administrators

Report on Controversial Wisconsin Tenure Survey

When the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute began surveying professors within the University of Wisconsin System last year about their views on tenure, many said they worried the institute might later use the findings to promote further changes to tenure policies in the state. That’s because tenure protections in Wisconsin were already weakened by a new state law, and because the institute had previously supported some conservative positions on state work and education issues.

It seems some of those fears have come true. In a new report called “The Trouble With Tenure,” the institute cites data from two separate faculty surveys and makes a number of policy recommendations, including giving campus chancellors the ability to lay off faculty for reasons such as significant program reduction or modification, and not just discontinuance.

Other recommendations include directing campuses and departments to develop precise and tailored definitions of professional and public service that include measurable contributions to the community and economy; mandating annual reports from each campus on numbers of tenured and tenure-track faculty, staff, and annual and posttenure reviews; directing individual campuses to departments to adopt stronger posttenure review processes with clear and denied expectations; and directing departments to publicly post tenure criteria.

The institute has maintained that it’s simply tracking a significant, live policy issue and says it’s been transparent about its process and data -- including findings that demonstrate the value of tenure to professors.

David Vanness, an associate professor of population health sciences at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and president of the campus chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said via email that the report appeared to “break little ground,” with few exceptions. He said he thought it was clearly timed to influence the University System’s Board of Regents before their meeting next week, in that the institute seems concerned that the board “may not use its full authority granted by [the new tenure law] to fire tenured faculty essentially at will.” The document still “fails to recognize the economic value of tenure, and the need to protect academic freedom against meddling by powerful political and business interests,” he added, as well as the role tenure has played in the rise of the American university over time.

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Duke Administrator Hit Parking Attendant With Car

A parking attendant is alleging that Tallman Trask, Duke University’s executive vice president, hit her with his car and used a racial slur before a 2014 football game.

Shelvia Underwood, the parking attendant, said that she stopped Trask’s car as she was speaking with a pedestrian, The Duke Chronicle reported. As she turned to him, Trask hit her with his car and she was knocked to the ground. After Trask showed his parking pass and was allowed through, Underwood alleges that he used a racial slur.

Trask said in a statement that he did not intentionally hit Underwood. He said he thought she was allowing him to enter, but when he started moving, she stepped back in front of the car and “her hand ended up on my left fender.” Underwood filed a complaint several days after the incident, Trask said, which was investigated by the Duke police and the Office of Institutional Equity.

Trask denies using the racial slur, and he says that he wrote Underwood an apology note because he had lost his patience.

“I had assumed this was resolved more than a year ago until I received a letter last November from a Raleigh attorney threatening to sue me (not clear for what) unless I paid her an unspecified sum,” Trask said in a statement. “I declined to do so then and do not intend to do so now.”

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Iowa State student with disability battles bullying with open letter

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An Iowa State student with disabilities was mortified last month to find social media posts mocking her for using a three-wheeled scooter to get around campus. She went public.

Indiana Official, Accused of Assault, Quits

Jason Casares has resigned from Indiana University at Bloomington, where he was associate dean of students and deputy Title IX coordinator, the university announced Friday. Casares was accused of sexual assault in an open letter earlier this month by the president-elect of the Association for Student Conduct Administration, a position he once held. A lawyer for Casares says that he denies the charges, and no legal charges have been brought. But the case has drawn much attention because of the roles of Casares and his accuser in an organization that helps colleges prevent and deal with sex assaults.

Indiana is also reviewing all 18 misconduct cases Casares heard during his term there “to ensure that all parties involved received equitable treatment under the university's disciplinary hearing process,” per the university’s statement.

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AAUP Asks Mizzou to Rescind Termination Notice to Melissa Click

The American Association of University Professors on Friday urged the University of Missouri to immediately rescind its notice of termination to Melissa Click, the assistant professor of communication who asked for “muscle” to remove a student journalist during protests on the flagship Columbia camps this fall. In its letter to Hank Foley, interim chancellor at Columbia, AAUP cited Click’s lack of due process and the irregular means by which the university system’s Board of Curators voted to fire her last week

“Beyond its evident lack of conformity with the regulations of the University of Missouri, an action to dismiss a faculty member with indefinite tenure or a probationary faculty member within the term of appointment absent demonstration of cause in an adjudicative hearing before an elected faculty body is an action fundamentally at odds with basic standards of academic due process,” Hans-Joerg Tiede, associate secretary of the AAUP’s department of tenure, academic freedom and governance, wrote on Click's behalf.

