Tuesday, December 18, 2007

No Sloshkosh T-shirts for Christmas?!

The university publicity machine has sent cease and desist e-mails to a UWO student who was selling Sloshkosh and UW-Zero t-shirts on the web.

As much as I have been a proponent of cleaning up the image of our fair institution, this seems like a heavy-handed tactic to me. Does anyone seriously believe that fewer t-shirts with funny slogans on them will make UWO a better place?

Trademarking the two terms and then threatening someone who is already using them with a lawsuits smacks of the worst use of copyright/trademark law by UWO. Obviously, the student doesn't have the resources to stand up to threats from a state institution. Unless he is particularly ambitious, it is not likely he is going to find someone with the knowledge and resources to push back.

Besides which, wouldn't using the two terms be protected by his right to free speech? At worst, they are parodies of the official slogan/logo of the university. How can the university claim ownership of them? I understand trademark rules are about business usage, but how can this be?

I am hoping Tony Palmeri will clear this up for me. He is our resident free-speech guru.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

University asks students for money for Sports Complex

I noticed this article on the University home page this morning. The Foundation has gone to the students for an additional $700,000 for the Oshkosh Sports Complex.

I wonder if this doesn't smack of desperation. I have heard Art complain about the problems of raising money for the OSC before. Is he turning to the students because the community seems to be tapped out for this project? There is a big gift from the Convention Bureau, so do we think there will be little more money to be given to finish the project?

Does the fact that students are going to have to pay for part of the sports complex bode well for the much larger amounts we have to raise for new building? Let's hope not!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Invasion of pick-a-prof.com

Rumor has it that pick-a-prof.com has expressed an interest in filing a request for SOS student evaluations and grade distributions for their website.

The OSA is considering whether to partner with the site in getting more data about professors and courses on-line.

The site itself looks a lot better than the snarky ratemyprofessor. I would be interested to see some of the information that pick-a-prof promises.

It sounds, however, like there is great fear among the professoriate that having this kind of information available will cause trouble. Various groups have been discussing ways to make it difficult for the website to get the information.

Personally, I am not particularly upset by the idea of having more information about our courses on the web. I suppose it might be bad to allow someone else make a profit from all the data that we collect and collate. Wouldn't it benefit students to know more about each of us before they enter the classroom?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Another Article Documents Decline of Tenure

In the midst of an incredibly hectic week, I am sneaking in a post. Here is an article from the New York Times. Although there doesn't seem to be anything in particular driving its appearance, it notes that the shift from tenure-track appointments to limited-term ones continues apace.

My favorite bit from the article is this:

Dr. Ehrenberg and a colleague analyzed 15 years of national data and found that graduation rates declined when public universities hired large numbers of contingent faculty.

Several studies of individual universities have determined that freshmen taught by many part-timers were more likely to drop out.

These two statistics should be more prominently displayed. There is a real impact on students--not just the institution or the teachers--when the type of teacher changes!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The greater problem: nobody reads!

The New York Times ran this article yesterday about the connection between declining test scores and declining reading rates. Reading for fun is on the decline.

Perhaps this should be part of the liberal education initiative--Reading 101: Lets read for fun--find someway to engage first year students in the pleasure of reading without the pressure of testing.

So many of our goals revolve around students reading well. If they don't read well or at all, we are in bigger trouble that we would like to admit!

If you want to see the NEA report, here is the link (a PDF).

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Is it a real letter?

I read this letter to the editor in the Northwestern this morning. It was so unbelievable, that I felt like it must be a parody.

A student writes the newspaper and says all they do all weekend is drink. Why doesn't the University and city appreciate them for that?

Besides the strange writing (what exactly is an "alcoholic event"??), this student really demonstrates what was wrong about the Goat Pack event. He also makes it clear why UWO has a bad reputation in Oshkosh.

Shouldn't a student be proud of his study habits, grades, and community engagement? Instead he is proud of his drunkenness.

Monday, November 12, 2007

"Tests" to measure UW schools

Just as we knew would happen, VSA has hit the media and is being presented primarily as a resource based on those standardized tests. The story tosses in the caveats about testing, even with a quote from our illustrious chancellor.

Although it mentions the rest of the profile, it is clear that the test numbers will be the only thing in the public sphere. How long before legislators decided to make funding decisions based on our performance on those tests?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Goats run away

In a flash of good sense, students organizers canceled the "Run with the Goats" drinking bash this weekend.

It is amazing how much bad press this generated for UWO--it seemed to be on the 10PM news every night this week and, of course, made the Northwestern on a regular basis.

As the organizers rightly pointed out, a Saturday night of drunken revelry is not unusual for our students, but having 600 drunk students crawling through downtown just can't be a good thing.

I wonder what the administration threatened the Goat Pack with to bring this scheme to an end. They sounded pretty chastened when they were interviewed last night.

Personally, I am not sure that this is any worse than normal behavior for college students on the weekends. It might even be nice to funnel some of the wasted money towards charity, but it sure was a blight on our image.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

VSA officially approved

As the university community knows, Chancellor Wells announced that all of the governance groups signed off on the VSA program. We are now going to move forward with posting more data about our university on the web.

The one caveat remained: everyone expressed concern over evaluation methods--so we will be seeing what standardized tests will be chosen to "demonstrate" that students have learned something in college. I am still struck by the irony that many colleges are moving away from using SAT/ACT to determine whether high school students are prepared for college, but we are now going to test them with a similar product to determine if they gained skills in college.

My fear remains that the final standardized test number will become an operative goal of the university and we will all be required to tailor our courses to improve student performance on a problematic standardized test. . . .Not now, but be prepared!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

10 year academic staff let go

I caught wind of a rumor today that there are 2 academic staff people who have been teaching here in a science department that are not having their contracts renewed. It sounded as though they did not want to go.

Has anyone heard about this?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

$2.5 million for growth agenda

Just because I am interested, I looked up the report on the budget this afternoon. It looks like we got about half of what was originally proposed in March 2006 (there is a link to the original proposal). Here it is:

(6) UW-Oshkosh [$1,619,600 GPR and $910,600 PR]. The funding would be the first part of a three biennia plan with the goal of increasing the number of Wisconsin residents with bachelor's degrees; by the end of the three biennia, UW-Oshkosh plans to increase undergraduate headcount enrollment by 1,440. UW-Oshkosh would accomplish this increase in headcount enrollment by increasing access to programs and majors and by increasing retention and graduation rates. Under the plan, UW-Oshkosh would expand existing programs,
including: (a) biology and microbiology; (b) medical technology; (c) psychology; (d) nursing; (e) criminal justice; and (f) teacher education. In addition, new programs relating to business, applied science, and fire and emergency response management would be offered.

Here is the link to the budget report from the state.

The next question is how do we do all of this with half the money??

Monday, October 22, 2007

Budget deal -- Universities come out ahead!

The news this weekend was good.

The legislators down in Madison apparently hammered out a budget agreement on Friday. In it, the UW system is supposed to receive $159 million more than in the last biennium. This represents a reduction to the system of only $6 from what was in the governors proposal. It is also a tripling of the amount put forth in the Republican budget plan.

I'm sure we will find new details over the next couple of days, but it looks like we are in good shape for the next two years. It seems likely that we will be embarking on our "growth agenda" in the near future.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Shut down UWO?

The governor yesterday threatened to shut down the university system for Spring semester if the budget impasse is not resolved soon.

This is an interesting new attempt at brinksmanship. I have trouble believing that it would actually happen. More likely, however, is a round of course cancellations and cutbacks if the legislators don't get a budget passed. I have also heard talk of a new surcharge for students, starting in the spring.

Do you think we'll be shut down?

It would be an interesting political moment. I wonder if it would generate any outrage. Perhaps we'll find out. I guess I should start saving now, just in case. . .

Monday, October 15, 2007

Get Ready for New Cuts!

The Chancellor announced that, because of the impasse in Madison, we are preparing for a new round of cuts here at UWO.

It looks as though we may get the "growth agenda" money in the second year of the biennium, but will face base cuts at least as big.

