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 . . .