Monday, October 30, 2006

Funding cuts for Higher education is reporting a new study which shows patterns of funding for higher education over the last twenty years. It shows that most states refunded their universities after economic downturns of 1980-2 and 1991-3. This has not yet happened for the recession of 2001-3. Wisconsin bucked the trend in the early 90s, when they increased spending on higher ed. Wisconsin didn't have quite as egregious cuts in 2001 as other states, but there is very little hope of having a reinvestment.

As the report points out, spending on higher ed from 1979-2004 has not kept up with economic growth in any state.

For the importance of higher education, you can read the document from the fed, posted on the listserv by Michael Watkins. It is oddly shallow text, only stressing the immediate benefits of higher ed for regional businesses. There is very little thought about long-term implications of higher education and none about creating an educated populace.

We are watching the slow suffocation of higher education in Wisconsin and the United States. Where will we be in a decade or two?

Friday, October 27, 2006

Barrett Comes and Goes

Last night was the big Barrett event. I wasn't there, because I didn't get tickets in time. Actually, I am not sure I would have gone anyway, but I did want to see the spectacle.

The coverage in the media so far has been interesting.

The Northwestern ran three stories about it today.

First, the talk
Second, the anti-Barrett rally
Third, an editorial

The coverage didn't make any reference to the academic freedom part of his talk, so I wonder what he had to say about that. He did get on the TV news with a few of his sensational claims including that the U.S. was now a totalitarian state. If that were true, wouldn't he be in jail??

I was struck by the report that the College Republicans had to import students from Marquette to man the picket line. I also wondered why the head of the college republicans showed up unshaven and wearing a dirty t-shirt. He must be a new kind of conservative!

I also caught the segments on the local news last night. All three local networks had a piece on the visit last night at 10PM. I imagine Fox11 did too, but I didn't wait until the end of the ball game to see.

The news coverage was very similar. They each showed Barrett, interviewed Andy Sabai and Nate Nelson. The most sensationalist channel, NBC 26 annoyed me by continually referring incorrectly to "Professor" Barrett. He is only a lecturer, as professor connotes a specific kind of job. It links him more closely to us than is true.

In some ways, I am glad the republicans set up a protest. It did a good job offsetting the media focus on Barrett. The protesters were more interesting to photograph than Barrett. It provided a good counter image to Barrett's passionate, irrational attack on the government.

Everyone had their say. Perhaps we can start focusing on the good work that occurs on our campus, like the big grant received by the college of business this week.

As a final note, Tony is still referring to me as a McCarthyite in his post this morning.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

News coverage of death threats for campus republican

I want to repost a very interesting anonymous comment that was posted in response to the events surrounding the death threat to the head of the campus republicans, Nate Nelson. I added the news story to my comments about the College Republican story

It almost completely refutes the details provided in the news story, which makes it seem like the journalist did a half-assed job of reporting.

Does anyone else want to chime in? I don't know whether I can trust the details laid out here, but the comment is well written and quite persuasive.

Just to clarify a few points in that story:

1) The "gay pride rally" was actually a "Civil Rights Rally" organized by the Winnebago Peace and Justice Center (WPJC) which invited representatives from WisPIRG, People of Faith for Fairness, & Students for a Fair Wisconsin to speak.

2) Nate Nelson didn't "call" University Police to the scene - they were already there. The rally was legal, the use of a megaphone (apparently) was not. Nate may have asked UP to end the rally due to the use of a megaphone, but UP was already on site. I was there, I know.

3) This happened over a month ago, September 26 to be exact. The death threat was reported to have happened the next day, September 27. The "news" of this death threat just came out four weeks later in a press release issued by the "Leadership Institute", the agency that funds "Life and Liberty News", the conservative student newspaper that Nate Nelson writes for (latest edition issued today).

4) The implication in both the press release and the news reports is that someone "opposed to the Amendment" made a death threat on Nate Nelson because of his actions and/or views. But Nate Nelson has been a solid 'opponent' of the Amendment himself - at least until last week. If there was a threat sent to Nate Nelson, it would not have come from anyone from the gay and lesbian groups on campus who knew very well where he stood on this issue. He has been considered a 'distant' or 'silent ally' by the GLBT community until very recently.

