Cancel Liberal Arts

Post University is eliminating all degree programs that don't lead directly to careers and upper-level liberal arts courses.

Technical school here we come. . . .

Inside Higher Ed :: Don't Know Much About History

Monday, November 28, 2005

Graduate Student Strikers Blog at NYU

I found this site very interesting. You can read the about the graduate students, the administration and their battles.

I am very sympathetic to the argument that graduate students are exploited, though it is hard to believe that life is too rough at NYU.

Nerds on Strike!: "c"

Turning academia into a cafeteria

The LA Times ran an editorial discussing the problems of the Academic Bill of Rights and the larger problem of a "choice-addled" society. Academic freedom is under assault because the language of diversity and choice has become a mantra in use to throttle lines of inquiry that someone may diagree with.

As Russell Jacoby, a professor at UCLA, suggests, "Truth itself is partisan."

Turning academia into a cafeteria - Los Angeles Times

COLS list invaded by Marines

Monday morning and we're back to work. I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving! The COLS list was active over the long vacation.

An extended debate got started after a list member objected to the tag-line on Mike Melland's email (see previous entry) which read:

"Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference. The Marines don't have that problem." President Ronald Reagan, 1985

This line got Gerry Grzyb worked up enough to post a response, a long quotation from a Marine General complaining about the uses of the Marines. And they were off. . .

I don't think it is worthy of a summary, since I have much to catch up on today, but the argument ebbed and flowed about American foreign policy, the U.S. Military, Iraq, the Nuremburg Trials, and finally, some personal insults.

As the postings continued, we were hit by the usual "remove me" emails from people who still haven't learned to avoid responding to the whole list (and who don't actually ever look at the email with specific unsubscribe instructions). The final? unsubscribe came from Tom Lammers, who denounced the whole list (but especially Gerry Grzyb) and let us all know he will not discuss any longer.

The discussion about the Marines has generally been unproductive, but information about book-rental and other campus issues have been informative. Outside the often heated rhetoric of Lammers, Grzyb and a few others, it has not been a bad outlet for broader connections across campus.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Chronicle of Higher Education Article on Wisconsin

This article came across the COLS listserv today, thanks to Mike Melland.

The article discusses the collision between the UW system and the Legislature. There are several interesting moments in the text--in particular Jim Doyle, the "education" governor, criticizes the system in an interview, claiming we don't want the same oversight as other government agencies. It also ends with the standard rhetoric from Krebich, the most vocal slanderer of the UW system. One would think that his extremist views represent the whole of the state.

I hope not, but I guess the way Repubs and Dems alike agree to slash our budget, he probably is closer to it than I am. . .

Monday, November 21, 2005

A Residence Hall Director's Blog

I should be working, I know, but this popped up on

Jim Droste is a residence hall director of Breese Hall, and there are a few interesting university related discussions over there. A few students posted in relationship to the fight over bible study led by RAs in the dorms at UW-Eau Claire.

Check it out!

A Pirate's Log

Econ department continues to push for secession

Unfortunately, I missed the hearings held last week to hear the justifications for the switch from COLS to COBA.

I have not heard any real justification for this proposal, except that the department might work "slightly better" if it were attached to a different College.

The A-T article provides no justification, but it made me think about the topic.

The rumors suggest that this is a personal feud between the department and Zimmerman, and the weak justfications heard so far seem to make that the most likely reason.

I think that if the econ department really thinks that they are better defined as part of the specialized business degree, they should also be asking to be removed from the general education requirements of the university. Students should be asked to take a more general liberals arts course. They will get enough business experience after they graduate.

Both the dept. and Zimmerman claim that nothing will change in terms of requirements and majors, which makes the desire to switch even more puzzling. Perhaps there is economic value in pointless administrative reshuffling. What does current economic theory tell us on that point?

Advance Titan Online

Story Update: House Republicans regroup--cut student aid

Here is the story over at Oshkosh News, with some links to other stories.

The NYTimes Sunday magazine has an interesting discussion of how the Republicans use power in Washington--in particular by letting "moderates" vote against controversial measures as long as there is enough support for passage. In this case, too many moderates defected last week and more arms had to be twisted.

Petri, feeling safe in our district, voted to hurt college students across the U.S.

In a related story, the Journal Sentinal reports that legislators are angling to spend another $400 million on prisons, to keep sex offenders behind bars longer. Any guesses as to where the money for that is going to come from???

Searching for Summer School

The administration has once again begun to hunt for faculty members to teach summer school. Dean Zimmerman has made it clear in his various budget meetings that these courses cost the college money, but system is demanding that we offer more, more, more!! Does UWO really need any summer school courses? Are the ones you teach full?

I don't want to teach over the summer, so are you going to sign up?

Attack of the Career-Killing Blogs - When academics post online, do they risk their jobs? By Robert S. Boynton

Here is another article about how blogging can hurt your academic career. A nationally renown blogger from University of Chicago didn't get tenure, and some blame his blogging.. . .

Attack of the Career-Killing Blogs - When academics post online, do they risk their jobs? By Robert S. Boynton

Friday, November 18, 2005

Threats to Liberal Education from Left and Right

I like this story about liberal education over at, part of their "college week."

The author proposes that liberal education is under assault from the left-wing that questions the practice of teaching as too elitist and the right wing who is obsessed with making college narrowly practical.
I am not sure I agree with the premise, but it is a good thought piece.

Reforming College - What professors don't tell you. By Astrida Orle Tantillo

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Mellon Foundation to investigate college student graduation rates

the president of the Mellon foundation announced that he is planning to research the reasons that only 54% of college students have graduated after 6 years.

UWO's rate is even lower, if I remember correctly, so this is a question we should be thinking more about ourselves. - Focus on getting students into college shifts to getting them out - Nov 16, 2005

Pennsylvania Republicans attack university professors

The Penn. legislature is "investigating" universities in pennsylvania for bias. Academics at Temple organized a teach-in to protest such witch hunts.

I imagine that we may be seeing similar things here in Wisconsin before long. It is a short news story in the Philadelphia Inquirer about it.

Registration is required, but I have begun to use to avoid having to give my email address.