All the optimism of the Spring seems to have been just that, and state legislators have decided that higher tuition and fewer classes are the best way to help the Wisconsin knowledge economy grow.

The anti-UW sentiment in Madison is still dominant, driven by those hard-core college haters on the Republican side of the aisle. Unbelievable!

Monday, October 08, 2007

NYTimes positive towards assessment

I'm behind on my reading and so I am linking to last week's NYTimes Sunday Magazine. (It is early in the semester, so I am only 1 week off) It was their annual college edition. This story, however, deals particularly with assessment. The author, James Traub, basically suggests that assessment is a good thing for colleges. He ends with these lines:

The self-accountability of our system of higher education is grounded in the optional nature of college attendance. But college isn’t really optional any longer. The economic value of higher education, on both the individual and the national levels, has given the public a stake in outcomes not so different from the stake it has in the public schools.
This, I think, underlines the thinking of all of the testing advocates. Do you agree? Are we now really only the concluding years of a k-16 system?

I find it a problematic assumption. Clearly, higher education is a public good and carries increasing importance in the current world in which we live. However, to decide that this means that our job is no different than that of an elementary school teacher undermines the principles upon which higher ed rests. More on this later, but I really have other things I should be doing. . . .

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Will VSA chase away the feds?

One of Chancellor Wells arguments for the VSA is that it will keep the feds from regulating our business.

Here is an article from insidehighered.com from the spring that addresses this issue. Do you believe it? I think that the push for standardized testing at every level has lost much of its momentum, especially as NCLB is in jeopardy of renewal in congress.

Besides which, is pressure from those who know little about what we do the best way to make educational policy?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Chancellor to hold public session on VSA

The plot thickens! For those of us who want to find out more about how we will soon be tested to death, the Chancellor awaits. . . .

A web site designed to help facilitate early adoption of the Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA) College Portrait is now available

Chancellor Richard Wells is meeting with governance and administrative groups who have been asked to share these materials on VSA with their constituents. He will host an open forum on the VSA College Portrait on Monday, October 15 from 3:30-4:45 PM in Reeve Memorial Union room 227C.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Chancellor Well's New Acronym: VSA

Chancellor Well's has been presenting his latest project around campus the past few weeks. It is the Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA).

From what people have told me, it is first and foremost an attempt to ward off the intrusion of the federal government into university standard setting. Chancellor Wells has been deeply involved in the production of the project and wants us to be one of the pilot schools, posting our data within a few years.

In order to do this, the VSA will provide information about the universities involved on a website. There will be the NSSE data (National Study of Student Engagement), on which we have done quite badly. Most importantly, however, they want to have students take some sort of standardized test as an exit exam. They will then report that number on the site as well.

Choosing to highlight scores from some standardized test as an important measure of learning at our institution seems to be problematic. How in the world do you test what a student has learned in college? Does it strip it down to a set of "skills" that are similar to the ACTs? Are there subject tests based on content knowledge?

Chancellor Wells wants us to jump on board now. Are people who heard his pitch convinced? Will this really stave off federal intervention? Can this actually measure the quality of our institution?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Video games in dorms reduce grades

I came across this interesting paper today while I should have been working. Two economists attempt to study student study habits and grades. They found, not surprisingly, that student effort directly increases grades. They show that studying an extra 1 hour a day corresponds to a grade increase equivalent to 5 point increase in ACT scores.

Even more strikingly, the found that having a roommate with a video game lowers grades by the equivalent of a 4 point decrease in ACT scores.

Their argument is fairly simple. Student effort matters, and students are not trapped by the scores on their standardized tests.

While neither of these results is at all surprising, they do raise some interesting policy implications. How can we encourage students to tune out of pop culture and into their classwork? Should our NBC freshmen complex ban video games in rooms?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

New Right-Wing Attacks on Academia

Driving in to school this morning, I heard Joy Cardin chatting with John Leo about his new website, mindingthecampus.com. I didn't hear much of the show, but it sounded like the standard right-wing rant.

However, John Leo was commenting on the corrosiveness of the politics of victimization, as practiced through identity politics. It struck me that it is exactly the same game that Leo and the right is playing. He is trying to create the mistreated "white male" who is deserving of the same kind of protection. If he really wanted to get above identity politics, wouldn't he spend less time ranting about how he is horribly traumatized by college campuses?

It might be new if he proposed something beside the tired rant of political correctness and liberals on campus. We already have Steve Nass, who is taking out his "victimhood" on the entire UW system. John Leo and his new website are just an afterthought.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Beer in Reeve

The Advance-Titan reported this week that the Underground in Reeve Union is now serving beer.

I know that this was a controversial idea last year, opposed by many groups who felt that there were already too many opportunities for drinking on campus. The article reports that not many students have taken advantage of it up to this point.

Now that it has been done, will it facilitate a more sane drinking climate on campus? Are you going to be taking your seniors out for a beer at the Union?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Goals of a 'Humane Education'

The Boston Globe ran a piece this weekend by a Yale law professor that argues that Universities have lost their way because they have lost sight of the big picture--the question of the meaning of life.

I'll quote my favorite part. Here he is defining what he calls the 'shared conception of a humane education:'

The first is that there is more than one good answer to the question of what living is for. A second is that the number of such answers is limited, making it possible to study them in an organized way. A third is that the answers are irreconcilably different, necessitating a choice among them. A fourth is that the best way to explore these answers is to study the great works of philosophy, literature, and art in which they are presented with lasting beauty and strength. And a fifth is that their study should introduce students to the great conversation in which these works are engaged - Augustine warily admiring Plato, Hobbes reworking Aristotle, Paine condemning Burke, Eliot recalling Dante, recalling Virgil, recalling Homer - and help students find their own authentic voice as participants in the conversation.

This is again a very traditionalist set of examples, but the conversation to which he is referring extends to a much broader list of thinkers.

I think that the discussion about a liberal education is one of the most important that we can have as a campus community. Can it become the vehicle for recovering the quality and reputation of our own institution?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Maybe there ARE more liberals in academia

This is a fun study, purporting to show that liberal brains are more flexible than conservative ones. They tolerate ambiguity and conflict better than conservative brains. It also notes that conservatives tend to block information that is contradictory to what they already believe.

Perhaps this is why liberals congregate in academia--more acceptance of ambiguity and increased willingness to think outside the box. One might argue that this is what academia is all about. Our jobs are by definition to be creaters of new knowledge. If you are not going to challenge the status quo, why go into a field where your success is defined by coming up with something new?

Thus, if a conservative is not comfortable with this ambiguities that academia demands, there are plenty of careers that offer the kind of intellectual stability that would be better.

Just something to think about. . . .

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Our Misplaced Priorities

I know I shouldn't blog two times in the same day, but I am incensed by the football team. They have decided to miss 2 days this week for a trip to Alabama.

WTF!?? The coaches and provost have decided that they don't need to be around during the first classes of the semester? They don't need to know the requirements of their classes or whether the class will be a good fit for them??

Aren't we a division III school? Aren't athletics supposed to be a nice addition to the academic program of our students? Instead, teams take off whenever they want, have the provost force us to accommodate them, and generally treat classwork as if it is secondary to their games.

This is not the first time--I have had teams announce they are leaving early for spring break in the past(missing exams or other assignments)--why are our priorities so screwed up?? None of these students are likely to make it as professional athletes, but they will have to be able to read and write effectively. Yet, the administration put the sports first. How does this reflect on the quality of our degrees and our institution?

Opening Day

Welcome back everyone! We had our grand opening day convocation yesterday morning.

My impressions:

It looks like a hopeful year financially. Little doom and gloom, though there is still a chance Steve Nass will get his way in Madison.

It looks like a year of acronyms. LEAP was the main topic of the day. The chancellor and provost made the Liberal Education reform the center of their agenda, which may result in general education reform. I think that this could really be a boon for the university. The chancellor also mentioned some other acronym that has to do with a new sort of on-line college rating system that he will be proposing this fall.

