Thursday, August 31, 2006

Susan McFadden in the Dean's Office

Susan McFadden was part of the interim appointment of John Koker as Dean of L and S, and took a position as "faculty liaison to the interim dean" (I wonder how big of a pay raise she gets for doing it). She sent out a memo this week describing some of her goals for the year.

Unfortunately, she has quickly taken up the role of chaperoning administrative priorities through COLS.

Project # 1: A healthcare emphasis that will stretch across several departments. It is unclear exactly what this means, except that students who are interested in health care issues will take more courses and get some sort of additional listing on their transcript. It isn't nursing, which we already have, it isn't pre-med, so is it meant to train students to be nursing home employees? Is it a supposed outlet for all the students who can't get into the nursing program? She claims it is secretly an attempt to make students work harder, but I am not sure how that is going to work . . .

Project # 2: Convince the faculty that the administration's already-in-place plan for a Freshman experience course is a good idea. We saw what happened when Petra Roter tried to defend the program last Spring. Someone hopes that McFadden will do a better job convincing us of the usefulness of this class.

Project # 3: Shakespeare on the Fox. Now here is a better initiative. Bring an important literary tradition to campus and bring the community into the intellectual life of the university. She wants people to volunteer to give talks on their expertise that relate to the project. Step up and do your part!

She leaves us with the strange metaphor of a "gift" of an interim year. Perhaps I haven't been around long enough to know that COLS works better without a long-term dean. Perhaps this is a dig at Michael. If it is such a gift not to have a dean, lets turn the position into one held internally on short-term contracts.

I don't know what to make of her approach to this position. I have a lot of respect for McFadden, and I hope that she will not become the latest administrator who thinks she knows better than the faculty as a whole.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Barrett coming to Campus

The campus greens have invited Barrett to come to campus in October. I am posting the information left in a comment below.

As much as I believe in academic freedom, dragging out Barrett all over the place is not the way to demonstrate the seriousness of our scholarship and bolster our reputation as a solid academic environment.

The major speakers that get invited to campus are almost invariable of this fluff. Perhaps if we had a series of well-respected academics, instead of provocateurs, we might draw the academically-minded, instead of the party-minded new students. . .

The UW Oshkosh Campus Greens are sponsoring the following event in the University Theater on Thursday, October 26 from 6pm - 9pm. The plan is to show Loose Change 2 at 6:00pm. The movie is 1 hour 29 minutes and discusses several ideas regarding the events that took place on 9/11.

Kevin Barrett will then offer a presentation at 7:45pm about Academic Freedom and outrageous actions of many state politicians.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Board doesn't take Barrett Bait

The Winnebago county board voted down a proposal to cut funding for UW extension the equivalent of Barrett's pay down at Madison. It is nice to see that they did this, but it is an amazing tactic of the right to keep this topic alive.

I don't think that legislators down in Madison will be this kind when the system budget comes up, however. We have become the easiest target in the entire state!

Here is the story from the Northwestern.

I'll add this link to Inside Higher Ed, to read about the tempest-in-a-teapot generated in New Hampshire by another prof. who questioned the offical line on 9/11

Monday, August 28, 2006

Wells responds to quality discussions

Chancellor Wells sent this long memo to the university community. He has apparently cut and pasted all of the promotional material he has been using over the last year into the message.

After looking over the letter, it doesn't seem that he addresses any of the comments that have been flowing over this or the other discussion directly. And unfortunately, the letter starts with the fact that we are growing and he wants us to keep growing (while not increasing full-time faculty).

I don't accept the argument that growth is the factor that determines improvement, but that is the line the chancellor continues to push. Where are the quality initiatives? Where is the desire to get faculty/student ratios down to the others in the system, let alone higher status institutions? Where is the understanding that a quality university is based on significant interactions between students and faculty, not having a swanky new facility for the athletes?

Will Wells acknowledge that there are obvious problems that need to be addressed or will he continue to be a snake-oil salesman?

August 28, 2006

TO: University Community

FROM: Richard H. Wells, Chancellor

Lane R. Earns, Provost and Vice Chancellor

RE: The Constant Pursuit of Educational Quality and Distinctiveness at UW Oshkosh

Recently a dialogue has emerged on campus about the quality, distinctiveness and reputation of UW Oshkosh. This is a discussion that the Provost and I welcome. We believe that while we must remain open to “brutal facts” and squarely face the related challenges, we must also recognize and be proud of our progress and the outstanding accomplishments of our faculty, staff and students. In this memo, we want to bring some of these accomplishments to your attention and explain what we are doing to address the issue of the University’s reputation.

