Friday, March 31, 2006

Official Announcement of the Awful Retake Policy

Lisa Danielson posted the official retake policy to the list. We have discussed it before. Two new comments on the policy appeared: Larry Carlin reaffirms the lack of discussion on this policy. John Koker noted the policy is strangely unenforced, in that students are supposed to obey the policy, with no oversight from the registration office. Will the star report catch students who retake with too high of a grade point?

This is a terrible policy, adopted without discussion and input from the faculty--proof of no real faculty governance on this campus. Look at all the complaints, and yet, no movement by anyone to reconsider this punishment of good students to benefit the bad.

Here is an excerpt from the announcement:

Students may only repeat a course if they have received a grade of C/D or less. The most recent grade awarded will be used in the computation of grade point averages and credit earned. If a student repeats a course and earns a lower grade, the lower grade will be used in the computation of grade point averages. Although grades earned at other post-secondary institutions will be included on the credit evaluation and on the official transcript, the official UW Oshkosh grade point average is not affected by grades earned elsewhere. Undergraduate courses repeated after graduation will not change the undergraduate cumulative grade point average.

Note: Although TitanWeb will allow registration of all repeats of courses students may only repeat courses with a C/D or less. It is the student's responsibility to be aware of this policy and to adhere by the rules.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Conservative Students get higher grades

As I like to follow this story, Inside Higher Ed again has a story about a study from Unversity of Nevada at Reno, where a sociologist looked for grading differences because of political leanings of students.

He found none, and proposes that this shows that students who complain are not being punished in any significant way for their politics.

I had a student complain to me once about his biased(liberal) professors, but he didn't seem to be suffering any adverse grading consequences. He was annoyed and he tried to avoid certain teachers, but that was about the extent of it. He was quite a good student, with a high GPA.

Inside Higher Ed :: Grading Edge for Conservative Students

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Growth Strategy??? How about Recovery Strategy?

The chancellor announced a 'growth strategy' today to expand the university to 14,000 student over the next 6 years. Apparently, system is demanding that every promise to expand in order to get money out of the state legislature.

What a crock! Now we know what the 'applied studies' degree is about. It is clear we don't have staff or room on campus for more students, so they hope to drive us all on-line. Any mention about improving quality education for students? I didn't see it.

As everyone predicted, the funding is gone and the only way we will get any of it back is to create new programs. We'll have to think more about this over the next few days, but it looks like more bad news. . .

Here are few key lines from the long e-mail:

Recently, UW System President Kevin Reilly asked UW Universities to submit “growth agenda” proposals for consideration by the UW System staff and Board of Regents as they prepare the 2007-2009 Budget Request. UW Oshkosh responded to this request by submitting a “growth agenda” proposal that would increase enrollment by 12.5% over the next six years. The projected increase for the on-campus headcount enrollment is from 11,000 to 12,800 and for total (on and off campus) enrollment is from 12,400 to over 14,000 by the year 2012. These increases are predicated upon additional State funding.

The UW Oshkosh “Growth Agenda” proposal for the 2007-09 biennial budget period requires $5,506,317 of additional funding to support the addition of 400 FTE (+4.2%) and 600 (+5%) headcount student enrollment increases by 2009. (See attachment for program summary and related budget enhancement details.) The remaining enrollment growth (800 FTE and 1,200 head count) would require comparable funding increases during the 2009-2011 and 2011-13 biennial budget.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Iowa's Applied Studies program

Here is a B.A.S. program from the University of Iowa.

The program there is an attempt to serve non-traditional students who already have a degree from a community college.

A student has to take 60 hours of course work in a variety of areas to get the degree from University of Iowa. It seems to emphasize the use of on-line, distance, and weekend courses.

At first glance, the Iowa program doesn't look so bad. I have a feeling the devil is in the details, so we will have to wait to see what kind of requirements our B.A.S. might include. Are we going to have to put up more non-traditional courses in order for this whole thing to work?

