Academic Freedom for the Southern Community

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May 5, 2015

Public university students today pay $3,000 more in annual tuition than their counterparts a decade ago. 

Why that is depends on whom you ask. Some pundits like to blame administrative bloat or the construction boom. Within higher education, many cite the decline in state support.

“Although academics and media alike have tried to put the question to rest, public confusion on this issue is one reason why effective solutions remain illusory in almost every state,” asserts a report released today by Demos, a left-leaning New York public policy think tank.

The report attempts to pinpoint the factors driving up the price for students seeking a four-year degree at a public college. It asserts that while rising administrative and construction costs are a factor, they’re not as gargantuan as widely believed. A decline in state funding is the real culprit, says author Robbie Hiltonsmith, a senior policy analyst with Demos.

“That is really the real story here. The magnitude of [state funding declines] is so much larger than the magnitude of all these other things,” Hiltonsmith said…read more

Hydrologic and thermal geologic disposal modeling. Civic education in a charter-school network. Evolution of coastlines and response to sea-level rise. Economic inequality and global securities. Those were just a handful of research topics from a group of doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows I met in March at the Building Future Faculty Program, held annually at North Carolina State University.

The program is aimed at helping underrepresented (by virtue of their race or gender) graduate students and Ph.D.’s to enter the profession. In three days of career workshops and networking, we built various forms of capital that we hope to parlay into full-time, tenure-track jobs. As a member of this group, I was surrounded by some of the most intelligent, engaging, motivated, and accomplished young scholars from some of the world’s most elite universities.

And yet I was shocked by how poorly many of us seemed to understand the faculty career. As underrepresented minorities in our fields, we brought surprisingly disparate levels of socialization to the future-faculty program…read more

Published: May 3, 2015
Creating a Board of Regents for Higher Education to run this state’s colleges and universities (other than UConn, that is) must have seemed like a good idea when Gov. Dannel P. Malloy came up with it. So far, though, the results have been less than satisfactory.
The first guy who was hired to run it, Robert Kennedy, ran aground in 2012, resigning in the face of the furor stirred up by his decision to improperly hand out $300,000 worth of raises to administrators.

Then, in 2013, Gregory Gray was brought in to replace Kennedy. But he, too, is now in hot water.
First he was roundly criticized by faculty at various campuses for his “Transform CSCU” plan, which was the result of a nearly $2 million contract with a consulting firm. “Transform will not ever be successful unless it’s embraced by the faculty,” Gray told the Hartford Courant last fall. Sure enough, it wasn’t — not when you consider that the faculty at four campuses (Central, Eastern and Southern state universities and Norwalk Community College) voted no confidence in his leadership, and that more such votes have not been ruled out.
Gray noted at the time the “somewhat bitter comments” from faculty, and admitted that he had failed to reach out adequately to the 17 campuses that make up the system, where faculty members said they feared that Transform would lower academic standards. He said he had “failed to communicate” adequately with the faculty.
Some organizations would take bitter comments by underlings that apparently stemmed from a top manager’s admitted failure to communicate as negative factors that might well merit a demerit or two on his written performance review. But Gray has yet to receive a written performance review.
It probably didn’t help much when Gray, who had previously been running the community colleges in California’s Riverside County, observed that “Connecticut and New England are tough to move forward … . They’d like to hold on to yesterday. California is much more willing to move more

By Natasha Tripathi

In April, nearly 4,700 full-time faculty and graduate student employees at the University ratified a new contract, said Sherry Wolf, lead organizer of the Rutgers American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT).

After months of bargaining and directing a handful of campus-held protests, more than 97 percent of faculty members covered under the agreement voted to ratify the contract, which was negotiated by the faculty union AAUP-AFT, Wolf said.

Faculty and staff have been fighting for a new contract since 2010, when University administrators instituted a salary freeze, Wolf said. Staff and faculty unions joined forces to “Reclaim Rutgers” after the salary freeze.

The “subject to” clause enabled University management to impose salary freezes based on contingencies or special conditions.

The new contract, which runs through June 30, 2018, will protect AAUP-AFT members from salary freezes and health care rate hikes, guarantee 8.25 percent wage gains on average through the life of the contract, provide raises to faculty at the lower income levels and offer 7,000 graduate student employees a substantial Professional Development Fund.

Faculty at the bottom income levels will receive 43 percent raises, and the minimum wage for 910 non-tenure faculty members increased from a salary of $39,000 to $57,000, Wolf said.