Petra Roter and Art Rathjen decided to go with the comedy routines. Although they were amusing, I was left with the feeling that they didn't want to talk about real issues. Was Art hiding his own feeling that little money was raised behind his Wisconsin jokes? Someone suggested that Petra's own text message/abreviation schtick was both old (isn't this the 3rd time she has done this) and displayed her own belief that she knows the students better than the rest of us because she is hip to the code.

John Koker's comedy routine was more sedate and to the point, but he pushed the liberal education reform agenda too. He also tossed in his desire to do something about class size. We may be talking more about that as the year progresses.

The university continues to grow. Now we have over 12,500 FTE and we are getting a chance to rebuild some of our faculty numbers.

Just a few general comments this morning--if you have any of your own, I look forward to seeing them!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Core of Our Problem

Americans are reading less and less. This article reports that only 43% of the population said they read a book last year (which surely means the percentage is much lower).

I watched my 13 year old nephew play with his psp the last time I saw him, I realized that he will probably be one of the non-reading majority. When I was his age, when I was hiding from relatives, I would be hidden away reading a book. He has too many other better things to do.

If he is not reading now for pleasure, will he when he is an adult? Will he when he is in college? It seems unlikely.

How many times has it become apparent that your students won't read the most interesting texts you can pick out for them? Even those that do, evince weak comprehension.

We need to break this cycle, but what can we do?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Dumb, dead kid earns parents $500,000

This is a crass headline, but I had to post this story that is all over the news. A Purdue University student electrocuted himself trying to sneak into a dormitory. He found an unlocked door that led to a pitch-black utility room, where he unknowingly touched a high-voltage line. It is a sad story, but the guy should have known better.

His parents then sued, I suppose for negligence, and the state of Indiana will have to fork over half a million bucks to his parents. Guess whose tuition, taxes, etc. will go to pay for this?

Are universities really responsible for essentially criminal behaviors of their students because of a mistakenly unlocked door? Are they to the tune of $500,000? It just seems like a sad commentary on our litigious culture.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Students block staff access to campus building

It was announced Friday that faculty and staff will be barred from using the new Wellness center without paying high fees. The fee is set at $360/year. (You can buy smaller increments at $30/month)

Apparently the students think that faculty and staff are waiting to overrun the facility, leaving no room for those who "paid" for it.

Actually, it is more of a slight by the people in Student Affairs, who see all of us as employees who are here only to serve the student customers. This attitude would bar us servants from using the facilities of the all-important customers.

To find that this campus building,open to all students, is closed to me because I didn't directly pay for it is annoying and divisive.

Friday, August 17, 2007

We are third tier in 2008!

U.S. News and World Rankings have come out. Princeton was number one. We have been placed in the category of Universities–Master's (Midwest), third tier.

I know that we are not really in competition with those rich private schools out east, but more troubling is that we did so badly among the UWs.

LaCrosse -- 22nd in the category
Eau Claire -- 26
Stevens Point -- 40
Whitewater -- 52
River Falls -- 60
Platteville -- 69

Unfortunately, I can't see all the details on the website, but obviously we do very badly in many of the categories. Does someone subscribe, so that we can see the numbers for UWO?

This, of course, is a perennial problem and will continue to damage our attempts to improve. Regardless of the methodological issues of the survey (you can read a few comments about that at insidehighered.com), it is really a continuing black eye for our campus.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Is Academic Freedom in Jeopardy?

We have discussed this before, but a new survey of social scientists finds that those surveyed are more pessimistic about academic freedom than those surveyed during the McCarthy era. (1/3 now versus 1/5 then)

The articles touches upon discussions of a disjunction between what we and the general public think academic freedom means, fights in middle-eastern studies, and even the recent supreme court ruling against part of McCain-Feingold.

There are many important truths to this, as you remember in our discussions of Kevin Barrett and last year, but it seems incorrect to equate today to the 1950s.

What do you think? Are we stifled and silenced? Should we be? (I should talk--I won't even give my real name!)

Friday, August 10, 2007

New Blogger on Campus

It looks as though a new anonymous blogger will be joining our cyber campus this year. "Douglas McCloud" brings a comment on what to expect in the next year and adds his comment on rental textbooks over at his blog, entitled Glib Replies.

From his first comments, I would say that he knows a lot more about what is going on around here than I do. In the comments, he warns us to watch out for big changes in Dempsey. On his blog, he chalks up resistance to rental textbooks to the need for bookstore profits to subsidize Reeve Union. These are details that I wouldn't have any idea about!

Welcome to a new compatriot!!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

I'm Back!

LinkHello everyone!

I hope that you have had a refreshing and productive summer. I've had a quite successful summer of research, but now I am back in blogging mood.

Unfortunately, the dominant story I find is a bad one: The legislature is battling over UW funding. I thought that we were in good shape as Spring semester ended. Instead, Steve Nass intervened and convinced Republicans in the Senate to cut, cut, cut. . .

Today, the papers report that the Regents voted a 5.5% tuition increase, based on the budget that the governor has promised.

On a more positive note, Chancellor Wells is touting our reaccreditation (did anyone really think it wouldn't happen??). We aren't under any significant pressure to change our ways from the accreditors.

What will be the big issues for 2007-8?

Will another round of ugly financial crises arise?
What will happen to the Freshman experience project?
Will there really be general education reform?
Will the Chancellor head for greener pastures?

Let us speculate about the year ahead. . . .

Monday, July 02, 2007

Student Evals in the NYTimes

I read this article in the NY Times magazine on Sunday. It is from a journalist who apparently takes his negative comments a bit too seriously.

We have discussed evaluations here before, but this guy gets carried away feeling the pain from a few negative words. I almost always have someone who writes something negative, but only one person. I don't take them seriously and I don't know why the author here does. . .

Monday, June 25, 2007

UWO bashed across state

If you looked at the Oshkosh in the News email, you'll find that we are reaping bad publicity across the state for our US Bank deal:

Journal-Sentinel editorial

Letter to the editor in Madison

I suppose the administration hopes it will all blow over, but they should break the cycle of bad press and bad decision-making and get out of this deal!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Northwestern publishes defense of US Bank deal

In a strange article, the Northwestern published the responses by Chancellor Wells and Tom Sonnleitner to the Journal-Sentinel article from yesterday (in post below).

The article is strange in that it is attributed only to "staff." No one wanted to actually do any research for the story, I would guess.

It also presents the weak defense from the two administrators that this was a process that was open to bidding. Because US Bank was the only one who bid, it is okay to choose a bank that profits by exploiting students.

Wells also argues, as Lammers does in the comments, that this policy is not our fault. If we had more money from the state, we wouldn't have to cheat students. I guess no one ever wants to take responsibility for their own ethical behavior.

Monday, June 18, 2007

UWO in news again for financial misdeeds

The Journal-Sentinel reports on our deal with US bank for ID cards (Thanks Oshkoshnews.org!). From the article, we find out that Wells sits on some sort of local US Bank board. The company pays the university tens of thousands of dollars to have this access to students.

As the article points out, it is another weak deal for our students, since US Bank charges some of the highest fees in the industry. Instead of pairing up with an institution that would help students and protect them from predatory banking fees, we encourage them to use a company that will really make them pay if they make a mistake.

There was a minor controversy about these cards when they were introduced a few years ago, as faculty members did not want to be tied to this company. Once again, it looks like faculty were right and the administrations attempt to raise a little money on the backs of students is going to give us another public black eye!

Lets get out of this deal ASAP and try at least to pretend the administration cares about the students . . .

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Private loans hurting students

The NYTimes ran a story yesterday, describing the problems that students get into by taking out large loans from private companies.

The companies apparently charge exorbitant interest rates, leaving students with huge burdens when they graduate.

It is another reason why we need to recommit ourselves to keeping the UW system affordable for every student who deserves to be here!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Unwelcoming Atmosphere on Campus

I just received an email from the leader of the Voices of Africa group that became part of the discussion of the A-T april fools editions.

If you remember, Miles Maguire noted that one of the group members had been cited for smoking marijuana on campus when they were performing here. He used this as an example of how our campus was unfriendly to people of color.

