Month: December 2014

The Asbestos Controversy at Kilgore College: A Follow-Up on the Cover-Up, Contention, and Attempted Intimidation by Gunfire

ACADEME BLOG

This post is a follow-up to my earlier post, “Obfuscation of Long-Term Asbestors Issue at Texas College; Governance Issues Exposed” [http://academeblog.org/2014/11/28/obfuscation-of-long-term-asbestos-issues-at-texas-college-issues-with-governance-exposed/].

Carlos Griffin, a member of the Board of Trustees of Kilgore College has been at the center of the efforts to understand the problems with the removal of asbestos from many of the buildings on the campus and to implement a plan to address those problems as quickly and as safely as possible. He has agreed to respond to a series of questions that I posed.

1. How are members of the board of Trustees appointed? When and why were you appointed and for how long will you serve?

Solicitations made of the public, interviews conducted ​by the Board Committee and recommendations made to the Board​. Refer to my LinkedIn page for the ​Kilgore News Herald article on when I was appointed. I will serve as long as…

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The Debate over Student Debt

ACADEME BLOG

This is a chart from the Federal Reserve Board in New York representing household debt in the U.S. in the third quarter of 2014:

Household Debt 2014 Q3

Over the last decade, student debt has clearly increased both in raw dollars and as a percentage of household debt. The implications of that increase have, however, been much less clear than the increase itself—at least to the “experts” who report on our economy.

What follows is a sampling of news stories related to the rise in student-loan debt that have appeared over the last six months:

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STUDENT DEBT REMAINS A LOOMING ECONOMIC CRISIS

“Student Loans: America’s Next Financial Crisis”

By Anthony Figliola. HuffPost Politics 17 Oct. 2014.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anthony-figliola/student-loans-americas-next-financial-crisis_b_5999948.html

“As high-school juniors and seniors start their search for the college where they will spend the next four years of their lives, they need to take a long, hard look at how to pay for it.

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Digital vs. Print Preferences of College Students

ACADEME BLOG

The Student Monitor survey for Fall 2014 is the result of a detailed questionnaire completed by a representative sample of 1200 students. It includes all sorts of data, largely related to the students’ purchases of digital devices and uses of digital technologies and media.

I find the following chart of college students’ print or digital preferences for completing various academic tasks to be somewhat surprising:

Student Monitor Survey 108

Although very few students seem to own desktop pc’s any more, the movement away from laptops to tablets seems to be occurring much more slowly among college students than among the population as a whole—though I suspect that most people would expect the opposite to be true.

More surprisingly, print materials are still the choice of a plurality, though not a majority, of students for all tasks except keeping a calendar and conducting class-related research. Most notably, there is still an almost a two-to-one preference…

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When You Have to Pay People to Teach and to Read a Book: A Bank Chairman’s Deep-Pocketed Promotion of Atlas Shrugged

ACADEME BLOG

In my previous post, I discussed James McNair’s article on the proposed multi-million-dollar gift by Koch Foundation and Poppa John’s CEO John Schnatter to the University of Louisville [http://kycir.org/2014/12/09/university-of-louisville-set-to-get-millions-from-charles-koch-foundation-and-papa-johns-ceo/].

That article includes the following paragraph:

“The Koch-Schnatter gift would not be the first to expand free-markets instruction at the University of Louisville. Six years ago, BB&T Bank gave the university $1 million to bankroll a professorship in free enterprise and a new course, then called ‘The Moral Foundations of Capitalism,’ drawing in part from the philosophy of novelist Ayn Rand. The course is now called ‘Capitalism and Economic Freedom.’ Students in the class receive a free copy of Rand’s book Atlas Shrugged.”

The second link in that paragraph is to an article written by Elizabeth Kramer for WFPL News, “Grants Get Ayn Rand’s Ideas into Kentucky Universities.” The article was published in November 2009; so, the…

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The Koch Brothers and the University of Louisville: Or, Why You Cannot Sell Your Soul, or Your Principles, Incrementally

ACADEME BLOG

On December 9, James McNair, writing for Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, has explored the many implications of a pending gift from the Koch Brothers and Poppa John’s CEO John Schnatter to the University of Louisville.

The article, the full text of which is available at http://kycir.org/2014/12/09/university-of-louisville-set-to-get-millions-from-charles-koch-foundation-and-papa-johns-ceo/, opens:

“Declines in state appropriations and negative financial trends have made American universities rely more on alumni and wealthy benefactors for cash donations. So as the University of Louisville tries to rebound from three straight years of financial deficits and slumping net worth, a proposed $6 million infusion from the Charles Koch Foundation and Papa John’s International CEO John Schnatter would appear to be a very welcome gift.

