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Quick Takes: 21 Years as Adjunct and Out, Dean Ousted at Florida, Report Faults Poly Board, Updike on Art, Drexel West, Slow Start for New Online Campus

Quick Takes: 21 Years as Adjunct and Out, Dean Ousted at Florida, Report Faults Poly Board, Updike on Art, Drexel West, Slow Start for New Online Campus
May 23, 2008
  • Margaret West has taught part-time for 21 years at Edmonds Community College, in Washington State, gaining good reviews and annual contract renewals. The FACE blog -- part of the Faculty and College Excellence Campaign to get more tenure-track faculty slots and improve the treatment of adjuncts -- reported that West was told recently that her services would no longer be needed and that a dean, asked why, told her "because I can." This came shortly after West started running, unopposed, to serve as president of the faculty union -- where she would be the first part-timer to lead the American Federation of Teachers unit at her college. "There is no excuse for what happened to Margaret. The administration at Edmonds Community College should be ashamed of themselves," said the blog. A spokeswoman for the college, asked about the blog posting, released a statement that did not name West. The statement said: "Edmonds Community College values its longstanding relationship with part-time faculty.... Faculty assignments are determined through the appropriate deans in accordance with the negotiated faculty contract. We resolve all contract related disagreements through established processes."
  • Bruce Kone has been removed as dean of the University of Florida's College of Medicine, although he will remain on the faculty. Kone has faced criticism for admitting a student from a politically connected family over the objections of the college's selection committee, The Gainesville Sun reported in April. The dean caused another stir when a belligerent e-mail, sent to members of President Bernie Machen's leadership team, was made public in the Sun. Machen had "lost confidence in Dean Kone to lead the college of medicine," Janine Sikes, a UF spokeswoman, said Tuesday.
  • Polytechnic University's board failed in key areas while it was considering and approving a merger into New York University, according to a report by the New York State Senate Committee on Higher Education. The merger was opposed by many faculty and alumni leaders at Polytechnic and some trustees as well who said that the university was giving up too much, that the process for reviewing the proposed deal was not open enough, and that state law might bar NYU from operating engineering programs because of the provisions of a bailout of NYU by the state in 1973. On a number of issues, the report by the legislative committee rejects the charges. It finds no evidence for a legal ban on NYU entering engineering, and it says that many of the Polytechnic board's decisions are of the type granted wide latitude under state law, provided that they were made in good faith. In a few areas, however, the panel found evidence that backs critics of the merger deal. For example, the panel said that Poly's president was engaged in negotiations of a possible merger for far too long without involving the board. And the report cites testimony from several trustees that backs the contention that the board majority decided early on in favor of the merger and attempted "to marginalize the participation of those individuals who opposed the affiliation." This behavior, the report said, "is not consistent with the duty of loyalty that a board owes to an institution." This history, the report said, suggests a number of questions, such as whether there are appropriate procedures to make sure the interests of all appropriate parties are considered in merger talks, and when various constituencies should be made aware of negotiations. A spokesman for Polytechnic did not return messages seeking comment on the report.
  • John Updike delivered the National Endowment for the Humanities' annual Jefferson Lecture Thursday night, accepting the highest honor bestowed by the federal government on humanists. Seizing on the NEH's Picturing America project, which places reproductions of American art in public schools and libraries across the country, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author toured the artistic landscape to answer the question, "What is American about American art?" After surveying painters from John Singleton Copley and Edward Hopper through the artists of Abstract Expressionism, Updike concluded by applying to American art William Carlos Williams's assertion that "there are no ideas but in things." "The American artist," he said, "first born into a continent without museums and art schools, took Nature as his only instructor, and things as his principal study." When asked after the talk whether he ever felt the pull of academe, where many of his Jefferson predecessors made their mark on the humanities, Updike told Inside Higher Ed, "I think I'm too mean to be a teacher." The author, whose father was a teacher, added that summer writing classes he led at Harvard University in the 1960s made him "depressed" with the suspicion that some of his students were better writers than he was.
  • Philadelphia-based Drexel University is looking to California for expansion. The university announced Thursday that it will open a graduate school in Sacramento, offering five master's programs by January 2009 and introducing four more in September 2009. Further expansion may be on the way. Drexel's announcement noted that a group in Sacramento has offered the university 1,100 acres to build an undergraduate campus in nearby Placer County. While Drexel called that offer "outstanding," it said that the graduate programs are designed to "introduce" the university to the region.
  • The University of Illinois Global Campus is off to a slow start. The new online venture has been controversial with many faculty members, and the Chicago Tribune reported that both enrollments and tuition revenue are running behind projections. Officials blamed insufficient marketing.
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