Philadelphia Daily News | 11/12/2005 | Profs get warned of freedoms

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Will Advertising save the University?

A national association of universities is getting ready to launch a national campaign to emphasize the importance of college education.

I don't think it will work, but at least some people are thinking about how to change the terms of the debate in this country about higher education.

Once again, the radical right has set the agenda, defining universities as hotbeds of sedition, not instruments of economic growth and upward mobility. It would be nice if an ad campaign could break that stranglehold.

Inside Higher Ed :: 'Solutions for Our Future'

Class and Wealth at Madison

The Journal-Sentinal is running a cutsie story about the division between 'coasties' and Wisconsites at Madison. The real theme of the story is class and privelege. 31% of spots at Madison go to out of state kids who can afford the $20,000/year tuition.

This is just another symptom of Wisconsin abdicating its duty to educate Wisconsities. It is fine to have out of state students, but the problem is really one of financing. Madison has to have a large percentage of high-tuition paying students just to keep afloat in this day and age. Wouldn't it be nice if those spots went to deserving Wisconsites, regardless of their ability to pay??

JS Online: The great 'Coastie' divide

College Week at Slate

I haven't read any of the articles, but it looks like they will be having some interesting thoughts over at Check it out. If you find any of the articles particularly interesting, leave me a comment!
Then I'll know what to read.

Slate Goes to College - A week of articles about higher education.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Fees and Helping Students

The COLS listserv has been busy over the weekend. Two substantial discussions have developed over the issue of the segregated fees here on campus:

First, there is a question about the parking situation. A few writers have been questioning the need for a new parking structure after the acquisition of Cub Foods. Do we really need to increase the parking costs for this structure if there are so many new spaces across the river? At least one person has suggested that we should instead be trying to force students and staff out of their cars. The high fees are one way of encouraging students to leave their cars at home and staff to find alternative methods of reaching campus.

It would be nice to see such a cultural shift away from cars on campus. Students who flee during the weekends might become more deeply integrated into campus life. If staff moved closer or used other forms of transportation, we might see a broad revitalization of the center of the city and less polution in town. Far fetched, however.

Second, an ongoing discussion about switching to a textbook rental system. It apparently saves students money at places like UW Eau Claire. Faculty, however, are somewhat restricted in their choice of textbooks and the interval during which they can change. I don't change that often, so a 2-3 year cycle would not bother me, but others have expressed a real problem with the model.

That is my update about the listserv--I am not inspired enough by the conversation to post the actual comments--but it is a worthy enough endeavor to think about the issues of student costs...

Students' lack of interest

This editorial speculates about the current state of our culture which has made broad cultural knowledge irrelevant. Students no longer care that they don't know anything. . . | J. Peder Zane

College Presidents' obscene salaries

The Chronicle of Higher Education is set to release the salaries of presidents at universities today. This list is topped by the president of Lynn University, who received over $5 million dollars in 2003-4.

Wow! The numbers here are shocking! 50 presidents earn over $500,000 a year at private institutions. 23 earn that much at state schools.

The compensation race is just ridiculous, but this is a huge issue outside of academia as well. It clearly has trickled down, at great expense to tuition-paying students and under-paid staff.

You have to register for the New York Times to read this story:

College Leaders' Earnings Top $1 Million - New York Times

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Marlin Schneider reintroduces his wacky bill

Jim Simmons brought this article to the attention of COLS list. Rep. Schneider is again proposing his "student bill of rights," which contains all sorts of off-the-wall proposals. He is still upset about heavy backpacks and bad advising. . . .

Jim thinks that this bill has a chance of passing. No way! No ideological requirements in the bill--thats what would really get the Republicans on board!

Wausau - 'Student bill of rights' proposed for UWs

Friday, November 11, 2005

Story Update 2: Regents meet: Against back up jobs, ordered investigatation of student fees

The regents are in the midst of a two day meeting. Yesterday, they approved the end to backup jobs and an investigation of student fee increases.

All of this appears to be a cave-in to the university-hating, sensationalist wing of the republican party in Madison. Neither will necessarily improve the quality of higher education in the state. More likely, the new policies will convince good candidates for administative jobs to look elsewhere and reduce options available to students.

- Day 1 Regents meeting news summary

Story Update1: U.S. congress not cutting student aid for now

The republican cuts of higher ed. loans for students ran into trouble yesterday, as saner heads prevailed. It is part of a larger reticence of Republican moderates against the excesses of the extremists in the party. Cutting aid to the poor and college students while giving more tax breaks to the rich is not appearing to be good politics today.

Inside Higher Ed :: House Plan to Cut Loan Programs Stalls

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Econ department wants to secede from College

The Faculty Committee announced yesterday that there will be college of letters and science referendum about whether the Econ department should leave and join the college of business.

There will be a couple of discussion sessions in the next month about it.

It sounds pretty crazy to me. The rumor has it that there are deep personal problems between Dean Zimmerman and the Econ department. I am not enough in the loop to know exactly what is going on between them, but something must be bad for them to want to make this leap.

I can't see a good reason for it. Since when is Economics not part of the basic Social Science core of a good education? Why would they want to redefine their discipline as a narrowly career oriented field like business? Do they really believe that their discipline has more in common with marketing and management than with mathematics and chemistry?

This should make for interesting university-wide discussion over the next few months and I hope that we will hear why the econ department is trying to leave. I think my department ought to move too--I hear the pay is much better in the college of business!

Blogwars and lawsuits

Here is another story that deals with the dangers of blogging: learn about two academics involved in a heated argument that turns particularly nasty!

Inside Higher Ed :: Online Quicksand

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Student expelled for antagonistic web postings

How about this story--you have to be careful what you post on the internet if you are a colege student! I am afraid that it could happen to university employees, so I remain anonymously Winneblogo!

first alerted me to a whole series of incidents:

Here is a story from the Boston Globae about Facebook:

Fisher College expels student over website entries - The Boston Globe

Binge drinking black-eye

News reports announce today that the UW system has the worst student drinking culture in the nation. 7 out of 10 men and 5 out of 10 women admit binge drinking in the last two weeks.

