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.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Oshkosh News report on the budget meeting

I didn't make it to the meeting, but Miles Maguire reports that Underheim blamed the system for being bad lobbyists:

Oshblog: Underheim to U: Take it from K-12

"Crisis in the Public University: Budget Cuts and Tuition Hikes in the UW System"

Attend the forum this afternoon in Reeve 202, at 3 PM to hear Dean Zimmerman, Rep. Underheim, and Legislative Director of the United Council of UW Students Renee Stieve discuss the crisis we face here!

Friday, September 16, 2005

Biology dept wins teaching award & ignores staff

Looking at Frank Church's Oshkosh in the news feature this morning, I was reminded of my nagging criticism of the way the biology department handled its reception of the award.

It is great for the University to win another Regents teaching award, but what I noticed was that the department did not acknowledge the people who teach a significant percentage of their classes.

I know that most lower level lab sections in the biology department are taught by academic staff. They are the initial contact that most students have with the department and free the t-t faculty to concentrate on the majors. However, these people, both full and part time, apparently don't count in the regents process. At the opening day ceremonies, only the tenure-track folks were invited up on stage (not to mention the picture in the program).

It seemed to me to be in poor taste not to acknowledge a large percentage of your teaching staff when you win a teaching award. (The department even refuses to pay for phones in many staff offices)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Strip faculty of right to share in governance -- argues a Republican from Menomonee Falls

Tony Palmeri saw this in the Madison paper and sent the link to the COLS list.

I am not sure what to make of it, except that the republicans love to assault us at every turn. How dare the faculty have input into the running of their own institutions. It is so un-American!

The Capital Times

UWM chancellor sounds alarm about budget cuts

In contrast to the bland opening day speeches here, the chancellor of UW Milwaukee lashed out at funding cuts and publicly argued that the cuts would hurt both the university and the region. He stressed that the only way to survive is to gain more external funding, i.e. become less of a state institution.

JS Online: UWM chancellor sounds alarm

here is the full text of his remarks.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Katherine Lyall talks of privatization

Former Chancellor of the system suggests there needs to be real debate about the direction that the relationship between the state and the UW system is taking.

Privatizing UW

U.S. Falling behind in education

This story is all over the news today, even getting a small story in the Northwestern.

We are getting a smaller percentage of our kids through high school and college. We used to lead the world in these statistics, but have now dropped to seventh.

It is not too hard to see why. Accessible higher education (and high school) is under assault by the anti-tax movement that dominates our politics. As we all know, students here face high tuition bills, less personal attention, and, I would have to imagine, a harder time completing their degree.

This report just highlights the problems we face--continuing attacks on higher education undermine our ability to create criticial thinking citizens and a work force that knows how to reason and adapt to the changing global economy.

Invest in education! Make sure Wisconsin citizens of the next generation get college degrees and can help keep our state prosperous.

This call, however, falls on deaf ears in Madison.

Inside Higher Ed :: International Erosion

Monday, September 12, 2005

Viscious Stew and Praise for diversity efforts

In a day of opposites, the local paper ran an editorial praising efforts to create a more diverse student body on campus, while Stew Rieckman attacked the bureaucracy of the university in his little rant.

Oshkosh Northwestern - UWO learning right lessons for building minority attendance

Rieckman, a bureaucrat himself if you think about it, attacks both the county and the UW system.

In the second half of his "column," he once again attacks UW for saying that universities provide backup jobs to senior administrators. One Regent says it isn't true, so Stew decides everyone else must be lying. Accusing everyone of arrogance and ignorance, he ought to look in the mirror once in a while.

Rieckman comment

He is really a pretty disagreeable character, and unfortunately, the voice of our local paper.

They also ran an editorial by head of system, Kevin Reily.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Regents support cutting backup jobs, paid leaves

Report on the regents meeting yesterday from the Journal-Sentinel. They want to toughen policies for back-up jobs and internal investigations.

JS Online: Regents support cutting backup jobs, paid leaves

Friday, September 09, 2005

Regents vow to curb backup jobs, leaves

Not surprisingly, the regents announced plans to revisit the issue of backup jobs, leaves, and due process rights.

