Friday, April 28, 2006

Happy Anniversary to Me

I just realized that it was exactly one year ago this week that I started this blog. The first topic was the petition to the administration, asking that they make sure not to increase our teaching pressures during the cycle of budget cuts.

Unfortunately, they have never offered a formal response. Do you think they ever will?

In the last year, I have spent a lot of words complaining about the unresponsiveness of our administration, and that continues in my posting today.

It is an unfortunate theme of our university's condition. Is there something wrong with us so that we are unable to have effective collective governance? Is it our current chancellor and provost or have things been like this for decades?

I hope that the next year will bring happier blogging, but then again, if I wanted a happy blog, I might have signed my name !!!

Faculty Committee expresses dismay at Growth Agenda

The Faculty committee has seconded my complaints about the content of the COLS meeting last week.

They politely point out that the administration seems to be changing the curriculum with no discussion from the faculty.

My feeling is that they think that if one or two faculty members sit on a committee, that is enough faculty involvement. They never bother to bring proposals to the faculty until they have been rubber-stamped in other venues. Why weren't we having this discussion when planning was underway for the growth agenda.

I am starting to feel like a broken record, but the theme is always the same. . .

At last week's All-COLS discussion, the Growth Agenda recently released by Chancellor Wells and the COLS Suggested Priorities for the Academic Plan (both attached) were discussed. It is clear to the Faculty Committee that the chief faculty concern expressed at the meeting is "process". Important curricular decisions have been publicly announced through the Growth Agenda that the faculty have not approved: (1) Vice Chancellor Roter announced that the new course listed in the Growth Agenda, which is an introduction to the University and a part of the First Year Experience, will be required of all students if funded by UW System; and (2) a new degree, the Bachelor of Applied Studies, will also be implemented if funded by UW System.

As identified in the attached Suggested Priorities for the Academic Plan (item 6), "It is extremely important that any academic action plan uphold the principles of faculty control over curriculum, shared governance, and a strong commitment to maintain a high standard of academic excellence in our programs." Thus this concern should be methodically and thoroughly addressed in upcoming forums and by the Faculty Senate. We encourage COLS faculty to attend Chancellor Wells' and Provost Earns' open forum on the growth initiative at noon on May 3 in Reeve 307.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Administration "inadvertently" tells faculty they can't run for office

The A-T reports that the posting to the list about political activity was wrong. Someone noticed that this seemed extreme and would make it almost impossible for someone to run for office while working for the university. (unless they were independently wealthy)

Here is the quote from the original about what is permissible:

4. Participating as a candidate for a partisan political office provided a leave of absence is taken from the state position. (For federally funded positions, even if the employee is on leave of absence under state law, this remains a violation of the Hatch Act and the agency could lose federal funding as noted above.)

This statement is completely untrue. It is not the policy of system and not the policy of the state.

Once again, we have our administration trying to keep faculty from participating in politics. Last month, they sent a letter to Tony to discourage him from running for office. This month they post inaccurate information to the listserve with the same intent.

What is going on here? They don't already have enough power? The administration ignores the faculty at every turn, but now they want to make sure we are making no political noise?

Is Wells behind this campaign, which looks incresingly orchestrated? Is Earns? Who is working so hard to remove the faculty as a vibrant part of the university community and beyond?

Below is the very polite A-T story:

Advance Titan Online

30 day rule for Summer school to be abolished

The faculty committee minutes for April 5 record that Dean Zimmerman announced that the 30 day ruleo is going to be waived for summer school.

We can breath a sigh of relief to know that we will be consistently lowering our standards across all our course offerings.

I am still upset that the whole 30 day rule was cancelled and that the various faculty representatives signed off on it without public discussion.

It does make a lot of sense after the COLS meeting last week, when the administration is demanding that we lower our standards to increase retention. They have come to believe that we have nothing special to offer and should simply produce more graduates, regardless of the quality.

