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 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?