Applied Studies

What is Applied Studies?

Was anyone else puzzled by the announcement that came over the lists yesterday. Apparently we are getting ready to start a new degree program called a Bachelor of Applied Studies.

There is an information meeting about next Monday, April 3 at 11:30 - 12:30 in Reeve Memorial Union 220AB. I'll try to go, but it is a bad time for me.

What could this possibly be? Don't we already have applied studies? We call them business, nursing, education, biology, chemistry, history, journalism, etc.

It doesn't sound good. Isn't this what athletes in division I sports major in (and then don't finish)? Is this going to be another step towards watering down the quality and rigor of a degree from UWO?

Monday, March 27, 2006

UWO student drinking in the Northwestern

The paper ran this story this morning--a discussion of the issue of drinking on the UWO campus. It was basically an interview with Petra Roter about how the university was dealing with the issue.

It was a very positive, though misleading, article about what goes on here on campus. If things were only as good as Petra hopes they would be.

I wonder if UWO is worse than other campuses within the system and across the country. Clearly, our students are proud of their drinking (just look at facebook). Many students, however, are non-traditional ones and are burdened with family life and work. They just may not have the time to go out of control.

Oshkosh Northwestern - University attacks problem drinking from several angles

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Pat Robertson joins attack on university professors

Read about how Pat Robertson is attacking college professors as murderers and "termites that have worked into the woodwork of our academic society."

There is more info here about politics around the Horowitz' bill in Florida as well.

Is it just me, or does Robertson get wierder and more extreme every day? Having his denunciations can only help expose the lunacy of many of these claims!

Inside Higher Ed :: Murderers, Video and Academic Freedom

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Student perceptions of bias fall short of reality

I meant to post this story a few days ago when it ran on the higher education home page. It is a great study that suggests that students attribute political leanings to their professors more based on their own bias than on what that professor says or does.

It is not exactly a corrective to the Horowitz attacks, but it does change the terms of the debate.

Conservative students see bias everywhere, whether it is there or not. . .

Inside Higher Ed :: The Real Bias in the Classroom

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Bad News for Us: Zimmerman leaving

Michael just posted the news to the employee's list. He is taking a job at Butler University.

The announcement says that he is taking essentially the same job there: Dean of the College of Letters and Sciences. Also, after a quick google, it is clear that Butler is not a step up for him, but more of a lateral move. He will be at a smaller school with fewer faculty, but it is private.

One would have to guess that the trials and tribulations of working in the UW system has finally overwhelmed him. At Butler, he will be free of cost-cutting legislators and an administration that doesn't believe that he should be involved in politics.

We knew he was looking to leave, but it is always a shock when it finally happens.

Many have had issues with Michael over the years, but he has been a strong advocate and a good steward of our resources through difficult times. We can only hope that our next Dean will be able to continue his strong legacy.

Grade Inflation at UWO

JRS posted some numbers for us in a comment to the gentleman's C thread.
I am posting them up front:

Average GPA for the University in Spring of 2005: 2.95
Average GPA for COLS: 2.78
Lowest department average: Anthropology: 2.28
Highest department average: Art: 3.44

College of Nursing and the COEHS both have averages well over 3.

UWO average GPA was 2.85 in 1990, 2.93 in 1994 and dropped to 2.91 in 1999. We are roughly following the national trends, though with a bit of variation from year to year. Here is a report from 1999 from the Office of Institutional Research, with lots of specifics from departments and colleges.

I found a few national statistics to compare to:

National average for public universities in 2002: 2.97
Average for UW-Madison in 1998: 3.11

This data came from

Here is a paper about grade inflation at Madison up to 1998, in which the author tests the hypothesis that improving student quality caused the higher grades. He found no strong link. It also has some nifty charts.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Female academics and tenure has a small posting about how many women have tenure at Yale. The alumni magazine reports that in arts and sciences there are 310 men with tenure and only 71 women.

