U of Texas System's new chief gets to work

Smart Title: 

Following period of governance turmoil, new of U of Texas System chancellor -- after a decorated military career -- discusses the transition to higher ed, the roles of the system and chancellor, and "chain of command."

Unusual Protest for More Gender-Neutral Restrooms

California Polytechnic University's Queer Student Union organized a demonstration (please be warned that link features an image of excrement) Thursday to protest the university's lack of restrooms that can safely be used by transgender students. The demonstration, in which students were encouraged to use only gender-neutral restrooms on campus, was called a "shit-in."

The demonstrators also circulated a petition urging the university to create more gender-neutral restrooms and encouraged students to sign a fake toilet to show their support. "Trans/gender nonconforming students often cite a lack of all-gender bathrooms as a top concern," the petition reads. "Gendered bathrooms pose a threat to the emotional and physical well-being of this demographic, and often force awkward and uncomfortable encounters for non-cisgender-identifying students. Of the 17 all-gender bathrooms listed on the Pride Center's website, the Queer Student Union has identified only five bathrooms that are reasonably accessible, leaving non-cisgender students with a paltry amount of options when it comes to using the bathroom."

Senate Democrats Push Debt-Free Public College

A group of three Senate Democrats, including Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, this week introduced a resolution promoting debt-free public college. Several Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives put forward an accompanying proposal. The brief Senate resolution describes a plan to help states pay more for higher education, to increase financial aid to cover students' living expenses and to encourage innovation that would make college more affordable.

“A student at a public university today faces tuition prices that are more than 300 percent of what his or her parents faced just 30 years ago, and total outstanding student loan debt now stands at a staggering $1.3 trillion,” Warren said in a written statement. “Our country should be investing in higher education and working with colleges and universities to bring down tuition costs so that students don't have to take on crushing debt to get an education.”

The Washington Post reported that the push, which two liberal groups are supporting, is intended to encourage Hillary Clinton to make the plan part of her campaign proposals. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Demos released a policy paper this week that attempts to flesh out the plan. The groups are arranging events at 10 college campuses this week to promote it.


Panel discussion centers on work-life balance provisions in faculty collective bargaining agreements

Smart Title: 

Can work-life balance provisions be successfully integrated into faculty collective bargaining agreements? 

Labor conference panel centers on contract provisions for adjuncts for course cancellation payments and more

Smart Title: 

Academic labor conference panel discussion focuses on contract provisions for adjuncts that go beyond better pay. Data suggest larger gains for part-timers in bargaining units that are separate from full-time faculty.

Cadre of Trustees Sue Penn State Over Documents

A group of trustees elected by alumni to Pennsylvania State University's governing board sued the university -- and the board -- to try to seek access to documents related to the 2012 investigation into sexual abuse by a former football coach, the Centre Daily Times reported. The cadre of trustees say they need access to some of the documents the university produced in response to Louis Freeh's inquiry into Jerry Sandusky's behavior -- documents that are protected by a confidentiality agreement -- to do their job as stewards and help develop a strategic plan. But their lawsuit follows an attempt by several of the same trustees to get access to those documents so they could do their own, competing review into the Sandusky matter.

Ad keywords: 

Essay calls on librarians to seek more involvement from their campuses in developing future of the library

What happens to academic libraries as they slide sideways into a new world of superabundant information? What happens to their colleges and universities?

The process of change is not easy. Inside Higher Ed has described recent campus conflicts regarding the future of academic libraries. Carl Straumsheim ("Clash in the Stacks") reported that several library directors at liberal arts institutions have lost their jobs. However, tensions about changing libraries are not restricted to one type of institution.

Academic libraries are undergoing a public, challenging and frequently contested transformation. The change and obsolescence of academic libraries as we know them represents an event of unprecedented magnitude in higher education. Rarely has a core institutional activity faced such formidable prospects for change.

At the same time, librarians will be unsuccessful in planning for the future on their own. They possess much expertise about libraries, but less about trends in research and curriculum. Moving forward, the process of recreating the library must be one that involves many people in many roles on campus.

The library as a collection of print books and journals is an idea that has left the building. The library -- if that is even the appropriate name for what seems to be emerging -- is no longer focused exclusively on organizing and providing access to information. The library is fast becoming a multifaceted center designed to support a wide variety student learning and faculty research activities.

Many libraries in institutions focused on undergraduate education now include spaces where students find a one-stop learning environment that incorporates writing assistance, tutoring and multimedia production, as well as institutionally unique centers focused on civic engagement, multicultural dialogue or service learning.

Many libraries in research institutions provide expertise and specialized technologies to support the work of faculty. Areas of emphasis might include data management and visualization, scholarly communication and institutional repositories, the mining of humanities texts, and geographic information systems, to name a few.

By default, much of the responsibility for adapting to a changing information environment seems to fall to library directors who forge ahead at their own risk. Straumsheim quotes Bryn I. Geffert, college librarian at Amherst, as saying that directors need a high degree of “social smarts” to navigate the rapids of change.