5) Nate Nelson was walking around campus today carrying a megaphone and passing out "Dump Doyle" stickers before the Doyle event on campus. I guess the threats to his life are really getting to him.

And now you know ... the rest of the story.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

College Republicans planning on sabotaging Barrett?

I heard a rumor today from a student that the College Republicans took a number of tickets to the Barrett presentation. Their plan, supposedly, is not to use them, so that there will be empty seats in the auditorium.

If this is true, it strikes me as quite a reprehensible act. I hope someone else has heard about this and is going to make sure that people who want to go are not thwarted by this crap.

As much as I think that Barrett is a problematic speaker, trying to keep people out is worse!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Extra Credit for Barrett?

Apparently, some teachers on campus are offering extra credit for going to hear Barrett speak. The presentation is scheduled in a space that only holds 160 people, so student have not been able to get in.

Barrett has "sold out" reeve auditorium, so some students have been left out. Earns and Roter just sent out a memo, asking whoever might be giving extra credit to make sure that students can get credit for going to other activities that bracket the Barrett show.

Lets hope that whoever is encouraging their students to go will do so with a critical eye. The proponents of Barrett's visit have yet to acknowledge that there might be anything wrong with his ideas, and I have to imagine that those are the people who are giving credit for this.

Here is the memo:

October 23, 2006

To: Faculty and Staff

From: Lane Earns, Provost and Vice Chancellor
Petra Roter, Vice Chancellor, Student Affairs

Re: Student Extra Credit for Attendance at Barrett Presentation

It has come to our attention that some faculty members have required student attendance at Kevin Barrett's presentation on Wednesday, August 26th. Since all of the available tickets for the Reeve Theatre presentation have been distributed, as of today, it will be impossible for any student not already in possession of a ticket to attend.

The Campus Greens, who invited Mr. Barrett to campus, chose the Reeve Theatre venue and all subsequent plans have been made accordingly. It is impossible at this late date to change the location of the presentation.

May I suggest that you offer your students the opportunity to attend not only the Barrett presentation, but one or more of the many other fine events and presentations that the campus will host over the remainder of the semester.

We appreciate your efforts to encourage student attendance at campus presentations, but we hope that you will be flexible in terms of extra-credit assignments, given the fact that seating will be limited at the Barrett event.

Thank you for your cooperation regarding this matter.

Academic Freedom at Columbia

The NY Times ran an article (reg. required) about the troubles balancing academic freedom with angry constituencies in Sunday's paper.

The issues,of which Columbia has had 4 in the last few months, are similar to our own. Our own discussion of religion on campus fits. Barrett, of course, is the most divisive issue at the moment. It seems to me that Palmeri and crew might claim that my anti-Barrett comments are similar in spirit to those who caused a brawl during a speaking engagement there.

The article dwells on the political aspects of the controversies at Columbia, noting its attempt to raise its profile in admission.

It also discusses the president's complaints that nuance is being ignored for belligerency.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Any meeting reports?

There were several interesting meetings on campus this week, all of which I missed.

The two that I should have gone to, in particular, were the academic freedom panel on Tuesday and the all-COLs meeting on Thursday.

Are there any readers out there who might post a report?

As I write this post, I stikes me that we should do this as a regular feature of campus life. Someone at these meetings should volunteer to take notes and post a small summary and commentary on the web. Anyone want to sign up for that duty?

**Tony Palmeri has done part of this by posting Miles McGuire's comments on his website.

**Update # 2, The A-T also has a brief story about the meeting. Tom Lammers pointed this out in his comments. I really should consistantly look at the paper.

How did other panelists and audience members respond? Were there many people there?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Crisis of the Modern University

The New Yorker is running a long book review on this history of universities. It is a thought provoking piece about the divided nature of our occupation. With one foot in the medieval world and one in the modern, universities have always struggled with defining themselves.

