Tuesday, September 30, 2003

How it could be here 

Some faculty and students ask me what it would take for us to be happier. I don't expect much from faculty, but what I hope for are things like the toughness our College Republicans showed during the Israeli flag affair last year. Another great example is happening at the University of Virginia. John Rosenberg at Discriminations is providing continuing coverage here, here, here and here. Erin O'Connor suggests why most students will blow it off:
most people will decide to compromise themselves in order to get past this requirement and get registered. Most will decide that it doesn't matter all that much that the school is attempting to dictate belief, and most will decide that it's no big moral deal to give the online test the answers it obviously wants them to give in order to pass. Beliefs about race may not be altered by a superficial and transparently agenda-driven online program. But the belief that one's conscience is sacrosanct, and that institutional attempts to impose on one's conscience--however obvious, however well-intended, however poorly conceived--are inexcusable and must be resisted will inevitably be eroded. UVa's mandatory diversity training is more likely to teach lessons in moral expediency than in racial tolerance.
That's why students like our CRs are to be admired. They said 'no' from the start.

Diversity essay Cliff Notes 

Psssst! Hey kids! Need to write a diversity essay for your college application but think the whole thing is bunkum? Peter Wood is with you: "It is also a device to ensure that candidates commit themselves, at least rhetorically, to the campus ideology of diversity." But he offers you advice in case you need it.
The key to a good college-application diversity essay is drama. One of the best approaches is to compose a story that captures the moment at which one of the deep truths of "diversity" crystallized for you. There are three such diversity deep truths (DDTs), and you can choose the one best suits your taste: (DDT 1) the reality of prejudice in American life, (DDT 2) the sheer thrill of encountering cultural difference, and (DDT 3) pride in one's own diversity.
For DDT 1 he suggests starting the essay with a sentence such as "Jimmy Thundecloud and I were shooting hoops one day after school when..."; for DDT 2 try "I didn't know what would happen the night before the big game when my friend Mike decided to tell the other guys on the football team that she was transgendered...", and for DDT 3 you could use "I thought I was just like everyone else until one day when my friend Shirley asked why I had so many freckles" -- even if you aren't a member of a preferred group, because hey, we're all diverse, just like everyone else.

Can I buy stock in Kaplan?

What tenure buys 

Independence. Just ask Erin.
In its present form, the tenure system--in the academic humanities anyway--does less to protect "academic freedom" than it does to reward conformity and perpetuate a closed, insecure system of often unearned, frequently abused privilege. ... Yes, I do have tenure. Yes, I would give it up gladly if the system were reformed along more ethically responsive and responsible lines. Yes, there are plenty of people who say they would not have voted to tenure me if they had known I would become the author of a weblog as offensive to their political sensibilities as Critical Mass is--which proves my point about conformity, and which is one reason why I mistrust the tenure system so deeply and why I hold even my own tenure to be awfully cheap.

I want my health ben-nies! 

Taxes for nothing and your schools for free.

The faculty union budget (and other unions on campus) are the lead headline in the University Chronicle today, and the discussion centers on the lack of money for rising health care costs. Along with a proposal to give promotions to faculty moving from associate to full professors without any increase in their salary (it's not enough money to solve any big issues, IMO, but I'm checking on that), the big issue is health benefits. The article claims that $138.3 million additional would be spent to maintain our health benefits at current levels, money not budgeted by the state Legislature.
The state proposed a new annual deductible of $200-1,000 for families, higher drug co-pays of $17 instead of the current $12 and a higher out-of-pocket maximum for drugs of $2,000 for families, compared to the current $600 maximum. Non-drug annual out-of-pocket maximum would go up to $4,000 from $1,600.

The dental program would be preventative only - no fillings, crowns or orthodontics - with an annual $400 per person maximum for benefits. ...

"It basically boils down to a salary decrease," said Wil Harri, who represents IFO [the faculty union] in the bargaining. ...

But Employee Relations Commissioner Cal Ludeman said there's nothing more he can do.

"To pretend that there's millions of dollars hiding in state agencies or in the state budget available for one more go-around, no there's not," Ludeman told the Star Tribune last week. "We've stretched. I've done everything I can to put together this best offer. We mean it."

Ludeman added that if the state keeps the benefits at the same level it would be too expensive and several hundred employees would be laid off. So far, 940 state workers have already been laid off.
Workers from AFSCME and MAPE have rejected this offer but are not yet threatening to strike. Harri is correct that it's a salary decrease, but that is in fact what has been voted for by the Legislature. Denying reality is not an option. The question is how we will bear the cost. We've already increased tuition 15%, I have no equipment budget, and salaries are 65% of costs, so where else shall we turn? But, as this document from the university shows, the plan all along was for a 5% salary increase and fringe benefits were planned to rise from 29% to 30% of salary costs. There's probably money on the table out there.

HURL Follies II: Diversity not served by the escape from poverty 

At first I thought this HURL offering, the second in our series, would be dull. Here's the course description.
HURL 413/513 Diversity in the Workplace. Examination of institutional policies and personal (sic) practices pertaining to harassment and discrimination in the workplace based on gender, race, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation and class. Knowledge and skills to enhance a constructive work environment for respect and equality.
The inclusion of class was kind of strange, insofar as they are not part of the law of workplace harassment and discrimination. But it was only in reading one of the course objectives that its meaning became clear.
Exploration of national and international debates which provide a societal context in which workplace oppression occurs; affirmative action, EEO policies, immingration status, NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), GATT (General Agree on Trade and Tariffs)(sic), export of jobs to other countries, elimination of jobs through technology.
Again, this is a course called "Diversity in the Workplace". In what way is this objective germane? And their proposed course outline has 15% for "NAFTA, GATT export of jobs to other countries, elimination of jobs through technology." Why? Any chance their students would see even The Commanding Heights? Not bloody likely. This never ceases to amaze me. Do they really think child labor is a 20th century phenomenon created by multinational corporations? You have to have a pretty poor grasp of history to think that.

And there's little doubt that they want to turn students towards activism. The last 20% of the course is outlined as "[p]ursuit of descriptive and constructive ways of dealing with conflict and of channeling personal power toward cultural and social structural change in the workplace."

Monday, September 29, 2003

Hinkle and civility at 'Cal Porny' 

"Busy" Eugene Volokh is all over the Cal Poly-Hinkle case. The L.A. Times is covering Hinkle along with a proposed policy on downloading pornography at Cal Poly. In the article Volokh is quoted
Offensive speech is just something you will be exposed to at a university. Universities are inherently messy places and must provide maximum access to ideas, good or bad.
Volokh at his site later links to a copy of the policy on downloads, which it turns out
would have imposed a viewpoint-based restriction on sending or reading "racially or ethnically degarding material" (limited to non-University purposes, of course, but that would presumably cover a wide range of extracurricular student speech). It would have also prohibited any extracurricular sending or reading any description of lewd exhibitions of nudity, sexual excitement, or sexual conduct. (Emphasis in original.)
The proposers of the policy call themselves "Citizens for a More Civil Campus."

N.B.: Civility is viewpoint-based restriction. I wonder if these citizens gave any thought to Hinkle's treatment when he posted his flyer and when they held their hearing.

Human Relations follies -- Part I 

I've decided to run a series of these. This is the Department of the 3.7 GPA's new course proposals going through the university curriculum process. This is not satire -- I'm not that funny. I'll run one each day this week. At some later time I'll let you know if they passed and became actual courses. Odds of our process turning them down about as good as the odds of Terrell Owens appearing in Anger Management 2.

HURL 411/511 Heterosexism. Study of institutionalized heterosexism and homophobia and the impact on LGBTQ people. Prereq. 201 or 497. 3 credits. Demand.
(Note to uninitiated -- HURL 201 is a general education course titled "Non-Oppressive Relationships" which offers "Development of practical skills for eliminating racism, sexism and other oppressive elements from personal, professional and public life." HURL 497 is the same thing for education majors. See their bulletin descriptions. The 4xx/5xx designation means the course can be used as an upper-level undergraduate course or as graduate course.)

The course outline includes 10% on "Coalition building, transgender activism and institutional social change." Others in the outline include "current institutional issues, challenges and changes..." and "cultural stagnation, shifts and mainstream influences." One of the objectives is "to engage in rigorous self-reflection related to students' own socially constructed identities and their relationship to this form of oppression." I'm not sure if the Q is for "questioning" or "queer".

Question to commenters wishing to support this course: How does one differentiate an 'A' from a 'C'?

Civility and Censors 

I've been gone for months, and loved the seclusion. But it's time to get back and add a little to the terrific work King does. And my start was auspicious: Our campus is starting a discussion of "civility" in academic discourse. It appears that some of the faculty and administration are a bit too delicate for the normal discourse that has gone on, and since in contemporary education it's a major sin to offend someone, they want to muffle what we say on university lists. That one professor used the word 'inane,' for instance, referring to a joke posted by someone else, created a major fuss.