Unfortunately, this is part of our problem of connecting with students and creating an atmosphere of learning on campus. We all know that students spend more time talking about partying than class. We need to figure out how to break this cycle of drunkenness and intellectual hollowness.

The news report

A Wisconsin State Journal editorial

Monday, November 07, 2005

How Thursday Became the New Friday

The Education Life section of the NYTimes ran this story yesterday. It describes how Fridays have been transformed into an extra weekend day (Party Thursday night!!)

It is another story about how Universities have given in to their students, by allowing Friday to slip away. If you teach on Fridays, you know about the dismal attendance and lack of attention to be found in Oshkosh students.

The article also describes how Duke University is striving to reclaim the whole calendar and Fridays in particular. We do some of these things already, but it is a good reminder that catering to only what students want would lead to a university without classes or standards.
(Registration is required to see the story)
How Thursday Became the New Friday - New York Times

Liberal Arts program failing for colleges

Dean Zimmerman has argued forcefully for the need to convince the public that one of the key components of a college education are the general good of a liberal education.

The AAC&U is trying to quantify what that means and provide some data to show if it is working. Their standardized testing suggests that only 11% of seniors qualify as "proficient" in writing and only 6% are "proficient" in critical thinking skills.

I don't know how they arrived at these figures, but I imagine that they are pretty close to correct. Our students surely would do no better. How can we change this?

Another link related to this story is here.

AAC&U News Room | Liberal Education Outcomes: A Preliminary Report on Student Achievement in College

Friday, November 04, 2005

JS Online: Bible study policy raises ire

New Right-Wing attack on the universities here: Student RA forced to follow same rules as all other state employees. However, it happens to be that he is pushing religion in the dorms.

No one would have expected it, but Republican politicians are angry that policy forbidding religion at work applies to Christianity! Do you think Mark Green would be complaining about Buddhists being forced to have their prayer meetings outside the dorms??

JS Online: Bible study policy raises ire

The 'Crisis' in Higher Ed Financing

This New York Conference is probably the reason there is a story on today.

Several speakers here blame increasing college costs on an "amenities arms race." We are competing, but students seem willing to vote these fees upon themselves.

Inside Higher Ed :: The 'Crisis' in Higher Ed Financing

No Surprise Here: Presidents hired for fund-raising ability

Here is an not so surprising story on CNN about the need for college presidents to raise funds. We all know that this is the case. It is interesting, however, that it is showing up in the major national media.

Unfortunately, this has become all too true for our own Chancellor and those who lead the public institutions in this country. - More college presidents from outside academic ranks - Nov 3, 2005

Thursday, November 03, 2005

National Summit on cutting college costs makes suggestions

I have linked to this organization and website before, but here is a new report about a recent meeting.

There, several adminstrators and public figures to address the question of how to control college costs and discussed several issues, the one highlighted by the Inside Higher ed story is remedial service for unqualified students. They also mention making faculty teach more, generating more non-tuition revenue, etc.

It is an interesting emphasis. We clearly have plenty of help for students who are not fully prepared for college, but it is hard to imagine that it is a very large share of the overall budget.

Inside Higher Ed :: High Schools and High College Costs

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Let's Work Together to Fix Academic Journals

Ron Hardy sent along this open letter about the price-gouging practices of large academic journal publishing. The statistics in the letter lay bare the policy of exploiting the necessity of university libraries to subscribe to key journals whatever the cost.

As a community, we should join this movement, and get journal prices under control. Perhaps the faculty senate should get involved and support a broad initiative!

Consider this:

An Open Letter to All University Presidents and Provosts Concerning Increasingly Expensive Journals:

"It is time to recognize a simple fact, and react to it. The symbiotic relationship between academics and for-profit publishers has broken down. The large for-profit publishers are gouging the academic community for as much as the market will bear. Moreover, they will not stop pricing journals at the monopoly level, because shareholders demand it."

"So far, universities have failed to use one of the most powerful tools that they possess: charging for their valuable inputs. Journal editing uses a great deal of pro

fessorial and staff time, as well as supplies, office space and computers, all provided by universities... we see no reason for universities to subsidize editorial inputs to journals that are priced to extract maximum revenue from the academic community."

Will UW-Oshkosh accept this challenge? Will the library, with University Endorsement, consider cancelling academic journals that, based on measurable data, are gouging the very institutions that produce the content they sell?

Ronald Kane Hardy
Head of Information Resources
Polk Library, University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh
Oshkosh, WI 54901

The letter authors also link their analysis of cost for 5000 journals

Voters suspend TABOR in Colorado

In news that has important implications for Wisconsin, Colorado voters yesterday voted to allow the suspention of their strict budgetary caps to allow increased spending. Higher education will gain a large share of this money, as the public universities in Colorado took deep cuts in the decade since this amendment passed.

Even the Republican governor endorsed this yes vote!

Let us hope that this vote in Colorado will help bring our own legislators to their senses about automatic caps and freezes.

Colorado voters give up billions in tax refunds - Politics -

Monday, October 31, 2005

Low-Cost Adjuncts are growing in popularity

If Michael's decision to hire more staff wasn't enough, even more poorly paid adjuncts continue to play a key role in education on this campus and across the nation

The AFT is sponsoring a sarcastic advertising campaign on the problem and you can read about it here.

Inside Higher Ed :: Help Wanted: Low-Cost Adjuncts

A-T editorial on faculty and staff leaving.

The editorial staff at the A-T weighed in on the outflow of talented staff from the unversity this week as well. As the article mentioned, salaries are low here and driving away good people. Unfortunately, the hemoraging will continue. Who will be next to leave???

Advance Titan Online

Only one of new searches will be tenure-track

I was looking at the Advance-Titan this weekend and found their report on new hires for COLS. They report that out of 11 searches that Zimmerman has authorized for next year, 10 will be instructors.

The A-T story is not exactly clear, as the terminology is not quite correct, but this is the first I have heard that we are getting exactly 1 t-t replacement, out of 50 vacancies in the college.

It is especially troubling to see UWO increasing its push towards temporary hires with larger teaching loads. Zimmerman's lip service about the importance of liberal arts rings hollow as he uses the budget as an excuse to eliminate research from the halls of our university.