As you know, we are entering the final phase of accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission. In preparation for our HLC report, we will also be re-examining our Key Operational Plans and participating in UW System Equity Scorecard Project. The entire process will allow a detailed inspection of quality on our campus.

At UW Oshkosh, we are always working on improving the quality of education that we provide and building upon our reputation. We have clear evidence that we are an outstanding institution.

For those of you who would like an extensive examination of our progress, we suggest that you take the time to review the University’s Strategic Plan updates, critiques and annual reports. (see For those interested in a more abbreviated version, we have noted below some accomplishments between 2000 and 2005 for your perusal:

We have larger enrollments and FTE, and we have increased the number of students of color, degrees conferred and the retention rates for our first-year students:

* Headcount enrollment has increased by 6.2% (726) to more than 12,000 students (11,000 on campus);
* FTE enrollment has increased by 9.4% (873);
* Enrollment of students of color has increased by 240, up 58%, the largest percentage increase among the UW System’s eleven comprehensive universities;
* Enrollment of older students has increased by 5.5%, the largest percentage increase among the UW System’s eleven comprehensive universities;
* Credit-to-degree has decreased by 3%;
* Degrees conferred have increased from 1,712 to 1,856, up 8.4%; and
* Retention rates for first-year students have improved from 70.8% to 76.8%.

We have secured more grants and more private dollars than ever before:

* Grant dollars have increased from $3.7 to $11.7 million, up 216%;
* Foundation gifts and pledges have increased from $1.7 to $4.9 million annually;
* Funding was identified for 80 no-cost Academic Excellence Scholarships; and
* UWO Foundation total net assets have increased by 82% ($7.2 - $13.1 million) from 2002 – 2006, while total assets nearly tripled going from $7.4 to $19.2 million.

We have raised the level of academic preparedness of our first-year students:

* 3.4% more are from the top 10% of their high school class;
* 11.1% more are from the top 25% of their high school class; and
* Academic Excellence and National Merit scholars increased from 44 to 92, up 109%.

We have expanded support programs for student, faculty and staff development:

* New Student Compact provides $1,000,000 annually through differential tuition to enhance and integrate student academic support services;
* Faculty Compact launched a new teaching and learning program; and
* New Leadership development programs for faculty, academic staff and classified staff have been implemented.

We have added new academic majors and significantly increased baccalaureate degree completion programs:

* New undergraduate majors in Theatre Arts, Athletic Training and Environmental Studies;
* New accelerated Math and Science Teacher Education Program in collaboration with five UW Colleges;
* New Bachelor of Fire, Emergency and Response Management Degree;
* New collaborative Master’s Degree in Social Work with UW Green Bay;
* Eleven new Graduate Certificate Programs;
* Accelerated Bachelor’s Degree Program for non-nursing graduates, as well as a MBA foundations online program; and
* The state’s only “2 plus 2” Aeronautics Bachelor’s Degree Program.

We have enhanced our facilities by completing $75 million worth of capital building projects with another $100 million of projects on the near horizon:

* Acquired funding and completed $1.8 million of classroom and lab upgrades (including funding for a major renovation of the Aquatic Research Laboratory);
* Purchased and renovated a 30,000 sq. ft. building for Academic Support Services and a new Women’s Center;
* Convinced the State to earmark funds for the Fall 2005 purchase of a 36 acre addition to our riverfront campus;
* Have undertaken a campus beautification project including landscaping, lighting and signage;
* Are constructing a new $21 million Student Health and Wellness Center (to be opened in 2007);
* Authorized the purchase and renovation of the Newman Center and Credit Union buildings by the UWO Foundation;
* Unveiled a new parking plan, with first 400 car parking ramp to be opened in the Fall of 2007;
* Completed $3.5 million of the planned $5.7 million transformation of the Oshkosh Sports Complex, as well as a $1.0 million improvement of Kolf Sports Center;
* Completed a $13 million renovation of Taylor Hall; and
* Received authorization from the State to place a new $48 million Academic Building on the high priority new construction list to be planned in 2005-2007 and constructed in 2007-2009. The State has already released $1.2 million for design costs.