It appears that the result of Miles publicizing the behavior of that member (and my blogging about it) led to her resignation from the group. The group itself was not very welcoming to violations of the law while on tour.

Here is the press release:

Please Post

9 A.M. EDT, Thursday, May 31, 2007
1. At the time of that this citation was issued, VOA was on tour in the Appleton, Neenah and Oshkosh cities of WI and were housed as guests in the North Gruenhagen Conference Center, 208 Osceola Avenue, Oshkosh, WI.
2. VOA was not aware of any infraction made by any of our Members until May 6, 2007 approximately 7 weeks later when we received an email from Muriel A. Hawkins, Ph.D., Assistant Vice Chancellor, Center for Academic Support and Diversity, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.
3. The Ensemble member in question, Okomfo Nyo Agyiriwah, AKA Regina Cantave was performing with VOA but did not alert us to the full extent of the situation or the investigation of her room, nor did she tell us of her impending citation.
4. VOA investigated this matter further, contacted the OWU Police Department and requested a written report which it received on May 10, 2007.
5. From the inception of VOA, we have had a harsh and stringent policy pertaining to any member participating in any illegal substances while performing with us; in housing provided by us or our event producers; or in their private lives. Once this knowledge becomes available, VOA policy is to suspend the member indefinitely or until appropriate rehabilitation has taken place.
6. Ms. Cantave, has voluntarily resigned from the group. Her position is that she has been falsely accused and will pursue legal measures to resolve this matter in the not too distant future. We have accepted her resignation entered on May 8, 2007.
7. We sincerely apologize for any problems this incident may have caused for the campus residents, staff and administration of UWO, the employees at North Gruenhagen Conference Center, the UWO police department and any other parties known or unknown.
8. We further hope that this will play no part in any future engagements that may occur between our Ensemble and the community of Oshkosh, Neenah, Appleton or there about.

Submitted: May 29, 2007
By: Nana Akosua Baakan Agyiriwah, Managing Director & Founder
The “Voices Of Africa” Choral & Percussion Ensemble
Contact: Nana Akosua Baakan Agyiriwah, tel. 215-386-0088 email: nanabaakan@voicesofafrica.net

We may get more funding.

The Journal-Sentinel reports that the Joint Finance committee has agreed to most of the proposals for increasing funding to the UW system.

I was also unaware that the Chancellor wants a new dorm on campus, but that is still being discussed in Madison. The Northwestern reports.

UWO is going to have a good biennium financially!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

High flyers flee UW-Madison

The LaCrosse Tribune is running a story today about the low salaries that are driving profs away. It notes that the momentum is increasing, as prominent professors get huge salary increases at other institutions.

The turnover here at UWO is quite high, as well, though I don't know how big a role salary plays in that. It would certainly make the job more attractive if the pay were more in line with the national averages!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday Fun

A museum revealing the "true" history of the earth is scheduled to open this week. Read all about it in the NY Times!

Sandra Gade and her bunch of Christianists will surely be flocking there this summer! Why go to Disney world when you can see a dramatization of Noah's flood wiping out the dinosaurs and creating all those fossils??

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Google Bans Cheating Sites

The BBC reports today that Google will no longer accept ads from companies selling term papers.

One company says that 80% of its business comes through those ads, so it may be forced to go out of business.

I wonder if it will really make a difference. How many students actually buy an essay when they turn to the internet to copy content? There are plenty of opportunities to plagiarize without paying. The ethic of the internet has stressed sharing of even copyrighted material, so it is hard to imagine much of an impact. It is nice to see google make it a tad bit more difficult, though.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Grzyb wants to talk ratings

Gerry Grzyb is trying to get the COLS list to discuss our low ratings in USNews & World Reports. In order to generate interest (I hope) he suggests we should go back to 4/4 loads to lower our class-sizes and hence, do better in the ratings. Here are his posts:

Since the subject was so clearly in mind the past few days, here's is a link to excerpts from a book entitled The Professor's Guide To Getting Good Grades In College: link

I could only wish that our incoming students understood all of what is contained therein before first plopping down in our classroom seats.

I came across the link while browsing the US News site after quickly perusing the latest ed. of their college guide at the Pick 'N' Save. Do we really suck as bad as the ratings suggest? Among the top 100 institutions of our type in the Midwest, you'll see La Crosse, Eau Claire, Platteville, Green Bay, Whitewater, Stevens Point, and River Falls (I may have missed others--I had to check out before the frozen vegetables started thawing). In the "third tier" (not a good place to be), the only UW campuses seem to be Superior and Oshkosh (at this point you should be saying SUPERIOR??? WE'RE ALONE IN THE BASEMENT WITH SUPERIOR????). Maybe this has been brought up before, but given US News' criteria and weightings, what exactly brings us to this far-from-superior-yet-close-to-Superior position?

And his own follow up:

Ron Hardy tipped me off to recent articles in the Chronicle regarding the US News ratings (thanks Ron!). One common feeling about the ratings seems to be similar to how many feel about the SOS scores, or the brother who thinks he's a chicken in Woody's joke at the end of Annie Hall. The ratings are flawed, even deeply flawed. We're not at all sure if they measure the right things in the right way. But, dammit, they're all we've got and besides, we need the eggs! So perhaps we do have to be at least somewhat concerned about the fact that we're down in the Great Unranked Third Tier with Superior.

Here's just one issue, but it may be one of the most important. The Chronicle notes how class size is a big factor in the US News ratings. As I recall, most departments "paid for" reduced teaching loads with larger classes. If that's the case, and our classes are now significantly bigger, have we "bit ourselves on the butt" by trying to pay for something worthwhile with money we really didn't have? I know the issue is perhaps the most sensitive one on this campus, but I have the feeling that one of these days a business-oriented regent is going to look a little closer at us after seeing the ratings, and raise the same question.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

College Prep Courses Don't Prepare Students

The NYTimes reports today that only 26% of high school students who took the required college prep courses (4 yrs English, 3rs of math, social studies, and science) were prepared to do college-level work in all areas.. They reported that 19% were prepared in no areas.

I don't know exactly what their methodology was, but this is consistent with our pattern here. The statistics for DFW rates in intro courses are even higher here.

I am not sure exactly how we deal with this, but as I grade my finals, the inadequacies are obvious. . .

Thursday, May 10, 2007

National Cheating Scandals on the Rise

There have been a series of cheating scandals that have been making national news of late--Duke University Business School was in the NYTimes and Washington Post last week. Insidehighered.com writes about the implications of cheating in professional school today.

It is a depressing thought as I sit here grading exams. Have my students been using their cell phones to send answers to one another? How much did they copy on their take-home assignments?

The stigma against cheating seems to be evaporating. How can we explain it and how can we deal with it?

COLS has just subscribed to turnitin.com, so we will now be able to check written assignments against a national database. I suppose it will help, but was a sad use of scarce resources!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Laptops fail in high schools

Although not a technophobe personally, I have often complained about the use of technology in the classroom just because it is available.

The NYTimes ran this article on Friday, reporting on several school districts that gave laptops to all students are giving up the initiative. The data showed no real improvement in student learning, but provided lots of headaches for teachers and administrators.

I think the same thing is applicable for us. If you have ever snuck behind a student using a laptop in your classroom, you are likely to see a rousing game of solitaire or emailing. It may be true that I am just boring, but the university is often providing the resources so that they can physically be in class, but technologically, be miles away. . .

P.S. Last week was a busy one, and I was slow on the blogging front, but as the semester is coming to an end, I imagine the pattern will continue. For those of you reading, please send along information or comments and I'll be glad to post them!

Monday, April 30, 2007

Do we fail minority students?

The Northwestern this morning ran this article on the front page, about the report about failure rates among minorities in gateway courses. The A-T ran a story on it a few weeks ago.

The data presented to the board of regents showed a very rate of D,F or W among minorities that was significantly higher than other segments of our student population.

First, does anyone know what the actual data looks like? It is hard to judge this information without more information. Does anyone know if this is similar to other institutions?

