Wednesday, August 31, 2005

JS Online: Carroll faculty win union battle

Faculty at Carroll college win legal right to organize a union.

It seems too bad that relations between administrators and faculty often degenerate to this point, but collective action is often the only possible response.

Look at the way the state cavalierly handles issues with us, knowing that we have little recourse to stand up to their machinations.

JS Online: Carroll faculty win union battle

Story from 9/1 on

UWO budge site

If you are interested in the administration's information about the budget, it is available at the link below.


PBS special on higher education

I think most of us missed this PBS special, but there has been discussion on the COLS list about the documentary. Some have suggested that we have a campus-wide showing and discussion.

It seems like that might be a good idea, as we struggle to define ourselves in the face of financial and ideological hostility from Madison.

May, 2005

When award-winning journalist John Merrow started work on his PBS documentary about the state of American higher education, "Declining by Degrees," he met with noted educators, policy makers, and researchers before he shot the first minute of video. Many of us here at Carnegie spoke with him at that time. Yet, even with this degree of preparation, John admits that he wasn't ready for what he found once he began to visit campuses and started talking to faculty and students.

In this month's Carnegie Perspective, John takes on one of the primary issues raised in the documentary, the decline in the quality of education experienced by many of America's college students. For anyone who cares about the state of the academy, it's a tough piece to read, just as his documentary may be uncomfortable for many to watch. Rest assured that during his frequent periods of residence as a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Foundation, John's role is often that of challenging all of us with equally uncomfortable questions.

By John Merrow

Of all the students I met during nearly two years of working on our PBS documentary about higher education, I continue to be intrigued by a sophomore named Nate. After proudly proclaiming that he was maintaining a 3.4 GPA despite studying less than an hour a night, he wondered aloud, "It's not supposed to be this easy, is it? Shouldn't college be challenging?" Nate was one of the more enlightened students that we interviewed.

He talked about his "boring" classes, including an English class he described as "a brain dump." We sat in on that class. The teacher had assigned students to write parodies of The Road Not Taken, knowing that to do the assignment well, they would have to read and understand Frost's poem. She was meeting students at their level ... and trying to push them to go beyond it, attempting to move them out of their "intellectual comfort zone" and lead them in new directions. Tough job, because Nate and undoubtedly most of his classmates-had obviously NOT read the assignment. Nate had succeeded in high school by figuring out what was going to be on his tests and doing as little as possible. And since that approach also got him into college and was now earning him a solid B average, he saw no reason to change. Ask Nate the purpose of college, and he would probably say something about "getting a good job." The learning part wasn't necessarily what he was paying good money for.

Although we found this English class stimulating, we could see how frustrating it became for the teacher because of the lack of student-directed engagement and motivation. In this case, the students' expectations didn't match the professor's. Teaching becomes a difficult transaction when students expect to get the diploma that they pay for without caring whether they learn anything in the process. The situation is made more difficult because professors begin classroom teaching at a disadvantage. Few have any training in how to teach. We were very impressed by Tom Fleming, a senior lecturer at the University of Arizona, who took advantage of a faculty development course offered by his institution on teaching theory and effective practices. Using technology in a huge lecture hall, he deftly engaged students, allowing very few to merely get by.

College used to be a "sink or swim" environment, but today, either colleges are giving much-needed "swimming lessons"-investing in student success-or they're allowing students to "tread water"- giving decent grades for very little work. In the first case, students actually receive an education; in the second, they merely get a degree. It's all too easy for some students and faculty members to settle into a pattern of behavior that looks like an unspoken "non-aggression treaty," in which professors don't ask much of students and the students don't expect much from their professors (as long as they get A's and B's).

The good news is that many faculty members-those giving swimming lessons-work with energy and imagination to move their students beyond that simplistic "diploma=$$" formula. The relationship between Tom Fleming and his students falls into this category. Even more heartening is the fact that many students intuitively know that they're being denied an education and seek out campus experiences that give them what they need. But that 20 or so percent out there treading water are shortchanging themselves and future employers who think that a college degree indicates achievement as well as persistence. And those professors who find it more comfortable to demand little of their students are denied the satisfaction that good teaching affords.

The shift in the expectations of students and faculty members began around the time that America learned that college graduates made more money than high school graduates-as much as a million dollars more over their working lives. The mantra became, "If you want an education, then you pay for it." The old social contract-the idea that education of individuals is a public good and therefore should in part be publicly financed-is on life support and barely breathing. Instead, "Education Pays" is proclaimed on billboards around Kentucky, encouraging kids to go to college just to nail down that good job.