We have won national recognition for our commitment to “green” principles by using EPA LEED building design standards, by decreasing negative environmental impacts through the conservation of water and energy, by reducing pollution, and by recycling:

* Reduced water consumption by 24,484,000 gallons/year, a savings of $130,986;
* Reduced energy consumption by 563,017 kilowatt hours, a savings of $27,600/year;
* Reduced emissions of coal/natural gas boilers by constructing a $2.8 million heat plant stack;
* Renovated rather than demolished existing buildings to minimize contributions to landfills;
* Reused light poles resulting in more energy efficiency and less light pollution, a $300,000 savings;
* Received the 2003 EPA Leadership Award, one of the first 11 ever presented to a university; and
* Received the 2004 National Wildlife Federation Award, the 2005 Energy Star Award, and the 2006 Wisconsin Clean Air Award.

We have been recognized as a national model for developing and highlighting exemplary campus-wide Liberal Education programs:

* Featured by the American Council on Education’s “Solutions for Our Future” at ;
* Lauded by the Association of American Colleges and Universities for linking their initiative entitled Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) to the ACE’s “Solutions for Our Future” campaign at ;
* Devoted three issues (Spring 2006, Fall 2006, and Spring 2007) of the UW Oshkosh Magazine to a three part series on the value and importance of a liberal education by featuring the outstanding accomplishments of the students, faculty, and staff that comprise our four colleges.

Additional points of pride include:

* The proposed growth agenda submitted by UW Oshkosh to support additional faculty and new programs was approved by the UW Board of Regents, and the Board will recommend to the Governor a level of funding that is higher than any other single comprehensive university in the state;
* UW Oshkosh has won more Regents’ Teaching Excellence Awards than any other UW institution. Three individual faculty members and three departments have been awarded this recognition;
* UW Oshkosh’s recruitment program, which has dramatically increased undergraduate student diversity, won the State Council on Affirmative Action 2005 Diversity Award;
* UW Oshkosh has had the most successful Model United Nations Program in the nation for two decades running;
* Since 1999, the College of Nursing graduate students’ pass rate on the American Nurses Credentialing Center-Family Nurse Practitioner Exam has been 100 percent;
* Senior business majors at UW Oshkosh taking the ETS business knowledge assessment test have ranked in the top 5 percent nationwide.
* UW Oshkosh students who took the CPA exam placed the university in the top 10 schools nationally;
* Since 1990, 35 UW Oshkosh graduates have gone on to be awarded the Herb Kohl Teacher of the Year Award;
* More special education teachers graduate from UW Oshkosh than any other UW institution;
* Our students volunteer approximately 65,000 hours each year in service to the community;
* Productions and scripts by UW Oshkosh radios-TV-film students have won 21 grand prizes in National Broadcasting Society competitions;
* The Advance-Titian has won the top national award for student newspapers four times;
* UW Oshkosh has won 37 national championships, including 23 NCAA Division III competitions;
* UW Oshkosh sponsors the largest annual Earth Charter community summit in the world. The Earth Charter promotes ecological integrity, social and economic justice, and democracy, nonviolence and peace; and
* UW Oshkosh has received the Governor’s Top Special Minority Business Award for the past three years.

Given the recent budget cuts by the State, the scope of accomplishments noted above is astonishing, and represents a tribute to the unity, vigor, and dedication of our students, faculty, and academic and classified staff members. By focusing our resources on identified priorities, we have been able to accomplish many remarkable feats during the past five years.

While we can thus speak with confidence and pride of the quality and distinctiveness of UW Oshkosh, efforts must continue to enhance our reputation beyond the campus boundaries. In response to this need, we are revamping our currently inconsistent, uneven, and highly decentralized communications and marketing activities. Our image and reputation are not aligned with the quality of our academic community, and this “brutal fact” is being addressed by the Integrated Marketing Team that was charged on February 17, 2006 to help focus the University’s image/brand in an honest and ethical way, and to enhance public awareness, appreciation and accessibility. Professor Birgit Leisen Pollack and Susan Neitzel are the team co-captains. The full membership and six-page charge can be found at . A draft of this plan will be filed and input will be solicited at numerous campus presentations this fall.

We are currently completing the search for an Executive Director of Integrated Marketing and Communication. You may recall that when Robin Asbury vacated her Director of University Relations position, we did not fill it in order to help meet our budget challenges. We did, however, dramatically revise the nature of the position and change the title to Executive Director of Integrated Marketing and Communication. The Search Committee, chaired by Professor James Tsao and Professor Birgit Leisen Pollack , has done outstanding work and, consequently, we have three excellent finalists for this important position.