This data and its reporting raise a lot of questions for us. Is there bias in the way we teach our gateway courses? Why are the very few minorities on campus doing poorly in classes?

There are many other questions that need to be asked and I hope we can begin thinking about the implication of this data?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Right to Unionize Chopped from Budget

Anonymous e-mailer lake flambe let me know that the legislative leaders have decided to remove the right for us to unionize from the state budget.

Here is the message, as lf commented about the loss and the more general failure of union politics:

Egad let us mourn the demise of collective bargaining out of the budget.

It really tees me off that this basic human right can't be granted the faculty and staff.
sheesh! However it is very strange how this effort is/was not marketed. You can't dig up any people to come forward and claim some union did something for them. Despite unions do lots of things for their members all the time.

Unions have very noticeable defects IMHO like that perennial fraud and embezzlement problem they have, their cult like top down structure, and lack of democratic principles amply supported by the crazy convention system most of them have, no term limits to office, highly paid career staffer yes-persons, and last but not least high dues and constantly hitting the membership up for more money and endless activities.

Unfortunately unions are unwilling to change any of these problems. Thus overcoming the deservedly bad impression from those problems and the fact that society is so conservative these days would take a massive PR campaign on every front. Actually I personally do think collective bargaining and unions have overall benefits to the membership despite the union culture's extreme resistance to improvement. (This was not a position the unions were willing to tolerate, I found out by personal experience. You're either in the cult or you're not. They didn't accept "yeah I like unions but X,Y,Z should be changed".I think that rigidity is _the_ major reason why unions are declining.)

And I would love to see the prolific labor history industry get shelved permanently. The eternal obsession that unions have with the past has IMHO a toxic effect, makes them even more resistant to change, and is just plain depressing. I for one am totally fed up with stories of the
30's and pictures of long-deceased union leaders. No more history profs setting union policy! The policy has to be shaped by the people the union is trying to organize, meaning unions have to find out what they want and how to communicate with them
about it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Where should I park?

The discussion list has been crackling with a new, non academic discussion about parking here on campus. Last week, a survey was sent out, asking whether faculty and staff would be willing to pay $350 for a reserved parking spot. Most interestingly, the conversation has been led by non-faculty members. It is nice to see some other employees getting involved in this question.

Since then, the discussion has blossomed from a few nay-sayers who asked everyone to say they were not interested to a much broader discussion of the real price of parking.

Mike Lizotte has presented a quite convincing case that parking fees here on campus do not nearly represent the real cost to the university. He estimates that the true cost of parking on campus could be as high as $1500 per space per year. The maximum fee is $165.

Others have pointed out that as with just about everything else, the only reason we are talking about fee increases is that the state has so drastically cut our aid. They suggest that free parking should be part of providing a decent working environment for employees.

I haven't posted because I am ambivalent about the parking issue. I know that I should use my bicycle and public transportation more than I do. However, convenience outweighs my conscience. If the fees were higher, I suppose I might reconsider.

Friday, April 20, 2007

UWO says no more bribes from EFP

I could have posted this a couple of days ago, but UWO administrators announced that we will no longer take bribes from Educational Finance Partners.

They insist that they did nothing wrong, but I am waiting for the evidence that the EFP loans were as good as loans from other lenders. We have heard that EFP got lots of special treatment, including being the only lender mentioned in a few mailings.

Gordon Hintz, among others, has called for hearings, so we may be hearing more about this in the future.

A few people have tried to defend this action by claiming that state budget cuts drove the financial aid office to it. I don't buy this excuse at all. The university should act in the best interests of higher education and our students, regardless of financial hardships. The burden of proof has to be on us to demonstrate that the way we handle cuts is the least harmful way possible.

Taking funds from a private lender to increase their profits serves only the company and a few workers in the financial aid office. It gave the rest of us a real black eye.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

UWO caught taking 'bribes' from student loan companies

The Oshkosh Northwestern is reporting today that the administration cut a deal with Education Finance Partners. They paid the university over $10,000 to be put on the list of preferred loan providers.

This scandal has been sweeping the country, as it turns out many universities and loan administrators have been taking payments to put companies on the loan list. Several people have been indicted in New York for taking these payments, which smell like bribes. Links here and here.

The article notes that our institution used this payment to help with administration costs, but it stinks to me. Letting companies buy their way on to the list makes it look as though we are not interested in finding the best deals for students. Instead, the administration is looking to take care of its own needs.

What a sleazy process! It pains me to hear that we have been ill-serving our students like this!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Female Profs don't feel integrated

Speaking of campus culture, does UWO drive away female faculty members? A study of Cornell University showed lower levels of satisfaction for female faculty members and a higher likelihood of leaving the profession at every point in their career. The significant variable was integration. Women were much less likely to feel satisfied about their integration into their departments and the institution in general.

I don't know what our retention rates are like, but I know of many women who have left the university over the last few years. How about it, do we create an environment conducive to helping faculty engage with our institution?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Another attempt to defend the A-T

I haven't been posting things from the discussion list, but I was driven to post this. A person from the journalism department posted a letter this morning asking why there wasn't more outrage on campus when a non-student was arrested, cited, and fined for marijuana possession. I am not quite sure I get the parallel. I guess we were supposed to be upset that the university police did their job because the victim was black. Apparently, he sees this as differential applications of justice.

I don't see this at all and most of the responses on the list pointed this out. Even if this were an outrage (which it is clearly not), it doesn't lessen the hostile attitude of the A-T's April Fools Issue.

Here is the letter:

Last week many colleagues used this forum to register their opinions about the April Fool’s issue of the Advance-Titan. I am writing to bring to your attention an item that appeared in a different issue of the A-T, an article that appears to have gone largely unnoticed even though it seems to me to say a lot about campus climate.

In its March 29 issue, the A-T reported the following (based on a police report):

March 14, 2007. (1:15 a.m.)--During a routine building check, an officer detected the odor of burning candles and incense coming from a guest room in the North Gruenhagen Conference Center, in violation of university fire regulations. The female guest was contacted and identified herself as a Philadelphia resident who was performing in the “Voices of Africa Choral and Percussion Ensemble.” She consented to a search of the room where candles and incense were found. The officer noticed her trying to conceal something in a suitcase. The officer seized a cosmetic case containing a marijuana joint and roaches weighing 2.2 grams. The female admitted it was her marijuana but denied smoking it in the room. Nonstudent Regina Contave (sic), 46, was cited for possession of marijuana.

As you may know, Ms. Cantave (the proper spelling of her name) belongs to a group that was a guest on this campus in January 2005 for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. dinner. She performs under the name of Akusua Nyo Agyiriwah, and she was back in the area last month because Voices of Africa was performing for Neenah school students as part of the group’s mission to foster multicultural awareness and understanding.

Without question the officer was doing his or her duty to protect the lives and property of the university community. Asking Ms. Cantave to extinguish any candles or incense was completely appropriate. But the officer should have stopped there. Searching the room was an unnecessary intrusion.

I encourage you to read the police report carefully and apply your powers of critical analysis. How credible is it that a person with illegal substances in her possession “consented” to a search of her room? If that person had consented to a search, why would she then try “to conceal something in a suitcase”? For those of you who have lived in urban areas, how likely is it that you would allow a police officer into your bedroom in the middle of the night absent subterfuge or threat?

I’m sure the rejoinder from the UP would be that the officer had an obligation to investigate a crime. But officers have great discretion in how they choose to enforce the law (if they didn’t we would all have speeding or jaywalking tickets for what we do on Algoma Boulevard). The fact is they exercise their discretion according to the parameters that are established by those in their chain of command.

What message do you think that Ms. Cantave took away from her encounter with the UP? That UW Oshkosh values an environment that is “inclusive” and “tolerant”? Let’s not forget that her offense was not a crime, in a narrow legal sense. Possession is a civil offense and in the scheme of things not a lot more serious than driving a few miles an hour over the speed limit. But it cost her $375 and spoke volumes about how welcome people like her are on our campus.

I invite you to reflect on the difference in our reaction to this incident and to the April Fool’s edition of the A-T.