The ending suggests that we face a new junction, when we are being faced with a new choice of redefining ourselves as purely profit driven institutions in order to survive. The medieval roots are falling away.

It does make me want to read the book . . .

Monday, October 16, 2006

Adjuncts lower graduation rates

Did you see this story over at A study shows that graduation rates at community colleges decline as percentage of adjunct faculty increases.

The author argues that this is because adjuncts are not paid for time outside the class room.

It makes you wonder if our graduation rates will get worse as we increase our own reliance on adjuncts and part-timers. It would hardly serve our goals if this were the case!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Professors accused of dishonesty on sick-leave

The state legislative audit bureau released its report on UW sick leave policy on Friday. You can read the AP report here.

It has already become another 'reason' for the UW-haters to attack us. We can, of course, add Mark Green to that number, as he seems to think running against the universities will bring him additional votes.

In any case, I think the audit bureau report demonstrates another fundamental misunderstanding of the world of academia. Most of us see flexibility as one of the most important parts of our job. We are not clock-punchers. However, you are more than likely to find us sitting at home on the couch grading or reading that latest journal in our field. Our work does not stop at the office door--instead it is our passion and our life.

Sick-leave is something that is tangential to our work. For example, I have not cancelled a class since I have been here because I was sick. I have, however, spent the rest of one of those days miserable in bed (usually reading material related to my position). Technically, I should have taken a sick-leave day, according to the standards proclaimed by the audit bureau. But then that should also mean that I shouldn't finish that grading or make another revision to that journal submission in the evening or on the weekend. We don't worry about sick-leave because we never really leave our work behind.

The other aspect to this is that unused sick-leave works out as a retirement suppliment to counteract our below-average pay. UW pay has slipped and is getting worse in relation to other academic positions across the country. Providing a boost at retirement is a way to make up for some of the salary loss during our years of service.

In the end, however, since we have no strong advocates in Wisconsin, we will continued to be pummelled by politicians looking only for political points. Administration in Madison will sit meekly by and apologize. Riley and crew will probably be proposing some sort of new, wasteful and onerous reporting requirements. I wish they would spend their energy making people understand why the work we and the UW system do is crucial to the future of our state and our citizens.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Barrett working hard for his 15 minutes of fame

Mostly so that he can keep his name in the press, news has come out that Barrett is assigning a book of essays in his class, which includes one written by himself that compares Bush and Hitler, making an analogy between the Reichstag fire of 1933 and 9/11.

I looked it up and the Reichstag burned, it was used as an excuse to suppress the communists, but the building wasn't actually destroyed. Bad analogy, but then Barrett isn't an expert in anything that we have ever heard him talk about. . .

Regardless, you can read what Madison Law Prof Ann Althouse and her readers have to say about.

The Northwestern did publish a letter from him last week, but I didn't think it was worthy of mention. Tony blogged about it as well.

The whole thing is just a waste of energy--Barrett is such a distraction to the important activities at our institution--but he is good at demanding our attention.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Grade Inflation Discussion sizzles list

SoTL is organizing a forum on Grade Inflation for Halloween. Here is the announcement:

Grades: Tricks or Treats?
Tuesday, October 31, 12 to 2 p.m., Reeve Union 221

A frank discussion on the issue of grade inflation at UW Oshkosh from both faculty and student perspectives. What are the causes? Is it really a problem? Professor Bryan Lilly will moderate the discussion. Panel members include Bill Wresch, Undergraduate Program Director of COBA; John Koker, COLS Interim Dean; and Peter Meyerson, Associate Professor, COEHS. Please bring your own lunch, though “treats” will be provided.

This posting has fired up the discussion list as nothing else has in quite awhile. It began with some thinking about correlation between SOS evaluations and grades in the class. Brian Lilly argues that he has found a clear correlation. Others have written in asking if this is truly a problem. Perhaps the higher average represents better students or students fulfilling requirements better than they used to (Ha!).

It has been a very intriguing discussion and I look forward to the Halloween discussion and more dialogue on our list serve. I suppose I will make a comment about it in more detail myself, when I feel like I have a bit more time.

Back to grading now. . . .

