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.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Our Own Kevin McGee on Affirmative Action

The Northwestern Editorial page carried an article about affirmative action on Thursday. (I imagine it is part of their 'get community members to write editorials for free initiative).

In it, he argues that race is too blunt an instrument to deal with the problems of access to higher education. Instead, that category should be superceded by poverty.

He is makes a good argument, but I wonder if he is too facile in dismissing the discrimination that people of color face, no matter what their economic level. I am thinking about recent studies that have shown that women at elite colleges perform worse on tests when they are given negative cues like being told that women are worse at the project at hand.

It is these subtler means of discrimination that we need to be aware of. An economist has a desire to reduce all problems to simple economics, but discrimination goes much deeper.