UWO continues to head in the wrong directions with this decision. It is no wonder that Zimmerman didn't happen to mention it in his announcement to the faculty.

Advance Titan Online

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Fees climb even faster than tuition for UW students

The journal-sentinel reports on the big increase in fees throughout the UW system.

It lists a myriad of ways that student fees are being used to offset state budget cuts and ends with our old favorite, UW-hater Rob Kreibich complaining about accountability.

It has a nice chart with it as well.

JS Online: 'Stealth tuition' could be pricing students out of UW

Friday, October 28, 2005

Law professor claims being right-wing hurting his tenure chances

This story popped up over at the Chronicle of Higher education and here on InsideHigher ed.

A law professor at a university in Indiana claims that his conservative view are hurting his chances for tenure. As I read the story, I can't quite figure out what is going on, since he has not been denied tenure and is not yet up for it. He apparently got a few negative votes during his performance review and is very angry about it.

The most interesting part of the case is that he has taken his claims to Bill O'Reilly, and we might expect to see this case become some sort of cause celebre for the right.

Inside Higher Ed :: 'Not the Right Kind of Indian'

Here is the link to the Chronicle of Higher education. It may be out from behind the firewall in a few days.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

If there aren't enough men in college, with whom are women having all the sex?

I had to post this story, even though it is tangential to things I usually put up on the website. Middle-aged college professors complaining that their female students are unhappy because they are having too much sex (but not with them?).

A Harvard Government professor recently gave a talk where he mourned the losss of 'modesty.'

Theories of the Erotic - Male traditionalists wring their hands at the "grim" lives of young women. By Meghan O'Rourke

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The New York Review of Books: The Truth About the Colleges

A political science professor reviews a whole slew of books about higher education and comes to the conclusion that things look grim.

Professors don't care enough about teaching and students don't care enough about learning. Add the need to publish and win big research grants, and U.S. higher education is locked in a troubling downward spiral.

The New York Review of Books: The Truth About the Colleges

Republicans in Washington go after students

Republicans in the house revealed a plan to make students loans more expensive for college students, using Katrina as an excuse.

It is a complicated story, but the idea seems to be that college students are one of the groups that should suffer because a hurricane hit ill-prepared parts of the South.

The republicans at all levels seem to think that it is worthy to give money to the rich and powerful and take it away from those who have less. Once again, higher education may suffer. Clearly our own students, many of whom need lots of federal help to get through their years here, will be hurt by this plan.

Inside Higher Ed :: Faint Echoes of 1995

Monday, October 24, 2005

A New Local Link Page for the Northwestern

I just noticed that I am linked on the new northwestern page. It has several links to local blogs. You can also preview the new look that the northwestern's web site will have.

Chancellor Wells decides to stay

This just in: The Chancellor just informed the university community that he has withdrawn from the search for President of the CalState Long Beach. He cites he and his wife's attachment to the state of Wisconsin. At least we won't have to worry about transitions of leadership for another few years!

Here is his message:

To: The members of the UW Oshkosh Community
From: Chancellor Richard H. Wells
Re: The California State University Long Beach Presidency
Date: October 24, 2005

Earlier today, I called Chancellor Charles Reed to let him know that I have decided to officially withdraw from their search for the next President of California State University Long Beach.

After careful thought and consideration, I decided not to return for the Wednesday interview with Chancellor Reed and the Board of Trustees. CSULB is an excellent University characterized by fine people who are rightly proud of their institution. However, UW Oshkosh is an outstanding academic community with terrific students, faculty and staff. Furthermore, Christie and I greatly appreciate the support of the people of Oshkosh and we are enjoying the State of Wisconsin more than any place we have had the pleasure to live. We are very happy to be once again fully focused on our University and the State of Wisconsin.

Thank you for your patience, understanding and support. The extensive positive feedback we received from people on and off campus figured prominently into our decision. It is an honor and privilege to be your Chancellor.

Understanding Independent Students

I don't know what the percentage of undergrads here are officially independent, but I would guess that it is fairly substantial. The numbers excerpted in this story show that they face substantially different and more difficult challenges than the traditional college student.

I hear often about the heavy work and family responsibilites of my students, and this is clearly not something unique to us.

Inside Higher Ed :: Understanding Independent Students

Friday, October 21, 2005

Detox at Madison

I end up linking this site quite a bit, but this is another interesting story about how Madison has decided that public announcement of drinking arrests might help curb the problem.

We seem to have been doing that for years. The A-T weekly publishes its list of students who have been arrested, with the details of what they were doing when it happened.

It hasn't made a difference here, one would have to say, so it probably will make no difference at Madison. There isn't much shame associated with public drunkenness these days.

Inside Higher Ed :: Detox at Madison

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A few tuition statistics: Aid Is Up, Tuition Up More

Related to the NYT article and other posts, this article givves some recent numbers for tuition and aid across the country. Tuition up 7.1% at public institutions and net cost is up as well. The article also notes that loans take an ever bigger part of student aid package, leaving students deeper in debt when (if) they graduate.

The chronicle of higher education adds that benefits also diproportunately flow to families with incomes over $50,000. The lower classes are being priced out of higher education, it seems.

Inside Higher Ed :: Aid Is Up, Tuition Up More

Here is a link to a site that gives suggestions and discussion about college costs. They are pushing a conference on college costs that will take place in November.

UWO makes news for students' desire for more booze

The Student Government voted to propose alcohol in Reeve Union Monday evening.

The Northwestern is up in arms--covering the story and then editorializing against it. The anti-university editorial writer has decided to take this opportunity to once again bash the university, claiming that the city has different standards than the campus community. It strikes me as the pot calling the kettle black: to claim that Oshkosh, with a little bar on every street corner and whose political leaders keep asking the state for permission to have more liquor licenses, to say that serving alcohol at Reeve is somehow problematic.

The real point is that the Northwestern likes to publish sensationalist negative attacks on the university and see what happens. They look forward to angry letters from our ranks and hope the regular conservative letter writers applaud their decision. Do you think they have data which suggests they sell more papers when they harrass the university?

I am not likely to start going to Reeve to have an afterwork drink with my students, so I think the students' justification is weak, but I also don't see a big problem with allowing alcohol to be served on campus.