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Wells still looking to flee

As announced yesterday, the Chancellor's desire to leave UWO has not waned. He has been nominated as a finalist for a job at the College of Charleston. Does he really expect us to believe that he is not actively pursuing other opportunities?

Just as it did last spring, it still makes sense. Why would he want to put up with all the legislative BS that dominates Wisconsin?

The Northwestern ran a front page story about it this morning
Here is the text of his announcement to the university community:

Dear Elected Officials and Colleagues,

The College of Charleston has just announced that I have agreed to be a finalist for the position of President. I was nominated for the position, and after careful consideration I agreed to be a candidate. Christie and I greatly appreciate and enjoy the support and success of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh community. We fully realize that if it were not for the support of the outstanding people that comprise UW Oshkosh, the UW System, and the state of Wisconsin, Christie and I would not be in the position to consider this excellent opportunity. For this, we are thankful. The College of Charleston Board of Trustees expects to conclude the search on or before November 1st. I regret any distraction this situation may cause for our academic community, and I will continue, with your help, to stay fully focused on moving forward the priorities of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

Richard H. Wells

Friday, October 06, 2006

Do we take care of our LTEs?

Inside Higher Education reports that Madison is moving a number of long-term limited-term employees from part-time status to full time status. They are also making sure that they are meeting the Madison city's living wage mininum ($10.23/hr).

This is a great thing for Madison to be doing. We should be doing it too. I wonder what our policy is?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Tony accuses me of being a McCarthyite today

I am generally very sympathetic to the arguments and positions that Tony puts forth on his blog, but I have trouble taking seriously his attack on me as a McCarthyite.

I didn't watch the little video he posted, so I am not sure what it says in there.

I just want to come back to the question I posed in yesterday's post. Are we supposed to let all and sundry viewpoints be presented on campus in the name of academic freedom, no matter how repulsive and unfounded they are?

I have never once said that Barrett should be banned from campus or not allowed to speak. I also don't think that 9/11 conspiricists are the equivalent of holocaust deniers.

What I have argued consistently is that we as an institution need to work on our reputation as a solid, intellectual community. Barrett does nothing to enhance that. When the Greens sponsor their candidates for elections, I am very glad to see it. When the Earth Charter brings serious people to campus to discuss important environmental issues, I applaud it. When we have Barrett coming to campus, we have to waste our time dealing with the controvery.

As a final note, I have never made any spurious allegations of illicit infiltration by Communists or demanded that anyone be arrested.

For a few links, here is the chancellor in the Northwestern today.

Here is a philosopher discussing why people believe in conspiracy theories.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Tony continues to defend Barrett

Tony added two more posts about Kevin Barrett today and yesterday. It turns out that part of the reason that Tony is so defensive about the invite to Kevin Barrett is that he was involved in inviting him here to speak.

In any case, as you read all of Tony's defenses of Barrett's views, he continues to refer to the cowardice of the faculty for not embracing, or accepting Barrett's conspiratorial premises.

Barrett is not an expert in any of the topic about which he speaks (except that he is a scholar of Islam who seems to agree with many Islamists), but is convinced that the U.S. Government is evil.

Why is it cowardice to say that this is not what our university should stand for? How is it problematic to say that it only causes us political harm? The reality of the situation is that we teach at a public university, funded by state taxpayers with legislators looking over our shoulders. To give Barrett an unchallenged platform only makes us look foolish.

As Tony is our free-speech expert, I want him to respond to the question I have asked several times--where do you draw the line? Would he be as excited about a speaker who repeatedly pushed the falsehood that Saddam was responsible for 9/11? Would we see this adament defense of a holocaust deniers right to speak and not be challenged on campus? How about those who speak of racial differences in intellegence? Do we have to accept all views as equal in our intellectual community?

Should the Liberal Arts include the Trades?

I found this interesting article this morning, where the author suggests that students should spend their summers in the trades, working with their hands to gain a full appreciation of the human mind.

I find it an oddly compelling argument--building things is not rocket science, but gives you great perspective on how things are put together and challenges your mind in ways complementary to intellectual endeavors.