In addition, the College of Business has opened a satellite center in Green Bay and we are in the final stages of opening a satellite UW Oshkosh office in Milwaukee. These “out-of-town” sites will enhance awareness of UW Oshkosh.

Regarding the issue of rankings of higher education institutions, we believe in measuring and evaluating our performance and in holding ourselves accountable; however, we agree with the August 16, 2006 NY Times editorial that states, “rank colleges, but rank them right.” This attitude is doubly important now given that the recently released draft of the Spellings Commission Report on the Future of Higher Education recommends that colleges and universities use standardized testing to assess student learning in terms of outputs. It is clearly time for colleges and universities to step up to the plate and take responsibility for carefully accessing the relationship between student experience and student learning if we are to identify value added in a way that that would respect the diversity of student and social needs.

One step in this direction is our participation in the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), which unlike the US News & World Report rankings measures output. Our latest NSSE results have improved and will be shared and discussed during the fall semester. Another is our plan to facilitate further campus-wide dialogue by supporting a Faculty College on the evaluation of higher education, centered on the Spellings Commission Report on the Future of Higher Education, the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), and other ranking systems, such as those found in US News & World Report.

In closing, the following are examples of initiatives that we will support over the course of the coming year that will continue our commitment to enhance the quality and distinctiveness of our academic community.

University Initiatives, Programs and Projects:

Center for Scholarly Teaching

University Honors Program (increased support)

American Democracy Project (increased support)

Office of International Education (increased support)

Campus-wide Sustainability Team

Black History Project

Institute for the Study of Religion, Violence and Memory

College Initiatives:

COLS (Health Care Emphasis, minor in Social Justice, major in Bimolecular Science, and Informational Research Methods)

COBA (Family Business Center and CASPER)

COEHS (Special Education Outreach, Collaborative Baccalaureate with UW Sheboygan)

CON (Laboratory Simulations, Clinical Simulations, and International Partnerships)

We hope the ideas and information provided above are of some value as we continue to engage in a transparent exchange of ideas and actions focused upon adding value to all members of this wonderful academic community. It is not possible in this memo to enumerate the many individual accomplishments of the faculty, academic staff, and classified staff. As you know the annual reports, the UW Oshkosh Magazine, the Bulletin, and the numerous press stories detail the every day excellence of our faculty, academic staff, and classified staff. The Opening Day activities will provide another opportunity to celebrate individual achievements.

We look forward to seeing you during the Opening Day ceremonies and to continuing our dialogue on the important issues of quality, distinctiveness and reputation at UW Oshkosh.

Chancellor Richard Wells
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Discussion of rankings continues on the list

Discussion has raged the last few days, continuing with the basic themes I mentioned in my earlier posts. Mike Lizotte has been arguing that the ratings benefit private colleges, not state institutions, so we shouldn't give them too much credence.

Others have suggested we need a plan to improve our institution.

Jonathon Gutow makes the best argument (because he basically agrees with me). He argues that class size is the biggest issue, but there is very little that we can do. We can abandon our research and teach more students or we need a large infusion of cash to hire new staff to get our ratios back down to our comparable institutions.

The first one is not very palatable, since UWO, I think, has established quite a strong research base, which is also one of the cores of higher education.

The second is completely unfathomable. We know that the legislature is not going to find extra money to hire more staff, unless we can show 'growth.' Tuition is already rising astronomically, so there is no hope that students could help fund this project.

That leaves us between a rock and a hard place. Could we play the statistics, and get our ratings up. Would that get us more money? Is there a way to attract higher ranked students without spending more?

I'm stumped as I type this. . .

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Here are some statistics about how bad we are!

From the UW system promotional material sent out to parents (thanks to Bill Wresch for the link)

We have the highest average class size (32). We have the highest percentage of lower division classes over 100 students, the lowest percentage of upper-division classes under 30.

We have the second lowest percentage of full-time faculty teaching classes (55%) among our peer schools (excluding Madison, Milwaukee, and the Colleges).

We do a little better with our student body, falling in the middle of the UWs, though we have the smallest percentage of students from the top 10% of their high school class.

Wow--if only our alumni giving rate were better, we'd be a pearl among universities!

UWO fails in US News ratings: faculty upset

The discussion list has been fairly active this week, as many members of the university community discuss the fact that UWO rates very poorly in the U.S. News ratings that were just released.

