Friday, May 30, 2008

Another Slap in the Face to Faculty from Madison

Once again, the legislature and governor decided to make faculty pay for the budget shortfalls in Madison.  

We had our promised 2% pay increase reduced to 1%.  We are the only group of state employees who can have their salaries unilaterally changed by the legislature and the governor.  Thus, it is easy to break promises made to us.  The unionized state employees are protected by such action because of their ability to negotiate with the state as a collective.

This, of course, is on top of the fact that our pay runs far behind the national and regional averages for professors across the country.  We will only slip farther behind with this latest move.  

As the year comes to a close, this problem is made ever clearer as we find some of our most promising scholars pick up and move to other institutions where the pay is better.  There has been some discussion of the pay levels for chancellors, but we in the classrooms and laboratory never seem to make it into the discussion.

The repeated disrespectful attitude that comes from our elected leaders toward the UW system and the faculty damages our ability to education students and bring the latest, most sophisticated research to Wisconsin. 

 I have talked to many people, all of whom express great anger at once again being treated like this.  Even if people aren't leaving, they lose respect for our institution and are less likely to become involved in just the kind of projects that can make us a great place.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

New "Learning Outcomes" Approved

I have been too busy to blog the last few weeks as the semester wound to a close, but today I'll post the new learning outcomes that seem to be official.  These are supposedly going to serve as the new basis for what we do here on campus.

These categories are broad and seemingly all encompassing.  I suppose they suggest that very specific, technical knowledge is secondary to more general competency, but it is hard to find much to talk about here.

According to LERT, these are going to lead to some significant changes in the way that we operate over the next couple of years.  The real issues are yet to come--will we really change the nature of General Education because of these outcomes?  Will these lead to some sort of standardized exit testing for UWO students?  Can reforms that failed twice before be accomplished now?  Will the Chancellor even stay around long enough to find out??   

Will we arrive back on campus in the fall with an agenda for real change?  Stay tuned. . . .

Knowledge of Human Cultures and the Physical and Natural World

• Through study in fine and performing arts, humanities, mathematics and science, and social science
Focused by engagement with big questions, both contemporary and enduring

Skills, both Intellectual and Practical, including

• Identification and objective evaluation of theories and assumptions
• Critical and creative thinking
• Written and oral communication
• Quantitative literacy
• Technology and information literacy
• Teamwork, leadership, and problem solving
Practiced extensively, across the curriculum, in the context of progressively more challenging problems, projects, and standards for performance

Responsibility, as Individuals and Communities, including

• Knowledge of sustainability and its applications
• Civic knowledge and engagement—local and global
• Intercultural knowledge and competence
• Ethical reasoning and action
• Foundations and skills for lifelong learning
Developed through real-world challenges and active involvement with diverse communities 

Learning: Integrated, Synthesized, and Advanced, including

• Synthesis and advanced accomplishment across general and specialized studies
Demonstrated through the application of knowledge, skills, and responsibilities to new settings and complex problems.  

Friday, May 09, 2008

Spending on Instruction Down

I spotted this story over at  the percentage of tuition spent on direct instruction has dropped over the years.  The national average for institutions like ours is about 44%.  

As this has been declining relative to other spending over the years, the additional spending tends toward things like academic support services, new facilities, and administration.

As often as people have complained about faculty productivity, these figures suggest that this is not the driving factor in cost increases for college.

This post feels a little like deja vu, and it is.  I blogged about a similar story over 2 years ago!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Liberal Arts are Actually Up!

I want to highlight the work Bill Wresch did for us last week in the comments.  He found statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics (this link goes to a chart) that show that liberal arts majors are actually increasing:

Here are some changes since 1985 -
Total graduates - up 50%
ethnic studies - up 160%
performing arts - up 123%
psychology - up 116%
liberal arts - up 110%
philosophy - up 87%
biology - up 85%
comm/journalism - up 77%
history - up 72%
English - up 61%

Business - up 34% (less than the 50% general growth)
Computer science - up 12%
math - down 9%
physics - down 9%
engineering - down 14%

As she shows us, students are moving toward the liberal arts quite significantly.  What does this mean for the entire LERT initiative?  Are we preaching to the choir? 

Does that mean there is some sort of hidden agenda behind the larger liberal arts initiative of the AAC&U?  Our hidden agenda is really general education reform, but that isn't much of a secret.

Is the broader initiative really about different standards or more testing, using Liberal arts as a cover?

Friday, May 02, 2008

Chancellor Withdraws from Search

Chancellor Wells announced this afternoon that he is no longer a candidate to head the Pennsylvania State System.   He writes that the position was not a good fit for him.

Wow!  I am surprised!  The comments here reminded me about what a big promotion this would be for him.

For the campus, I would say that this is a good thing.   The continuity that this means for us on campus is surely a good thing, whether we fully agree with his policies or not.  All of the unfinished initiatives on campus need someone to keep pushing.

Here is his announcement:

To the UW Oshkosh Campus Community
I have just returned from several days of discussions with the Pennsylvania State University System of Higher Education (PASSHE) regarding the position of System Chancellor. These conversations were positive and fruitful, and the Board of Governors, which has not yet made a decision, has encouraged my continued candidacy. However, it is my impression that this leadership opportunity is not the best fit for me or perhaps PASSHE. Therefore, I have withdrawn my candidacy. I would like to take this opportunity to wish continued success to PASSHE’s outgoing Chancellor, Judy Hample, and her successor.
I suspect that my candidacy for this position has understandably raised concerns among some members of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh community. Therefore, I think it appropriate for me to briefly explain why I initially decided to become a candidate.
As you may know, experienced university chancellors and presidents are routinely recruited for other positions. In my case, I have been heavily recruited for more than a dozen such leadership roles, many of which have been excellent opportunities. With a few exceptions, I have chosen not to pursue these opportunities because of the outstanding support and success we are experiencing at UW Oshkosh.
One such exception was the Chancellorship of the Pennsylvania State University System. PASSHE is the fifth-largest system of higher education in the nation, comprised of 14 excellent public comprehensive universities.
It is important for me to acknowledge again how much I enjoy and appreciate being the Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. I have always considered it to be a great honor to serve as your Chancellor.
I greatly appreciate the patience and understanding many of you demonstrated this past week. I will continue, with your help and understanding, to work with you and to remain committed and focused as we move forward the priorities of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.
Richard H. Wells