Various links

to stories I’d like to post so I can close all those browser pages:

“Students who are anxious about finishing their degree, and avoiding debt, sometimes see the breadth requirements as getting in their way,” said Nicholas Dirks, chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley.

The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC), whose members are university presidents and whose chair is UM President David Barnard, defines academic freedom narrowly as only “the rights of the teacher to teach and of the student to learn” and “the right to freely communicate knowledge and the results of research and scholarship.” In other words, the employers see academic freedom as a very restrictive set of rights that refer only to teaching and research, but do not include professors’ right to comment on the administration of their own institutions or even to pursue their own research agendas.

University faculty, by contrast, overwhelmingly regard academic freedom more broadly, as the right to pursue research of their own choosing, to speak openly about their research and to criticize their own institution when it threatens to restrict those choices or demand that research be tailored to meet corporate or other external objectives. Faculty members consider themselves professionals like doctors or lawyers, experts in their fields who are better qualified than their employers to make certain decisions including, when necessary, to identify problems with the university.

I have noted at least four or more major changes in the University during my years here, that may provide some reasons for this lamentable decline of the U of S from a once-healthy, intellectually vibrant and employee-supportive post-secondary institution to its present toxic state: first, the alarming mushrooming of the number of administrators on campus, especially in recent years; secondly, and related to this, the subtle but increasing erosion of respect for faculty that has accompanied the emergence of this burgeoning group of bureaucrats, many of whom seem to know next to nothing about what faculty actually do; thirdly, the increasing focus on, and financial encouragement of, those branches of the University that train, rather than educate; and finally, the accompanying devaluation and resulting marginalization of the Humanities, Fine Arts, and even some of the Social Sciences.

Quote of the day

In an article on expense scandals involving presidents at various U.S. universities, there is the following sentence:

At the University of Connecticut, Michael Hogan faced criticism for a lavish inauguration ceremony, a $475,000 renovation of the president’s office, his decision not to live in the house provided by the university (instead asking the university to rent and renovate a separate residence), and his purchase of life-sized cutouts of himself to place around campus.

All gone, I suppose. A sad day for Connecticut graffiti artists.


A few links about the hidden costs of being a woman academic


More MOOC-talk

[F]ar from a radical innovation, MOOCs are simply the natural extension of trends that have been at the heart of the modern university for decades….
[N]early all of America’s colleges and universities have moved away from the cultures and intellectual traditions within which they were founded.
“We are concerned that there is an experiment being done on students and we don’t know the outcome but it could jeopardize their higher education,” said Eileen Landy, the elected secretary of United University Professions, the bargaining union for faculty at 30 of the State University of New York’s 64 campuses. She said union leaders were left in the dark until the deal was announced and said there could be collective bargaining implications of the new arrangements.
  • Outsourced Lectures Raise Concerns About Academic Freedom.” Steve Kolowich. The Chronicle of Higher Education (May 28, 2013): “[W]where state legislators and college administrators see an opportunity, some professors see a threat—if not to their jobs, then to their freedom to teach a course as they believe it should be taught.”

letter, published on Thursday in The Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper, and signed by 58 professors, asks Michael D. Smith, dean of the FAS, “to appoint a committee of arts and sciences faculty members “to draft a set of ethical and educational principles” that would govern their colleagues’ involvement in Harvard-branded MOOCs.”

  • Massive (But Not Open).” Ry Rivard. Inside Higher Ed (May 14, 2013): “The Georgia Institute of Technology plans to offer a $7,000 online master’s degree to 10,000 new students over the next three years without hiring much more than a handful of new instructors.”
  • Not Staying the Course.” Chris Parr. Times Higher Education (May 10, 2013): “The average completion rate for massive open online courses is less than 7 percent, according to data compiled by an Open University doctoral student as part of her own MOOC studies.”
Companies, colleges, and columnists gush about the utopian possibilities of technology. But digital life has a bleaker side, too. Over the weekend, a cross-disciplinary group of scholars convened [at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee’s Center for 21st Century Studies] to focus attention on the lesser-noticed consequences of innovation.

There is a certain irony that the only institutions prestigious

enough to be courted by the biggest MOOC companies are also the only ones secure enough — in every sense — to turn them down. Some lovely quotes here:

EdX Rejected,” Ry Rivard, Inside Higher Ed (April 19, 2013): “Would we join some sort of agribusiness company that was taking over family farms and producing junk food if they offered us some incentive to do it?” [Amherst chair of  neuroscience Stephen A.] George said.

Catching up on news

The measure would allow Florida officials to accredit individual courses on their own — including classes offered by unaccredited for-profit providers.
“We’re saying the monopoly of the accrediting system is not designed for the world of MOOCs or other individual courses,” said Republican State Senator Jeff Brandes, the bill’s sponsor.

[See also “United Opposition,” Ry Rivard, Inside Higher Ed (March 28, 2013), about a similar bill in California.]

Let’s call a spade a spade — the proposals being imposed on post-secondary institutions have absolutely nothing to do with improving an educational model, nor are they based on any empirically-tested reformation program that has been successful elsewhere. These initiatives are being enacted for two very specific reasons — budget mismanagement and an impending labour shortage.