Most of the discussion has focused on the gimmicky nature of the survey, that gives emphasis to small class sizes (that's terrible they emphasize that!) and alumni giving (of which UWO has none).

We'll surely hear no talk about this from the administration--instead we only hear about the need to keep biggering and biggering (to borrow a line from Dr. Seuss).

It is pathetic to see a discussion about how we can game U.S. News and not address the significant academic shortcomings on our campus. America's Best Colleges 2007: Universities-Master's (Midwest): Top Schools

Friday, August 18, 2006

Regents vote for big spending increases

The regents met yesterday and approved a big request to the legislature. This is not particularly surprising.

As I think about it, I find myself quite ambivalent about it. If the legislature approves the additional money for UWO, we get stuck with the ridiculous Bachelor of Applied Studies degree. It goes towards the goal of expanding the university, not alleviating any problems that we already have. It will not really address our class size problems. The students quoted don't realize that the new money won't actually help them with the issues they raise. If we get the money, all we'll hear is about how lucky and flush with resources we are!

The second issue, of course, is how deeply the legislature will cut us in the next budget cycle. The threats from republican legislators who hate the system have been flying for months. Will they decide to vote us more money? I wouldn't hold your breath!

Oshkosh Northwestern - UW Regents include $3.4 million increase for UWO in budget

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Is our new class ready for college?

ACT reports that only 28% of wisconsin ACT takers are ready for college work in the four areas that they test. I wonder what the percentage for UWO is?

Journal-Sentinal graphic appended below:

JS Online: Graphic on the liberal arts

You can read the fox news "exclusive" on whether college students should focus on a profession or the liberal arts.

Most interesting data: 64% of those surveyed see college as preparing students for a specific career. This is an unfortunate lack of communication on our part.

As the liberal arts college interviewees in the article argue, college should be about learning to think and write. The specific job skills may be added on top of that, but should not be the major focus of a student's time in college! - Choosing a College: Liberal Arts vs. Professional Training - College Life | Guide | Universities

Monday, August 14, 2006

Christian groups demand right to discriminate on campus. Will racists be next?

This story has been all over the news in the last few weeks and I have been meaning to make a comment, so here it is:

Christian groups are pushing very hard to force universities to give recognition and funding to them. They want access to university facilities and money, but want to be able to restrict membership to those who believe as they do.

They argue that it is a violation of their right to free assembly not to have access to university facilities and seem to have found a judge in southern illinois that agrees with them.

They should ask themselves if this isn't a slippery slope. Will they sit idly by when a racist group decides to ask for university recognition for a group that will exclude all people of color? How about groups that exclude everyone of a different gender? Are these okay too?

The university anti-discrimination rules are meant to make campuses a welcoming place--I suppose if we want our universities to be filled with little gated, frightened communities that refuse to admit one another, as some Christian groups demand, we are headed down the right path.

St. Paul Pioneer Press | 08/11/2006 | Official apologizes for mishandling Knights of Columbus announcement

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Standardized testing coming our way?

The federal panel that has been studied higher education issued its report today. It seems as though there was little agreement, except for the idea that we are unaccountable.

Many seemed to think that standardized testing would solve the problem of college standards. Since the current administration loves standardized testing for k-12, can it be long before we see legislation aimed in this direction?

Panel’s Report Urges Higher Education Shake-Up - New York Times

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Profs are responsible for grade inflation, says this writer

Here is another article discussing the problems of grade inflation. He argues that we are shirking our duties by succumbing to the ease of giving lots of Bs.

He does raise the real issue of collective action, but can't provide any solution, suggesting only that we have lost public confidence because of our dropping standards.

There is a lot of truth in what Mr. Gordon has to say, but it doesn't address the real outside pressures on us from administrators and students.

The Chronicle: 8/11/2006: When B's Are Better

Monday, August 07, 2006

Survey says some are suspicious about 9-11

As the Barrett story continues to make national news, the Journal-Sentinal ran a story that reports a survey that more than 1/3 of those polled had suspicions about the U.S. government's role in the Sept. 11 attacks.

This story was matched by an a-p story (which also ran in the Northwestern) describing a few members of the group of which Barrett is a member.

JS Online:Survey says some are suspicious about 9-11

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Another take on Rate my professors. com

Here is another impression about, as it seems to generate endless discussion about the anonymous comments.

Is it really like being a contestant on American Idol?

Inside Higher Ed :: RateMyProfessors -- or His Shoes Are Dirty