Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sh** hits the fan: UW System moves to regulate off-campus behavior

It is all over the news this week:  UW system is trying to change campus rules to be able to punish students for off-campus behavior.  New rules have been distributed for comment that seem to radically change the nature of the relationship between students and the universities.  

You can read the Northwestern's editorial here.  There are news stories across the entire state

Looking at a few stories, it looks dangerously vague--students can be disciplined on campus for imparing the university's mission.  What in the world does that mean?   

The vagueness seems to suggest that an overzealous administrator could punish a student for stridently criticizing their institution.  It also makes me wonder about how the universities would be able to implement this code.  Are the university authorities now going to leave campus to police the neighborhoods?  Are we going to employ snitches to rat out students who behave badly off campus? 

It looks like a hornets nest to me. . . 


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

House of Representatives attacks high price of textbooks

A Washington Post blog reports that the House of Representatives has passed legislation that requires divulging the price of textbooks to teachers and restricts bundling of books with other items.  The language is not in the Senate version of the bill, so it is probably just noise.

However,  as we have been talking about textbook costs on our own campus, it seems like an interesting story.  I often end up going to amazon to find the cost of the books that flood my mailbox.   I am sensitive to the cost of my choices, but don't let that be the deciding factor.

Having better access to the price would definitely make things easier for me.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Conservatives have wrong mind-set for Academia

The Chronicle of Higher Education has the story of a conservative public policy professor who argues that conservative values are the reason there are fewer people on the right in academia.  

He and his wife surveyed undergraduates and came to this conclusion.  Here is my favorite paragraph:

For example, liberal students reported valuing intellectual freedom, creativity, and the chance to write original work and make a theoretical contribution to science. They outnumbered conservative students two to one in the humanities and social sciences — which are among the fields most likely to produce interest in doctoral study. Conservative students, however, put more value on personal achievement and orderliness, and on practical professions, like accounting and computer science, that could earn them lots of money.

This is an interesting argument and generally makes sense to me.   What do you think?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Dumbing Down America

Susan Jacoby writes this article in the Sunday Washington Post.  In it, she argues there is a crisis of anti-intellectualism in America.  On top of the fact that Americans don't know much, she argues there is a growing belief that you don't need to know much.

I found this a thought-provoking piece and I wonder if we face this dillema more acutely than most.  Our students already believe that college is mostly about getting a piece of paper so that they can get a job.  Are they also becoming increasingly resistant to learning?

Friday, February 08, 2008

Budget Crisis Looming: Lets Raise Administrators' Pay!!

The Journal-Sentinal reports that the Regents have decided to raise the pay range of UW system chancellors.  The largest raise is a whopping 66% increase for UW Madison, but all the others' new range is at least 10% higher.

We recieved the notice from the Chancellor about watching our spending because of a slowing Wisconsin economy.  Now, we have the tone-deaf regents getting ready to raise the pay of administrators as the rest of the state prepares for cuts.

Why do administrators think they deserve so much money anyway?  Apparently the current crop are doing an awful job at their pay level and we need to encourage better applicants.  At least that is the excuse. . . .  Maybe we can cut a few more faculty lines to pay for the fat raises!

Friday, February 01, 2008

New Movie Policy Coming?

Someone actually posted something to the COLS discussion list this morning. It seems as of late, there has been almost no list activity. In this case, it is a bit of old business. Three historians are announcing that there will be a change in campus-wide movie policy.

The new policy will allow clubs to show movies, with certain restrictions--you can read about it below. I am glad to see that student groups will again be able to show movies on campus without having to pay big licensing fees!

Still, it seems inexplicable that the Reeve Union theater can not be used for such activities. Apparently, Petra Roter and students do not believe that any education takes place there. Isn't that why they built it in the first place?!?

For a little context, you can look at the blogposts from the spring of 2006:

Film Nazi's Invade Campus

Fair Use Debate Rages All Day

Revised Movie Policy Appears on Discussion List

Anyway, here is the letter:

Dear Colleagues:

Karl Loewenstein, Michelle Kuhl and I are happy to announce that there will soon be a new set of guidelines for screening films and documentaries on our campus.

We initially engaged the university community in a discussion on this topic, you may recall, in April 2006. That discussion was triggered by several history students’ concern over the impact new guidelines were having on student groups’ ability to screen films on campus. (In that month the Student Allocations Committee froze the funding of the International Film Series and threatened the leadership of the History Club with legal action and punitive fines if they showed historical films without purchasing public performance rights—rights obtained at approximately $300 per film.)

Over the past twenty months we have been working with Dr. Petra Roter, Reeve Director Randy Hedge and UW System Legal to forge a commonsense campus-wide film policy based on guidelines set forth in Section 110 (1) of the 1976 Copyright Act. In a conference call with an UW System attorney, we reached an agreement on the feasibility of showing films and documentaries in campus “educational spaces” devoted to instruction.

In subsequent months, we failed to convince the Reeve Advisory Council, the Oshkosh Student Association, Petra Roter and Reeve Union staff that the Reeve Union Theater qualifies as an educational space—a “similar place devoted to instruction” as outlined in the provisions of the 1976 Copyright Act. Most recently they have ratified their position by citing the fact that Reeve Union is funded by student segregated fees and is therefore not technically an academic building.

The revised guidelines have been submitted to the OSA and SAC and will soon be incorporated into the Student Handbook. While several details need to be ironed out, the revised guidelines make it clear that student groups may legally show films in academic buildings without paying for public performance rights as long as the films are shown primarily for educational purposes. In order to substantiate the educational purpose, the guidelines suggest that the showing should be in an academic building and under the supervision of an instructor teaching a class related to the film.

Those of us who recall with fondness the vibrant film cultures which thrived on the campuses we once attended and who now assign films in their classrooms (and who, in the process, are continually heartened by students’ confessions that they “blown away” by films [black-and-white, foreign language and documentary] that they would never have dreamed of viewing on their own) may still be disappointed that access to the premiere venue on campus for film—the Reeve Union—is restricted. But we are glad that a set of new and revised guidelines have addressed previous misperceptions and will ultimately create an environment that will add to the educational experience of our students.


Stephen Kercher, Karl Loewenstein and Michelle Kuhl
Department of History