A few troubling examples drive the whole process--no one has shown any wide-spread abuse of these policies. Before we throw the baby out with the bathwater, shouldn't we know the whole effect of these policies?

JS Online: Regents vow to curb backup jobs, leaves

Enrollment at UWO remains steady with mix

The northwestern ran a story this morning about our enrollment numbers.

The size of the U actually shrunk by a few dozen students (though as I remember this doesn't count interim), and there is slightly more diversity on campus.

Oshkosh Northwestern - Enrollment at UWO remains steady with mix

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Kreibich finds another excuse to assail university system

This guy must be planning to run for state-wide office on the basis of his hatred for the UW system.

JS Online: UW lashed for pricey new payroll system

Return backup contracts at UW to restricted use

There is even a reasonable editorial on the issue of backup contracts.

I hear that the rules come from system and state regulations, not from decisions made on our campus.

Oshkosh Northwestern - Return backup contracts at UW to restricted use

A few students displaced by Katrina make their way to UWO

At least one student from New Orleans is coming to UWO this fall to finish her degree. It is nice that UWO has found a way to help!

Oshkosh Northwestern - Katrina’s students

It is also nice to see the occasional positive story in our local paper!

Opening Day

Yesterday, the Chancellor, Dean and other administrators gave their opening day speeches. It was a strange group of speeches. No one talked about the real problems on campus, the budget cuts.

The chancellor gave perhaps his worst opening day address since I have been hear, almost mumbling through a list of planning initiatives. The speech was pure bureaucratese, devoid of substance or seriousness.

The bright spot is the new dean of student affairs, Petra Roter, who gave an amusing, spririted overview of the positives for students on campus. She completely avoided the parking issue, because it might mean realism would invade the sunny positive speeches.

Dean Zimmerman, in his address to the COLS, could not avoid a bit of negativity in his speech. Several times, he declared he didn't want to talk about the budget, though it was clear he did. Instead, he talked about some of his inititatives to convince a broader public of the need for liberal arts education. As usual, his remarks were cogent and interesting, but emphasized our weakness in self-promotion.

All in all, the event struck me as particularly empty. I was waiting to hear something substantial, but there was nothing but platitudes.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Oshkosh Northwestern - ‘Backup’ jobs for 39 at UWO

Here is the latest bad press for the university. It is hard to believe all of the people who have backup appointments. I always assumed that this was something done only for academic administrators.

I wonder how many people actually take advantage of these offers--there have been reports of a few, so one would suspect that the system isn't as excessive as critics will claim.

Still, it is unfortunate for all of us without backup appointments to watch our school get abused for it.


Oshkosh Northwestern - ‘Backup’ jobs for 39 at UWO

Friday, September 02, 2005

University issues around Katrina

The crisis that still exists in New Orleans, Mississippi and Louisiana is terrible and we should all do what we can to help.

It is astounding how ineffectual all of the government agencies have been in responding to this disaster. Apparently there had been almost no planning for such an event. Let us hope that someone can get a handle on this over the next weeks, before too many more people die.

In the meantime, here is a link to the Red Cross and a story about how New Orleans universities are trying to deal with Katrina.

Inside Higher Ed :: Finding New Homes or Temporary Homes

Thursday, September 01, 2005

New York Times reports study on liberal bias of law professors

New reports of bias in the academy, a study shows that law professors give money to democrats--81% of them.

It is pretty amazing to think about the rhetoric -- making the argument that giving money to the democratic party makes you liberal and biased.

It seems to me that the democratic party has fought many internal battles about their political direction. The right wing media might have called John Kerry a liberal, but he was barely to the left of center at all.

Then they go on to declare that these "liberals" have failed spectacularly to endoctrinate their students, as if this were the secret, conspiratorial goal of all (secretly communist) college professors.

It is quite the story and once again a misrepresentation of what happens in classrooms all across this country.

If the Law Is an Ass, the Law Professor Is a Donkey - New York Times