I wrote the note below to go out Friday afternoon to our faculty discussion list. But it hasn't yet gone out, the first time a note of mine hasn't made it. It's probably not censorship -- probably just a ghost in the machine. But it's fun to believe I might have been significant enough to censor. I have a student who joined Peace Corps, went to Russia, and then was told to leave by the KGB. Being censored here isn't in the same league, but it's a start. Anyway, here's my note to the SCSU faculty that didn't make it:

Certainly the desire to censor somebody is a perennially human. Nat Hentoff is about the best author on all of this, and his Free Speech For Me But Not For Thee is worth reading, but its tough to go from desire to application. To want to censor is easy; doing it can be hard.

So we hit questions like who is going to determine what constitutes appropriate speech? And how will they make clear precisely what acceptable speech is? Will there be a word list? Will we not say "inane' any more? If 'inane' is forbidden, I can think of a lot of other words with equal or greater force that will have to be forbidden too; this could be a very long list. I'm glad I don't have to make it up. Or will context be important? Can we say some things or people are inane and others not? Or does who one is matter? A double standard has been pretty clear in the past, so would there be people who we can offend and others we can't? Or, if it's a horrific (can I say that?) thing to offend someone else, will acceptable language depend on the proclivity of others to be offended? And how will this be implemented? Will messages have to go through a screening committee before they are posted? (Boy, would I hate that job, though I doubt there's much danger I would be asked to do it.) Will somebody stop messages from going out and doing all their crushing (can I say that?) damage, or will writers merely be punished afterwards? And, of course, what will the punishment be? What's it worth to have offended somebody else, especially the most fragile among us who are most easily offended?

This list of questions could go on, and very well may. But to be honest my advice is to forget this whole business as soon as possible. Let people talk, and if they say something nasty (can I say that?) to you, either say something nasty back, or get a nasty friend to help you say something nasty back, or -- and this is usually my most preferred course of action -- go home and have a slug or two of good whiskey (can I mention whiskey) and blow the whole thing off (can I say that?). Those who aren't given to good whiskey can surely find an equivalent.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

How old is the gown? 

Is there any town-and-gown issue more potent for argument than parking? The St. Cloud City Council has instituted permits for "street" parking on streets closest to the campus. Fees are $225 per year, vs. $175 for campus lots (administered by the university) or $100 (about a half-mile off campus, with free shuttle.) There are 133 slots of city street parking but only 93 bought so far. I wonder who set the price? Two quotes illustrate the town/gown problem:
The city's move, which took place in the summer when most students are away, was underhanded, said Cory Lawrence, student government president.

"It'll become a revenue-generating thing for the city," he said. "I think that's wrong. The city shouldn't be out to make money off students."
The city, of course, has a city sales tax, so it already is making money off students.
South Side residents are frustrated with the parking situation, resident Jerry Middelstadt said.

"Students need to have respect for the people that live here," he said. "This is not a college neighborhood. It's a neighborhood near the college."
SCSU was instituted in its present location in 1869.

Friday, September 26, 2003

"Kumbaya, my Lord..." 

... was sung at a high school diversity camp, says The Conservative Crust who wonders, "What about sensitivity to atheists?" Cost of the camp is $165 a head (no word on cookie discounts) making it likely that this camp isn't for rural or working-class kids.
It's ``ludicrous'' and ``absurd'' to devote class time and public school funds to diversity camps when students are still struggling with literacy, said Matt Cox, an education policy fellow with the San Francisco-based Pacific Research Institute.

Richard Valenzuela, a Camp Anytown sensitivity trainer, disagreed.

``We're getting so caught up with academics and testing that we're losing some kids'' to other societal ills, Valenzuela said.
Yes, what we have here is too much academics going on! We're losing kids, Jim. LOSING THEM!

SMU responds 

Officials at Southern Methodist University have issued a press release defending their decision to shut down the bake sale. Curmudgeonly Clerk has more. Simple note: Prices are communication; price controls are censorship. I love how Dwight Lee tells that story. (Hat tip: Eugene Volokh.)

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Lawsuit filed in Cal Poly case 

FIRE has issued a press release announcing they have filed suit for First Amendment rights of Steve Hinkle. FIRE has kept a history of articles about Hinkle's case, which we discussed in July. Cal Poly insists that they support "free, civil and orderly exchange of ideas, values and opinions" on an "open and ordered campus." The money quote from Cal Poly:
Cal Poly offers and supports many venues for freedom of expression, including rallies, impromptu speeches in public areas, and public bulletin boards throughout campus.
Doesn't that seem out of place? Of course it does, but that is in fact what the Hinkle case is about. Apparently they know about chutzpah at Cal Poly.

Cookies -- unsafe at any speed 

What the hell?
Southern Methodist University shut down a bake sale Wednesday in which cookies were offered for sale at different prices, depending on the buyer's race or gender.

The sale was organized by the Young Conservatives of Texas, who said it was intended as a protest of affirmative action. ...

Similar sales have been held by College Republican chapters at colleges in at least five other states since February.

A black student filed a complaint with SMU, saying the sale was offensive. SMU officials said they halted the event after 45 minutes because it created a potentially unsafe situation.

"This was not an issue about free speech," Tim Moore, director of the SMU student center, said in a story for Thursday's edition of The Dallas Morning News. "It was really an issue where we had a hostile environment being created."

It's hostile to offer students of color a discount on cookies?

UPDATE: Best of the Web picked up the story, including this quote from a SMU sophomore:

My reaction was disgust because of the ignorance of some SMU students. They were arguing that affirmative action was solely based on race. It's not based on race. It's based on bringing a diverse community to a certain organization.
Notes BotW, "Doublethink is alive and well in Dallas."

UPDATE 2: Eugene Volokh makes an excellent point: As a private university (unlike SCSU), SMU can do this if they want to, but...

Is SMU the sort of place where students are free to express their political views on one of the leading ethical, legal, and political issues of the day? Or is this the sort of place where complaints that ideas are "offensive" are enough to shut those ideas down? If it's the latter, then SMU might be a place where classes are taught -- but it's not my idea of what a modern university should be.
UPDATE LAST (boy did the blogosphere jump all over this!) You really should read Michael at Highered Intelligence as well with this reaction to the student quote in the first update:
that has to be my least favourite rhetorical maneuver of all time. Republicans, Democrats, and Idiots alike constantly say stuff like this. It's not about what it is actually about, it's about what we want it to be about. It's not about higher taxes, it's about a balanced budget. It's not about race, it's about diversity.

Suspicious? Me? You betcha 

Many fireworks are going off around campus over the civility code. The faculty senate meeting this week had several senators wishing to bring it up but running out of time because of a letter of support for our committee on diversity education and our committee on diversity, anti-semitism and social justice. (The mere fact that there are two committees should speak volumes to how far off the tracks this place has jumped.) Apparently, even they are not happy about the civility code.
Our Committees share a concern about the centrality of "civility" in the drafted Diversity Plan and a grave concern about the proposed "Civility and Academic Freedom Draft" [sic] currently being circulated by the administration. This concern emerges for us from a number of sources. Historically, social concepts like civility have been deployed against people of color, the poor and working classes, against women, GLBT peoples, people with disabilities, Jewish and other religious minorities to silence and punish dissent ... When civilty is used as a principle of etiquette, the righteous anger of those who are subject to racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, sexism and all forms of sexual violence, ableism, and ageism is represented as being inappropriate and impolite.
Yes, they really do talk like that. I'll save the rest for another post to make a different point. It's noteworthy, however, that the concerns they express have parallels in our concerns that the academic freedom that defended these very groups forty years ago are now being eroded by them.

Also in the meeting we received an unofficial set of minutes of a meeting between the union and administration from Sept. 11, 2003, in which the civility code was discussed. The author of the code identifies the primary source of our code as the civility code at the bottom of this bulletin page from IUPUI. They claim it is "in compliance with the AAUP guideline on academic freedom and professional ethics", though I cannot see how this is true, assuming they mean the 1940 Statement. As I noted in my dissection earlier, AAUP's own counsel doesn't seem to support this type of speech restriction, either. There are two statements that need to be seen to be believed.

[union]The contract says that any disciplinary action must result only from just cause. It definse just cause as an action taken with a reason. Do you seek to put lack of civility under that list of reasons?

[administration]Yes. ... I think there are instances where people harass and I think some action should be taken. My understanding is that the administration in the past has been held accountable for not taking action.

If the goal is to prevent harassment, then by all means prevent harassment (though I again refer to Eugene Volokh's commentary on workplace harassment law). But the First Amendment doesn't end at the university parking lot. And it's worth noting that IUPUI's civility code only seeks to buttress existing harassment law -- our draft document goes further to create a class of speech which can be punished that does not necessarily violate harassment law.
[admin]When people threaten or intimidate or are intolerant -- those are things addressed by this proposed policy -- not disagreements or criticisms but the way they are voiced.
How does one judge this? It is far too vague. I am intolerant of people who distort facts. I am intolerant of falseness. If I speak forcefully when people post complete fabrications in order to support, for example, continued antipathy over Bush and Iraq, have I committed an actionable offense? Do the people who fabricate suffer consequences for lying? One might hope the union would see through this, but the best I get from them is this:
I understand the word 'civility.' To me it is non-threatening. Given that we are human beings, it can be misconstrued. Whose interpretation of 'civility' are we to follow? We are all professionals. I have heard the word 'professionalism' here today. Would that be a more benign or acceptable term? ... It is a question of mutual suspicion.
Indeed it is, but the wrong turn you take is "we are all professionals." A professional academic has different aims and a different conception of professionalism than a professional administrator, and both those conceptions differ from the professional activists who inhabit our two committees. You will never get agreement on these; AAUP understood this wisely and decided that the only curative to speech we don't like is more speech.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Teaching democracy and Montessori 

Joanne Jacobs quotes a parent who seems to have become frustrated by her children's school textbook adoption process, and offers this:
I now see the similarities between the argument that we cannot impose democracy on Iraq because Iraqis must discover democracy for themselves when they are ready, and the argument that we cannot teach children algorithms for addition and subtraction because children must discover their own algorithms that will make sense to them, when they are ready.
Is there a connection between constructivist and conservative worldviews? I'd suggest a good read of Maria Montessori. The commenters on Jacobs' site seem to think of constructivism as unstructured. My experience watching my daughter's Montessori education is that it's highly structured while permitting choices. Indeed, I'd call it "libertarian". Likewise, libertarianism in a democracy does not necessarily mean anarchy.

