Cuts at U. of Scranton

The University of Scranton announced Wednesday that the institution is making "difficult" cuts of $4 million, due to rising costs and a smaller than expected freshman class for the current academic year, The Times-Tribune reported. The cuts involve some layoffs, but university officials declined to say how many.

Report: Too Much Regulation Is Hurting Scientists

Faculty members in the sciences spend too long on burdensome administrative work, at the expense of their other, more meaningful duties, argues a report out today from the National Science Board. The report, called "Reducing Investigators’ Administrative Workload for Federally Funded Research," is based on the work of the board's Task Force on Administrative Burdens, which asked professors to identify through roundtable discussions and requests for information which federal and internal university procedures and requirements were the biggest drains on their time. Financial management, the grant proposal process, progress reports, institutional review boards, and layers of oversight related to working with animals all were common responses.

The paper acknowledges that some oversight is necessary, but says that regulations -- once set -- are not easily changed or lifted, and that "[principal investigators] at many institutions suggested that a culture of overregulation has emerged around federal research, which further increases their administrative workload." The paper argues that such problems have been cited for years -- including two Federal Demonstration Partnership surveys that found principal investigators spend 42 percent of their time on administrative tasks -- but that failure to address them has resulted in "wasted" federal research dollars. “Escalating compliance requirements and inconsistent audit practices directly impact scientists and the time they have to perform research and train students and staff,” said Kelvin Droegemeier, board vice chairman and a member of the Task Force. 

The report offers numerous suggestions for decreasing the administrative burdens of research, such as not requiring as much information in initial proposal merit reviews, and instead requiring more details only once the project is being considered for funding. Progress reports also could be "streamlined" to focus only on performance outcomes, it says. Federal agencies also should work together to streamline grant management processes and paperwork, for example. The task force also recommends that universities review their IRB processes and staff organization "with the goal of achieving rapid approval of high-quality protocols that protect research subjects."

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New presidents or provosts: BC BYU Coastal Carolina CSUMB ICCI Providence Christian SCTCS UBC

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  • Jim Belcher, author and associate professor of practical theology at Knox Theological Seminary, in Florida, has been chosen as president of Providence Christian College, in California.

Ex-Football Coach Is Presidential Finalist at 2 Ohio Universities

The hot presidential candidate in Ohio higher education doesn't have a Ph.D. or much in the way of campus administrative experience. But he sure can coach.

James P. Tressel, who resigned under pressure as Ohio State University's football coach in 2011, was named as one of three finalists for the presidency of the University of Akron, where he has served since 2012 as executive vice president for student success.

And Monday, the search committee at Youngstown State University -- which gave Tressel his first head coaching job and later made him its athletics director as well -- made him one of its three presidential finalists, too.

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Essay criticizes push to deny liberal arts education to all but elite students

Americans don’t like cheaters. When it comes to how we learn and what we’re able to do with our acquired knowledge, a game has been going on. And many will find themselves systematically locked out of opportunity.

This is not about students cheating on tests or principals downplaying ineffective teaching strategies. Nor is it about the latest argument concerning higher education — that college is too expensive and there’s no guarantee of gainful employment. It a national reckoning of how much we’re willing to tolerate regarding class, status and the suppression of economic mobility. This issue demands that we take responsibility for the way that our educational decisions play out in our lives and throughout our communities. Until we take ownership of these things, we will continue to play a fool’s game of winners and losers.

For the vast majority of Americans — myself included — a college education remains the key to an engaging, financially viable life. Nothing should be done to disrupt this trusted vehicle by zeroing in on the undergraduate degree solely as preparation for a first job whose “of-the-moment” skills and knowledge are likely be eclipsed in short order in a rapidly changing economy.

I am a first-generation college student. My father, while I was growing up ,was an assembly line worker making wooden boxes and a cook at a hospital. My mother did not work outside the home.

It was their conviction that I would receive an education that those who traditionally succeeded -- generation after generation -- in America already enjoyed.

And that was a liberal arts education. My parents didn’t really understand what a liberal arts education was, but they knew they wanted it for me. I was not about to be cheated out of an education that would not carry me through a lifetime of self-inquiry, engagement and changing job opportunities.

But today’s stormy economy, and with it, constant rhetoric from self-appointed critics dubbing the liberal arts “useless” as opposed to training for a first job, cause people to have doubts. The liberal arts — even as a complement to vocational education as in Germany where the technical economy is thriving — are glibly declared without value.

Is it not suspicious, however, that at the very time more and more aspiring students from challenging, non-middle-class backgrounds seek higher education, those who have already achieved, often on the basis of a liberal education, want to redefine the rules?

This is the game. It’s as close as America gets to hereditary power. And it is won in two relatively simple steps: redefine the very notion of student success on the basis of landing that first job; and keep those without privilege away from the liberal arts — a historical source of power and mobility in the middle-class culture that defines higher education. There is no doubt that those who are trying to tear down the traditional undergraduate degree would not permit their own children to be limited to a strictly vocational education.

