Faced with no good options, a union representing California State University faculty members decided to accept a furlough plan that will reduce compensation by about 10 percent, union leaders announced Friday. The California Faculty Association also questioned Chancellor Charles B. Reed’s leadership, voting “no confidence” in him by a margin of 80 percent. The union represents tenure-track faculty as well as lecturers, who would be most likely to lose jobs if furloughs hadn’t been approved. While the vote indicates some tenured and tenure track faculty essentially voted to preserve other people’s jobs, the measure passed by a significant but not overwhelming margin of 54 percent. The union had criticized Reed for not guaranteeing the furloughs would save jobs, although Reed told Inside Higher Ed he estimated 6,000 positions would be saved if the 23,000 union-represented faculty and other employees took furloughs. The association is affiliated with the National Education Association and the American Association of University Professors, as well as Service Employees International Union.
Higher Education Quick Takes
A new study of undergraduates at Michigan State University offers some insights into the gender gap on how students use their time. The study, published in the journal Sex Roles, found that males played computer games significantly more than females: 225 more hours per year, on average, in college. Female students spent more time on everything else. The study found that found that female undergraduates spent about 16 hours per week on average on jobs, homework and other activities than did male undergraduates.
When Texas Tech University first announced that Alberto Gonzales, attorney general under President George W. Bush, has been hired to teach political science, faculty reaction was quiet, while some students and alumni objected, citing the role Gonzales played in authorizing what many see as torture and unconstitutional actions by U.S. authorities. Now the faculty is getting involved, or at least some of it is. More than 40 faculty members have signed a statement opposing the hire, The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported. But it looks like the faculty protest will not have an impact. Chancellor Kent Hance told the newspaper he had no intention of withdrawing the offer, saying of the faculty petition: "That’s their freedom of speech and I applaud that, but you don’t go around making decisions based on faculty positions."
Colorado State University's board has settled lawsuits by media entities challenging a closed door meeting at which a new chancellor was selected by releasing a recording of much of the meeting. As The Fort Collins Coloradoan noted, not all of the recordings are of statements board members wanted to be heard. One accused state lawmakers of "un-Christian attitudes" for wanting more of a role for the public in selecting a chancellor. Another board member said that Larry Penley, the former chancellor, ran an "ego-driven administration."
The University of New Hampshire’s men’s ice hockey team has been placed on a two-year probation by the National Collegiate Athletic Association for major recruiting violations. The Division I Committee on Infractions announced last week that one of the team’s two associate head coaches -- it would not clarify which one -- sent 923 impermissible e-mail messages to 30 prospects who were in their freshman and sophomore years in high school. The Concord Monitor reports that the associate head coach had been using Scoutware, an automated recruiting software program that allows coaches to send messages to many prospects at once. The associate head coach told the committee that he “misunderstood the relevant recruiting rule” and entered data into Scoutware “according to the prospective student-athletes’ expected enrollment at the university, rather than their high school graduation.” In addition to the probation, the team will reduce its number of off-campus recruiters by one and will not allow any of the 30 prospects in question to sign a National Letter of Intent with the university. Dick Umile, head men’s hockey coach, said the team had accepted the penalties, telling the Monitor, "We realized we made a mistake.”
Last week we reported on the creation of a new position -- "dean of engaged learning" -- at Robert Morris University, and noted that many experts had never heard of such a position previously. At least one other university has made a similar move, however. Fairfield University this month announced that Elizabeth Boquet, professor of English and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Fairfield, has been tapped to serve as the first dean of academic engagement.
The chancellor of City College of San Francisco, Don Griffin, has revived his plan to have donors "sponsor" courses that would otherwise be eliminated due to budget cuts, and this time he may win over a previously skeptical board. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Griffin offered a new version of the plan, and that board members were receptive because it involves an administrative review, with the chancellor making the final decision on whether a sponsorship would be appropriate. The new plan also would not assure anyone of the right to add a name to a course title. As originally discussed, the plan would simply have allowed anyone to donate $6,000 to become the official sponsor of a course. Amid California's budget disaster, the college is being forced to eliminate more than 800 courses and the idea was to save as many of them as possible. Objections from trustees when the plan was first discussed centered on fears that, for example, a tobacco company might sponsor a public health course.
Do-it-yourself tuition collection by professors apparently doesn't go over well at Florida Gulf Coast University. The Fort Myers News-Press reported that the university has fired a professor, Donald Lounsbury, after an audit found that he had collected cash and checks from students for payments for his interview and interrogation criminal justice courses and deposited them directly in his own account, not a university account. Citing documents obtained through public records requests, the News-Press reported that Lounsbury defended the practice by saying that he was simply expediting the process by which he would have later been reimbursed for supplies he purchased and payments he would be owed for teaching the courses. In November, he was suspended, and later placed on unpaid leave for a period, after students reported that he touched anatomically accurate mannequins in a sexual manner. The mannequins were part of a class on investigating deaths. Lounsbury's lawyer said that some students would contest the charges related to the mannequins and that his client's firing suggests that he has "political enemies at the university."
Robert Doade, an associate professor of philosophy at Trinity Western University, in British Columbia, is among those academics who believe Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other forms of social media may be distracting students and causing them anxiety. So Doade challenges students by offering them a 5 percent extra credit bonus if they will abstain from all social and traditional media for the three month semester of his philosophy course, and keep a journal about the experience. Out of a class of around 35 students, only about 12 will try for the extra credit and by the end of the semester only between 4 and 6 are still "media abstinent."
Secondhand smoke exposure is high among college students, a study in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research has found. The study analyzed 4,223 undergraduates at 10 colleges and universities in North Carolina, and found that 83 percent reported exposure to secondhand smoke at least once in the past week. The research was conducted by scientists at Wake Forest University. A statement by Mark Wolfson, lead author on the study, said: "While some college campuses are smoke free, others have virtually no restrictions on smoking, not even in the residence halls. There is a growing national movement to move away from that, but it still very much varies by campus. In this first study to evaluate SHS exposure among college students, we were really kind of floored to see how many, and how frequently, students are exposed to it."