Flexible, without giving away the store. 

A professor on campus set along a story about Cambridge College, a school that seems intent on helping teachers get a masters degree and the increased pay that comes from it. The story in the WSJ (subscribers only) suggests the problem is the desire for credentials.
With the federal government and many states demanding more advanced degrees of teachers -- and providing financial incentives -- Cambridge is one of many schools that have significantly sped up access to the master's degree in education through nontraditional schedules and other accommodations.

Some fear that all the shortcuts are putting too much emphasis on credentials as an end in themselves -- instead of focusing on what's best for students. "We ought not automatically reward teachers with a salary increase for master's degrees," says Jennifer King Rice, an education professor at the University of Maryland, who recently wrote an analysis of 80 studies on teacher training. "We should reward instead specific, demonstrated mastery of content and teaching methods."

Cambridge administrators say the urgent social need to train teachers justifies helping them in scheduling, grading and admissions. "We try to be as flexible as we can without giving away the store," says Jorge Cardoso, the 51-year-old director of the summer program, called the National Institute for Teaching Excellence.

Some research suggests that a teacher's gaining an advanced degree, particularly in education rather than in a specific subject taught, such as math or science, has little bearing on student performance. More vital are a teacher's intelligence, experience and mastery of the subject. The 2001 "No Child Left Behind" law, which requires that all teachers be "highly qualified" as a condition of federal aid to public schools in high-poverty areas, specifies that a graduate degree would be one way to meet that standard.
The area has been a boon to online and for-profit schools like University of Phoenix and Lesley College in Cambridge.

I'm on board 

Schwarzenegger's piece in OpinionJournal vindicates my view that he is actually quite libertarian. A major political candidate cites Friedman and Smith as his influences and sends them the book that spawned the video I use in class? He's my guy now. He doesn't diss McClintock, but it's clear now that the Tombots cannot get to his right on fiscal issues. Here's a guess that this, plus the debate tonight, drives McClintock into the 5-7% range and lets Arnold squeak by Bustamente by 2%.

EDIT: Keep forgetting to change the title that Blogger picks up on the blogthis script. Note to Blogger: I don't like that feature.

Off the mark 

Tongue Tied notes that in England, you can't fail the national standardized tests; you get an 'N' instead for 'Nearly'.
People who grade tests have also been instructed to stop marking math questions as right or wrong, but instead use the terms �creditworthy� or �not creditworthy.�
Apparently, HURL is branching out. (Hat tip also to Helloooo Chapter Two for noting this "we're done as a society when..." moment.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Students get a peek 

The campus newspaper tries to explain the tenure system in a long piece today. The criteria discussed is within this article in the faculty contract. (See section B.) The paper's editorial, predictably, doesn't think tenured professors are involved enough with students.
Good though they may be, the MnSCU evaluation standards still do not quite cover all bases. Nowhere is there a specific area for evaluating people skills. This might fall under "teaching" if interpreted broadly, but the editorial board would like to see professors held accountable for their finesse for person-to-person interaction. No one should presume that professors have the most excellent or perfect people skills, of course, but students should expect that their professors can be lively in the classroom. Professors should be excited to promote learning. Tenure evaluations already touch on this subject, but more emphasis should be placed on the professor's ability to interact with people, both on a professor-to-student and a professor-to-classroom basis.

Someone gets it right 

At the University of Alabama, the proposed speech code mentioned here earlier has now been shelved, says Liberty & Power.
Defenders of free speech showed up to fill the meeting room. They included students from the residence halls, members of the Alabama Scholars Association, and others who brought a variety of flags, including the U.S., Israeli, Italian, and Christian. The demonstration effectively showed the absurdity of the ban and illustrated the general threat that it posed to free speech.

Monday, September 22, 2003

What was the target? 

According to the St. Cloud Times our enrollment was 15,444 students this fall compared to 15,719 last fall.
The university's strategic plan calls for enrollment of 15,000 to 16,000 students. The university has implemented waiting lists the past two years to limit the number of students it accepts, largely because of budget cuts and limited classes.

"This was a very tightly balanced year," said Michael Spitzer, provost and vice president for academic affairs. "It was important that we maintain our enrollment."
But a 2% decline in enrollment would mean a loss of almost $1 million in state budget for students, and about that again in lost tuition, right? Well not so fast, because it turns out students are registering for more coursework than before, so the net effect is a much less than 200 students (indeed, based on one internal report it looks like it's less than 70.) Maybe if we do a better job of holding onto the students we have, we won't worry so much about how many new students we enroll.

Civility's just another word for hiding 

Ralph Luker at Welcome To My World ... shows what happens when people hide behind civility codes to resist calls to verify their academic research. On Sept. 17th he asked Christine Heyrman to "show some real professional pride in your Bancroft Prize winning book. Get Random House and UNC Press committed to a revised edition of it; don't misuse ellipses this time around; use comparable data; and do the additions correctly." Fairly strong, true, but he had pointed out his initial findings in a rather dry academic piece, to which she made only one small admission. He then proceeded to reproduce that piece and his call for clarifications into a letter he sent to several historians. The list included Glenda Gilmore, a Yale historian and nominee of a Sontag Award by Andrew Sullivan. Her response is a stinging condemnation of Luker (reprinted in his 9/20 post) closing with "All I can do is point out to you that this crosses my boundaries of civility, and that I would appreciate your taking me off this list. " Luker replies:
As you may know, I am a Southerner and a gentleman. Civility stands fairly high on my scale of values. The recent embarrassments to our profession, however, leave mere civility impotent. Like sincerity, it's a second-rate virtue. It always depends on what one is being civil or sincere about.
My civility twice went to lunch with Michael Bellesiles after his debacle and long after his Emory colleagues had begun to shun him. We had fine repasts, but as soon as grace was said, I told him that I didn't believe him.
I may be wrong, but I think we've a sort of professional crisis on our hands and we will avoid confronting it if we can. It sure is easier to be civil if we do.
UPDATE: See Critical Mass for more.

Summers again 

Michael at Highered Intelligence! discusses another story about Larry Summers, the Harvard president, as he battles to reform the curriculum. Notes the Boston Globe
Conant's curriculum [Conant was Harvard's postwar president and created a general education curriculum that focused on the humanities --kb] spoke to an age when the belief in systematically unifying human knowledge, and using it to advance democracy and prosperity, was strong. In his own way, Summers is an heir to Conant's optimistic, liberal-minded, science-friendly tradition. But he lives in a very different age, when the belief that there is any single, universally valid organization of knowledge has come into question, and some theoreticians batter away at the universal truth claims of science even as it changes the world at a dizzying pace.

Summers and his faculty are searching for educational consensus at a time when new fields of knowledge are multiplying as rapidly as Internet blogs, and the very concept of consensus is in ill repute in some quarters. Harvard College Associate Dean Jeffrey Wolcowitz estimates that "with 650 faculty members, there will be 650 ideas about what we want our students to learn.''

Conant's vision, summarized in the Redbook that defined Harvard general education in 1945, was unifying and structured, not the mishmash that we teach today at places like SCSU and
our accrediting body. That is to say, they don't take the humanities seriously, and this is the problem Michael sees for both Harvard and the rest.
You see, at UCLA the science scholars take the humanities seriously. That's because they are scholars. At Harvard, Larry Summers wants the collegiate dilettantes to take the sciences seriously. But the problem isn't that they aren't taking science courses, or that they aren't getting enough science content. The problem is that the collegiate dilettante, whatever field they are in, doesn't take knowledge seriously.
So here's the problem we face: We need to have a faculty that can make students take knowledge seriously, nurture a love of learning that lasts a lifetime. And yet we are asking faculty who in many ways do not take knowledge seriously themselves. The dilletantes are tenured.

Name is name 

A quick clarification: I don't mind folks misspelling my last name (hint: every other letter is an 'a'), but King is in fact my real first name. It's my maternal grandmother's maiden name and the result of my father knowing Latin and hating the name Rex. (How's that for Infinite Monkeys link trolling!?!) I hated the name as a kid -- my favorite song as a lad was Johnny Cash's "A Boy Named Sue" -- and still have friends who use nicknames instead (and why I sign most things with a lower kb), but over time I've come to like it largely because nobody ever forgets it. Seeing myself called called The King causes me great anxiety over being painted onto velvet surfaces.