As part of that reflection, I urge you to consider the difference in agency, on the one hand a uniformed (and armed) employee of this institution who is paid to carry out its mission and support its values and on the other hand students, who pay us to be formed and instructed in the value of knowledge and inquiry.

We appear to be far more tolerant of the actions of people invested with formal authority than the ones who are here for an education.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Storm on the Horizon: General Education Reform

Word about town is that we are about to see the beginning of a sustained effort to fix the general education component here at UWO. Apparently, the accreditors were upset by the lack of any coherence to our general education requirements. They told the administration that we need to deal with this fairly quickly.

The chancellor wants to start with a general discussion about the goals of a liberal education and then dive into the specifics. I imagine that we will be able to find agreement on a basic definition about what we think is important for college students to learn. I think most of us can also agree that the gen ed requirements are a mess.

However, can you imagine the hornet's nest that will be stirred up when we have to talk about what this means in terms of courses? The last time that this was attempted, apparently just before the last accreditation visit, we got TBIS and PBIS courses. Going any further was stymied.

What will happen this time around? Do the Chancellor and the Provost have the willpower to battle all the constituencies and transform the university?

My feeling is that this can only be good for us--I have long been a proponent of a liberal education, that stresses critical thinking and analysis ahead of practical job skills. It will, however, be an ugly fight. Can the faculty put their own interests (and their departments' interests) aside and think about the good of the university and education? We shall soon see!

Here is what I have found on the web: The website mentioned in the alumni magazine that may serve as a starting point for the change

Friday, April 06, 2007

The A-T issue: Joke or Symptom of bigger problems?

The April Fool's Issue of the AT continues to generate intense discussion on campus. As you can see from the previous post, over 30 comments have been posted here. On the university discussion list, there have been 60 emails. In my more ambitious days of blogging, I would have posted all of those.

In general, there have been several lines of debate (represented here as well):

1: Did the April Fools issue have any significance?
1: can faculty understand the humor of the younger generation?
2: is criticism of the AT akin to censorship?
3: is this a mistake/misunderstanding or a sign of broader institutional racism/sexism/agism at UWO?

The various defenses of the A-T seem to be quite hollow, from the lack of awareness of the impact of such writing to the argument that negative stereotyping has no real effect.

In various discussions around campus, it has become clear that in addition to our reputation as Sloshkosh, UWO is already known as a place unwelcoming to people who are different.

The AT controversy seems to cement that reputation. The A-T staff's protestations that they never meant to hurt anyone suggest that the hostility is unconscious and unexplored.

This should be an eye opening moment for our campus. What can we do to make something good come of it??

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Did the A-T go beyond the bounds?

A student posted this letter to the university discussion list about the A-T April fools issue. I have not really looked at it myself, but the headlines on the website suggest that several of the "stories" might be ugly, if not down right offensive. Here is the letter:

As a

nontraditional student on campus, I am voicing my concern regarding the annual Advance Titan's April Fool's edition (http://www.advancetitan.com/) that came out yesterday. In my opinion, this yearly tradition serves no purpose other than to degrade the image of our campus and offend numerous parts of the student body, as well as faculty, staff and administration. I personally feel that what may be intended to be sarcasm, humor or an “April Fool” has gone too far and should no longer be condoned on this campus.

I am outraged by the sentiments expressed in the AT. The statements go well beyond those of an “April Fool” and I am deeply concerned about how no action about this impacts our faculty/staff of color, our students of color, our

LGBTQ students, our non traditional students, and allies. When so many are asking 'why am I here?' and 'Is it worth it?'...this may be the last straw for many.

Our campus is already a 'difficult' environment to work and study in. The tone of the

AT's articles only adds tension to our campus community, if not outright saying who belongs here and who does not. The tension increases as the minutes of silence and no response tick by. No action is action!

I feel that the longer we are silent about this, the further we

systemically institutionalize racism, homophobia, ageism, and sexism. I hope you will stand behind me in supporting ALL members of our campus and community and what we stand for as members of the University Wisconsin Oshkosh campus and community!

The time to be heard is now!


Monday, April 02, 2007

Rieckman is now pro-UWO?

Although this topic has already gotten plenty of play in the blogosphere (Tony, Babblemur and Miles), I wanted to add my two-cents.

After all, it is striking to see Rieckman endorse a "Jeffrey Dahmer" to be on the city council. (I really do hold a grudge!!) After Rieckman's ready use of the university as a whipping boy in his columns, to see him write that it might not be so bad to have three people associated with UWO on the council is quite a change of heart.

For Stew, Palmeri is a great addition to the council. As someone devoted to open records, the Northwestern will surely benefit if Tony insists on opening up the cozy world of city government. Perhaps he also recognizes that continually attacking a significant percentage of his subscribers is not the best way to build his newspaper.

I, for one, don't really understand the town and gown split here. On the other hand, I don't understand the north/west split either . . .

Friday, March 30, 2007

Famous Academic Quotes

In this article, you can learn who said "Academic fights are so vicious because the stakes are so low," and other quotes from academia.

It is a nice relaxing read for the weekend!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

John Koker is the new COLS dean

Yesterday, it was announced that John Koker was offered and accepted the position of Dean of COLS on a permanent basis.

John seems to have done a fine job in his last nine months as acting dean. Lets hope that the pattern continues.

Beyond John himself, this would seem to be an approval of the status quo for us. There will be no fresh perspectives to bring change. I didn't get involved much in the search, so I can't comment on the strengths and weaknesses of the other candidates. However, do you think that this was the right decision from the perspective of continuity?

Generally, COLS continues to function decently, but would a more radical shakeup have been beneficial? I can't decide, how about you?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

UWS to extend control off campus

I am back and recovered from spring break. Thanks to those who posted in the discussion over the last week!

Today, the Journal-Sentinel is reporting that UW system is rethinking its rules of student conduct. They want to make it possible for students to be punished for off-campus offenses that would be punishable if they took place on-campus.

The article raises a few concerns about double jeopardy, but I wonder if we are seeing a return of an attitude of 'in loco parentis' that dominated the mindset in the last century. Besides, would it really help change the state-wide culture of drunken abandon?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Goodbye Unionization for us!

The faculty union for California State System voted to give union leaders permission to call a strike today. They are striking over pay--especially since administrators have been giving themselves big raises as they claim a financial crisis.

I think this significantly lowers the chances of our right to unionize being approved by our own state legislature. If they settle before a strike, there might not be too much of an impact. Doyle will jettison us in a hurry if the union in California has success forcing the state to give them a reasonable pay increase.

It will also open the floodgates to the anti-faculty rhetoric from our favorite Republicans down in Madison.

Let's hope they reach a reasonable accomodation in California, which is what should happen anyway. You will note, however, that without a union and threat of a strike, the administration was content to keep reducing faculty pay and benefits.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Light Reading: Socrates' teaching evals

As we relax a bit over spring break, here is a look at Socrates' teaching evaluations from Philosophy 101. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Sloshkosh is not alone: Wisconsin Awash in Booze

This is really not a new story, but data once again shows that Wisconsin has one of the highest drinking rates in the country.

According to the survey, 39.5% of underaged Wisconsinites admitted to drinking in 2005. It also had the highest rate of alcohol use among people 18-25 at over 75%.

This might not be so bad if the drinking occurred in moderation, but we know it is coupled with one of the highest binge drinking rates(28%, up from the 2004 survey).

I suppose it could make us feel better to know that college students across the whole state take part in such behavior. However, as St. Patrick's day approaches, we know that we have a particularly bad reputation as a party school.

Why are we the worst in the country? Is it the northern clime? The German heritage? Unfortunately, it affects our students and their academic success profoundly. If you have ever paid attention to how empty classrooms are on Friday mornings, you know students are putting their drinking far ahead of their studies.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Tech College Teachers make more than we do

The Journal-Sentinel reports on a LAB report that shows that full-time faculty at Tech Colleges here in Wisconsin make more on average than those at the 4 year campuses. For us, the average salary at Fox is 73,100, while the average here is 65,100.