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Budget Impasse Could Force Major Cuts at Penn State

Pennsylvania continues to operate without a state budget for the current fiscal year. Eric Barron, president of Pennsylvania State University, warned Friday that if the budget impasse is not resolved, 1,100 Penn State employees will be subject to layoffs and agriculture extension offices will be closed this summer, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

D2L Revamps, Releases 'Degree Compass' Tool

D2L, a Canadian education-technology company, last week made its overhauled Degree Compass tool available to colleges. Degree Compass is an automated advising system that helps students predict their optimal path to graduation. Officials at Austin Peay State University originally designed the software, which D2L later purchased and converted into a cloud-based, mobile-friendly tool. The company said last week that an initial group of almost two dozen colleges, representing a broad range of higher education, would try Degree Compass.

Texas Dean Cites Campus Carry in Decision to Leave

Fritz Steiner is leaving his job as architecture dean at the University of Texas at Austin and is citing the new campus carry law -- which will allow guns in classrooms, among other campus spaces -- as a key reason, The Texas Tribune reported. Steiner will become dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Design on July 1. He said he has turned down such offers in the past. "I would have never applied for another job if not for campus carry," he said. "I felt that I was going to be responsible for managing a law I didn't believe in."

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Essay on how to use promising student success strategies in a comprehensive, cohesive way

The college completion agenda has stalled. A decade in, a smaller percentage of first-time students are earning a degree or certificate.

It’s not for want of trying. Colleges have launched myriad programs aimed at ensuring students earn more college credits and degrees. We have rethought developmental education, revamped student services, bolstered tutoring and academic counseling, and launched student learning centers.

Yet it turns out that a piece-by-piece approach is not what benefits the largest number of our students. Many colleges have not been able to fully integrate their efforts across an entire campus or system. Community college leaders are recognizing that isolated efforts -- no matter how well intentioned -- will fail to comprehensively alter the institutional culture if not designed to move to scale from their inception.

This is consistent with a conclusion of Redesigning America’s Community Colleges: A Clearer Path to Student Success, just out this year. Pathways reforms -- often referred to as either “structured” or “guided” pathways -- have evolved from a solid base of research on what works, according to authors Thomas Bailey, Shanna Smith Jaggars and Davis Jenkins. But what often is missing is cohesion and integration. They call on colleges to “undertake a more fundamental rethinking of their organization and culture."

The current generation of pathways reforms has become the strategy of choice to address longstanding problems of completion, but many of these efforts suffer from the same omissions.

Pathways efforts include several key elements that help students gain traction toward degrees. Students typically receive orientation that includes an assessment of their career interests and academic and noncognitive needs. They choose and enter streamlined, coherent academic programs organized around specific program pathways -- a set of courses that meet academic requirements across a broad discipline grouping such as health sciences, business or education -- with clear learning goals aligned with further education and/or a career. Students’ routes through college have a mapped-out design, with course requirements made clear and visible. Pathways efforts also provide intensive student supports, such as academic advising and career counseling, and monitor student progress, providing frequent and customized feedback to learners.

Like the hodgepodge of pilot programs in previous rounds of community college improvement, these efforts won’t produce systemic change unless they are designed in an integrated, holistic way and colleges make the commitment to implement them at scale. Today, experts who have studied these initiatives around the country suggest that only a handful of campuses have introduced pathways efforts that are truly comprehensive.

The vast majority of these initiatives “are pathways in name only,” says Michael Collins of Jobs for the Future (JFF), an organization that has been studying pathways efforts through its role in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Completion by Design initiative. “All too often, what’s missing is an overarching vision that weaves together multiple interventions. Organizational culture change and holistic integration of programs must be at the heart of pathways.”

As Kay McClenney, senior adviser to the American Association of Community Colleges, observed, “There are some colleges that have mapped programs. But there is still so much work to be done. They still must grapple with questions about what their faculty recommend as the appropriate core courses. They need their faculty to determine the right math for their programs. They need to embed advising in the pathways. They need to integrate student supports so they are comprehensive and inescapable. They need to ask how to incorporate applied learning and co-curricular experiences.”

In other words, this takes years of work. A decade of experience shows that institutions that don’t focus on complete transformation see only short-term progress and find themselves far from achieving desired outcomes.

At my college, Davidson County Community College, we have learned through our participation in Completion by Design that effective pathways programs engage every part of campus -- including leadership, admissions, financial aid, registration, full and part-time faculty, student supports, and communications -- to ensure that every student benefits. The programs make sense to the students, and faculty and staff work collectively to support student success.