Kids arrive on campus determined to major in "business" and often remain impervious to the efforts of their professors to expose them to new ideas and new information. Our student financial aid system supports the "investment in me" approach by making less money available in the form of grants to needy students, and more in the form of loans to be paid back as a return on the individual's investment in themselves. The message our kids get is that they're not students; they're consumers. And if they're willing to settle for "purchasing" a degree that means nothing in terms of educational achievement, it's their right. It's their investment. In this environment, professors, colleges, and universities are forced into giving the customers what they want, not necessarily what they should want.

I admire students who squeeze as much as they can from the college experience, and I salute the teachers who dedicate their energies to seeing students succeed. Too much is left to chance, however, and too many lives are blighted by our national indifference to what is actually happening on our campuses during the years between admission and graduation. What we found is not the equivalent of a few potholes on an otherwise passable highway. Serious attention must be paid at a national level. Other countries are not standing still. Those that have not surpassed us already in educational attainment levels are clearly visible in the rear-view mirror.


John Merrow, president of Learning Matters Inc. and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Foundation, produced the documentary "Declining by Degrees: Higher Education at Risk," which will air on PBS stations Thursday, June 23. Check your local listings for exact times. To learn more, go to

Carnegie Perspectives is a series of commentaries that explore different ways to think about educational issues. These pieces are presented with the hope that they contribute to the conversation. You can respond directly to the author at or you can join a public discussion at Carnegie Conversations.

A Gag on Public Faculty?

The AAUP filed a brief in this case involving some public officials -- it has interesting implications involving the ability of public employee's to speak without retribution.

Inside Higher Ed :: A Gag on Public Faculty?

Monday, August 29, 2005

Dropping out of the Academy

This is a nice first-hand account of why a lit professor left academia.

Much of what she has to say is relevant to the problems that we face here at UWO -- mixed messages, intrusive administration, pay issues. She had the option of simply quitting, so she did. . .

Here is the commentary.

Friday, August 26, 2005

UWO the Berkeley of the Midwest!

I noticed this blog today. It is written by Jared Longsine, an Oshkosher, who denounces UWO as the Berkeley of the Midwest.

Apparently, he has never been to Berkeley, because most of us would love it if UWO had that reputation. It is one of the top universities in the country, with great academics from humanities to physics.

I know--he claims that all this doesn't matter, because there aren't enough fundamentalists on campus--but Oshkosh would be better off if our university had the resources and national stature that Berkeley has!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Washington Monthly alternative rating guide

This is an interesting counter to U.S. News and World Report rankings. The magazine argues that there are important factors left out of the other survery and tried to put together their own.

They ask what "colleges are doing for the country." and come up with a list that gives big land-grant universities more credit.

"The Washington Monthly College Guide " by The Editors

More bad UW press -- Madison is #1 party school

I am sure most of you have seen the stories about Madison taking over from UC-Boulder as the #1 party school as chosen by some magazine. (Here is the JSOnline story)

You can see one of our own student's glorification of drinking here at Oshkosh at this link:

It is hard to know what to say about all of these stories, but I suppose it is not surprising that the students don't take education seriously when so many of those in charge of our state politics belittle it all the time.

Lareau letter called for cancelling subscription

Tony Palmeri discovered that Al Lareau's letter included a line calling for readers to cancel their subscription in protest. Not surprisingly, the Northwestern censored that line. He also posted that information in a comment below.

One of the more striking facets of writing this blog is noticing that it often turns into criticism of our local newspaper. Their editorial line is consistently anti-intellectual and specifically anti-university, unless it has to do with the sports program.

I would have hoped that our local newspaper would be supportive of one of the biggest employers in town and one that generates or supports much of the creative life of the community. Instead, Rieckman and his minions continually demonize us.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Letter to the editor today: Rieckman is hate-mongering

The Northwestern ran a letter to the editor today, on Rieckman's column of 2 weeks ago (I wonder how long ago the letter was received).

Alan Lareau emphasizes the divisive nature of the editor's nastiness.

At this link

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Oshkosh Northwestern - College tosses paper

Here is the Northwestern Story on the lack of paper syllabi on campus. Frank Church provided this link in his summary of stories about the university in the press.

Oshkosh Northwestern - College tosses paper

Inside Higher Ed :: The End of the Paper Syllabus

We made this national site, so check out their reporting. . .

