Submitted by Jake New on December 18, 2014 - 3:00am
West Virginia University's athletic director, Oliver Luck, is leaving the university to join the National Collegiate Athletic Association as its executive vice president of regulatory affairs, the NCAA announced Wednesday. The newly created position brings all of the national office's regulatory functions -- including academic affairs, eligibility, and enforcement -- together "under one umbrella," the NCAA said. Mark Emmert, the association's president, first announced the new position when Jim Isch, the NCAA's chief operating officer, retired in August. Luck will effectively replace Isch, as Emmert took the COO's retirement as an opportunity to restructure his staff, eliminating that position to create the new regulatory affairs role.
Luck, who supports paying college athletes for the use of their likeness and was a respected athletics director among the Power Five conferences as they've sought a greater level of autonomy, said Wednesday that "this is a time of fundamental change" in intercollegiate athletics. “The challenges both internal and external to the NCAA present a unique opportunity to help shape the landscape for hundreds of thousands of young men and women," he said. "It is an honor to join President Emmert, the NCAA staff, and our member institutions in this journey."
Alamo Colleges is backing down for now from a controversial plan to eliminate majors from students’ degrees, Fox 29 reported. Earlier this fall, faculty members at all of Alamo’s San Antonio campuses received word that the colleges’ longstanding, non-vocational academic programs – something like majors – would be restructured and would no longer appear on students’ diplomas. Instead, Alamo said it would issue two more generic degrees: an associate of arts and an associate of science, with no additional program information. Administrators said the change was aimed at improving the student rate of transfer to four-year institutions, but opposed faculty members and students said the change made Alamo degrees less meaningful and marketable, and was decided without their input.
Students campaigned against the change throughout the fall with the help of local community groups, Communities Organized for Public Service and the Metro Alliance, bringing their concerns to the colleges’ Board of Trustees, Fox 29 and several instructors said. Prior to a board meeting this week, Leslie sent an email to faculty members saying he would reinstate some arts and science degrees. He said postponing the plan provides an opportunity to “reset” and allow for “additional time to engage student, faculty, staff and other stakeholder leadership across the Alamo Colleges."
Leslie did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. In an interview, a tenured faculty member at San Antonio College -- who did not want to give her name or discipline, citing concerns about job security -- said faculty members were “optimistic but extremely cautious” about the announcement. The instructor said faculty members, many of whom previously opposed a proposal by Leslie to require a class on Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, haven’t been successful in their opposition to various changes on campus, “because we’ve been so demonized in our district.” But, she said, “When you bring the students into it, it changes the chemistry of the whole thing.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called for an adjunct instructor of English at Baruch College of the City University of New York to be suspended, following the instructor’s arrest this weekend for allegedly assaulting two police officers during an anti-policy brutality protest on the Brooklyn Bridge, the New York Observer reported. De Blasio also reportedly said that Eric Linsker, the instructor, should be “removed from his position” if found guilty. Linsker was charged with assault in the second degree, rioting in the first degree, criminal possession of a weapon, resisting arrest and unlawful possession of marijuana, according to the Observer. He allegedly tried to throw a metal garbage can at officers, who tried to arrest him before protesters intervened and injured the officers. Linsker did not return a request for comment.
Via email, a Baruch spokeswoman said that the college supports the “exercise of freedom of speech while deploring violence of any kind.” She said the investigation into Linsker’s actions is ongoing, but as of right now Linsker is scheduled to teach next semester (the fall term already is over). “The college will review all of the facts as they become available in order to decide if any additional action is warranted,” the spokeswoman said.
The Professional Staff Congress, CUNY’s faculty union, which is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the American Association of University Professors, and other labor groups, said in a statement that it “vigorously defends” its members rights to due process under the union contract. “While we recognize that Mr. Linsker has been arrested and charged with serious unlawful acts, he has not yet been tried or found guilty of any crime,” the union said. “It would be premature and inappropriate for CUNY to take disciplinary action against him at this time.”
Ball State University’s Board of Trustees are worried that a controversial plan to weed out low-performing tenured faculty members is moving along too slowly, The Star Press reported. Terry King, Ball State’s provost, said last academic year that an official policy would be submitted by this fall, but he told trustees this month that the university needs more time. King said a “very small” number of problem professors already have been removed from their classrooms. But even if they don’t improve through mediation, they can’t be terminated without an official policy. A Ball State spokeswoman said the university has no additional comment.