I wonder if we have the same disparities here?

Here is the link (you have to watch an ad to see it)

The Northwestern snubs UWO this weekend

I have to wonder why the Northwestern, in is annual survey of Oshkosh, decided not to mention UWO in the education section this year. There was room for that important educational activity of golf, but not for a note about us.

Was it some sort of editorial oversight or are Stew and his cronies dissing us on purpose?

Now that I think about it, he section last year had almost nothing about UWO either. . ..

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Framers and the Faithful

As all of the discussion about angels in public parks rolls along here in the Oshkosh blogosphere, I post this interesting article from the Washington Monthly about evangelicals and separation of church and state in the 18th century.

History has reared its head, as it often does, in these debates as we argue over original intents. This article speaks to that--ending with an interesting moment when Republicans in the Virginian house recently tried to amend their state consititution to remove Jefferson's language separating church and state.

"The Framers and the Faithful" by Steven Waldman

Thursday, March 16, 2006

AP picks up trival professor bashing story

The AP syndicated the story of a retired professor at Madison who was so angry at his insurance company that he threated to blow up the building. He received a $50 fine.

The northwestern featured it as their one bit of Wisconsin news today, as I am sure did many other papers across the state.

It is the crudest of UW bashing for its own sake. How is this news or relevant to Wisconsin or Oshkosh?

I've linked to the duluth superior version of the story below:

AP Wire | 03/15/2006 | Prominent UW scholar pleads no contest to disorderly conduct

Christmas Box Angel on public property

I usually don't like to dive into local politics, but I have to mention this because it fits in with so many things we have talked about on theis blog over the past few months.

A controversy is afoot in Oshkosh over placing religious symbols in our public park.

This strikes me not as a Christianist plot, but just a case of insensitivity. Whatever committee that approved of this statue simply could not fathom that people might be opposed to putting Christian symbols in public places. That this decision was made with almost no fanfare demonstrates how little the committee thought about the separation of church and state and the rights of minority groups.

Obviously, someone who thought this was a bad idea informed the freedom from religion foundation down in Madison, which decided to get involved.

It may, however, be transformed into an issue for the radical right--with our fair mayor pronouncing it a done deal on Tuesday--he is not even up for reelection this year!

Will we soon see this story on the national circuit? Will Bill O'Reilly denounce opposition to this idea as a satanic attack on the moral foundations of our country?

As the Northwestern editorialized this morning, why not just build the memorial on private property? Or will the mayor dig in his heel and waste our time and money on this issue?

Oshkosh Northwestern - Controversy continues over Christmas Box Angel statue

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Facebook and campus culture

This article in the Birmingham News is about the 3 men who were charged with a string of church burnings in Alabama last week.

The interesting aspect is the discussion of all the information that they posted on The article points out that the site glorifies drinking and partying, making it a defining feature of a college experience.

I got interested, so I registered for facebook as a faculty member (you just need a uwosh ID) and I can see that UWO is no different. As you page through the list of students, you can see photos of their drinking. It also contains all sorts of chatter about when the next party is going to be, what sorts of tv shows they like to watch, and their hobbies.

There is a space for majors and classes that they are in, but clearly that is not the point of the site.

Unfortunately, it looks like another way that college culture is defeating the purpose of our institution. Surveys tell us that students do hardly any homework these days, and facebook reinforces that impression.

Along with the problem of C's, how do we address the larger cultural problems of general disregard for the purpose of a university education?

Cyberspace postings highlight students' false sense of security

High Tuition drives students out of Wisconsin

Okay, so I don't really know that this is the reason, but the National Center for Education Statistics reported that in 2000, Wisconsin had a net inflow of over 1500, but in 2004, that had changed to an outflow of about 1000.

That means it was a swing of 2500 over those 4 years. The most significant change here has been the massive tuition increases, especially for out-of-state students.

It seems pretty clear to me that it isn't the cold or the quality, but the ever increasing price that is starting to price Wisconsin higher education out of the market!