The administrators complain that it is comparing apples to oranges to compare the two. One might note that the biggest difference is that the teachers there have a union!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Problems at elite colleges

The New York Review of Books has an article addressing the elitism of the wealthy private schools.

The gist is that rich kids get into elite institutions, and it is getting worse. A couple of books criticize liberal academia for worrying about political correctness and not poverty.

It is an interesting review. I can't help but think that all this really benefits an institution like ours. Lets make sure we are high quality and affordable, so that those who aren't legacies at the big schools can find a place here!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Collective Bargaining for us

Another anonymouse like myself (highcharge is the nickname) wrote with the suggestion that I mention the collective bargaining provision of the Governors budget. She has even provided links in the message:

Well Lake, aren't you going to say something about
the collective bargaining for UW system thing?

as far as I know, this is the same concept as floated in
in SB 452:

I have been in favor of collective bargaining for faculty for a long time. (see my post from 2005)

The faculty voice in decision-making at UWO is weak, our pay is low, and we are systematically being replaced by part-timers and adjuncts. An actual union could only help on all of these fronts. TAUWP is a toothless tiger; we need something stronger to defend our interests.

It seems as though there is little debate about the issue at the moment. I hope it stays below the radar.

We can have a real conversation about the implications of organizing if we are actually give the right to do it.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Intellectual Diversity in Madison?

On the left, there was Kevin Barrett, now from the racist right, law professor Leonard Kaplan??

Kaplan has been accused of anti-Hmong statements in a class on February 15. A Student email circulated claiming that Kaplan said that Hmong men were killers and Hmong women were better off if the men were dead.

It led several students to file a complaint that claims that he was creating a hostile environment.

I've looked back at this story, so here are few links:

From Madison on Feb 22

A Badger-Herald editorial from Feb 26

An account of a meeting in Madison

Today's story about Kaplan's response in the Journal-Sentinel

I imagine Steve Nass will be denouncing the protesters for being too sensitive.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Library continues to be starved of resources

In what is now an annual tradition, the library announces its plans to cut more periodical subscriptions and reduce acquisitions.

The budget for acquistions did not increase. Because of increasing costs of subscriptions, $125,000 worth of reductions must take place. They are being forced to cut, cut, cut.

Where is the library in all of this talk about the growth initiative? Why is the library being starved when their resources are at the core of what we stand for?

It is not worth the effort to even check to see if our library has any recent new titles or significant periodicals. They can't afford it. Off to Universal Borrowing I go, which reflects terribly on our academic priorities. Why should resources be instantly available to students here? Instead, send them off to wikipedia. . .

Here is the memo:

Good Afternoon,

Below is the text of a memo that is being sent today to deans, department chairs and departmental or college Library representatives. Let me emphasize one point of the memo. Ron Hardy and I really need the input of colleges and departments on the proposed cancellations in light of current and future curricular trends, accreditation needs and other relevant information known to your department or college. Ron and I will be happy to talk to colleges, departments, the faculty senate or other groups about these issues. Please let Ron or I know if you have any questions.


Periodical Review 2007
Patrick Wilkinson, Director of Polk Library

The goals of Polk Library’s Periodical Review 2007 are twofold:
¨ to discontinue a sufficient number of less-needed print journal titles to stay within the library’s material budget for 2007/08
¨ to expand if possible the number of high-quality, peer-reviewed journals available online for student and faculty research.

To meet these goals, the Library needs to evaluate its current collection and restructure its budget. The staff of Polk Library requests your help and asks for your response no later than April 9, 2007.

What Your College or Department Needs to Do By April 9

Attached is a list of the print journal subscriptions currently supporting your college or department curriculum. This list has an “X” next to titles proposed for cancellation and gives the journal’s cost, percent assigned to your department, total use observed from three studies, and full-text availability. The journals proposed for cancellation generally had low comparative use, high overall cost, a high cost per use ratio, or full-text available online.

Your department or college is specifically requested to respond to the proposed cancellations in light of current and future curricular trends, accreditation needs and other relevant information known to your department or college. To assist in your evaluation, we have attached a list of relevant titles with full text currently available online.

In addition to commenting on proposed cancellations, you may recommend the acquisition of new journal titles or online options. Please note that any new titles added would need to be done in the context of an overall reduction in the number of titles that the library receives.

All comments on the proposed cancellations or requests to add a new title must come officially from the department chair. In Business Administration, Education and Human Services, and Nursing, the library asks that the comments come officially from the chair of the college library committee or dean whichever is most appropriate for the college. These official responses should be sent to Ron Hardy, Polk Library’s Head of Information Resources, no later than April 9, 2007.

Final decisions for cancellations and new subscriptions will rest with Polk Library. If a department or college does not respond by April 9, Polk Library will assume that the titles proposed for cancellation can be cancelled without further departmental or college comment.

During this process, Ron Hardy and I are happy to talk with colleges, departments, the Faculty Senate and individual faculty about the Periodical Review 2007 in general or about specific titles. Please feel free to contact us.


The challenges that the library’s materials budget faces are clear. Polk Library’s total materials budget was $944,978 in 2001/02 and is $888,227 for 2006/07. This represents a decline in real dollars of $56,751. In addition, based on a conservative estimate of price increases of 6% a year, the purchasing power of our materials budget has declined approximately $330,000 since 2001.

In response to these challenges, the staff of the library has worked with faculty on how best to allocate its funds to provide educational and research material. Working together, we have already cancelled less-needed print journals, reference materials, online databases and microforms. We have reduced the amount of content that the library provides in multiple formats.

To minimize the impact of the necessary cancellations of print resources, Polk Library has expanded the number of periodical and journal titles available online to 15,420. It established the Ingenta Table of Contents service that covers over 30,000 publications. This service allows you to get the current table of contents of important journals or trade publications e-mailed to you, often before they physically arrive in libraries. Now, journal articles from other libraries are routinely delivered to your computer desktop in 3 to 5 days. If necessary, the library will purchase an article and deliver it to your desktop in less than 48 hours. In addition to Interlibrary Loan for books and videos, Universal Borrowing allows you to directly checkout materials from other UW libraries.

The Library would now like to take advantage of some of the new opportunities to expand the number of high-quality, peer-reviewed journals online. For example, the library currently subscribes to Academic Search Elite. This online service provides access to 1,500 full-text, peer-reviewed journals and is heavily used. If the library can restructure its budgets in this periodical review, it could upgrade this service to provide double or triple this number of peer-reviewed journals covering a wide range of academic disciplines. The trend is for students and faculty to look for information online; in 2005/06, there were approximately 800,000 uses of the library’s online databases.

Based on the library’s best budget projections for 2007/08, the library faces a shortfall of over $125,000 in its collection budgets. This projection assumes a flat budget and a 6% to 12% increase in the cost of journals, databases, etc. The library will need to make decisions by mid-May so the changes can be implemented for 2007/08.

Guidelines for Decisions

After April 9, Polk Library will review comments and make final cancellation and addition decisions using the following guidelines. All ten guidelines below will be used for cancellation decisions. The last eight guidelines will be used for addition decisions.

· The publication has received low use in the use studies.
· The publication has a high cost per use.
· The publication is indexed in an index owned or licensed by the library.
· The publication fills an information need not covered by other titles.
· The publication is expected to support student research.
· The publication directly supports the department’s curriculum.
· The publication is available from the library online in full text or full image. See http://qh9xe5ap4v.search.serialssolutions.com/ for a list of journals that are available online.
· The publication is reasonably priced, and its publisher does not have a history of inordinate annual price increases.
· The publication is owned by another library within UW System.
· The publication is available through interlibrary loan or document delivery.

Final Decisions

Final decisions will be communicated to colleges and departments by mid-May. Cancellation decisions must be made in May so that savings will occur in the 2007/08 fiscal year.

Thank you for your cooperation and input. And I would like to repeat that Ron Hardy and I would be happy to talk with you or attend a meeting. Please feel free to contact us.