You listen to all the talk about the need for more people with college degrees, you would think that the piece of paper is all that matters. When it comes to making that paper worth something, the administration is clearly working in the wrong direction. Maybe we should just sell the paper for $15,000, and we can all just go have fun doing research. Then Northeastern Wisconsin would be full of "college graduates."

Monday, April 24, 2006

Congress prepares to expand copyright restrictions linked this story: Congress is moving to protect the rights of big business at the expense of the little guy.

You can read the anger of the /.ers and think about the crazy power of the movie industry to make copying a movie carry a 10 year jail sentence.

Perhaps all the hubub about movies on campus will be moot after congress gets done increasing penalties--the big fines will scare all the bureaucrats away!

Congress readies broad new digital copyright bill | CNET

Here is the /. discussion.

Finally, here is a link from with some analysis of the prospective bill.

Faculty Salary Statistics: We look pretty bad in comparison!

Here are some statistics for faculty salaries--we look below average, as we already knew. You can follow a link within the article if you are interested in seeing discipline specific averages.

Inside Higher Ed :: The Eroding Faculty Paycheck

Friday, April 21, 2006

Depressing all-COLS meeting

Yesterday afternoon, we had another all-COLS meeting. The topic of the day was the new "growth" agenda for the campus. Meetings like this make me wonder why I am academia. I love my research and my teaching, but the unresponsive and condescending bureaucracy seems to be on a constant quest to reduce the quality of both.

The focus of the meeting was Petra Roter. She was invited to help us understand the student affairs proposals in this agenda. What we discovered is that some administrator has decided that the general education requirement is going to change. They are going to require all freshmen to take something called "First Year Experience." It is to be a 1-credit, toolbox course. This announcement set off a firestorm of questions.

How is it that the administration changes the curriculum without even consulting the faculty. Petra claimed that this course was approved long ago as some counseling course 101. They then, without discussion with faculty, changed the content of the course and made it required. Even Dean Zimmerman was surprised to hear that this course had all of a sudden become required.

Most faculty yesterday questioned this course, offering alternatives, or asked for more details. Petra deflected all criticism, by suggesting once that if we don't do this, our enrollment will drop precipitously (9200, the number she gave, I think) and may lead to the campus being closed. A few minutes later, she said that this is only being implemented to make the campus grow to 12000. Take your pick.

She leaned heavily on the NSSE results, claiming that this course will fix some of the problems there. Many faculty pointed out that our low scores on the NSSE actually have much more to do with our ever-increasing faculty to student ratio. She ignored that suggestion.

After Petra defended the administrative power to change to curriculum unilaterality and refused to acknowledge that the faculty might be able to provide some insight into the student body, discussion shifted.

Marsha Rossiter, Interim Assistant Vice Chancellor for Lifelong Learning and Community Engagement, (whatever the hell that might mean) defended the other large component of the "growth" agenda, creating a Bachelor of Applied Studies degree. As faculty again questioned the rigor of this degree, she got incredibly defensive. This made it clear that she is aware of how inadequate this degree will be, and how graduates will have many fewer skills that graduates from the regular 4 year programs. The odd justification for this was that people who are already working shouldn't have to do college-level work, because they are too busy. Once again, the discussion revolved around the basic administrative priniciple that it is already a done deal, get used to it. She promised to be a better communicator next year. (After, of course, the whole program is officially in place and we have even less input than we do now)

It also struck me that the millions that are supposedly for enlarging the faculty will probably go to adjuncts and part-timers to teach courses for this new project.

Those are my basic impressions of the meeting. Administrators show up to unresponsively defend proposals that already have been imposed on us.

What a depressing spectacle!! Two meetings next week are set so different administrators can do it again (May 3, at 12 and 4:30).

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Boozing off campus

Students are very excited about the "success" of their pub crawl and they haven't been able to stop writing about it in the AT.

They are very proud that 500 students hung out in bars, got drunk, but didn't get arrested.

This is a real mark of quality for our institution! They are such well-functioning drunks that they don't get arrested!

As Tony has noted over at his blog, wouldn't it be nice to have students do an art crawl or a "go to the library and do your homework for a change" crawl (I added that last one).