Inside Higher Ed :: The End of the Paper Syllabus

Paging Dr. Dahmer: Responses to UW job security column

The northwestern published a few letters in response to Rieckman's column while I was out of town, but here is the link.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Many Going to College Are Not Ready, Report Says

You have to register to read this story, but ACT scores suggest that only 21% of high school students who took the exam were ready for college in all four areas that are tested.

51% in reading
26% in science
41% in math
68% in English

The estimate is based on the ACT's correlation between test scores and a 70% chance of getting a C in college courses.

That is quite a figure and something to ponder as we get ready to start a new year. If you skim off those who go to Madison, one would have to guess that an absolute majority of our students fall into the "unready" category.

Many Going to College Arse Not Ready, Report Says - New York Times

Northwestern buries criticism of Rieckman

As a side note, two editions of the paper have been published, neither containing Zimmerman's or Wong's comments on the ravings of the paper's editor.

The next attack on state employees: Decent retirement benefits unacceptable!

This story came from the AP and appeared in papers all over the state (I assume.)

Although it impacts all state employees, it is clearly a big issue for faculty in the UW system. Our pay is already low in comparison with other systems and universities, and legislators are dying to cut our pay even more.

I can already see the battle lines in the next budget--"Lets cut the retirement pay of overpaid college professors--that will surely drive out the liberals!" the Republicans will cry.

God forbid that Wisconsin take care of its state workers in retirement!

State's pension among best

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Another cushy deal for administrator in Milwaukee

This story will show up across the state and cause us more trouble.

Nothing like overpaying and coddling the administration to make the legislature unhappy and hurt the rest of us.

JS Online: UWM leader's pal gets cushy job, dandy digs

Northwestern's response to Zimmerman & Wong's letters (unacknowledged)

The Northwestern ran this editorial today, which seems to be in some ways a more measured commentary after Rieckman's rant yesterday.

It acknowledges that there are subtleties in the legal cases before the UW system, but repeats the myth of vacation pay for faculty members.

As I suggested yesterday, they continue to misunderstand higher education, claiming it is just like the "private sector."

They end by calling for an independent investigation--will in make the critics happy when they report that every university in the country sets things up in a similar way? I doubt it.

Summer to forget doesn’t have to be UW System legacy

Textbook prices

The wisconsin state journal is running an article about the inflated prices of college textbooks.

We all know this is a big problem, as publishers battle the used book market and fight to keep their margins large enough to satisfy wall street.

Textbook costs needn't be so high, study says

Here is a link to a longer version of the same report at

Monday, August 15, 2005

A better analogy for Rieckman's column.

Imagine a hypothetical "Professor Rieckman" who published an article in the local newspaper attacking the integrity and operations of UWO. Because he is officially allowed to write freely,a high ranking administrator orders an investigation into the personal habits of "professor Rieckman".

After a few days, the university announces that "Professor Rieckman" has been fired for having illegal copies of software on his university computer. Campus security officers arrive at his office to immediately escort him off campus. Luckily for the administrator, the state legislature had recently removed all rights to due process or appeal from university employees. "Rieckman" is forced to move out of state and back in with his parents.

"Professor Rieckman" finds himself unemployed and the university critic has been silenced. "Rieckman's" computer program, which turned out to be shareware left on the computer for longer than the license agreement allowed, gave the administration an easy path to free the campus of a critic.

Is this really how our columnist envisions the unversity working? Wisconsin would be better off without critical inquiry and questioning? The state and country would be better if no one possessed any legal rights and operated completely at the whim of their superiors?

Those of us "drawing a paycheck from UW system" believe that free inquiry and criticism need to be protected by due process rights. If the system works a bit slowly from time to time, that is a price worth paying. It is very strange that a journalist, of all people, would not agree.

K.C. Wong weighs in on the misrepresentations in Rieckman's column

K.C. does a good job explaining the legal issues at hand, which Rieckman completely ignored:

Response to “bar” talks

On 8/24/05 Rieckman called for the immediate dismissal of three convicted tenured UW professors. There are two conclusions one can draw from such “bar” – intoxicated and intoxicating - talks:

First, the author knows very little about the facts:
The column is 588 words long. 438 words or 74.5% of the content was devoted to an imaginative case of Professor Jeffrey Dahmer, which was intended to inflame more so than inform.