Still, Roger, it's good to be King.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

He who pays the ISP calls the tune 

At the outset of this blog I decided it needed to be hosted off-campus. While at some schools respect for a faculty member's opinion outside of the classroom allows for even controversial sites (see Eric Rasmusen), I did not think we'd have that protection here. The purge of the faculty discussion email list and the proposed civlity code only confirm my suspicions.

That is further reinforced this morning by Hugh Hewitt's alert to us about the Sacramento Bee. Its ombudsman alerts readers that from here on all of its web content will be vetted by an editor. This includes Dan Weintraub's blog, The California Insider, which has been a real-time outlet for news and opinion on the California recall election. It appears there was an argument between the web people and the newsroom editors, and the editors won.
Ed Canale, The Bee's vice president of new media and strategic planning, said that at the inception of sacbee.com, "We made a decision not to replicate the newsroom." The "290 trained journalists" in the newsroom, he said, provide much of the content for the Web.

That's not good enough, in my view. Rodriguez said The Bee did once have an editor in the newsroom dedicated full-time to Web content, but after some newsroom restructuring the job was appended to the already considerable responsibilities of the editor who posted the press release.

Let me put it as plainly as possible: Half-measures don't work. The newsroom needs someone (and probably more than one person) with full-time responsibility for and authority over Web content. I hope that The Bee considers that its credibility is worth more than the cost of one full-time employee. (emphases mine)
I can see their point. Weintraub's blog is on their site and has their banner across it. Speech is location-specific, and if you speak on someone's website, that person should have some control over what is on their site. This is de Jourvenal's "chairman's problem" that free market apostle Murray Rothbard often spoke of. (See Timothy Terrell's explanation FMI.)

But while I think the ombudsman and editors have the right to make this decision, I think the SacBee has made a poor decision for two reasons. First, as the Commissioner points out, slowing the flow of information from reporters is a bad idea. Weintraub's blog represented
...a decision to move one paper into the new century by equipping its best talent with a computer and a mission to report in real-time, thus moving an old-media dinosaur out of the swamp. Weintraub has consistently delivered scoop after scoop and most of his postings have shaped the news cycle that followed.
But that elevation of reporters means a concomitant loss of power to editors, just as this blog's existence removes some power from the administration to control its public presence.

Second, the independence of an opinion writer is in fact part of their attraction. Looking at California Insider makes it quite plain that this is Weintraub speaking on his own. His independence is part of what they are selling. I think an admission that he is going to be edited makes Weintraub's pieces less attractive. The ombudsman's article might give the Sacramento establishment more comfort and the Bee's editors less pressure, but it may come at the cost of readership.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

In a position to know 

Do you think the ability to determine what is racist is determined by genetics? It appears they do at Mesa State University, says Critical Mass. After the student newspaper used a colorful headline to describe a victory over our conference's University of North Dakota, the faculty adviser tells the Associated Press that he's uniquely qualified to speak about this.
The faculty adviser to the paper, Morris Brown, also apologized to the Indian student club. He said the paper would print a front-page retraction.

Brown cited his status as the only black professor on campus as reason for the club members to believe his apology.

'If I were white, yeah, you could be skeptical, but as a black man and a brother, I know how you feel,' Brown said. 'If I were Caucasian, I wouldn't expect you to listen.'

Erin O'Connor at Critical Mass explains,
They have now effectively announced that they answer to the special interest groups on campus, and they have indicated, too, that as white people they do not have jurisdiction over their word choice: that when someone who is "in a position to know" says a word is unacceptable, then that word most certainly is.

They even get better libraries at Harvard 

The days of the spinster librarian seem to be over.
A black Harvard librarian who claims her boss said she was too ``sexy'' to get promoted has hit the university with a race and gender discrimination suit.

...her female supervisor told her in December 2001 that her ``sexy outfits,'' ``tight clothing'' and ``low cut blouses,'' coupled with an alleged bad reputation, were holding her back.

Library honchos had ``heard things through the grapevine'' about her, the supervisor allegedly said.

[The] suit says she wears the same styles as young white female librarians.

Surely this is just part of Love Your Body Day. (Hat Tip: Newmark's Door.)

Friday, September 19, 2003

Parking -- what our students say 

Steve Frank, one of the directors of the SCSU Survey, sends along an interesting poll of student opinion. Here, parking isn't the issue it used to be, because money concerns are dominating. In response to the question " What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing the SCSU Community?" asked each of the last three years, here are a set of responses (volunteered, not prodded).

Diversity 17% 31% 17%
Parking 29% 20% 12%
6% 3% 27%

As far as I know, there has been no change in the quantity of parking spots over the last three years. 2002 saw the publicity of the anti-Semitism suits here, and I supposed the administration will be happy that the issue is dying down, but there's still a sixth of the campus that views this as the primary problem -- I wonder what that number is like elsewhere.

A friend of my who is in downtown development says parking is always perceived to be a problem when there are other problems.

Four bars back to you 

Stephen plays his second solo in our duet on administrators saving money by teaching themselves.
So, what would it cost to have some administrators teach real classes? ... First, we lose some administrative meetings and some scheming up of new requests for information to send to the faculty. Second, we might get some sense from the 8.00 to 4.30 crowd about what our reality on the faculty has been, i.e. we can find time in our schedule to teach more courses, we can find time in our schedule to teach more students per course, we can find time in our schedule to fill in assessment reports, we can find time in our schedule to develop new forms of assessment, we can find time in our schedule to fill in the same human resources form for each external speaker. Third, we'd be less subject to criticism for relying on part-timers and inexperienced graduate students to teach courses.
I'll trade four bars back: First, most of these requests seem to come from people who don't belong in classrooms at any rate. Most of them have long ago abandoned any pretense of doing academic research, and someone who is not up-to-date with what is current in their fields shouldn't be teaching. Indeed, second, that is often what part-timers and inexperienced grad students can offer -- what is new? Sometimes you don't need this -- a previous university president here taught for free, but he was in political philosophy, where cutting edge isn't necessarily better than Aristotle. (I know I'm asking for a butt-whipping on that one.) But our current president is a biologist, a field that changes greatly in short periods of time. Our previous academic VP was an economist who seemed quite uninterested in our research. Do we really want those folks in the classrooom? And as for getting these people to have any empathy for the daily rhythm of teaching faculty? I don't think they can lay down that beat.

Baby you can park my car 

Much of the history of the Scholars stems from a discussion list (now revised, and effectively killed if traffic is any indication). That list discussed many issues, but one of the first was parking on campus. The Cranky Professor this week links an article from CNN that says it is still a problem. It's pretty clearly a peak demand problem, one not well managed on many campuses, according to the article.
"It would be great if the people who teach a class, and the people who take a class, and the people who decide when classes are offered," realized they all need places to park -- and thought about staggering class times, said Beth Glaus, the manager of parking and transit at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau.
Good luck. Most faculty think it's a birthright to teach between 10 and 2; last night I heard an ESPN Radio announcer say that nobody should have to take classes before 10am. Personally, if I have a difficult course to teach, I prefer it early in the morning. Get it over with, and discourage the sleepyheads from registering.

But, as Cranky points out, the decision by Univ. of Arkansas to sell 14000 permits for 8300 slots smacks of airline overbooking.

On a related note, after six years of waiting, I finally got a parking spot in the lot next to my building. All praise to SCSU Public Safety!

Blessed insomnia 

Had a great time at the Twins game last night, and when I got home I thought I would check email. (I tell my students that if they write me before 11pm, they'll get an answer by morning.) I find the University Chronicle in my mailbox, and within it is this bit of anti-gun screediness by a young student. Amused, I sent it to Mitch, the Northern Alliance gunsmith at Shot in the Dark. Lucky for us all, Mitch had insomnia and scored a double off this meatball pitch by early morning. Rounding first base:
With this next bit, I can imagine the ghost of Skip Humphrey, smiling down from heaven, knowing that a liberal angel had gotten its wings with this bit:

I thought it was a well-known fact that one shouldn't carry a loaded, concealed weapon with them in public places, especially places like bars and taverns. I can somehow picture the horrible combination of drunk rednecks and firearms producing not-so-pretty results.

Memo to Matt Entenza: Well, you have to feel all warm and fuzzy in his [political] grave right now, knowing that his carefully-spun propaganda had the desired effect with at least one young woman.

Question: If someone with a degree in Literature who can play the Brandenburg Concertos on the cello from memory and can get around in four languages gets a concealed carry permit, is that person automatically a "redneck"? Are they drawn to alchohol, bars, and brawls through some unknown force?

And how many of the drunk rednecks that plague, er, the Crossroads Mall does Amanda Deegen [the editorial writer --kb] figure have gotten carry permits?

Question: What is Amanda Deegen's major?

I'll bet one with a high departmental GPA. And now Mitch goes into second standing up:
I'd like to talk about your catch-phrases for carrying a pistol.

Here are some that need to go:

  • Packing Heat - this is a piece of argot that hasn't been used outside of a gangster movie in over forty years. Why not say "packing a Roscoe" and really sound cool?
  • Locked and Loaded - I know - it's got that cool, GI Joe tang to it. But all it means is that you have a round in the chamber and the safety catch is on; it's like referring to driving a car as "gassed and in gear".
Well, what do you expect from people who take the word diversity and, rather than have it mean "noticeable heterogeneity", turn it instead into a rallying cry against those who teach the classics?