Advance Titan Online

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Fair Use Debate Rages All Day

There have now been 33 posts to the discussion list on the topic of whether or not movie nights fit the fair use exemption. It appears that a majority of responders are upset by the decreasing space for educational movies. I am convinced by the arguments proposed by those who argue for allowing movie nights, but who would be surprised by that?

The loudest anti-fair use posting accused those who support movie nights of rationalizing illegal behavior. He also is a member of the committee that seems to have started the whole controversy (The Student Allocation Committee)

It has to make you wonder why this committee has decided to defend the interests of big hollywood conglomerates over the student groups that come before them and try to improve life on campus.

Here is an article from the Advance-Titan which we missed when it ran last month, describing what happened to the International Film Series. My favorite quote from the story is from the exemption policy, which apparently states that movies must not be "for the cultural, entertainment or recreational value of anyone present." If you watch a movie on this campus, you'd better not have any fun, or we'll yank your funding and send in the lawyers!!!!

Advance Titan Online

Monday, April 17, 2006

Film Nazis invade Campus

Karl Loewenstein posted an email to the COLS list, in which he revealed that the History Club has been ordered to stop showing films on campus.

Subsequent postings added that French Club, Cine club, the International Film Series, and the English club have been forced to end their movie series'.

Apparently someone in Reeve has decided that showing films violates 'fair use' law. They are then threatening to revoke funding of student organizations who commit this heinous act. Julie Schaeffer describes the attitude of the Nazis as "fairly threatening" and having scared the English club.

Who are they and who put them in charge? Are they lawyers? Are they academics? Or are they some sort of wimpy bureaucrats who are afraid of being sued by the RIAA?

It is nuts to think that I can't show a film for my class outside of the classroom. If this is true, fair use is a farce and we have no rights at all. The library should hold a movie burning party outfront, since it must be a violation to watch films that they own as well.

There have been a couple web links posted:

A story from Columbia University, where they interpret the law correctly and will allow movie series.

Tony Palmeri posted a link to the relevant US Code

Mumps! Mumps! Mumps!

Mumps is just a fun word to say over and over again.

Mumps may have hit campus! The media reported that a student was tested for mumps last week -- no result reported that I have seen yet.

If budget cuts aren't enough, why not viral infection too?!?

Green Bay Press-Gazette - UW-Oshkosh officials await results on possible mumps case

Friday, April 14, 2006

Silly study of the day: Books in house raise scores

A Blog in the Washington Post reports this study:

Having 500 books in the house is linked to higher SAT scores. Maybe we should make it impossible for students to sell back their books (except for those poetry tomes). They'll be forced to keep them and the next generation will have higher test scores!

Learning the Wrong Things From Poetry

Fill your house with books if you want little Billy or Beth to grow up to be an academic all-star. Shakespeare is good. But stay away from poetry -- books of poesy on your shelves may dumb down your child.

A research team headed by demographer Jonathan Kelley, of Brown University and the University of Melbourne, analyzed data from a study of scholastic ability in 43 countries, including the United States. The data included scores on a standardized achievement test in 2000 and detailed information that parents provided about the family. The average student scored 500 on this test.

The researchers found that a child from a family having 500 books at home scored, on average, 112 points higher on the achievement test than one from an otherwise identical family having only one book -- and that's after they factored in parents' education, occupation, income and other things typically associated with a child's academic performance. The findings were presented last month at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America in Los Angeles.

Of course, it's not the number of books in the home that boosts student performance -- it's what they represent. The researchers say a big home library reflects the parents' dedication to the life of the mind, which probably nurtures scholastic accomplishment in their offspring.

They also found that not all books are created equal. "Having Shakespeare or similar highbrow books about bodes well for children's achievement," they wrote. "Having poetry books around is actively harmful by about the same amount," perhaps because it signals a "Bohemian" lifestyle that may encourage kids to become guitar-strumming, poetry-reading dreamers.

