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, 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. . . .