Submitted by Jake New on December 17, 2014 - 3:00am
Legislation that would ban the unionization of college athletes passed the Michigan Senate Tuesday. The bill would require all college athletes to be classified as "students," preventing them from being classified as employees of the state's public universities. “The issue of student athletes and unions is one that will require study, and the governor will give the bill a thorough review once it is presented to determine whether or not he should sign it into law,” said David Murray, a spokesman for Michigan's governor, told Michigan Live.
There's been no indication that such an attempt to unionize was taking place at Michigan's public universities, Michigan Live reported, and the legislation was apparently in response to the ongoing unionization efforts of athletes at Northwestern University, a private university in Illinois. “The Republican Legislature has done so much union busting over the years that now they've resorted to busting unions that don’t even exist," a spokesman for Progress Michigan, a progressive marketing group, said.
College football frenzy is peaking, soon to give way to a crescendo of basketball mania culminating in March Madness. For about 108 of the 128 Football Bowl Subdivision schools, this is a distinctly mixed blessing, as intercollegiate athletics pose a drain on school finances – one that is growing steadily over time.
Schools are in an athletic arms race, feeling the necessity to spend ever more funds on high coaches’ salaries and fancy facilities lest they suffer athletic humiliation and the wrath of irate alumni and fans. According to USA Today data, more than 100 schools currently subsidize intercollegiate athletics by more than $10 million a year. The fact that the University of Florida is spending some $7 million to lure a football coach away from Colorado State shows the financial dimensions of this are huge. It is no wonder that at the recent White House college summit, Vice President Biden blasted schools for elaborate spending on stadium sky boxes.
But as President Ray Watts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham recently showed, it does not have to be that way. He is eliminating the school’s football program.
UAB has been a football power wannabe, playing in the shadows of its superpower state rivals, the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa and Auburn University, which have won a majority of national championships in the past five years.
Its stadium, Legion Field, which seats almost 72,000 people, has limped along with an average attendance recently of under 15,000 fans per game. UAB takes in about $9 million in revenues from its athletics programs but spends $27 million. That $18 million loss amounts to nearly $1,000 annually for each of UAB’s 19,000 students – the equivalent of about 13 percent of the school’s in-state tuition price. Getting rid of football will eliminate some of that loss, though the school will maintain several other sports. More importantly, perhaps, the school will not have to spend tens of millions on new facilities viewed critical to remaining competitive.
Contrast the UAB experience to Ohio University, where we have some experience. Like UAB, it has a so-so football team (6-6 record) and considers a game with 15,000 attending to be pretty typical, despite its stadium capacity of 24,000. Like UAB, it plays in the shadow of a football powerhouse that regularly draws over 100,000 to its games, currently fourth-ranked Ohio State, playing UAB’s sister school Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
Like UAB, OU is forced to subsidize intercollegiate sports to the tune of about $18 million a year – again, nearly $1,000 for each of its roughly 20,000 students on the Athens campus (partially disguised as part of a “student activity fee”). Both universities have medical schools. The institutional similarities are striking.
While UAB President Watts is saying “enough is enough,” Ohio President Roderick McDavis is following a more conventional path: let’s spend more to try to break into the ranks of the athletically anointed. Facing similar facility problems as UAB, OU has built a $12.5 million indoor practice facility, primarily for the football team.
It has also announced plans for an “academic center” costing more than $5 million, which will serve as a gated community of sorts where athletes but not ordinary students can study. Ostensibly, an existing study facility and the university’s library are insufficient for the athletes. Similarly, a decade ago the basketball coach made much less than McDavis, but now the coach is paid significantly more than he is.
When former Vanderbilt University President Gordon Gee made the athletic department a unit within the normal university bureaucracy, subject to all of its rules regarding budgeting and staffing, he said that if he tried to do that at Ohio State (where he also was president), he would quickly be pumping gas for a living. University presidents who try to unilaterally disarm athletics face fierce threats to job security that prevent any constructive reform to rein in college costs.
Instead, resources are misappropriated toward sports. Presidents like McDavis spend hours trying to cajole rich donors to help fund new athletic facilities when that money could finance the construction of, say, a much-needed performing arts center or more scholarships for excellent students. The crowding out of academic needs to support sports has come at a high reputational cost – OU has fallen 13 spots in the U.S. News national university listing over the past five years.