The three cases under discussion came to 90 words or 15.03% of the column; hardly enough for a comprehensive and informed, much less intelligent and serious discussion of the issues involved, e.g. should tenured professors be fired for all criminal convictions, e.g. civil disobedience? should ex-convicts be hired as professors, i.e. after reform?

Second, the author knows very little about the law:
In one case, Steven Clark was convicted of stalking and serving a Huber sentence. This meant that the court has decided that Clark was of no danger to the community or his victim. More significantly, Clark was given a chance to reform himself and to contribute to the society. Should the university not support our judicial process?

In another case, Lewis Cohen, pleaded no contest to sexual communication with a minor. He was placed on two years of probation. Legally speaking, pleading no contest (nolo con•ten•de•re) is not an admission of guilt, i.e. it does not bar future contestation of the case, as in administrative (tenure) proceedings. Is Cohen not entitled to assert his rights and contest his case in the time and manner he saw fit?

In the last case, Roberto Coronado was convicted on 8/5/05 for sexually assaulting three young girls. The university was instating proceeding to fire him. Should the university not be given sufficient time to process his dismissal, in order to avoid future liability?

But for the serious implications resulting, such “bar” talks deserve no comments!

Kam C. Wong, J.D., Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Criminal Justice
University of Wisconsin (Oshkosh)

Michael Zimmerman's letter to the editor

The Dean of COLS wrote a letter to the editor last night:

To the Editor,

Stew Rieckman embodies and enhances the Northwestern’s frequent lack of respect for and understanding of the University of Wisconsin and its employees in Sunday’s column. In case you missed it, he asked, inflammatorily, what would have happened if serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer had been a faculty member. He answers his rhetorically suspect question by concluding that the University would have done nothing. He concludes his rant by informing readers that if they’re “not outraged,” they’re “probably drawing a paycheck from UW system.”

Rieckman’s upset that tenured faculty members who break the law aren’t summarily fired. He ignores two critical points. First, depending on the circumstances, faculty members can be placed on unpaid leaves while legal battles are fought. Second, rules and regulations have been established on every campus for dealing with issues of this sort. Those rules and regulations have to be congruent with rules established by the UW Board of Regents and by the state legislature. Implementation of those rules has to be scrupulously fair and able to withstand review by the state’s Employment Relations Commission as well as state and federal courts.

Rieckman implies that a better policy would be to fire first and worry about legal details later. He mocks UW System for creating a system that includes “due process.” His system might be more comforting to those looking for instant “justice,” but it’s likely to lead to chaos. And, I might add, the concept of “due process” is embodied in the US Constitution.

Finally, it would be nice if Rieckman got the “facts” embedded in his fictional account correct. He says “Professor” Dahmer collected “three months accrued vacation pay.” Sorry, Mr. Rieckman, but unlike newspaper editors, professors do not earn paid vacations.

I’ll be looking for his apology to the hard-working UW faculty across the state.

Michael Zimmerman
Dean, College of Letters and Science
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

Stew Rieckman launches personal assault on professoriat

The editor of the Northwestern, Stew Rieckman attacked university professors in his column yesterday. Using a specious analogy of a hypothetical professor (Jeffrey) Dahmer, he accused the university system of protecting criminals under the guise of due process.

He ended the column by claiming that anyone who believed in work-place rights must "drawing a paycheck from UW systemy." It makes you wonder what planet this guy is from.

Here is the link:
I am going to post two responses that have already come to the COLS list last night and this morning.

Friday, August 12, 2005

New Option for Student Shoppers: E-Books

How about this? We are getting rid of paper syllabi, why not ditch the paper all together and start in with e-books?

The textbook market is an incredibly awful racket, with updates coming at unnecessarily frequent intervals. The companies charge extremely high prices, but I am not sure much of the cost is actually in the paper.

This will give the students an even better chance to make excuses--"my book crashed last night before the test. . ."

Inside Higher Ed :: New Option for Student Shoppers: E-Books

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Monday, August 08, 2005

New Madison Transfer Program

UW Madison is trying a new transfer program, with closer ties between it and the community college where students will be taking their first years' classes.

I imagine the whole system, including Oshkosh, will be doing something like this in the next few years if it works.

Wisconsin State Journal

Editorial against Schneider/Kreibich bill

The State-Journal criticized Marlin Schneider today for his micromanaging of the UW system. They point out that he is on his crusade because he got a parking ticket helping his daughter move in. . .

Wisconsin State Journal

The Faculty Salary Game

Here is an interesting article about the differences in faculty pay between univesities and why it happens.