Oshkosh Northwestern - UWO union may soon serve alcohol

There is not a link yet for the editorial.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

New York Times on 'Privatization' of Public Universities

This article ran in the Sunday paper. This touches on many of the issues that I have raised in this blog over the last few months. The percentage of state spending and the spending per student has dropped precipitiously in the last decade. The article focuses extensively on Wisconsin, and our continuing problems. Have we really lost the debate on the public good of higher education? I hope not, but the trend seem to be headed in the wrong direction. . .

I am going to paste the whole thing here so you don't have to go there and register:

October 16, 2005
At Public Universities, Warnings of Privatization

Taxpayer support for public universities, measured per student, has plunged more precipitously since 2001 than at any time in two decades, and several university presidents are calling the decline a de facto privatization of the institutions that played a crucial role in the creation of the American middle class.

Graham Spanier, president of Pennsylvania State University, said this year that skyrocketing tuition was a result of what he called "public higher education's slow slide toward privatization."

Other educators have made similar assertions, some avoiding the term "privatization" but nonetheless describing a crisis that they say is transforming public universities. At an academic forum last month, John D. Wiley, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said that during the years after World War II, America built the world's greatest system of public higher education.

"We're now in the process of dismantling all that," Dr. Wiley said.

The share of all public universities' revenues deriving from state and local taxes declined to 64 percent in 2004 from 74 percent in 1991. At many flagship universities, the percentages are far smaller. About 25 percent of the University of Illinois's budget comes from the state. Michigan finances about 18 percent of Ann Arbor's revenues. The taxpayer share of revenues at the University of Virginia is about 8 percent.

"At those levels, we have to ask what it means to be a public institution," said Katharine C. Lyall, an economist and president emeritus of the University of Wisconsin. "America is rapidly privatizing its public colleges and universities, whose mission used to be to serve the public good. But if private donors and corporations are providing much of a university's budget, then they will set the agenda, perhaps in ways the public likes and perhaps not. Public control is slipping away."

Not everyone agrees with the doomsday talk. Some experts who study university finance say the declines are only part of a familiar cycle in which legislatures cut the budgets of public universities more radically than other state agencies during recession but restore financing when good times return, said Paul E. Lingenfelter, president of State Higher Education Executive Officers, a nonprofit association.

"Let's not panic and say that the public commitment to higher education has fundamentally changed," Dr. Lingenfelter said. "Let's just say that these cycles happen, and get back to work to restore the funding."

But the future of hundreds of universities and colleges has become a subject of anxious debate nationwide. At stake are institutions that carry out much of the country's public-interest research and educate nearly 80 percent of all college students, and whose scientific and technological innovation has been crucial to America's economic dominance.

Margaret Spellings, secretary of education, noted her own worries in announcing the appointment of a national Commission on the Future of Higher Education last month.

"We still have the finest system of higher education in the world," Ms. Spellings said. "But we're at a crossroads. The world is catching up."

The commission, whose first meeting is scheduled for Monday, will explore universities' affordability and competitiveness. Some members argue that universities, by failing to contain costs, share responsibility for the exploding price of a degree.

The average in-state tuition nationwide for students attending four-year public colleges increased 36 percent from 2000-01 through 2004-05, according to the College Board, while consumer prices over all rose about 11 percent.

The Morrill Act of 1862 granted federal land to states to finance the creation of public universities, and one of their core missions ever since has been to provide services that promote the well-being of communities and states. Today, educators using the term "privatization" say universities are being forced to abandon this social compact. In the process, many major public universities are looking more like private ones.

For instance, the University of Virginia and other public universities in the state responded to years of dwindling financing by asking Virginia's General Assembly to extend their autonomy and to reaffirm the university governing boards' authority to raise tuition. Lawmakers granted those requests, said Colette Sheehy, a University of Virginia vice president.

Two years ago, Miami University of Ohio became the first public institution to adopt the tuition model used by private colleges, eliminating the differential between in-state and out-of-state residents.

Across the nation, educators said, public anger is rising not only about tuition but about the increasing numbers of faculty members who focus on research rather than on teaching undergraduates, and about the time that university presidents spend hobnobbing with billionaires. University administrators say all three phenomena are related to the transformation of revenues.

As private donations and federal grants make up a larger proportion of universities' revenue, more professors are paid mainly to conduct research. And as state financing drops, more building projects depend on private philanthropy.

At the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Grainger Hall, which houses the business school, was financed largely by donations from David W. Grainger, chairman of W. W. Grainger Inc., the business-to-business distributor; from his wife; and from the Grainger Foundation. The school of pharmacy is in the new Rennebohm Hall, named after Oscar Rennebohm, whose drugstore chain amassed a fortune. The Rennebohm Foundation financed the building.

"Wisconsin people see all the construction on campus and don't understand why the university is complaining about budget cuts," Dr. Lyall said. "We have this apparent incongruity of building growth at a time when resources for teaching in those buildings are shrinking."

But flagship universities are less vulnerable to financing declines than are hundreds of state-run four-year colleges that do not offer doctoral programs or conduct significant research, said David Ward, president of the American Council on Education, the nation's largest association of universities and colleges. The flagships can replace some state revenues with federal grants and private donations, but the four-year colleges cannot, he said.

"Privatization may be a good description of what is going on at our flagship campuses, but not at our four-years," Dr. Ward said. "They cannot survive without public funding."

Patrick M. Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, a nonprofit group, also said he dislikes the word.

"The air is filled with this rhetoric about privatization, but the evidence doesn't support it," Mr. Callan said. He noted that in straight dollar terms, state appropriations for public universities have not fallen much across the nation in recent years. They totaled $67 billion in 2001, $70 billion in 2002, $69 billion in 2003 and $69 billion in 2004, the last year for which nationwide data is available.

But because enrollments surged during those years by more than 1 million students, or 11.8 percent, per-student appropriations dropped more steeply than at any time since the early 1980's, to $5,721 from $6,874, according to the State Higher Education Executive Officers.

Another measure, the average percentage of state tax revenues devoted to public higher education, has declined for several decades. About 6.7 percent of state revenues went to higher education appropriations in 1977, but by 2000, universities' share had fallen to 4.5 percent, according to a study by the Urban Institute.