Whites Take Flight on Election Day

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Ask Annie: Is a liberal arts degree a waste? - Apr. 13, 2006

Since I was browsing the site, here is what the Money magazine advisor says about a liberal arts education --Good communications skills are the key--not specific training.

Ask Annie: Is a liberal arts degree a waste? - Apr. 13, 2006

College professor is 2nd best job

You may have noticed that Money magazine rated college professor as the second best job to have in America.

It seems like a fair appraisal of what we do.

What's cool Professors have near-total flexibility in their schedules. Creative thinking is the coin of the realm. No dress code!

What's not The tick-tick-tick of the tenure clock; grading papers; salaries at the low end are indeed low.

It seems a bit overblown on the salary average -- over 81,000. Maybe if they average in all of those rich private schools with senior professors in medical and business schools, you can get that number. They do list top job as dean of 'medicine,' whose average pay is over 400,000.

MONEY Magazine's Best Jobs: College professor

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Top twenty lines on

Another blogger gives us the top 20 humorous lines from

They are really quite amusing -- so enjoy!

my favorite is # 20: you can't cheat in her class because no one knows the answers.

chris uggen's weblog: rate my professors

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Blogging Their Way Through Academe

US News and World Reports writes about blogging in their graduate school edition.

I don't have much to say about it today, but I thought I would pass it along. Blogging Their Way Through Academe

Monday, April 10, 2006

Tenured prof fired at Madison after felony

It was also reported this weekend that a child-soliciting prof down at Madison was finally fired for his disgusting behavior.

It won't stop the ranting of the system-haters in the capital, but perhaps it will curtail some of the worst of it.

You'll notice that the regents overruled an appeals committee that suggested that the professor could be reinstated.

I have to admit that this felony doesn't seem to be one that would affect the duties of the employee, but the regents clearly gave weight to the current political climate over the idea of rehabilitation.

The Capital Times

Green Bay's Growth Initiative

UW-Green Bay has proposed an even larger increase than Oshkosh-- going from 5800-7500 students over the next 6 years.

They are also going to ask for more money than we are.

No notion of improving quality in their report either-- are the regents are demanding quantity over quality from every school in the system?!

Here is the Gannett news report:Appleton Post-Crescent - UW Regents support growth at Green Bay campus

Here is UW Green Bay's presentation to the regents:

Presentation powerpoint with commentary

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Sonnleitner sends 'political activity' message

Tom Sonnleitner, Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services, has posted without comment the rules governing political activity for state employees this morning.

When something like this appears, I wonder what has inspired it. I don't recall anything resembling political activity on the discussion lists (in fact almost no discussion), so is there some event on campus that he thinks will cross the line?

Is someone on campus critical of the Chancellor's arguments against TABOR #2? Did someone object to a meeting about the "Ban Civil Unions" amendment? Is my blog too anti-Republican for someone? Has Tony annoyed the administration again?

Anybody know the reasons for th timing of the post?

Here is an excerpt:

In general, the following political activities are prohibited:

1. Using governmental authority to interfere or affect nomination or election for any public
office or position within any political party.
2. Using governmental authority or influence to intimidate, threaten, or coerce any person to
vote contrary to his/her own voluntary choosing.
3. Using governmental authority to directly or indirectly intimidate, threaten, or coerce any
person to pay, lend, or contribute anything of value, including services, to any party,
organization, group, or individual for political purposes.
4. Using any official authority or influence to coerce any individual or group for political
action or to confer benefits or effect reprisals to secure desired political action or inaction.
5. Offering money in return for political action or inaction or accepting any benefit in return
for political action or inaction.
6. Engaging in political activity on state-owned property including, but not limited to, the
wearing of a political identification while on duty where it could impair the effectiveness
of the state agency operation.
7. Engaging in any political activity when not on duty to such an extent that efficiency
during working hours is impaired or that the employee is tardy or absent from work.
8. Taking any action that makes one a candidate for partisan public office unless on an
approved leave of absence .
9. Directly or indirectly soliciting or receiving subscriptions or contributions for any partisan
political party or any political purpose while on state time or engaged in official duties or
while in a building, office, or room occupied for any purpose by the state.
10. Either orally soliciting or by letter or by electronic mail transmitting any solicitation to a
state office or be in any manner concerned in soliciting any assistance, subscription, or
support for any partisan, political party or purpose from any person holding any position
in the classified service while on state time or engaged in official duties.
11. During the hours when on official duty engaging in any form of political activity
calculated to favor or improve the chances of any political party or any person seeking or
attempting to hold partisan political office.
12. Using state property, materials, supplies or equipment in connection with political