Pat Wilkinson Ron Hardy
wilkinso or 2147 hardyr or 2097

Thursday, March 01, 2007

More Lovin' for the Profs

In honor of "A Day without Feminism," I bring you a throwback to a worse time. A professor at UCLA wrote an article today arguing that romance between faculty and students should not be completely banned. He claims the codes that ban such liaisons violate the "right to romance." For him, as long as the issues of status inequality and favoritism are addressed, profs and students should have the right to go at it.

Seems kind of creepy to me. Is he one of those aging professors (probably with carefully quaffed hair) out trolling for gullible undergrads? I have seen many of this type in my travels. I can't imagine giving them free reign to abuse their status and demean the profession . . .

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Narcissistic College Students

As if we didn't already know this, a recent study shows that current college students are more narcissistic than ever before.

Narcissists are "are more likely to have romantic relationships that are short-lived, at risk for infidelity, lack emotional warmth, and to exhibit game-playing, dishonesty, and over-controlling and violent behaviors," according to the article.

It seems to describe many of my students too well . . . .

Monday, February 26, 2007

What is College Worth?

The NYTimes Magazine section ran an opinion piece about a college education this weekend that raises a series of questions about higher education--many of which we have talked about here:

1. Is is worth it? He argues that the fact that people pay higher and higher tuition prove its worth in the market.

2. What should a person major in? Outside of specialized courses like medicine, the author argues that college is mostly a signalling device for employers. Thus, being flexible and demonstrating the ability to excel in any course is all you need to do. One might call this the liberal arts, but the author emphasizes the elitist nature of this kind of training.

We have heard these arguments before, but it seems to be part of an oblique criticism of the idea that more people should go to college.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Is Wikipedia destroying college students' research?

The New York Times reports (reg. req.) that Middlebury college's history department has banned wikipedia in student papers.

The article raises the important point that students too often turn to the internet uncritically for information. It seems to me however, that bans are too extreme. Isn't the point to teach students to be able to critically analyze material they find on the web?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Nass goes national against wholistic admissions

The Chronicle of Higher Education ran a story this week (reg. required) about Steve Nass's crusade against wholistic admissions. The article claims that UW has picked a fight with "Republican" lawmakers, but could only find Nass to talk to.

Does anyone know why Nass continues his assault on the UWs? Did he fail out and has held it against us ever since? Does he want a school in his district? Is he going to run for governor on an anti-UW platform?

The voters dumped Krebeich, with his UW-hating ways, this fall, but Nass seems to think that all this UW bashing is good politics.

How much power does he have as head of the legislative committee on higher ed?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

What do your students call you?

Terry Caesar writes about how students address their college teachers over at insidehighered.com.

He discusses the various permutations over the years, institutions, individuals and job titles.

There are clearly issues of power at hand here. There are also important issues of gender in this as well.

I am ambivalent about the whole title thing myself. I avoid telling the students anything and leave them hanging. Thus, I get the whole gamut of responses, from first name, to Mr., to Prof. I think I present a very formal face to my classes and don't think much about my authority. At the same time, would a less formal introduction make the students more likely to speak up?

Do you encourage students to call you by an honorific or by your first name? What do student readers think?

Friday, February 16, 2007

$500 million from UWO to Oshkosh

The Northwestern ran a story on the consultant's report from last week about the positive financial impact that we have on Oshkosh.

Is it me, or has the Northwestern turned over a new leaf lately? It seems like the paper has consistently been running positive stories about the university in the last few months.

I am still holding a grudge over Stew's description of professors as equivalents of Jeffery Dahmers, but the editorial spirit has changed. Has Gannett changed its corporate policy?

Learn More about the COLS Dean

The schedule and CV for the first candidate are posted. I don't know if I'll have time to go, but feel free to post comments here.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Whiny Students Wanted the Day Off

I noticed that the AT complained this week that the university should have been closed on that cold Monday, February 5.

The editorial argued that it was too cold for the poor, little students. Some people, for god's sake, might have to walk outside to get to class. Others might have trouble getting their cars started. It almost made my heart break to think of the hardship.

I didn't know our students were so fragile and tender. I guess that if you are an adult and go to school you are weaker than those who had to go to work on Monday.

I have to get back to work, but first I'll wipe away my tears. . .

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

My opinion is better than yours!

The Chronicle is running a first-person essay this week bemoans the rise of the belief that all opinions are equal. The author begins with a story of a student who announces that he doesn't agree with Foucault before having read any of his work. The story really rings true for me in my teaching. It is always difficult to get students to come up with a reasoned "why" to justify their opinions.

The article goes on to connect this to appeals of tenure decisions and other faculty member complaints about administration.

His general argument is that reasoned and informed opinions are better than knee-jerk ones. I can't really argue with that point, but the paternalistic "I know better than you" demand that poeple just accept a greater wisdom from above seems problematic.

How can we balance the need for free-flowing discussion and engagement with the demand that opinion be grounded in logic and evidence?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Phoenix U under pressure for low quality

The NY Times ran a story today (Reg req.) about the problems faced by Phoenix University. They note that under relentless pressure to produce profits, they are busy reducing quality instruction and instructors.

This is an important story for us, in that the administration argued that we needed the Bachelors of Applied Studies in order to compete with this kind of shoddy educational experience. As the article points out, Phoenix is not accredited by the major accreditation organizations and has never even tried. They put profits before education, which suggests to me that copying them means that we would be headed down the wrong path.

As you also remember, the BAS hit so much faculty resistance for low standards that they went back to the drawing board.

This article reminds us why it is so important to resist using the for-profit model or trying to compete with Phoenix on price!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Regents set to approve 'wholistic admissions.'

The Journal-Sentinal reports today that the regents will probably be approving wholistic admissions at their meeting today. The article notes two interest facts: First, wisconsin law already prohibits making admissions decisions based on race.

Second, UW-hater Steve Nass is asking his Republican buddy, the AG, to investigate the policy. He also says he plans to sue.

As I have written before, it is hard to see how taking a broad range of factors into admissions decisions is a bad thing for us. It has been proven time and time again that success in college is not solely determined by grades and tests, so why should our admissions proceedures?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Dangerous Anonymity

A Professor at Bowling Green State U writes about his experience with IT after using an anonymity program called Tor. Someone came to his door to tell him that he was not allowed to use the program that is designed to shield his identity on line.

As an anonymous blogger, and I suppose a bit of a paranoid, I have thought about how easy it would truly be to track me down if someone really wanted to. Apparently, the network people at BGSU assumed that only a criminal would want to protect his identity through this software.

As the author is, I am troubled by the lack of real privacy there is for the internet. He insisted that it was within the purvey of academic freedom to surf the web anonymously and the IT person finally left him alone.

I wonder what the situation is like on our campus.

How closely does IT monitor our comings and goings on the internet?

How much history do they keep on web activities?

Can the chancellor just call someone up and have me outed?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Another Anonymous Academic Blogger in WI

I followed a link off of insidehighered.com this morning and came across Bardiac. As I looked at the thread about the policy toward faculty members accused of crimes, it seems likely that she is a fellow Wisconsinite.

She also criticized the background check policy.

What other state could she be in?

Although she writes on more general topics than I, it is good to find a compatriot in the dairy state.

Monday, February 05, 2007

COLS Dean Candidates

The search and screen committee announced the candidates for Dean of COLS. I was surprised to see John Koker on the list. He has often said that he was not interested in pursuing the position permanently. We'll have to see after the other candidates appear, but John seems to be doing a great job at the moment.

Any comments?

Dr. John Koker, Interim Dean, College of Letters and Science, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. Ph.D. in Mathematics, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. Campus interview: Feb. 26-27.
Dr. Ann Marie Legreid, Interim Associate Dean, College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, University of Central Missouri. Ph.D. in Geography, University of Wisconsin Madison. Campus interview: Feb. 19-20.
Dr. James Moy, Dean, School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong. Ph.D. in Theatre History, University of Illinois Urbana. Campus interview: March 7-8.
Dr. Jill Trainer, Associate Vice President, Office of Sponsored Programs, University of Northern Iowa. Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan. Campus interview: March 1-2.