We also have partnered with our state colleagues to implement policies that support the success we are achieving at DCCC. North Carolina’s new multiple-measures placement policy, for example, allowed us to enroll students in college-level courses with instructional supports in ways that we believed would be more effective than our prior approach to developmental education. Similarly, the state’s new Comprehensive Articulation Agreement pushes colleges to design transfer pathways with clearly defined goals, courses guaranteed to transfer, alignment to university requirements and built-in guidance and advising.

As part of a new national task force on building pathways to credentials, my colleagues in the Policy Leadership Trust for Student Success at Jobs for the Future believe it is absolutely critical for institutions to create a vision of systematic, total transformation. Moreover, we must bring state partners with us, because policy (and funding) can make the difference between amplifying or undermining campus reform efforts.

The trust is made up of leaders from colleges and state systems. Together, we are exploring the state and federal policy levers that can help spread pathways reforms from a handful of colleges to the majority of colleges. We also will seek out ideas within the field on key policy issues, such as how to engage as leaders in institutional reform, how to equip our college leaders with change management skills, using incentives and improved financial aid to better support students, and ensuring that the pathways we build are based on what makes sense to students, rather than being dictated by the incongruities in federal education and workforce policy.

Community colleges have a great opportunity to redefine pathways from a host of successful pilots into a holistic, integrated program of transformation for our colleges to better serve 21st-century students. Experts point to evidence emerging from colleges such as the City Colleges of Chicago and the City University of New York.

CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) program emphasizes enriched academic, financial and personal supports including comprehensive and personalized advisement, career counseling, tutoring, tuition waivers, transportation aid, and additional financial assistance to defray the cost of textbooks. A study completed last year by the research group MDRC found that after three years, ASAP has nearly doubled the percentage of developmental education students who have completed an associate degree: 40 percent of the study’s program group had received a degree, compared with 22 percent of the control group.

New pathways project grants recently announced by the American Association of Community Colleges aim to expand holistic pathways efforts even further. AACC will provide support, training and networking opportunities to 30 colleges already progressing on a pathways student success agenda with the goal of deepening their efforts and creating a model for the level of change management and leadership required. As these and other efforts take root, let’s make sure we don’t settle for reforms that are pathways in name only.

Mary Rittling is president of Davidson County Community College. She serves as the chair of the Building Pathways to Credentials Task Force of the Policy Leadership Trust for Student Success, a new initiative led by Jobs for the Future to advance state policy improvements for community colleges.

Professor Responds to Records Request by Posting Correspondence to Blog

A professor who says she’s an easy target for a think tank with ties to the conservative Charles Koch Foundation has responded to a voluminous open records request by sharing those records not only with the organization but anyone else who wants to read them. Laura Wright, the chair of English at Western Carolina University who vocally opposed the Koch Foundation’s proposed $2 million gift to establish a center for the study of free enterprise on campus, detailed the story on her blog, The Vegan Body Project. She also posted the 100 pages of emails requested by the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy: those with references to Koch, BB&T Bank (which has backed free-market-education initiatives on many campuses in the South) and Ayn Rand, whose books are required reading on other campuses that have made deals with BB&T and Koch to establish free-enterprise centers or programs.

Wright said via email that she thought her emails should have been protected, since her communication regarding the proposed center constitutes academic freedom. But because she had to release all of them, Wright said she wanted to make them available to the public, lest her words be taken out of context or otherwise used against her. “I just wanted to put everything out there along with the context for my statements, so that the full record would be available for anyone interested in the broader discussion,” she said via email. Many of the released emails include correspondence with local and national media on the proposed Koch gift.

Jay Schalin, a writer for the North Carolina-based Pope Center, which has loose ties to Koch, said he asked for Wright’s emails because he supports the proposed free-enterprise center. “I understand it to be a truly academic enterprise: the intent is to ‘study’ free enterprise, warts and all, rather than to be a one-sided cheerleader,” he said via email. (Note: An earlier version of this sentence misstated Schalin's first name.) “The contentious opposition to it by certain segments of the faculty made it a story-worthy event. … If it is acceptable to question whether the founding of a center is political rather than academic, it is equally acceptable to ask whether the opposition to the center is political.”

As for the status of the center, Bill Studenc, a university spokesman, said that it has been approved by the institution’s Board of Trustees, but at this point there’s no funding for it. The university is currently trying to address faculty concerns about academic integrity, articulated in a November Faculty Senate resolution against the center.

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