Inside Higher Ed :: The Faculty Salary Game

What Professors think about the Internet

From the Chronicle of Higher Education: Here is the summary of a large survey of college professors on the internet. I think I would have answered the questions in much the same way.

The internet has helped with student communication, but students are less able to use the library and particularly susceptable to plagiarizing essays. I have several each semester that I catch who have cut and paste off some website.

There also seems to be very little reflection on the problems of unmediated information out there on the web. They do not take a critical eye to what they find, tending to accept it as correct and true.

As we move courses away from the tradtional, paper-based world, we have to think more about how we teach students to interpret what they find electronically. We want them to treat our syllabi as gospel, but how can we stress that this is not true of most of what they find out there?

Professors Give Mixed Reviews of Internet's Educational Impact


Although campus computing is often touted as aiding education, many professors say the Internet has actually hampered students' academic performance.

When asked whether the Internet has changed the quality of student work, 42 percent of professors in a recent survey said they had seen a decline, while only 22 percent said they had seen improvement. But a majority of participating professors, 67 percent, said the Internet had improved their communication with students.

The nationwide survey, of 2,316 faculty members, was conducted in May 2004 by Steve Jones, a professor of communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Camille Johnson-Yale, a graduate student in communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The researchers have been presenting highlights of their findings at academic conferences, and they have submitted a report on the survey to a peer-reviewed scholarly journal.

"What the Internet has done, judging by this survey, is increased the amount of communication and in some ways it's improved the quality of communication," Mr. Jones said in an interview. "But that, in and of itself, doesn't necessarily translate into increases or improvements in learning."

Student plagiarism emerged as a key concern of professors. Forty-four percent agreed that plagiarism had increased in their students' work since the Internet has emerged, while 23 percent disagreed and 33 percent were undecided.

A surprising number of the professors surveyed, 74 percent, said they were using the Internet or other high-tech tools to detect plagiarism.

Mr. Jones said he was not surprised to see professors reporting some negative effects of technology.

"The thing that I hear from faculty colleagues is that there's plagiarism and cheating going on over the Internet and that there's a worsening in the quality of students' writing," he said. "I hear complaints more often than I hear any kind of positive comments about how the Internet has affected students' work."

G. David Pollick, president of Birmingham-Southern College, said in an interview that the Internet and computer tools might be dumbing down student writing.

"The style of writing is changing -- it's becoming conditioned by models and forms," he said. Grammar-checker features of word processors, for instance, often mark flowery phrases as mistakes and suggest bland alternatives, he said. "You start to lose a lot of artistic and aesthetic quality."

"It increasingly makes the language a dead language instead of a live language," he added. "If a computer model starts to become the form of communication, then what you end up with is a language that is dying instead of one that gets richer and richer through use."

Friday, August 05, 2005

Top Universities Hire their Own

Here is a change of pace. We have been obsessing about our own budget for the last few months, but this is an interesting study of who gets the jobs in academia.

Academia, just like every other part of life, runs on who you know more than what you know. This study just stands to confirm that. . .

Inside Higher Ed :: Pecking Order

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Professor undercover as an undergraduate

Gerry Grzyb posted this to the university list. It is a cute look at the behavior of undergraduates through the eyes of their professor.

village voice > arts > Undercover Mother

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Marlin Schneider is Back

Marlin Schneider is making news again with his bill trying to micromanage book choices and advising at Wisconsin Colleges.

If you remember, he proposed the same thing last year. Dean Zimmerman invited him to campus to discuss the issue. Schneider promised to come several times and then backed out at the last minute.

I doubt there is much to worry about, but here is the story from the Lacrosse paper.

Lawmaker calls for UW ‘student bill of rights'

Thanks to Brian Bain for posting this to the university discussion list.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Cute picture over at a local site

ABV News has a cute picture of a kid holding a sign asking for affordable tuition. I don't know the context, but I liked the shot.

Enrollments are climbing--How will Wisconsin deal with it?

I have not been very consistant at the blogging thing since I returned from my trip. Most of the issues that got me started have slowed, but there are still big questions about the directions of higher ed in our state.

Here is a profile of the increasing number of college students in the US. The percentage of students at 4-year schools continue to grow, though the percentage at public schools declined slightly. I suppose this is what the legislature envisions--if they keep cutting funds for us and raising tuition, we will all be transformed into private schools.

Inside Higher Ed :: College Enrollments Continue to Swell