So, while we are encouraged to fret over college costs, the marketability and uselessness of the philosophy major, or something else similarly distracting, we’re letting the great equalizer of the college degree and a trusted path to leadership get away from us.

Some institutions are not waiting for everyday Americans to catch on. At the University of Baltimore, for example, a state institution committed to open-access admissions at the undergraduate level, a rigorous examination of the challenges faced by and resources available to its students for success has been taking place for the past year. The goal is to provide students the academic and non-academic interventions that help them complete a career-oriented college-level course of study at a reasonably low cost and in a reasonable amount of time. These students didn’t grow up believing that they have all the time in the world to mature. They were not told every day that they are “great.” Many are first generation college students and come from nontraditional pathways to the university. There is a mix of ages. Urgency defines these students’ ambition. The university has no intercollegiate athletics and its residence facilities are minimal. The city often serves both its students’ residential and social life.

But in its effort to increase student success, the university is not forgoing its historic commitment to the applied liberal arts. It offers relatively modest number of majors that are preparatory to a range of careers — business, criminal justice, human sciences and management, digital communications, simulation and digital entertainment, psychology, jurisprudence, and integrated arts. All of these are taught within a liberal arts context. At its curricular core, the university has always been about a productive, at once imaginative, intersection of theory and practice defined by applied liberal arts in the service of employment.

For example, all publication design majors are required to complete Visual/Verbal Rhetoric and all digital communication majors are required to take Rhetoric of Digital Communications. Both courses are based in rhetorical theory from Aristotle and Burke to McLuhan, Toulmin and Barthes. Students analyze and apply aesthetic and rhetorical theory to visual products -- advertisements and other graphic-design materials, television shows and movies, public relations and marketing. The infusion of the liberal arts into the fundamentals of applied courses of study began with the introduction of programs often decades ago. The deliberate infusion of practical courses with the liberal arts is further strengthened by locating them within the Yale Gordon College of Arts and Sciences. Here is a university where open-access students are not about to be intellectually shortchanged even when facing the imperative to transition from study to work.

When our nation’s founding fathers made their original commitment to higher education, they envisioned a useful liberal arts education that would permit citizens to participate productively over a lifetime in the social, political and economic arenas of democracy. There was no dichotomy between the liberal arts and employment in the distinctively American college education.

Today, we risk this potential for a meritocracy. Ralph Waldo Emerson asserted centuries ago in his essay, "Self Reliance," that a distinction of the American people — a key to their inventiveness and advancement — is the ability to entertain two seemingly contradictory notions at once. Those who would drive a wedge between the liberal arts and jobs are destroying that distinction and limiting human potential. A culture of inherited privilege is still doggedly hanging on to supplant the individual’s talent and ambition. The walls are still up and being defended under the seductive guise of a narrow education for the first job. And a lot of folks are being cheated as college success is redefined. For when college success is redefined, so is life success.

William G. Durden is president emeritus of Dickinson College and a newly appointed research professor in the Johns Hopkins School of Education and operating partner at Sterling Partners. This essay is adapted from a talk he gave at the University of Baltimore.


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How a small clause in a faculty contract got one professor promoted

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How one little clause in an associate professor's contract help him get promoted to "full."

Georgetown of Kentucky Cuts Faculty by 20%

Georgetown College in Kentucky will eliminate 20 percent of faculty positions and four majors to deal with a deficit brought on by an enrollment decline, reported. The majors to be eliminated are computer science, French, German and music. The college is also ending temporarily its matching contributions to employee retirement accounts.

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New presidents or provosts: Calvin CMU Columbia Drew Duke Luther Olive-Harvey

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  • MaryAnn Baenninger, president of the College of Saint Benedict, in Minnesota, has been selected as president of Drew University, in New Jersey.
  • Cheryl Brandsen, dean of social sciences and contextual disciplines at Calvin College, in Michigan, has been promoted to provost there.

Anger Over $480,418 Payout After 7-Month Presidency

Students at Illinois State University are protesting a $480,418 payout to Timothy Flanagan, who served as president for seven months before agreeing with board members that he should leave, The Chicago Tribune reported. He left amid an investigation of a confrontation with a grounds worker, although board members and Flanagan have (by mutual agreement) been silent over the reasons for his departure. Critics are questioning why, if it was appropriate for him to leave, he should get so much money. Students have carried signs at protests saying "Would you pay me to drop out?" and "Flanagan check = 10 full rides."

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Michigan Professors Object to Raises for Administrators

Faculty members at the University of Michigan have issued an open letter arguing that administrators' salaries have skyrocketed in recent years, while pay for professors has increased only modestly, MLive reported. The letter calls for a full investigation of the issue. A spokesman for the university said officials would investigate.


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