Stanley O. Ikenberry, a president emeritus of the University of Illinois, says he believes that most state legislatures remain committed to supporting public higher education but that as budgets shrink, it is more difficult to cut programs like Medicaid, public schools and prisons.

"The higher education budget serves as the default place to make the cut," Dr. Ikenberry said. Nonetheless, he avoids the word "privatization," saying, "It's not a productive way to talk about what's happening now, but more a way of describing where we may be heading."

Monday, October 17, 2005

Tom Keefe leaves for St. Louis U.

In what may be the first of many fleeing a sinking ship, Tom Keefe, fund-raiser in chief, takes off for greener pastures.

Tom has done a great job raising money for UWO, even if much of his effort has been aimed at athletics. I generally accepted his argument that sports was a good way to open a donors wallet, and then you can turn towards more academic endeavors.

Unfortunately, he is now gone, making it all the more difficult to raise funds for the new academic building on campus.

Michael Zimmerman wanted to move to Lawrence last semester. Chancellor Wells may be next--he hopes so. . .

I wonder if this is happening all over the UW system? Are we beginning to see the inevitable drain of talent away from our universities to places where there is more respect for higher education?

Implications of Blackboard/Web CT merger

Although UW system adopted d2l last year, this article seems relevant to me. I especially like the idea of using open source software to accomplish the same thing we pay d2l to do.

D2l is a incredibly buggy piece of software that doesn't seem to be able to handle the load here at Oshkosh much of the time. You can't use Firefox without running into all sorts of trouble.

I have come to rely on the web for much course content, but I am never sure if it is a wise decision. Who knows when the next upgrade of d2l will take out all our data!

Inside Higher Ed :: Blackboard vs....

Friday, October 14, 2005

A Diversity Candidate in Every Pool

A Dean down at Marquette made the news for making public and explicit a policy that was surely in place earlier.

It is clear, for example, that there is overt pressure from above here at Oshkosh to make sure minority and women candidates are represented in final lists for faculty positions. No "official" policy exists, but search committees are made aware of their responsibilities towards diversity.

It is a real quandary when it comes to academics. I used to believe that academia was a place where merit was the ultimate arbiter of success. How naive was I!! Intellectual excellence is only one of many qualities deemed necessary when it comes to the academy. Much more important is having the right contacts.

These diversity questions go the heart of the incestuous networks of scholars that exist throughout our profession. How do you break in, if you do not have contacts with the right circles? However, these circles are really quite diverse, as opposed to the simple old-boys networks of corporate America. This is not to say that academia is anything but the preserve of the white middle-class, but there is a lot of self-consciousness and soul-searching about that problem.

Can simply forcing committees to look at diverse candidates help them break these barriers? Does this demand simply reinforce the strength of academic networks? I don't know the answer and I don't know where I stand on administratively-decreed diversity requirements.

Inside Higher Ed :: A Diversity Candidate in Every Pool

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Wells: Chance to grow

The Northwestern published a short column on Chancellor Wells today. He emphasized that he wants to leave because of the terrible financial climate in our state. The reporter led with more money, and left the complaint about financing off to the end in the story.

As a side note, maybe Wells is hoping he'll get another job before he addresses the complaints in our petition from last Spring!

Oshkosh Northwestern - Wells: Chance to grow

Monday, October 10, 2005

Even the Chancellor thinks it might be time to leave

The chancellor announced this afternoon that he is a finalist for a similar position at CalState Long Beach.

This surely is a step up in the world of academic administration, being a bigger and more highly rated institution. However, it is also true that if the financial and ideological situation around here weren't quite so poisoned, he might not have been as ready to accept the nomination.

However, it just wouldn't bother me much to see him go. How about you?

Here is the text of his announcement:

Date: October 10, 2005

To: Members of the UW Oshkosh Community and Friends:

The California State University system office will announce later today that I have agreed to be a finalist for the Presidency of California State University Long Beach. I want to assure you that I am very proud to be your Chancellor, however, this is an excellent opportunity that requires careful consideration. I was nominated for this position, and it is the only Presidency I have agreed to consider. If it were not for the outstanding reputation of our UW Oshkosh academic community, the UW System and the State of Wisconsin, my family and I would not be in the position to consider this opportunity. We greatly appreciate the support of the people of Oshkosh and are enjoying the State of Wisconsin more than any place we have had the pleasure to live. Consequently, if an offer is extended, we will be facing a difficult decision.

Chancellor Charles Reed and the California State University Board of Trustees expect to conclude the search on or before November 1. I regret any distraction this situation may cause for our academic community, and I intend to continue, with your help, to stay fully focused on moving forward the priorities of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

Richard H. Wells

A more positive story about UW outreach.

This digitization project discussed at the Wisc. State-Journal is a great project and is co-directed by our own library director Pat Wilkenson.

Wisconsin State Journal

New Buildings on Campus

The regents gave approval to the new academic building on campus last week, which is good news for the university community. However, it comes at a very interesting time. My biggest question is why the state has $40 million to spend on new buildings at a time when we are cutting courses like crazy.

It is an serious question for the university. How can we complain that we are being gutted by the state legislature (which we are) when such a huge amount of money is being spent on a new building? What is the point of getting a new building when we don't have enough teachers to teach the students that we do have? Where does this money come from anyway and why aren't we tapping it to take care of students who are here now?

I suppose it is a matter of the way money is divided up. Somehow it is more legitimate to give $40 million to private contractors to build a new building. We know, afterall, that there are much better donors among the big contracting companies than among the university supporters. Why not raise tuition and hand it over to the rich businessmen?

I should provide a few links, in case you are not up to speed on the news:

Here is the Northwestern story

I was also struck by the critical letter to the editor yesterday by the retired director of facilities management (second letter down). He seems extremely angry that the university leased Cub foods building and is moving ahead with new construction. It makes me wonder about the history of this project!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Cuts by legislature left opening for abuses in UW system

The Journal Sentinel reports that part of the reason for the backup position scandal is that cuts by legislators caused campuses to cut back on their self-auditing (in order to save teaching resources).