Boise State has emerged in recent years as a football power, but compares poorly with the less football-oriented University of Idaho. Despite spending more than twice as much as Idaho on athletics ($43 million versus $19 million), it loses more, and in both the Forbes and U.S. News rankings of colleges, Idaho clearly surpasses Boise. Many university presidents fail to recognize the Iron Law of Sports: when someone wins a game, someone else loses. It is impossible for a large portion of schools to achieve primacy in any given sport.
Economic pressures, however, suggest that other presidents may start biting the bullet and take the UAB route. Total college enrollments are lower today than three years ago, and high costs paired with widespread underemployment of recent college graduates are making students more price-sensitive than in the past. Passing on athletic subsidies to students in the form of higher fees is increasingly unrealistic.
The top 60 or so schools that are genuine athletic powers, about half losing $5 million or less annually on sports, are gaining control of the lucrative commercial aspects of sports through the NCAA athletic cartel. So while Watts might be catching some backlash for his decision to shut down the football program, do not be surprised if this turns out to be a recurring strategy for presidents to control costs in the future.
Additionally, the continued tales of corruption and abuse in sports that stain the reputation of higher education, such as phantom courses at the University of North Carolina, sex abuse at Penn State, and widespread cheating at other schools, should make presidents and trustees more willing to fight to withdraw from the arms race.
There is another model, where sports can be part of college life on an amateur basis without expensive coaches, ESPN television contracts, or athletic scholarships. In fact, this has been a glorious season for a New England town, Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Harvard College had an undefeated football team, and M.I.T. went 10-1, losing only in a national playoff game -- despite spending relatively modest amounts on sports. While neither school makes any list of the top 100 football powers, they are at or near the top of nearly every academic ranking.
Richard Vedder directs the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, and teaches economics at Ohio University, where Joseph Hartge is an undergraduate studying economics in the Honors Tutorial College.
Submitted by Jake New on December 16, 2014 - 3:00am
The University of Texas at Austin will launch a new center dedicated to addressing the many academic and personal issues faced by college athletes, the university announced Monday. The Center for Sports Leadership and Innovation, which will be led by Daron Roberts, a former NFL assistant coach, will promote faculty research related to college athletes, develop a financial literacy program, and create a training and certification program for high school coaches that would encourage early intervention for troubling or violent athlete behavior.
"As a society, we should be doing everything we can to leverage the enormous popularity of athletics to develop leaders and cultivate integrity," said Bill Powers, the university's president. "We've long known that sports can teach critical virtues like teamwork and discipline."
Union advocates applauded two decisions by the National Labor Relations Board last week, one of which protects the right of employees using work email for union communications. The other decision revises rules for union elections and could shorten the union election process. In the first case, that of Purple Communications and Communications Workers of America, the board ruled that employees communicating with each other on work computers – but not on work time – are free to discuss union activity. The decision did not address communication with non-employees, however.
Aaron Nisenson, chief counsel for the American Association of University Professors, said via email that the decision as it pertains to higher education has particular relevance to faculty members, who frequently communicate via email. “The ability to use email to communicate is essential to faculty, particularly contingent faculty, who are often dispersed and may not be able to speak directly to each other regularly,” he added.
Referring to the second decision, in which the NLRB issued a final rule to modernize representation-case procedures, Nisenson said: “Given the speed at which elections will be conducted under the revised election rules, the ability to communicate via email is extremely important to ensuring that faculty members are fully informed.” The new rule, which takes effect in April, provides for electronic filing and transmission of election petitions, requires that contact information for all eligible voters be included in voter lists – which is especially important for contingent faculty members – and attempts to streamline others aspects of the election process.
“Previously, the results of elections could be tied up for years in pointless litigation, delaying the results of a democratic process, a situation that would be intolerable in any other context,” Nisenson said.
William Herbert, executive director of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions, housed at Hunter College of the City University of New York, said both decisions were “good for advocates and union members,” although he said that tenure-track faculty members at private institutions are generally unprotected from the email decision under current case law emanating from the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1980 decision in NLRB v. Yeshiva University. According to that decisions, tenure-line faculty members at private institutions have managerial responsibilities and therefore are limited in their ability to form unions.