Thursday, September 18, 2003


If you're interested in the Rasmussen weblog case, you can hardly do much better than to read the Hoosier Review. Zach Wendling comments on a report that one suggested remedy is for "pro-diversity" speakers to visit business classes.
Much of the animosity toward Prof. Rasmusen's comments centered on the fact that discussions of homosexuals have nothing to do with business or the professor's research, and therefore had no place on his personal home page, which the university pays for. So why is it appropriate to bring pro-diversity speakers, who will also presumably speak on homosexuals, into business classes? The bottom line is that it is ok to discuss non-germane topics so long as it fits the political correctness agenda.

And if that's not enough... 

From they of the 3.7 departmental GPA:
Truth and Lies of "9-11", September 24, 2003. 1:00-3:00 p.m. College of Education Lounge

Join us in the College of Education Lounge on September 24th from 1:00-3:00 pm for a discussion of "9-11" and the justifications for wars, the violations of civil liberties, the misuse of media and the mythic link to Saddam Hussein. We will show a short video and undoubtedly facilitate a lively discussion. Please announce to students in your classes, as appropriate.

Sponsored by the Department of Human Relations and Multicultural Education.

Yeah, "as appropriate". I love the evenhandedness of "mythic link".

Inflation -- it's out there. 

No, this is not about the Federal Reserve.

Charles Nuckolls asks whether there are parallels between grade inflation and price inflation.

We have dozens of little Argentinas in the United States today. They are called "universities." Their currency is the grade transcript, a "commodity" that has been losing value for decades as grade inflation eats away at its worth. Employers and graduate school admission committees increasingly discount the value of a recent graduate's transcript. They know that an "A" today means little or nothing, since, at many schools, most students receive A's just for showing up.
Nuckolls teaches at Alabama, where attempts to document grade inflation have been hampered by its administration. (Scroll down their page for the story.) I think his analogy is apt, and has even some extensions. For example, is there a Gresham's Law of grade inflation, whereby bad (inflated) grades drive good grades out of existence? Do students keep seeking higher and higher grades, so that one can get a hyperinflation wherein A+ (for a grade point greater than 4.0) is a common grade?

More intriguing, in my view, is the distribution of grades across disciplines. University average GPA at SCSU is 2.8; while researching a report I am writing on our department I found that our GPA is below 2.6. For the math classes our students are taking the GPA is even lower. But Human Relations and Multicultural Education? 3.7. How much of grade inflation has come from the creation of whole programs where one cannot even establish a grading standard? Here's the site so you can whip, chop and puree your own numbers, but only authorized users can figure out which courses are "high difficulty" (and we professors are NOT authorized.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

A pebble down a mountainside 

About a week ago we noted discussion on the Volokh Conspiracy of a story that the Colorado Legislature might be pushing for affirmative action hiring ... for conservatives. The story is overblown, however. The impetus for this story was David Horowitz' creation of an academic bill of rights that would require among other things that hiring, tenure and promotion of faculty be made without consideration of one's political or religious beliefs. Somehow, the Rocky Mountain News conflated this into an attempt to create political viewpoint quotas for hiring faculty. They now have recanted.
We feel a bit today like the boy who threw a pebble down a mountainside and watched it set off a raging rockslide. A News story and an editorial published last week on David Horowitz's Academic Bill of Rights have sparked nearly hysterical journalistic commentary and a faculty petition at a local college urging an investigation into Horowitz's contacts in this state.

One columnist in another newspaper said Horowitz's efforts were right out of the Soviet Union's playbook. Another evoked the Nazis and Joe McCarthy. The petition circulating at Metropolitan State College asks college officials to investigate "the scope and extent of the secret meeting" between state politicians and Horowitz, as if the outspoken author and activist were an agent from an underground revolutionary cell.

Along the way, the Academic Bill of Rights has been characterized as a plan "to force the hiring of more conservative faculty members at the state universities through encouragement, mandate or extortion," inject "more classics in the curriculum" and require the invitation of more conservative speakers onto campus.

As they admit, if they had simply read the document, they would not have reported it this way, and perhaps the hysteria would not have happened. As it is, they've handed Horowitz some great press.

As I suggested last week, this is largely a warning shot to get administrators and trustees to see how bad things are -- as the Rocky Mountain News notes in its recant.

If it's accurate, then maybe higher ed officials do in fact need someone like Horowitz reminding them of the values and practices they're supposed to defend. And if it isn't accurate, then the Academic Bill of Rights is an irrelevant restatement of the obvious and a threat to no one. Metro's faculty can turn off the sirens and relax.
Actually, I like the sirens. One can chase them to find the perpetrators who defraud academic freedom.

How I got coffee on my screen this morning 

From The Volokh Conspiracy:
A man is on his first visit to Boston, and he wants to try some of that delicious New England seafood that he'd long heard about. So he gets into a cab, and asks the driver, "Can you take me to where I can get scrod?" The driver replies, "I've heard that question a thousand time, but never in the pluperfect subjunctive."

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Going Switzerland without an axis 

We've got no dog in the fight over the Great Blog War. Commissioner Hugh has declared that he will coordinate the Northern Alliance's alignment. We prefer cigars the size of your forearm to those little Panters (is this what Lileks really smokes? They seem so ... so ... European.)

While on this subject, let me clarify two things based on posts by the Fraters and the Infinite Monkeys (who are in talks for accession to the NA.) We in fact are "we": Jack and Dave are here and post from time to time. It just so happens that I'm the one with bloggerrhea (and there's only one King, whom it is good to be.) Summer is a cherished time for professors, and those two, more senior and wiser, understood that it was a time to ramp down from other activities to research and relaxation.

The Monkeys wonder if Hewitt is a member of the NA as we have listed in the left index, and if we shamelessly pandered to Hewitt during the Fraters Fracas. The NA is Hewitt's invention -- if we ever pandered to anyone it was to PowerLine who pleaded our case to Hugh. We have even managed to ascend to the same ecosphere critter as the Fraters in no small part because of the generosity of PL and HH, and continued bon mots like these from Mitch. (Too kind, friend, too kind.) We'll dance with who brung us, thankee. Wonder if that translates to Latin?

What we have here is too many students 

That's at least what is happening at Northern Illinois University according to its student newspaper. What we need to do, says the editorial is find a way to get only the students who should be there to be there.
One reason so many students chose to come here is because of the admissions requirements. For next year�s admissions, the university should look to raise its standards. For example, require a higher ACT/SAT score or raise the grade point average requirement.

Another reason for the high enrollment could be because of the bad economy. When people can�t find good jobs, they usually go back to school to improve on their skills.

There is nothing wrong with that; but students who go here should have a plan and not just be here to waste time.

NIU is a good state university. It should not be thought of as a safety school or a school that anyone can get into.
Cold Spring Shops (my source for this story) notes that perhaps they've been seeing the empty seats in Friday classes. Stephen also wonders why we don't propose that administrators come back to class. We have some administrators back teaching here -- our dean teaches a history class for free, for instance -- but while this might add a few seats, it does nothing to reduce costs when you bear huge decreases. Stephen and I will be trading fours on this topic for awhile to come, as it appears NIU is in the same boat we are ... except we managed to alienate enough incoming students that we're more than 10% short of our first year enrollment yield. Somehow, I get this feeling that raising tuition 15% and lowering enrollment might have something to do with demand curves. I could be mistaken.

I think it's an industry 

The Cavalier Daily last week ran an article about the sexual harassment workshops required of students at the University of Virginia. Much like our own workshops, the workshops at UVa try to enforce an opinion, rather than inform the students of their rights and the procedures for filing harassment complaints.
In a final solicitation fitting to its pattern of hysterical psychobabble, the Women's Center asks that students affirm the following ideological oath: "I understanding [sic] that denying the pervasiveness of sexual harassment only perpetuates the problem." During the McCarthyism of the 1950s, many individuals of good conscience were intimidated into silence by a similar unfalsifiable logic, which argued that the allegedly vast communist conspiracies in America were so well hidden that only truly astute patriots could notice their presence. If you agreed with the claim, you validated it; if you dissented, you simply revealed yourself as either unenlightened or unpatriotic.

When agents of authority mandate standards of "correctness" in feelings and set limits on what should and should not be enjoyed, humanity itself recoils. Subjective preferences and proper senses of normalcy must be left in the realm of individual choice, and administrators should not seek to dominate social interactions through regulations that are prudish and harmful to both men and women.

Instead of bowing to this idiocy and accepting our administrators' casting of us as a lot of oppressive sexist harassers and naive female victims, we should tell them to shut up and leave us alone. We are not infants. We can decide for ourselves when we're being insulted or harassed, and we certainly don't need a bureaucracy of self-righteous old social engineers getting fat off our tax dollars and telling us what we understanding.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Performance on and off the field 

After our football team (which was ranked 6th nationally in D2) took a pasting in Kansas over the weekend, I got a note about this article by some researchers at the Univ. of Arkansas that suggests D1 basketball programs that are more successful lead to lower graduation rates. ParaPundit thinks this would lead astute administrators to kill off their basketball programs, but I'd note that this isn't true for D3 programs according to this article, and it doesn't even appear true for football. See also this article discussing basketball.