JS Online: Cuts hurt scrutiny of UW System

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Computers hurt education

This is an interesting article complaining about the adverse effects computers have on education--it seems quite relevant to much of the discussion lately about d2l and other educational technology:

Orion > Orion Magazine > September | October 2005 > Lowell Monke > Charlotte's Webpage

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Buying the state of Wisconsin

The latest tempest on campus is that all state-funded travel must be paid for using a U.S. Bank Visa card. Apparently, the Doyle administration claims that forcing all state employees who travel to carry a new credit card will provide great efficiencies.

What is probably the real case is that the administration will be getting a kick-back from U.S. bank when state employees use the card. Someone feels that this 1% that the state is recieving is enough to radically change the way travel works for state employees.

There is great resistance to this idea here on campus. Why should we all be forced to apply for (and hand our personal information over to) a new company? Why do we have to be burdened by carrying and preserving an extra card that can ONLY be used for specific aspects of travel up to a limited dollar amount?

We are personally responsible for all debts incurred on the card. I suppose the state will wash its hands of responsibility as well if the card is stolen or is used to steal your identity.

This is just another example of the corporate take over of the public sector in America. We are already forced to carry a U.S. Bank Campus ID card, and now we are being forced to hand over more information to this corporation if we want to use part of our benefits. I wonder how deep U.S. bank has its hand into the student loan business on campus? Maybe we should just outsource the whole operation to a big corporation. After all, education is all about profits, isn't it???

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Monday, October 03, 2005

College Education Still Pays

If you want to put a few dollar signs on the value of higher education, here is a story from the Chronicle of Higher Education:

A glance at the current issue of The Economist's Voice: The value of a college degree

The hourly-wage gap between people with college degrees and those with only a high-school education has been growing for decades, but the rate of increase slowed in the 1990s. At the same time, tuition prices rose, leading people to ask whether college was still worth it. But after studying the financial risks and rewards of higher education, two economists have concluded that continuing one's education definitely still pays off.

"In fact, there are no signs that the value of a college education has peaked or is on a downward trend," say Lisa Barrow, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and Cecilia Elena Rouse, a professor of economics at Princeton University.

For the average student who entered college in 2003, the authors calculate, the cost of earning a bachelor's degree would be worthwhile if it raised the value of the student's lifetime earnings by $107,277. That figure represents the sum of average tuition and fees for a four-year degree program and the amount someone with just a high-school diploma could earn in the same span of time.

Ms. Rouse and Ms. Barrow write that a college diploma would raise such a student's lifetime earnings by as much as $402,959 -- nearly $300,000 more than the total cost.

That increase is important to focus on, in contrast to the rising cost of tuition, which the authors say has almost no effect on the value of a college education. In fact, despite the growth in the number of graduates, the wages of degree-holders continue to rise, indicating "an increasing -- not a decreasing -- demand for their skills," they write.

The article, "Does College Still Pay?," is available at

Friday, September 30, 2005

Price Increases Sharpest at Public Colleges

Inside higher ed posts a summary of a study of the costs and graduation percentages at universities and colleges. As the headlines note, legislatures all over the country are trying to balance their budgets on the backs of students and their parents.

Inside Higher Ed :: Price Increases Sharpest at Public Colleges

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The latest in the Barrows saga: Wiley wanted to fire him

I am getting tired of this story, but I'll post this link, so that if you are following along, you will know the latest:

Wisconsin State Journal

Marder before the Wisconsin Supreme Court

I have not followed the details of this case over the years, but it seems to be reaching its final denoument, as it is now before the supreme court.

The most interesting issue in the article: whether Marder was protected by state laws or not. Seems strange to me that a state employee might not be covered by state laws, but we'll see what the court decides.

JS Online: State Supreme Court hears fired UW professor's appeal

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Student Success at Public Colleges

Inside Higher ed published a study of colleges that have success in graduating their students, putting "high expectations" at the center of the effort.

It seems like a good place to start as the University view the PBS documentary "Declining by Degrees" at the Provost's Summit on Teaching and Learning tonight.
Inside Higher Ed :: Student Success at Public Colleges

Lack of men on college campuses

USA Today ran a story yesterday about the fact that more women than men are graduating from college.

It asks the question where the men have gone. It suggests that there is a growing problem of underemployed and hopelessness among young men in the U.S.

Almost as many men are on probation and in prison as are in college, the story reports.

The story raises an additiional question as to the shape of education on campus and across the country.

Monday, September 26, 2005

K.C. Wong tries to remind Northwestern that all crime is not the same

K.C.'s letter appeared in the Northwestern this morning, in response to an editorial from Sept. 21 that called for the immediate dismissal of all UW employee's convicted of a crime

Oshkosh Northwestern - Not all criminal conduct bad for university classrooms

The original editorial is here.

K.C. continues to make worthwhile points about crime and about the university system. We are not a nursery school, and students are not babies.

K.C. is also suggesting that we in Wisconsin and in the U.S. need to rethink our knee-jerk response to crime. Abandoning all who are convicted of a crime, whether to jail or to ostracism, is not compassionate nor sound public policy.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Journal Sentinal reflection on bad relations between legislature and university

The MJS author argues the problems are really due to ideological differences: republican legislators can't handle university system that disagrees with their conservative agenda.

JS Online: Legislature, UW System not on same page

Friday, September 23, 2005

Latest from the Barrows saga

Backup jobs remain in the news. UW reputation continues to drop as UW Madison chancellor admits not following rules.

JS Online: Officials faulted but lose little in UW case

This story summarizes the memo that got Barrows fired.

Here is a story of reactions from

Also, a Timeline, where you can see that Barrows still has a job making $72K a year.