To my way of thinking, three smarts stand out. The first involves understanding the complex and ambiguous decision-making processes of higher education. It is no surprise that decision making in colleges and universities is frequently characterized as organized chaos. Recognizing invested stakeholders is not as easy as it would seem. This is not a top-down environment. And every institution is somewhat different.

Second, working with complexity: after 20 years of experience and research, I have come to appreciate that university processes succeed best when leaders promote interactions that permit the academic community to learn its way forward to a common understanding of what can and should happen. Complexity theory suggests that effective leaders do not predetermine the outcomes of change initiatives; they create the conditions whereby the community can engage them and take steps forward.

Third, library directors must approach library change with humility. In their efforts to create conditions for campus engagement, they are the stewards of the process, not its owners. As stewards and facilitators of the process, they don’t have the answers; they offer possibilities. While they may be experts in academic library trends, librarians and directors are not necessarily experts in how those trends fit into the institutional community, curriculum and culture.

One of the hazards of organizational change is presuming that it should take place in a certain way. The future is a collective production based on many factors. Colleges and universities are communities of people with various commitments, interests and activities that intersect with libraries and information services. What we can do is open up opportunities for discussion, collective dreaming and actions.

However, the issue of library change goes far beyond the personal attributes of library directors. Our institutions will not succeed if large-scale change relies on individuals. Sure, someone needs to lead the charge, but meaningful change doesn’t occur because of one person; it requires widespread engagement, not merely acquiescence. College and university administrators and faculty -- across disciplines -- must recognize their own interests in this change.

This leads to my central point. It will take a university community to shape a future library that meets the specific needs of learning and research at that institution. This transition is not just about libraries. It is about how colleges and universities come together to solve a collective challenge. Libraries cannot puzzle out their future alone.

The library is only as effective as its ability to understand and support the emerging information needs of its campus. Beyond organizing and providing access to information, academic libraries are now incorporating a variety of nontraditional resources, services and expertise. But what exactly will change, and how fast, is a campus conversation.

I am reminded of Harold Howe’s statement: “What a school thinks about its library is a measure of what it feels about education.” The two are connected. Libraries are changing. Education is changing. How academe responds to the transformation of libraries says a lot, not only about its view of libraries and education, but also about its capacity to address institutional change. The university’s engagement in library change might be considered a barometer of its ability to respond to other change as well.

But how can we, and our institutions, establish strategies that promote strategic responses to changes in the social and economic conditions that surround us? How can we work collaboratively and intentionally, bringing our expertise to bear, taking risks in order to do what higher education is called to do: to lead social and culture change that makes a positive difference in the world? 

I’ve come to believe that the issues we face in our current institution are the same ones that we face wherever we go. Greener grass is not the issue. Working with the grass that we have is. Wendell Berry reminds us that meaningful work and life results from our commitment to place, to nurturing our communities. 

At a very basic level, we must care about the institution, about the people we work with and about the library. The future of libraries, and academe generally, requires us to learn our way forward together as a community. There are no easy answers, only our commitments, our skills and patience with each other as we find our way into the future.

The future of our libraries is our own future. Higher education is at a turning point, with libraries as one of the most visible signs of change. How we choose to recreate libraries may be a reflection of how we adapt to changing and critical social, political, economic and environmental issues throughout the world.

Dane Ward is dean of Milner Library at Illinois State University.

Editorial Tags: 

Ohio U Student Paper Sorry for Deal With President

The Post, the student newspaper at Ohio University, has revealed and apologized for a deal one of its editors made with Roderick J. McDavis, the university's president. Under the deal, McDavis wrote essays for the newspaper with the pledge that no conflicting opinions to his essays would appear for 24 hours. In an editorial revealing the deal, the Post said that the deal was inconsistent with its values of editorial independence, and so was suspending for two weeks the editor who made the deal. A spokesperson for the university told The Athens News that the agreement was reached in a discussion about various other issues, such as the newspaper's editorial guidelines and intended frequency for the feature.

Ad keywords: 

3 Shot at Delaware State U Event

Three people were shot at a fraternity and sorority cookout at Delaware State University Saturday, The News Journal reported. Those who were shot were hospitalized and reported to be in stable condition. Early Sunday morning, shots were heard in a university parking lot.


Ad keywords: 

U of Wisconsin at Madison to Cut 400 Jobs

The University of Wisconsin at Madison plans to cut 400 positions and drastically trim its budget, a response to Republican Governor Scott Walker's plan to cut $300 million from the UW system over the next two years. In a blog post on Friday, Madison Chancellor Becky Blank said the university is facing a "structural deficit that may be as much as $96 million as a result of state budget cuts in the upcoming year." Meanwhile Walker, a possible contender for the Republican presidential nomination, said earlier this week that the state might reduce funding less than originally planned, according to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.


Subscribe to RSS - administrators
Back to Top