Inside Higher Ed :: Heading South

Monday, March 13, 2006

Grade Inflation and the 'gentleman's C'

Tony Palmeri attempted to start a discussion last week about the need for the university to re-establish the C as a viable grade here on campus. He noted that he gave a large number of students Cs for a speech in his class. This generated great anger and anxiety among the students, even more than from those who received lower grades.

He points out that this did not always used to be the case and perhaps we should rehabilitate the grade. We could call it the "Bush/Kerry C," in honor of the last election.

There were only two responses to his post. Alice Kyberg wondered if it would force more students to drop out and David Jones suggested not.

Tony's post seems worthy of discussion, as we have all thought about both grade inflation and student quality during our teaching careers.

One way to really make this into a more substantial discussion would be to have some statistics. Is there any public record of grade point by department or even by faculty member? I am sure people know, but have we seen any real comparisons?

At one college where I taught, everyone's individual grade point (i.e. average grade for your classes) was distributed to the rest of the faculty. Thus, you always knew how your grading policy related to the rest of the institution. I think that the point was to keep grade points in check. If so, it seemed to work. No one was way out of line in terms of averages.

One might argue that class composition can change dramatically, but over time, I would have to imagine that this kind of data would help us have a serious discussion about grade inflation.

We all can think of the stereotypes of science versus humanities grades, but it would make our discussion better if we knew if it was true here.

Personally, I have capitulated on the C front myself, giving large numbers of BCs in my classes. I think that it does have a lot to do with what Tony has suggested: the additional grief generated by giving Cs is not really worth it. My over-all average would be just about that--I would guess about an 82.

What would happen if I changed my grading policy? Individually, I imagine my enrollments might be hurt. Institutionally, would it encourage students to work harder or change the intellectual atmosphere? Would we lose more students who are only skating by now? Would the administration stand for that?

I think it would be more reflective of the work many of my students do to give more Cs. It would increase the pressure on students who plan to on for more education, or get into Nursing/Business/Education. It would also give more space to differentiate between students. Maybe I should toughen up. Anyone want to join me?

Spending limits = big tuition hikes

Not that this is any surprise, but at least the regents are speaking out early against TABOR 2.

It is clear to them (as it is to most people) that tuition will continue to go up if the state continues to cut support to our universities.

The republican sponsor says that UWs aren't too expensive, and that all that debt that students have is because of bad financial management.

Regents say spending limit would result in big tuition hikes | The Janesville Gazette | Janesville, Wisconsin, USA

Friday, March 10, 2006

Arizona senate rejects "opt out" bill

In good news for academia, the Arizona senate sensibly rejected the law that would have given students the right to demand alternative assignments for anything they found offensive.

The bill made it out of committee a few weeks ago, but a few sensible senators realized that this was quite the extremist bill.

As a side note, Tony Palmeri and commenter "Diamond Dave" are having an extended conversation about faculty due process (2 posts down), so don't miss it!

Welcome to the Tucson Citizen

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A-T covers the new retake policy

Stephanie Barnard, blogger in her own right, has written a story for the A-T about the problematic new retake policy.

From the story we learn that the policy was presented to the faculty and academic staff senates and they approved it. As I have complained all along, there was abolutely no campus discussion of this change.

As I think about it, it strikes me that this policy must have something to do with retention rates. The advising staff hopes that letting our worst students stand first in line to retake classes may keep them in school longer.

My bet is that if the faculty had any real input on this policy, it would not have been changed. Is there one member of the teaching faculty out there who supports it? No one has written here and no one could be found for the AT story.

Advance Titan Online

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The COLS-wide faculty meeting

I have been meaning to write about the COLS meeting that occurred about a week and a half ago. From what I have heard, it was pretty pathetic.

The agenda for the meeting was to discuss some COLS input to the strategic plan ("Suggested Priorities for the Academic Plan"). No more that 30 people showed up to watch the faculty committee praise themselves on what a great job they had done putting it together.