Finally, this link takes you to a copy of the report itself.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

National Survey of Student Engagement shows problems at UWO

The provost recently sent out a report on the results of the 2004 NSSE survey. Oshkosh fell below the national average in every column. Another message suggested that these figures place us in the bottom 10% of all universities:

A summary:
For first-years:

Level of Academic Challenge 46.2 (natl. average 53.6)
Active and collaborative learning 34.0 (natl. average 42.3)
Student Faculty Interaction 24.8 (natl. average 33.3)
Enriching educational experience 19.0 (natl. average 26.7)
Supportive campus environment 55.3 (natl. average 62.8)

For Seniors:

Level of Academic Challenge 53.9 (natl. average 57.6)
Active and collaborative learning 47.8 (natl. average 51.4)
Student Faculty Interaction 35.6 (natl. average 44.0)
Enriching educational experience 33.3 (natl. average 40.9)
Supportive campus environment 53.4 (natl. average 59.7)

I don't know exactly how the questions were put together or exactly what the numbers mean, except that we are doing worse than most places across the board. At least seniors think slightly better of us than the first-years.

The provost made some vague statements about addressing these issues in the strategic plan, but they seem to suggest that something drastic might need to change if we want to improve the quality of education for students. I imagine that larger class sizes and fewer classes are not going to help when the survey is administered again next year.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Barrows sues -- claiming UW was mean to him

The embarrassing saga that will not die -- now Paul Barrows claims to be the injured party.

JS Online: UW official sues chancellor, former dean

Interview about problems and future of higher ed

In an interview hyping their new book, three authors discuss the problems of higher education. They are especially concerned about the marketization of higher education and the lack of commitment to public purposes.

It parallels what Dean Zimmerman suggested in his opening day remarks: we need to explain better that universities exist not only to serve "the consumer," but also serve to create a better society.

Inside Higher Ed :: 'Remaking the American University'

Stephen Kercher's report and commentary on the Budget forum

Stephen posted this insightful comment on the budget forum and Underheim's bitter rhetoric to the university discussion list:

Those of us who attended yesterday’s forum on the “Crisis in the
Public University” are more than likely being asked by their students
what they “think” about Representative Gregg Underheim and his
position on public funding for the UW system.

How does one reply? How does one not betray the anger and
frustration that many of us felt in Reeve 202 as Representative
Underheim circumvented the strict code of civility that Dave Siemers
rightly attempted to maintain and dismissed Susan McFadden as a
starry-eyed idealist who foolishly believes that money grows on
trees. (Perhaps Dave applied the code a little too zealously. I
don’t think the student Shannon was wrong to suggest that there was a
strong hint of condescension in Underheim’s delivery.)

What follows is a free-wheeling, opinionated take on the subject of
yesterday’s forum. Please read on if you are interested.

To begin, it seems to me that inquiring students might think of the
ways that Gregg Underheim embodies the prerogatives of America’s
conservative movement. Having exhausted hope in the public sector,
conservatives of Underheim’s stripe hold out as models for public
policy corporate, managerial modes borrowed from the country’s
largest private-sector employer, Wal-Wart. With the example of Wal- Wart as a guide, conservatives promise to pursue “economies of scale”
and follow the “law of diminishing returns.” But, as Andrew
Schroeder and many others point out, the fallout of Hurricane Katrina
demonstrates the pitfalls of providing public services on the cheap.

Witness too Representative Underheim’s pseudo-populist stance—another
hallmark of the modern conservative. The public policy question
forced by today’s budget crisis, Underheim told us yesterday, is
whether the less well-off should be forced to support the tuition of
the pampered middle-class students who attend our classes. Mr.
Underheim is a frequent visitor to our campus (he once dropped in
(unannounced and uninvited) to a lecture I delivered on the Watergate
crisis)), and he ought to know that many of our students are the
offspring of the working-class families for whom he claims to represent.

I have reason to believe that Representative Underheim, like many
conservatives, have the interests of the wealthy, not the poor, at
heart on this issue. Many working-class families who send their
children to our university understand, as Michael Zimmerman reminded
us, that our institution will provide them with their best hope for
upward mobility. It is in the perceived best interest of many
wealthy, more ideologically conservative constituents to ratify our
faith in the “free market,” extol the virtues of privatization and,
not least, make substantial cuts to their tax burden. Unfortunately
for us, this agenda has helped undermine the public’s faith in the
public sector. Mr. Underheim’s political strength is a grim reminder
of this fact.

What many wealthy, ideologically conservative Wisconsites believe on
this issue—and a few of them, embolded by stiff drinks, have not been
afraid to confess it to this university professor in public—is that
the University System (big, bloated, and wasteful) is a drain on
taxpayers who have no intention of sending their children to a public
school. Underheim, I would guess, represents these citizens’
concerns more than he does others. I think Underheim’s description
of Milwaukee—read BLACK Milwaukee—as a “drain” on public resources,
as Susan McFadden astutely pointed out, confirms this impression—in
my mind anyway.

What conservatives like Underheim won’t fess up to is a deliberate
agenda to cut public spending by “starving the beast.” In an age of
economic downturns, bloated budget deficits and cowardly politicians
(who in their right mind, people ask, would have the courage to raise
new public revenue?) we are stuck with Underheim’s politics of
despair and cynicism.

Yet I think that students should also know that things don’t have to
be this way. Students would be well served to revisit the tradition
of the Wisconsin Idea, to acquaint themselves with that chapter in
the history of American social thought when proto-progressives took
on the Social Darwinist “realists” and imagined a new public role for
universities and the state, to read Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.’s
description of a new “politics of hope” at the dawn of the 1960s, as
well as many other articulate, idealistic responses Americans have
made to the conservative status quo in our history.

In the end, perhaps Susan McFadden was not the starry-eyed idealist
in the crowd but one of the few REAL realists. By yielding to
Underheim’s cynical social vision, his empty and destructive politics
of division, progress in the state of Wisconsin will be thwarted. To
grow our economy, ensure social justice and improve the quality of
life for all people in Wisconsin, we are obligated to not swallow the
pills Underheim his fellow “realists” prescribe for us. There are
other visions, other solutions, other paradigms.

For those students who may despair at the bleak picture painted
yesterday, they should be encouraged to take heart. Newt Gingrich’s
conservative revolution was stalled by the American public’s healthy
skepticism of where it might lead them. And we can be thankful that
Wisconsin’s citizenry had the good sense not to elect Underheim State
Superintendent of Public Instruction. As the parent of two children
educated in area public schools, I’d rather them learn at the hands
of a real-time teacher than the experts popping up on children’s
laptops in Albuquerque.