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Faculty Senate Primary Elections

We are having primary elections for Faculty Senate today across campus. With the raging debates about the future directions of UWO all over campus, there will surely be a high turnout and tightly contested results. . . .

Wait--I must have been dreaming. Does anybody actually care who serves on the faculty senate? Does anyone even know WHO is in the senate. I browsed the faculty senate web-page, and found that it has not been updated for 3 years. It does give you a sense of its irrellevancy, when there is not even an easily accessible public record of their activities.

It would have been nice to look back and see the resolutions that approved the retake policy, but I suppose I would have to schlep over to Dempsey to find them.

Perhaps if the faculty senate got active and assertively defended the quality of education here on campus, we could be better off.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Faculty pay not causing increased costs

You have to like data like this being propagated out there!! Although every time we look at our paycheck, we know we are not seeing our wages go up like the cost of a college education, it is nice to see someone gathering some statistics.

Administrators like to take their cuts from teaching costs by enlarging class sizes, etc, just because they can, not because it gets at the underlying problems of the budget in higher education.

Hopefully, you can read the article from the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Print: The Chronicle: Daily news: 04/04/2006 -- 04

If you want to see more data, here is the link to the study site:

National Study of Instructional Costs and Productivity

Monday, April 03, 2006

"Everybody else does it" justification for retakes

Jim Simmons was nice enough to post his letter to Larry Carlin here. The basic argument that won the day is that the other UWs do it this way, so we should too.

It is a sad story, and it continues to be a bad policy. Jim suggests that there was extensive debate within the faculty senate--why wasn't this on the list-serve? They actually considered it twice with no input from the rest of the faculty.

We rarely have any idea what the faculty senate is up to and I had no previous knowledge of these arguments.

I hope that senators will inform the community the next time a controversial policy, which serves no one well, comes up for a vote. Jim mentioned that they considered many policies--why didn't the faculty as a whole? A lot of smart people work here--maybe a better solution might have been found. . .


The Repeat Policy was proposed back in May of 2003 after over a year of review by the Provost's Staff, Admissions and the Improvement of Instruction Committee before it was passed by the Faculty Senate in November of 2003 after much debate. The senate was asked to reconsider the policy due to budgetary considerations but reafirmed it in Spring 2004. Implementation was delayed for several years for computer software adjustments and the Chancellor's stay for financial reasons.

The main impetus behind the change in the old policy was all the problems created for students by the 30-day rule that prevented students from retaking a course until students taking it for the first time had already registered. This rule, among other things, kept many students from repeating several high demand classes or gaining admission to several majors especially in the sciences. No other campus we could find had a "30-day rule."

The many alternatives considered ranged from the most "liberal" with unlimited retakes replacing existing grades and no registration constraints to the most restrictive allowing students a very small number of retakes to replace only Fs with the second grade averaged into their GPA. There were also proposals to increase the number of faculty in specific departments to handle demand and to require professional programs to reconsider their use of GPAs as an admission standard.
The Retake option actually chosen was the one most common at other UW campuses and the one most consistent with policies at comparable universities. Those campuses don't seem to have all the problems feared by some of the participants on this discussion list.

I doubt that any of the participants in the discussion three years ago thought that this was an ideal policy but it was seen as the best possible one given the complexity of the issue and the university's financial condition. However, You will have to ask others about their reasons for favoring the policy since I was not a member of these committees nor chair of the faculty senate that year. I'm sending you a few of the relevant documents by snail mail.