Enforced civility 

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, from Saigo's convocation speech, that there was a pernicious new initiative coming to control speech on the campus. Early last week we saw what they had in store. This is a proposed (not yet implemented, still under debate) document titled "Civility and Academic Freedom". Herewith, a critique, or perhaps a mini-Fisking.
One of our key goals at Saint Cloud State University is to foster a climate of civility and mutual respect among all individuals, regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, economic status or other characteristic.
What's missing from that list? Could it be ... viewpoint?
To build a vital community of learning, a university must provide an environment where civility is powerfully affirmed, where the dignity and well-being of each member of our community are valued and supported, and where equality of opportunity is vigorously pursued. Because of the diversity of views and opinions among us, we will not always agree with one another. Our task, however, is to create a University environment in which all participants are equally welcome, equally valued and equally heard.
Well actually, no. Our task is to pursue truth, to extend the body of knowledge and the number of people who share in it.

Academic freedom and freedom of speech are also cherished values at SCSU.
"Also"??? What is the word "also" doing in there? Is this to suggest that the values promulgated in the first paragraph are at odds with academic freedom and freedom of speech? That is an amazing admission if so.
We welcome an open exchange of ideas and opinions in a climate of mutual respect, cooperation, and civil interaction.
Wait for it ...
However, ...
Ah, there we are. "However." This is the 'however' that comes after you tell your child all the ice cream and toys you would have bought had he or she not used indelible ink on your new sofa. This is the 'however' that comes after you tell your signficant other all the wonderful times you shared and just before you tell them you're not sharing any more times. It's the 'however' that says something is about to be taken away.
...when these freedoms are used to promote divisiveness through personal attacks or acts of intolerance or intimidation, we are obliged to condemn such acts as antithetical to our ideals and to our shared responsibility for each other�s welfare. Divisive statements or abusive diatribes that go unopposed create a terrible legacy.
Then oppose them. Condemn them. That is indeed your obligation: Speak up! Cry "diatribe" and let loose the dogs of civility. And not just any diatribe, but abusive diatribe. But that's not enough for our administration.
We must discourage such acts because they poison the climate of trust and respect that must prevail at the university if we are to serve our educational mission, our students, and each other well.
This conflates the actions within a classroom with those outside. I have no problem enforcing civility rules on a classroom where learning goes on. I do it myself. You can't call people 'idiots' in my class. And I've argued in general that faculty have a responsiblity to treat students well outside the classroom. But if I choose to call someone an idiot on an email list, say, because they think increasing the minimum wage increases teen employment despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and when that list consists not of students but other faculty and staff, what mission are we harming? (And to those that say my use of the word "idiot" would cause me to lose support, I say that's my problem, not yours.)
When we permit discrimination, harassment or the creation of a hostile or abusive environment for any of our community members, we fail ourselves and our community as a whole.
As Eugene Volokh points out, there's no exception to the First Amendment in a workplace. Hiding a speech code behind discrimination and harassment law will not spare the university from a lawsuit, as Shippensburg University just found out.

Maintaining a climate of civility requires vigilance, balance, and a clear sense of personal responsibility to the SCSU community. Each of us has an individual responsibility to conduct ourselves in a manner that reflects and supports these shared values.
Really? I do not recall taking a loyalty oath when I got here. I do not recall being required to share any values without receiving something in return. Particularly in a public university, enforcement of a loyalty oath is patently unconstitutional.
In addition, as part of our collective responsibility as a university community, university policies have been established to eliminate violence, discrimination and harassment on our campus, and we expect all members of the SCSU community to abide by these policies. Consistent with these policies, disciplinary action will be taken against individuals when violations occur.
Now maybe I've just been here too long and am getting paranoid, but what is it that "disciplinary action will be taken against"? Who decides what is a violation and what is not? What crosses the line into a diatribe (which, in unofficial notes from a meeting between the faculty union and the administration, will be their focus, rather than divisiveness)? It is difficult for me to believe they are even serious about this. The administration cites, inter alia, the AAUP as the source for their code. When writing recently on academic freedom, their legal council notes these guiding principles for free speech and harassment:
  • Policies should track the discrimination laws and be applied so as to recognize the different types of opportunities and benefits at stake in the context of higher education. Anti-discrimination policies should regulate conduct, not the content of speech.
  • University officials should articulate values of tolerance and civility, and respond with "more speech" when racist or sexist expression takes place.
  • Content-neutral regulations can be used to limit disruptive behavior and expression (e.g., rules against fighting words, disturbing the peace, alcohol and drug abuse, vandalism of property, arson).Arthur L. Coleman and Jonathan R. Alger, "Beyond Speech Codes: Harmonizing Rights of Free Speech and Freedom From Discrimination on University Campuses," 23 J.C. & U.L. 91 (1996).
In short, if the administration looked at the AAUP statements on academic freedom they certainly didn't get the message. Where they have cribbed some of the language, in fact, is this statement on civility from IUPUI in 1997. What they should be cribbing, instead, is the Bill of Rights.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Why do they repeat bad shows? 

My daughter loves Nick@Nite, and lately she's been watching Three's Company. So news of John Ritter's sudden death kind of caught her today, as nine-year-olds might think of death of favorite TV figures. "I can still watch him, right?" she said. Sure. Though, even though he's gone, 3C is still a bad show.

Along this line, our local campus radio station is replaying President Saigo's convocation speech (9/16 around 12:30pm CT, for those of stronger stomachs). How we will get along without the PowerPoint slides is beyond me.

Professors should give all or nothing 

So says a column in today's campus paper, and levels a specific complaint about a class the columnist has with a "staff" professor (which I assume to mean an adjunct.)
One 'staff' professor from the [Twin] Cities went so far as to tell students who had to take a theory test to remain in his class (a class they already registered for) that he would make the test extra hard so he could cap his class at 50. Then he wouldn't have to deal with the 'trouble' of managing so many of students. He didn't know them, he said, he doubted that would hurt their feelings.
I looked to see if there's a regulation against this behavior; we do have a rule against "hidden" pre-requisites for a course in the form of another course, but an entrance exam isn't one. Since we cannot drop from a class someone who is registered but fails to attend the first day (or even the first week, which I've seen a few times) it is hard for me to imagine that the professor could make this stick -- there's no place for me to go in the registration system and remove a student from my class. This sounds like a case of an adjunct not knowing how our university works. (I'll bet Invisible Adjunct, who left us a nice note on the blogiversary, will comment from here.)

SCSU to prevent smoking 

Who knew we had such power? And yet, cigarettes are still available for purchase in the student union.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

A picture of hope 

Just the Beginning, by Bryan Larsen, prints available from Quent Cordair Fine Art. I found myself drawn to his work right after 9/11 and the image calms me still.

Build again. Higher. Better.

9/11 + 2 . . . and hoping 

May this second anniversary be not only a day of tearful remembrance, somber reflection, and quiet resolve, but also one of unbridled hope for the young people who have been entrusted to us. Just as we embrace our own children and take pride in their many accomplishments, we treasure each moment given us to educate, challenge, and inspire our students. Today I share these never-to-be-forgotten images with my students of finance and insurance.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I'm hurt 

Jeez! Not only do Mitch and the Fraters (hello! Band name!) not wish us a happy blogiversary, they can't even invite me to play in the band? I'll have to dig up a photo or two from my salad days. And I would think anyone using the moniker Big Trunk has to play sax.

Yo! PowerLine! Time for our permalink! Whazzaguygaddadoo?

UPDATE (9/12): Big Trunk comes through! If I had known grovelling was so effective, I might have done it earlier.

Hot evaluations 

Recalling my post in July on "the profits of pulchritude", a local couple who are both professors sent me a link to a paper on the relationship between student learning and student evaluations. Most faculty know that if you are going to be evaluated for retention, promotion and tenure on the basis of student evaluations, you can juice your evaluations by giving easier grades. The literature in this area point to five possible explanations: (1) better teachers get better evaluations and increase student learning, leading to higher grades; (2) better, more motivated students give higher evaluations and get higher grades; (3) course-specific motivation affects both grades and ratings; (4) students learn the quality of the course and their own ability from received grades (I'd call this the Lake Woebegone effect); (5) high ratings are in effect a tip left behind for providing easy grades. Most of the evidence out there, alas, seems to point towards (5).

There is also some evidence that there are halo effects -- "my instructor can do no wrong" -- that might be correlated with physical attractiveness. It is possible that they interact.

So, what do they find? using data from RateMyProfessor.com,

...students rate professors in the Accounting, Engineering, Computer Science, and Math departments lowest for quality, and they consider courses in these departments to be among the most difficult. Students also consider many of the professors teaching these courses to be the least sexy on campus. At the other end of the spectrum, students rate professors of Law, Languages, and Education as being the highest quality on campus. They are also among the easiest and sexiest.
Up to 51% of the variation in student evaluations are explained by perceived easiness and "hotness". This is a problem then -- could I increase my sexiness simply by being easier (which is more possible than my losing 40 pounds)?
For sexy professors, the correlation between Quality and Easiness is lower than for their non-sexy colleagues, and the mean scores for Average Quality and Average Easiness are higher as
If you are "hot" (which commenters on RateMyProfessor say doesn't necessarily mean sexiness), you don't get as big a bang for the buck from grade inflation as you would if you're not hot.