There was apparently only a bit of discussion over various phrasing and weighting. Also, there was a small disagreement about whether assessment numbers should be added to the plan. A couple of people thought using assessment data would help strengthen some of the desires in the plan. One person suggested that inserting assessment data would only play into the hands of administrators.

Dean Zimmerman was sick, so he was a fairly sedate presence and I haven't heard that he said anything particularly striking.

The meeting represents one of the biggest problems on our campus. Where is significant and real faculty input? The one meeting which had a large turn out last year was completely ignored by the adminstration. This meeting dealt with how best to shuffle some bureaucratic nonsense requested by the administration.

It is true that the faculty committee placed the 9 course load on the top of our academic goals, but that will probably work as well as the petition did last year.

We have really abdicated any responsibility for playing a significant role in the decisions made on this campus. It may be that Wells, Earns and Zimmerman are doing such a fine job that no one has any disagreements, but how would one ever know?

Why is it that the faculty committee and the faculty senate seem to have no real power and no real agenda? Shouldn't we be intimately involved in shaping the path of our institution's future. The first universities were collectives governed by faculty, ours has become a hierarchical bureaucracy with top-down decision making.

Suggestions? How can we gain back some control over our college and our university?

Monday, March 06, 2006

Bea Holton raises more questions about retake policy

Bea Holton posted a new question to the COLS list about the retake policy. It increases my doubts that we ever had a full accounting of this policy before it was passed by "our" faculty senate:

Here is here question:

Some of our courses are set up so that a student must earn a C or above to continue in a sequence. Yet my understanding is that students who receive a CD will not be able to repeat that class. Will they find themselves in an impossible position where they can't repeat the class but they can't move forward?

Seems odd that the chair of the biology department would not know the answer to such an important question BEFORE a policy comes into effect.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

High school teacher suspended for criticizing Bush

From the heart of Horowitz country (Colorado, the first state leg. to consider his bill), a high school geography teacher was suspended after a student taped his anti-Bush rant.

This should give the idea of taping your professors a boost -- look at the power it gives the taper!

Teacher Probed Over Bush Remarks - CBS News

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The journal-sentinal editorial board agrees with me!

Yesterday, the Journal-Sentinal editorialized that the UW system is much better than the public's perception of it.

They marshall a few statistics to help make the case about the cost and quality of our state's higher education system.

If only there were cooler heads in Madison, but I wouldn't count on it--especially not in an election year!

JS Online:Editorial: Getting beyond perception

UW system capitulates to Christianists

RAs to be allowed to intimidate their charges, as long as they don't whack them over the head with a bible.

UW administrators apparently it is not worth the trouble to stand up to the anti-UW christianists when it comes to separation of church and state.

I suppose they won't mind me recruiting students for religious study in my office (do you think the wink/wink extra credit I shouldn't really promise will work?)

Inside Higher Ed :: Wisconsin's Battle of the Bible

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Study: Reading Key to College Success

ACT is selling complex reading tests, but I feel like their point is well taken. Most Freshmen can not handle the complex reading that is asked of them at college.

High school students are not learning how to read and, thus, are facing trouble when they get to college.

I had a student confess to me just today that he didn't really read. It was part of him asking if he could get special treatment on the midterm. I told him he should talk to the people at Project Success, to see if he qualified for extra help.

Study: Reading Key to College Success

Letter to Editor attacks Zimmerman

As we know, the Northwestern likes to quickly print letters attacking UW employees and bury the positive ones. Here is the daily Christianist dose, in the form of an attack on Michael and his national campaign to remind people that science and religion are not antagonists.

The writer attacks our Dean for using university resources to spread his "Darwinian religion of humanism."

How dare a biologist try to convince others that the information that he has researched and tested is actually true!?! and on university time, at that!

Oshkosh Northwestern - Letters: Oshkosh West generates excitement, enthusiasm