Month: September 2014

Please Steal This Idea. (I Did.)


Hank Reichman, the First Vice-President of AAUP and a frequent contributor to this blog, is marking his retirement by teaching a seminar on the history of academic freedom in the American university.  Unprompted, his provost handed him a sizable check and invited him to organize a broader symposium, a speakers series, on the history of academic freedom and the current challenges to it.

This struck me as a perfect way to celebrate the centennial of AAUP and to honor the contributions of faculty who have served both their institutions and AAUP over their long and productive careers.

At my own university, the recent retirees have included many who have contributed in significant ways to our AAUP chapter. But, coinciding with the centennial of AAUP, those retirees will include two individuals who have served in leadership positions since the chapter was first being organized and who deserve special recognition.

One of…

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Is Your University Doing This?


I was initially going to add this brief post as a comment on Ulf Kirchdorfer’s new post “Papa John’s Pizza Plot: Heimlich Maneuver Needed for Schools, Parents, and Students,” but then I realized that I had more to say than would be appropriate for a “comment.”

Ulf’s post is insightful and wryly humorous, and you really ought to read it–and not just this concise summary, which doesn’t do it justice. He discusses the corporatization of education-related fund-raising. Our system of public education becoming increasingly corporatized and, worse, blatantly and unapologetically so, even where the public schools are not being replaced by or undercut by corporate-operated charter schools.

Along these same lines, at my university, there is apparently a plan afoot to allow students to print for free because an advertisement for a corporate sponsor will appear along one of the margins of each printed page. At this stage, it would…

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The Growing Caste System in Higher Education: Campus Construction Edition


It is hardly surprising that as colleges and universities have struggled to maintain their finances in response to the deep reductions in state support and the sometimes volatile fluctuations in enrollment caused by the Great Recession, those institutions have allocated far fewer resources to maintaining their existing buildings and to the construction of new buildings.

According to a recent article in the Columbus Dispatch, “New construction at campuses across the country has been sliding for much of the past five years, according to market research by McGraw Hill Construction. This year, the total square footage of new campus projects is down 7 percent from last year, when the industry saw a slight uptick.”

In this context, the massive new construction projects at Ohio State University do not simply go against the norm; they stand in stark contrast to the norm.

The university is completing the biggest single building project…

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The University Campus as Ground Zero for Epidemics


With the recent news that Emory University hospital would be accepting yet another patient infected with the Ebola virus [], the lunatic fringe of the Far Right went into overdrive to generate hysteria about the potential of Ebola to decimate the U.S.  population. World Net Daily, the news source for those who think that National Review and American Spectator lean a little too far to the Left, has run stories on the potential weaponization of the Ebola virus and on the possibility that such WMD may be smuggled across our porous border with Mexico, presumably hidden in the backpacks of the children fleeing the drug gangs and escalating violence of the cities of Central America.

As is often the case, the things that we are being encouraged to fear are largely phantom menaces that, ironically, serve to obscure much more real, immediate, and readily remediated menaces.


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Cancelling Out Student Debt for Cents on the Dollar


It is hard to say exactly what the long-term impact of the Occupy Wall Street movement will turn out to be. Will it seem in retrospect a very impassioned but transient response to a very serious economic crisis caused largely by the unprincipled marketing of mortgage-backed securities of very dubious value? Or will it be judged the first demonstration of a new wave of Progressivism as the political pendulum finally started to swing backwards along the long arc of Reaganism?

Right now, the Occupy Movement is a rather spectral presence. But several of its offshoots have continued to have a significant impact. One of the most remarkable of these offshoots has been the Rolling Jubilee.

As Vauhini Vara has explained in a recent article for the New Yorker, the activists who founded Rolling Jubilee recognized some basic truths about debt and have devised ways of turning the ways in…

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Improved Responsiveness to Sexual Assaults on Campus: The University of Iowa’s Plan


The ongoing media concentration on cases of domestic abuse perpetrated by NFL players against their spouses and children has, for the moment, pushed the issue of sexual assaults on our college campuses largely to the margins of our national attention. Our ability to solve problems seems to be diminishing in proportion to the ability—or willingness–of our news media to focus on more than one or two issues at a time.

I have previously criticized the administration at the University of Iowa for its handling of the “Vodka Sam” incident [see: and]. But, to its credit, the university administration has developed a straightforward plan for addressing sexual assaults on campus more expeditiously and effectively. I do not know how well the plan is actually working, but what I do think is very commendable is that the university has created a website on which it is tracking its progress…

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Online Education and the Future of the MBA


I came across a CNBC article on trends in business education. At first, I misread the article’s title and mistakenly thought that someone was proposing a 25-year MBA program. That seemed to me, of course, a shocking inversion of the current trends, one which would give a whole new meaning to the phrase the “career student.”

The actual title of the article is, however, “The Unbundled MBA: How You’ll Earn the Degree in 25 Years.” The author of the article, John A. Byrne makes a number of compelling observations and draws equally compelling conclusions from those observations.

He starts by asserting that in 25 years almost no MBA students will be educated on site—that almost all MBA students will be enrolled in online courses, where they will watch digital lectures and other digitized classroom presentations until they master the material. Byrne compares the process to watching Seinfeld re-runs until one…

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Imitation Is the Sincerest—and Most Historically Predictable– Form of Flattery


Developers have been surrounding Chinese largest cities with upscale suburbs modeled on the major cities of Europe and North America. Not all of these “themed” developments have been equally successful, but they have attracted international media attention, especially in those nations whose urban landmarks have been replicated.

Bianca Bosker has just contributed an article to The Atlantic that shows how this trend in China has extended to new construction on the campuses of Chinese universities. Bosker does emphasize that the Chinese are doing essentially what Americans did a century ago, when new buildings on our campuses were purposely designed to imitate the architecture of Oxford and Cambridge Universities in the United Kingdom and of the major universities in the other nations of Western Europe.

The following images are not from Bosker’s article but the buildings are treated in her article. Notice the similarities in the rotundas that serve as the…

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How to Write a Book Using Software Designed for Note Taking and Archiving


The following is the opening of an article that Nicholas Carlson has written for Business Week, in which he explains how he used Evernote to write a 90,000+-word book called Marissa Meyer and the Fight to Save Yahoo. I am not necessarily promoting the use of this particular software, but I think that the slideshow that Carlson provides with the article may be of interest to those who are open to alternative ways of approaching large scholarly projects:

“It was a weird choice by me because Evernote is not a word processor. It’s a note-taking application. It wasn’t built for book-writing.

“One reason I used Evernote was because I kept all of my reporting notes and research in Evernote, and I wanted quick access to all that while I was writing.

“It felt less clunky switching between screens in the same app than switching between Evernote and a…

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Banned Books Week Is Next Week


In 2013, the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom documented the banning of 307 books in locations across the United States.

The ten most frequently banned books of 2013 were the following:

Captain Underpants (Series), by Dav Pilkey.
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence.

The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison.
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie.
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.

Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James.
Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins.
Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group.

A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl, by Tanya Lee Stone.
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit.

Looking for Alaska, by John Green.
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.


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