“A university spokesman wouldn’t talk about the gift, but the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting has learned that Koch would give $1.5 million, Schnatter $4.5 million. The three parties are said to be negotiating…

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Markets, Technology, and the Purpose of Education

ACADEME BLOG

An “On the Issues” Post from the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education [http://futureofhighered.org]

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Two thoughtful pieces, one recently published in the New York Times and one in Forbes, ask us to step back from our current obsession with “innovation” and “disruption,” business principles and technology in education, and think—just for a moment–about the purpose of education. It may be called “corny” these days to talk about the importance of human relationships, “values,” or “the human experience” in education; but our failure to do so, both authors suggest, helps explain some of the floundering and some of the failure in our thinking about higher education that are hard to deny.

What the authors suggest may not “scale” and may not slash costs, but both articles are worth reading for those willing to “reboot” our program for the future of higher education.

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Previous “On the…

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The Increased Teaching Load for Composition Instructors at Arizona State Provides a Disturbing Glimpse into the Future for Other Faculty

ACADEME BLOG

Inside Higher Ed recently ran an article on a 25% increase in the teaching loads for full-time non-tenure-eligible writing faculty at Arizona State University. The article, written by Colleen Flaherty is titled “One course without Pay,” and the full article is available at: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/12/16/arizona-state-tells-non-tenure-track-writing-instructors-teach-extra-course-each

The writing instructors, none of whom were willing to be identified by name in the article out of fear of retaliation, have created a website called ASUAgainst55 [https://asuagainst55.wordpress.com/statement/], which includes a petition that I would encourage everyone to sign [https://asuagainst55.wordpress.com/sign-our-petition/].

The logo on the webpage for the group reads: “English: Start Broke, End Broken.”

It is a damning statement, but not just about this particular situation. It is a damning statement about the current state of the profession, of which the exploitation of these English instructors is simply one pointed illustration.

Consider these facts:

The English instructors now teach four composition courses…

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NLRB Ruling on the Efforts of the Adjunct and Full-Time Contingent Faculty at Pacific Lutheran University to Organize a Collective Bargaining Unit

ACADEME BLOG

Pacific Lutheran University argued that SEIU should be prevented from organizing a collective bargaining unit for adjunct faculty at the institution for two reasons: the faculty promote the religious mission of the university and the faculty have managerial rights as described in the “Yeshiva” decision. On both counts, the NLRB (with one member providing a dissenting opinion) found that the university had made an insufficient case.

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On the “religious exemption,” the NLRB has concluded:

“We find, for the following reasons, that although PLU meets the threshold requirement of holding itself out as creating a religious educational environment, it does not hold out the petitioned-for contingent faculty members as performing a religious function in support of that environment. Accordingly, we will assert jurisdiction over the petitioned-for faculty members.

“PLU’s public representations generally emphasize a commitment to academic freedom, its acceptance of other faiths and its explicit de-emphasis of any specific…

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“Fifteen Minutes of Fame” and a Lifetime of Notoriety

ACADEME BLOG

One of the effects of the rise of social media and “reality” entertainment is that we are all, in effect, in danger of becoming the topics of tabloid stories. It used to be that you had to be already famous at least to some degree for anyone to be interested in the stupid things that you said or did–whether those things resulted from a momentary lapse in judgment or a pattern of dubious behavior.

Now, if your story goes “viral,” you are tagged with it for life. In effect, your “fifteen minutes of fame” become a lifetime burden.

To some degree, of course, this has always been so.

When my mother attended her 60th high school reunion, she was surprised by how many of her classmates were still alive and able to attend. She said, “Even the three guys who dove into Lake Lincoln were there.” When I asked her…

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The Self-Propagation of the Consultants

ACADEME BLOG

In its list of the most influential people in higher education for 2014, the Chronicle of Higher Education includes diverse individuals and just one group, “The Hired Guns: The Consultants.”

In her article on the increasing influence of consulting firms on higher-education policies and practices, Goldie Blumenstyk seems to think that this increased influence is largely a good thing: “it’s hard to argue that colleges and universities still don’t need the help. Faced with cost-conscious students, flagging state support, and challenging student-demographic trends, just about every college leader in the nation is searching for the miracle cure-all that will reduce spending and open up new streams of revenue.”

Worse, she strongly suggests that any resistance to the recommendations of these consultants amounts to an self-serving and even gratuitous obstruction of institutional progress: “Yet seemingly more often than not, when the consultants from these national firms show up promoting money-saving approaches—like…

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