The authors caution using student evaluations for promotion and tenure decisions, but my view is that you've thrown away good information. As the study shows, if you take professors who have high quality ratings and low easiness ratings you find evidence from student comments that there's some real learning going on. Being tough and getting low evaluations isn't necessarily any more laudable a goal than being easy and getting high ones. More measurement, and more thoughtful use of measurement, is what we desire.

Heckuva way to spend a blogiversary 

For an idea that even our own membership thought was terrible, we're glad to note that we've reached our one year blogiversary. We expect to be even more important to the university as the bell tolls for our campus public e-forum on Monday. Wish I had time for more, but there are 3.5 hours of meetings in the next five. More this evening.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

What's the value of my name? 

I may have gotten a couple of interviews, including the one that brought me to SCSU, in part because I have such an unusual first name. Marginal Revolution discusses some new results from Steven Levitt and Ronald Fryer that suggest this might be true. It's good to be the King!

I'm just saying 

I've steered away from the Eric Rasmusen story largely because I can't see the point in giving the guy any publicity. And I'm not linking to him now. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, see the story in the Indiana student paper today.) But, as Eugene Volokh points out, regardless of whether we like him or not, he has a right to post what he has. The idea of a disclaimer is welcome, but look around most sites and you don't see them because it is understood that they do not represent the university.

Careful readers will note that this site is off-campus, paid for by the authors.

Monday, September 08, 2003

With friends like these 

The Volokh Conspiracy disapproves of an attempt by Republicans in the Colorado Legislature to have affirmative action hiring for conservatives. Let's repeat: We don't NEED no steeenking quotas.

I suspect it's simply a warning shot across the bow of the state universities out there, meant to attract attention (with which we're helping, and glad to do so!) I don't think the authors of the bill are serious about getting it passed. Indeed, for the reasons Eugene suggests, I hope not.

How many economists does it take to change a lightbulb? 

Just got a note on the campus email from the university photographer (where does he lie, do you suppose, in the list of budget priorities? Ah well, we need him for those slides) that he is looking for pictures of interesting classes and faculty research. I cannot imagine anything more boring that watching me do research. Nor can my cats -- they just wander in and fall asleep.

BTW, from the JokEc page, the answer to the subject line is Eight. One to screw it in and seven to hold everything else constant.

Guess you had to be there.

Saturday, September 06, 2003

A blogiversary 

Let's offer a hearty congratulations to Cold Spring Shops for a year of high quality blogging. Ride the train over to his place.

Friday, September 05, 2003

Another win for FIRE 

They're hotter than the Red Sox: FIRE has won a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the speech code promulgated by the administration of Shippensburg University. The judge's decree starts with a quote from W. Va. Board of Education v. Barnette, which is one of the most supportive cases for free speech. That paves the way for victory after victory in the injunction. Just because the administration of the university might have good intentions, that doesn't allow them to use this code.
Preliminarily, it is easy to discern that the provisions of the student code in question were part of an attempt to achieve a utopian community within Shippensburg. Students are directed to respect the rights of other students in a world where reasoned, rational debate is the norm. Defendant argues that the prohibitions set forth within the Code will foster free speech, rather than discourage it. Regrettably, this sword has two edges. Certainly during President Ceddia's tenure the Speech Code has not been used, and likely will not ever be used, to punish students for exercising their First Amendment rights. However, given that this is a facial challenge, our inquiry must assume not the best of intentions, but the worst.
The decision proceeds to describe the code as being overbroad in many features, with FIRE's claims being validated in all but one instance. The code, the judge writes, "instructs students that they must �mirror� the University�s ideals as they apply to racial tolerance, cultural diversity and social justice," which is patently unconstitutional.

At SCSU's convocation, President Saigo included in his address an initiative:

The campus will publish and disseminate a policy on civility, with standards that apply to the classroom, meetings and other public forums, and campus email. Disciplinary measures will be defined.
We are watching you, President Saigo. FIRE is on speed-dial, and they've been here before.

More reading lists 

Erin O'Connor reports that the response to a local paper's call for alternative readings to Nickeled and Dimed has been voluminous. (We covered this story originally here.)

Reclaiming democratic citizenship 

As I've mentioned before, there is a Democratic Citizenship course in SCSU's general education core (meaning everyone takes it) that has a significant component of leftish propaganda in it. Now SCSU has joined the American Democracy Project, which appears to extend that leftist view further -- democratic citizenship is equated not with liberty and freedom but with civic service and community. What a relief, then, to get in the mail yesterday notice of a report from the Thomas Fordham Foundation that provides a curative. Within it is an excellent essay by Katherine Kersten, on what that reclamation would mean.
Education for democratic citizenship has two central components. First, our young people should come to understand-and embrace-the principles of liberty, equality, and justice upon which this nation was founded. They should learn about the institutions that make self-government possible, and become acquainted with democracy's unique historical roots. Second, they should develop the qualities of character that mark true citizens: courage, loyalty, responsibility, gratitude to forebears, and a self-sacrificing devotion to the common good. As democratic citizens, they must have a capacity for judgment, an ability to discern their duty, and a love for-and desire to perpetuate-the republic.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

I can't bear the outrage 

The gutter-Latin Fraters Libertas report that city officials in St. Paul will not permit a six foot granite bear to be erected in honor of the Hamm brewing company to appear in a city park. So this bear is bad because it is created by the private sector and promotes consumption of adult beverages but this bear created by the government to prevent forest fires is good? I can tell you as I sit around a campfire which one I want to see.

Dude, that's a great Turtles shirt 

Remember the profs you had when you were in school who'd shake their heads and say "who remembers Vietman?" I'm feeling that now. Beloit College puts out a Mindset List of cultural references of college freshmen. Here are my favorite five of the fifty.
  1. They never heard Howard Cosell call a game on ABC. (Somehow this is a problem?)
  2. Computers have always fit in their backpacks.(My first course in Fortran was done on the college's mainframe that took care of grades, registration and bills -- damned near killed it one night, which might explain my lone 'D' in my career.)
  3. Banana Republic has always been a store, not a puppet government in Latin America. (So much for 'Bananas' and most of the funnier Woody Allen movies.)
  4. There has always been some association between fried eggs and your brain. (Yup, two every morning makes you smart!)
  5. Russian leaders have always looked like leaders everyplace else. (You mean they all dance like Yeltsin?)
I put that last for a reason. I have occasionally taught Soviet Studies in no small part to show the horrors of what had happened and how many had died as a result. Increasingly this is a dim memory for them. "Where were you when the Wall fell?" gets mostly the reaction "Which wall?" Our entering freshmen were four and five when the tanks rolled in Tiananmen. As says Prof. Tom McBride, co-editor of Beloit's list, it is a major challenge for us to find new ways to teach the victory and horror of the 20th century to those who will live in the 21st.
The Mindset List, among other things, is a reminder of that world�a world that makes education a tougher yet more fascinating job than ever. In saying hello to the new generation, which they labor mightily to understand, but with mixed results, they are saying good-bye to themselves. There is something of wicked and addictive interest in that. I myself am part of that very generation. There is, for me, a bittersweet pleasure in knowing that Cherry Cokes didn�t always come in cans and there are millions of first-year students who will never know how delicious it was when it didn�t.
The Beloit press release also quotes The New Yorker, "Each generation brings a clean slate into the world. But the world itself is not a clean slate, and what happened before needs to be learned and remembered.� Indeed. [Hat tip: Betsy's Page.]

We have one too 

If you've been reading all that Bustamente-MEChA debate and wondering if we have one at SCSU, the answer is yes. Our chapter displays the stick of dynamite alit, and the legend on the bottom reads in English, "Until The Victory, Always."

Impartial and equalized 

Via Powerline, the University of Denver gets it right with a reading list that includes Jefferson and Thurber and E.B. White along with Angelou, MLK and Gloria Naylor. I'd call it fair and balanced, but somebody's gone and cheapened that phrase.

UPDATE: Changed the title -- I'm in such a hurry lately with the start of school I didn't fix the Blogger-generated title.

Money not for nothing 

Courtesy of loyal reader Dr. Burt Dubow:

With budgets so tight, any type of gift or endowment is most welcome at universities, but perhaps some are too welcome. Jeff Jacoby covers the case of Harvard Divinity School and its Zayed International Center for Coordination and Followup. Zayed is a sheikh in Kuwait whose work has been labeled as anti-Semitic. Due to the continued pressure, Sheikh Zayed has removed funding from the Center. The Center is in the process of taking down its website, as you can see from the Google cache.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

You got your 13.8%, stop whining 

Highered Intelligence also covers Peter Wood's report on the Almanac of Higher Education.
The faculty member whose politics trend Left can take solace in knowing that 47.6 percent of his peers describe themselves as "far left" or "liberal," and only 17.7 as "conservative" and .3 as "far right." The prospects get even rosier in public universities, where 54.1 percent who are far or not-as-far left, and 13.8 percent conservative.
Oh no, Kevin, there's no problem with left-wing faculty is there? Particularly in the one-member, one-vote faculty unions, nope. No problem.
These labels translate fairly seamlessly into social attitudes. More than half of faculty members in American colleges and universities (55.3 percent), for example, agree that "racial and ethnic diversity should be more strongly reflected in the curriculum." Think about that. In most colleges and universities, the curriculum is already a charm bracelet of ethnic-studies courses and special pleading on behalf of minority subcultures, but the majority of the faculty nationwide are saying "not enough."