  • Saint Louis U. Threatens Faculty With Copyright Suit Over Campus-Climate Survey.” Peter Schmidt. The Chronicle of Higher Education (April 2, 2013): “Efforts to measure the mood of Saint Louis University’s faculty members might in fact have worsened it, as the administration has threatened a faculty leader with a copyright lawsuit if he circulates his own version of a survey about the campus climate.”
  • Under California Bill, Faculty-Free Colleges Would Award Exam-Based Degrees.” Allie Bidwell. The Chronicle of Higher Education (April 2, 2013): “A bill being considered this month by the California Assembly would create a fourth division of the state’s higher-education system that would provide no instruction and would issue college credit and degrees to any student who could pass a series of examinations.”
  • AAUP Calls on Colleges to Calculate Adjuncts’ Work Hours Fairly.” Nick DeSantis. The Chronicle of Higher Education (April 2, 2013): “The American Association of University Professors on Tuesday issued a statement calling on colleges to devise “fair methods” for calculating the working hours of adjunct instructors, after the Internal Revenue Service issued proposed rules earlier this year that sought to advise colleges on how to do so for the purpose of providing part-timers with health benefits.”
  • United Opposition.” Ry Rivard. Inside Higher Ed (March 28, 2013): “[F]aculty representatives are concerned California lawmakers are preparing to hand over untold thousands of students to for-profit companies that have not proven their courses can pass muster.”
  • Dal faculty wants more funding for programs, less for new buildings.” Clare Mellor. The Chronicle Herald (March 27, 2013): “Millions of dollars are being diverted from academics at Dalhousie University to pay for shiny new buildings, says its faculty association.”
  • Alberta demands universities streamline programs, co-operate on transfer credits.” James Bradshaw. The Globe and Mail (March 27, 2013):

The five-page draft letters [detailing government plans] come only two weeks after Premier Alison Redford’s government slashed schools’ operating grants by 7 per cent as part of its recent hard-luck budget. As universities grapple with the fallout, Thomas Lukaszuk, the new advanced education minister and Deputy Premier, is open about capitalizing on the cutbacks as a “catalyst” for changes to the system.

MOOCs in the media

  • Beware of the High Cost of ‘Free’ Online Courses.” Steve Lohr. The New York Times (March 25, 2013): Michael A. Cusumano, professor at the Sloan School of Management at M.I.T.: “I am mostly concerned about second- and third-tier universities and colleges, and community colleges, many of which play critical roles for education and economic development in their local regions and communities.”
  • The Brave New World of College Branding.” Kevin Carey. The Chronicle of Higher Education (March 25, 2013): “There’s another way to think about brands and technology, however. This brings us, of course, to MOOCs. I know: again with the MOOCs. I apologize. Let’s set aside for a moment the question of whether MOOCs are the ultimate neoliberal conspiracy or mankind’s final redemption, and focus on the fact that they have been powered largely by brands.”
  • Walk Deliberately, Don’t Run, Toward Online Education.” William G. Bowen. The Chronicle of Higher Education (March 25, 2013): “There is a real danger that the media frenzy associated with MOOCs will lead some colleges (and, especially, business-oriented members of their boards) to embrace too tightly the MOOC approach before it is adequately tested and found to be both sustainable and capable of delivering good learning outcomes for all kinds of students.”
  • I Don’t Want to Be Mooc’d.” Albert J. Sumell. The Chronicle of Higher Education (March 25, 2013): “But at smaller, lower-ranked institutions like mine—those typically with a city rather than a state in their names—MOOCs present a greater concern. Cost is a more important factor for our students in deciding whether and where to enroll. We would see decreased enrollment and tuition revenue, and without an unexpected increase in public support, we would be forced to further reduce the number of tenure-track faculty positions and/or compensation to current faculty members as a result.”
  • Coursera’s Contractual Elitism.” Ry Rivard. Inside Higher Ed (March 22, 2013): “The Silicon Valley-based company said to be revolutionizing higher education says in a contract obtained by Inside Higher Ed that it will “only” offer classes from elite institutions – the members of the Association of American Universities or “top five” universities in countries outside of North America – unless Coursera’s advisory board agrees to waive the requirement.”
  • The Professors Who Make the MOOCs.” The Chronicle of Higher Education (March 20, 2013):

Robert W. Ghrist, a professor of mathematics and electrical and systems engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, is among [those who think MOOC students deserve course credit]. His MOOC, “Calculus: Single Variable,” is one of the five Coursera courses that ACE has recommended for credit. Fitting his assessments into the parameters of Coursera’s auto-grading system has been somewhat limiting, but no more than the math placement exams that Penn already uses, said Mr. Ghrist, who previously oversaw those tests. “I would, of course, prefer it if I could read over their work carefully and follow their logic,” he said. But that is a technology problem that Coursera will soon solve, he believes.

  • Colleges Assess Cost of Free Online-Only Courses.” David Wallis. The New York Times (March 18, 2013): Gary W. Matkin, dean of continuing education, distance learning and summer session at the University of California, Irvine, “forecasts tough times ahead for what he calls the ‘mediocre middle’ — institutions that have not been invited into what amounts to a higher-education V.I.P. room.”