“Together, faculty, staff and students petitioned, rallied and protested to win better terms,” she said…Original Article

May 4, 2015

What do my living room, the Ronald McDonald House in New Haven and the New York City subway have in common? They are all places where I have conducted professional development on a tight schedule. Professional development is the process of developing skills and gaining experience that will help advance your career. Sometimes professional development involves developing skills that are not immediately relevant to your research. My hope for this article is that you will also find professional development opportunities that do not interfere with your academic priorities.

More Than Just Transferable Skills

The most common career article written for Ph.D.s often involves a discussion on transferable skills such as communicating, problem solving and analyzing data. These skills are extremely useful in a variety of fields and sectors and are the main reason why Ph.D.s are qualified for so many career paths. However, upon researching careers, many Ph.D.s will eliminate jobs that require skills that they have not developed rather than explore ways of acquiring these missing skills…read more

Report: “Faculty Cluster Hiring for Diversity and Institutional Climate”

Organization: Urban Universities for Health Equity Through Alignment, Leadership, and Transformation of the Health Workforce

Summary: Hiring faculty members in clusters into multiple departments or colleges was originally designed to expand interdisciplinary research. But faculty clusters also have the potential to help diversify a college’s faculty and improve institutional climate. According to the report, the University of Wisconsin at Madison pioneered the practice and has hired nearly 150 faculty members in 48 clusters since 1998. In more recent years, institutions such as North Carolina State University and the University of Illinois at Chicago have followed suit.

The report, which takes stock of cluster-hiring programs at 10 institutions, offers “promising practices” such as…read more

The hype around the free online courses called MOOCs has drawn millions of students, who are all essentially part of a teaching experiment of unprecedented scale. These days, researchers are increasingly checking in on that experiment.

A new report, released on Thursday, seeks to answer the question “Where is research on massive open online courses headed?”

The report is the work of the MOOC Research Initiative, funded with more than $800,000 in grant support by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The group put out a call for research submissions and used much of the grant money to fund 28 of them, which were then analyzed for the report.

When MOOCs emerged a few years ago, many in the academic world were sent into a frenzy. Pundits made sweeping statements about the courses, saying that they were the future of education or that colleges would become obsolete, said George Siemens, an author of the report who is also credited with helping to create what we now know as a MOOC.

“It’s almost like we went through this sort of shameful period where we forgot that we were researchers and we forgot that we were scientists and instead we were just making decisions and proclamations that weren’t at all scientific,” said Mr. Siemens, an academic-technology expert at the University of Texas at Arlington…read more

Faculty at four of the state’s public colleges have passed resolutions expressing no confidence in the system’s president, Gregory Gray — an unusual move that puts pressure on the system’s governing board just as the embattled president’s contract comes up for renewal.

The contract decision will force the board to evaluate Gray and his plans for the 90,000-student system.

“It’s up to them to decide what to do with these votes,” said Stephen Adair, a sociology professor at Central Connecticut State University and a leader of the system’s faculty panel, the Faculty Advisory Committee.

It’s unclear whether the Board of Regents is happy with the job Gray has done since becoming the president of the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities two years ago. The college system includes the state’s dozen public community colleges, four regional Connecticut State Universities and its online college.

The Regents have never done a written evaluation of the president, and the board had no comment on the no-confidence votes. More votes are expected to take place at several of the system’s colleges and universities over the next two weeks…read more

The Brookings Institution joined a crowded market of efforts to classify colleges with the release on Wednesday of its new “value added” rankings.

The rankings consider how well colleges’ alumni performed on three economic measures: midcareer earnings, student-loan repayment, and “occupational earnings power,” the average salary of occupations in which alumni work.

To come up with value-added measures, the think tank compared the performance of a college’s alumni on each gauge to their expected performance based on student characteristics and college type. Such a calculation is meant to determine the portion of alumni success that can be attributed to the college, rather than giving an institution credit for, say, enrolling a wealthy, well-prepared student body. (Much more detail on the methodology is available in a report about the new rankings.)

The idea of a value-added ranking is not entirely new. As the Brookings report acknowledges, Money magazine devised a list of colleges that it said added the most value — using a different methodology — as part of its college rankings…read more

A bill introduced in Congress on Tuesday would forbid colleges that receive federal financial aid to require students to agree to mandatory arbitration clauses, which have been used by for-profit colleges to prevent students from suing them.

The bill was introduced by two Democrats — Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Rep. Maxine M. Waters of California — on the day after Corinthian Colleges ceased operationsand closed down its 28 remaining campuses.

“As we have seen with Corinthian Colleges, the for-profit college industry is rife with bad actors that lure potential students into some of the most expensive academic programs, all while knowingly and fraudulently misrepresenting the quality and success of these programs,” Ms. Waters said in a news release. “These schools use mandatory arbitration clauses and other tactics to shield themselves from being held responsible for this wrongdoing.”