Faculty members hitched to the "diversity" agenda can take comfort in group solidarity. Some 67.9 percent want their college to "hire more faculty members of color" and 51.6 percent want their colleges to hire more women faculty members. Only 28 percent say that "promoting diversity leads to the admission of too many under-prepared students." ... Of the 40 or so topics covered in the survey, only one registered over 90-percent agreement: 90.7 of faculty members agreed that "a racially/ethnically diverse student body enhances the educational experience of all students."

That's a breathtaking level of agreement on what amounts to an ideological claim. The real diversity that results from attracting students regardless of their parentage may enrich the experience of some students, but "all" students? Even the academic hacks hired to conjure evidence of diversity's pedagogical merits at the University of Michigan stopped short of such implausibility. In fact, except for some slipshod surveys put together by diversity advocates, there is no empirical evidence that "diversity" on campus creates any educational benefit, but we do have good evidence that it fosters animosity, self-segregation, and group resentment. Turn a few pages and you discover that 90.7 percent of faculty members who think diversity is such a good thing compares with the 5 percent of the general public who believe, "Colleges and universities should admit students from racial minority groups even if they have lower high school GPAs and standardized-test scores than other students." The truth is we can't have it both ways, at least at this moment in the nation's history, and the professoriate has collectively staked a position radically outside what is acceptable to mainstream society.

As John Rosenberg has noted often on Discriminations, it may be that white students learn more by bringing in viewpoints of minority students, but it's less clear why that would go in the other direction. It simply seems they haven't thought that out yet.

Michael says the problem is in the labeling process. If you keep referring to minority students or minority faculty, of course you have to be for more minority admission or hiring. You can't paraphrase Jack Nicholson and say "Sell diversity somewhere else, we're full up here."

This is why it is so important to foster a race-neutral discourse, to push and encourage the discussion of merit independent of race. We need to work to create a discourse in which it is possible to ignore race. But it's tricky... you can't be too reactive. If all you are doing is reacting against the idea of race, calling it bad, then you're strengthening its position in the language. What is needed is something more subtle, more insidious. What is needed is a movement to wipe the idea of race out of our language, out of our collective consciousness. We need to view the idea of race the same way we view the notion that the world is flat.
But according to our diversity trainer last week, this is a flawed concept. Race-neutrality is denial, and not that river in Egypt, either. We have to leverage our differences.

But academics buy into this, seemingly without question. Should you think these are fine opinions from the enlightened, Wood points out that we're not looking so spiffy.

Some 83.9 percent chose to pursue an academic career because of the "intellectual challenge," but 41.6 percent have published nothing in the last two years and only 13.3 percent had published more than four "professional writings" in that time. If publish or perish were really the rule, the academic cemeteries would be crammed.

Another reason to travel to LA 

300+ bottles of wine? Michael, what do we do for the second course?

But do you have a kitty like this?

Another year older and deeper in debt 

Student debt is going up, says, Financial Aid Office, with a survey of a flurry of year-opening articles. The report from Nellie Mae is worth reading. Within the full report we learn that most students are repaying their loans with payment less than 10% of their income (and repayment is usually less than five years). Given the higher returns on education, is this really a net increase in debt burdens?

Or, you could go to Yale... 

... where they seem to be the South Korea of academic labor strikes. Jamie Kirchick, a sophomore there, covers the scene.

The price of pain 

So for fourteen Fridays the university is closed this summer. Workers have to work 10-hour days to keep their salaries the same, but some do not and either burn up vacation or take unpaid leaves. Air conditioning is shut off, and faculty who do research around here (you have to think there are some, don't you) work in sweaty offices with paper that curls up in the humidity. But by golly we're going to balance the budget, we're going to make some real savings, aren't we? So how much did we save to meet our more than $3 million deficit?

At St. Cloud State, staff members who are paid by the hour took about 3,600 hours, or $67,518, of unpaid leave this summer, [Associate VP Diana] Burlison said. Administrators and managers -- who are salaried -- took about 135 days, or $33,700. Faculty members did not participate because their contract doesn't include the summer, but they will experience larger classes and heavier work loads during the year, Burlison said.

For the coming year, staff members have committed to 2,359 hours, or $40,000, in unpaid leave, Burlison said. Administrators and managers have committed to about 120 days, or about 1,000 hours.

University leaders also are looking at closing the university from Dec. 24 to Jan. 5, 2004, Burlison said.

So all of this cutting is going to create maybe $200,000 in savings, though it has created some serious problems for those who cannot take vacation and must lose income instead. So where does the big money come from?
Other cuts made by the university include keeping open 29 faculty positions that cost an average of $67,000 each, and getting rid of a $35,000 lease on Colbert House and a $12,000 lease on the tennis courts by Halenbeck Hall. Those leases won't expire until September or October.
People in Colbert are moving to excess space in other buildings and leasing tennis courts over the winter in Minnesota is not a very profitable activity. That alone was worth at least six closed Fridays, though some savings are showing up in that $40,000 of lost staff time during the school year. All the while we've increased tuition 15% and are offering fewer courses. Meanwhile, according to information gathered in the St. Cloud Times article linked above, Northern Iowa has balanced by cutting back on grounds maintenance and holding open positions lost through retirement and resignations; Cal State San Bernardino is freezing half their openings (and raising fees 30%) and Western Illinois is making similar cuts to us. Lots of pain facing state universities this fall.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Fraters at the fair 

Do not view this while eating. It starts benignly enough, but then devolves into something that should allow Hewitt to win the war. You have been warned. On a stick.

Dulling the students 

Brilliance from Photon Courier:
Waiting for a plane at the Atlanta airport today, I stopped at a restaurant for a snack. It was also a bar, and a couple at a nearby table ordered drinks. The waitress asked them for ID to prove they were over 21--nothing unusual about that, except they looked to me like they were both in their mid-50s. There's no way they could conceivably have been less than 45.

The waitress obviously didn't think of this idea all on her own. She was almost certainly following some kind of no-exceptions policy which was established by the management. And the policy, in turn, was quite likely motivated by some kind of draconian provisions in well-intentioned laws or regulations.

Over the last several years, it seems that people are increasingly being put in positions in which they are required to execute policies without consulting their common sense. This seems to have been most prevalent in the public schools, but the corporate sector is clearly not exempt.

What does it do to a person when, day after day, they are required to do things that they know make no sense? What does it do to a society when millions of people are put in this kind of position? Doesn't it lead to cynicism, to a pervasive "I just work here" kind of attitude? Isn't it destructive of entrepreneurial spirit and creativity--and respect for legitimate authority--on all levels?

I'm sure "why do we have to learn this?" and "will this be on the exam?" has been around for ages, but it seems to happen more these days (and again, it may just be I've become more sensitive to it) . Is it not possible that students have now learned that in many cases, the reason they are in the classroom isn't for education but indoctrination, and if so, that makes it so much harder for the rest of us who might be trying to get students to think for themselves?

Choosy mothers choose someplace else 

Leave it to the local paper to print a negative letter about SCSU on opening day. (Note, the SCTimes links tend to go bad in about seven days.) A mother wanted to transfer her daughter from Hamline University to SCSU (the opposite of our departed friends at From Huskies to Pipers) after two years.
I have always heard that the quality of the academic standard at St. Cloud State was exceptional and that one could obtain as good an education there as at many of the private colleges in the state.

My daughter was informed that very few of her credits from Hamline would transfer and that she would require an additional year to complete all of the credits necessary for graduation at St. Cloud State.

She also was advised that if there was any way we could afford to keep her at Hamline, we should do so.

This faculty member's opinion was that the education available to her at St. Cloud was immeasurably inferior to that available at Hamline. I was surprised by his candor, to say the least.

If this faculty member's opinion of the quality of education at St. Cloud State is more than an isolated example, it is this parent's opinion that the current administration should examine its mission statement and look toward making St. Cloud State a desirable alternative to private education.

Her younger children will not be coming here either, she says.

It will seem remarkable to new readers to this blog that a faculty member here (I assume it was one, it seems awfully unlikely that one of our admissions counselors would do so), but we've seen this happen before. And as regards Hamline, their choice for summer reading course is the more benign e=mc2 by David Bodanis, rather than Nickeled and Dimed, which might indicate some better understanding of what a liberal arts education means.

The information this mother received might be good. The Hamline Plan -- their core (here's a copy from the transfer guidelines they use for students transfering into Hamline) -- integrates many general education courses for their students through the four years, and it may be that the student took classes that don't fit our general education curriculum. All cases are individual, which is why we have admissions counselors after all. We streamline these things going one way -- from two-year to four-year colleges -- and don't really worry much about transferability from private to public schools. Maybe we should. But the larger issue is that faculty here continue to tell prospective students that they're better off at a private school costing more than 2.5 times state university tuition. This mother is correct that we ought to do better than that.

At least we're still a good party school.