Janet Napolitano, one month into her University of California System presidency, made her first substantive address in that role Wednesday night, in a speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. She said that, in two weeks, she will be sharing some "big ideas" with the university's Board of Regents. But in a hint of her priorities, she announced several initiatives Wednesday. She proposed a $5 million increase in spending on postdoctoral fellows and a $5 million increase in spending on recruiting graduate students. "Graduate students and postdocs are the essential links between teaching for California and researching for the world. They are our future faculty members. They are our future innovators. They are our future Nobel laureates. They merit our additional support right now," she said, in the prepared version of her remarks.
Napolitano also announced that she was setting aside $5 million to help UC students who lack the legal documentation to reside in the United States. She reiterated her view (from her time as U.S. secretary of homeland security) that federal law should give such students a path toward citizenship. But she said that the university will do more to help them now. The new funds, she said, will be used "to support these students with resources like trained advisers, student service centers and financial aid. Consider this a down payment -- one more piece of evidence of our commitment to all Californians. UC will continue to be a vehicle for social mobility."
In an effort to better-understand differences among student subgroups, the institutional leadership requested an analysis of engagement levels among Zombie students.
Analysis of institutional data indicates that students who self-report as Zombies also report statistically significant lower levels of engagement across a wide range of important student experiences. Many of these lower levels of engagement on specific student experience items are also negative predictors of Zombie student satisfaction.
Zombie students report lower levels of participation in class discussion despite higher satisfaction with faculty feedback. Further investigation found that these students often find it difficult to raise their hand above their heads in response to the instructor’s questions.
Zombie students also report that their co-curricular experiences had less impact on their understanding of how they relate to others. Additional analysis of focus group transcripts suggests a broad lack of self-awareness.
Zombie students indicate that they have fewer serious conversations with students who differ by race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or social values. Instead, Zombie students seem to congregate and rarely extend themselves out of their comfort zone.
Interestingly, our first- to second-year retention rate of Zombie students is 100 percent, despite high reports of tardiness and absences. Yet our six year graduation rate is 0 percent. While some have expressed concern over these conflicting data points, the Commencement Committee has suggested that the graduation ceremony is long enough already without having Zombie students shuffling aimlessly across the stage.
Finally, Zombie students report an increased level of one-on-one student/faculty interaction outside of class. However, we found no correlation between the substantial drop in the number of evening faculty from last year (108) to this year (52) and the number of Zombie students enrolled in night courses. Strangely, the Zombie students in these courses did indicate an unusually high level of satisfaction with the institution’s meal plan.
Mark Salisbury is director of institutional research and assessment at Augustana College, in Illinois. He blogs at Delicious Ambiguity, where a version of this essayfirst appeared.
The Vermont State Colleges System and the University of Vermont have refused to allow Sodexo to reclassify some of the company workers who operate food services at the colleges, The Burlington Free Press reported. Sodexo announced the reclassification plans, which the colleges had the right to reject, in response to the new federal healthcare law. Some employees who have been considered full-time will now be considered part-time, and lose eligibility for employer-provided health insurance. Student and faculty groups had circulated petitions urging the colleges to block Sodexo's plans. A statement from Sodexo said: "We will work with Vermont State Colleges and the University of Vermont on this ongoing process and will continue to support our employees to help them understand their options and prepare them to meet the requirements of the individual mandate” of the new health reform law."
Berry College, a private institution in Georgia, announced Monday that it has settled (and won) a dispute with Tennessee. Berry sued Tennessee last year when the state tried to impose fees on the college because of two billboards that it put up. The state said that Berry was effectively operating a college in Tennessee. But Berry said that this was untrue, and that the college wasn't offering courses in the state (or even distance education). The college said the state was interfering with its right to simply recruit Tennessee students. Under the settlement, Berry said, Tennessee is waiving its rules based on Berry meeting similar standards in Georgia that Tennessee colleges must meet there. Officials of the Tennessee Higher Education Coordinating Board did not respond to email seeking comment.
Pennsylvania State University will pay $59.7 million in 26 settlements to victims of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, officials announced Monday. The settlement terms include a release of all claims against Penn State and other parties, and are subject to confidentiality agreements, a university statement says. The payouts should by covered by insurance and interest revenues from university loans, and no tuition money, taxpayer funds or donations will be used.
Six of 32 total claims remain, according to the statement. The university has rejected some as without merit, while the people who filed the others are engaged in settlement discussions. Jerry Sandusky, who is currently in Pennsylvania state prison, exploited his connections with Penn State football to rape and abuse young boys for years, sometimes on campus.
A University of Wisconsin at Superior professor has voluntarily resigned, after reports surfaced this summer that he pleaded guilty and served prison time for attempted sexual abuse in another state more than 20 years ago, when he was a high school teacher. Matthew Faerber, a tenured professors of vocal music, was placed on paid leave in August after a newspaper in Utah, where he used to live, published a report detailing his past criminal record, involving two 13-year old students. The university announced that he voluntarily resigned, after a lengthy investigation into Faerber’s record, Northland’s News Center reported.
Faerber was hired by Superior in 1998, but the University of Wisconsin System did not introduce mandatory background checks for all employees until 2007.
Chancellor Renee Wachter said in a statement that Faerber -- whose status changed to unpaid leave earlier this month -- resigned "under terms of a separation agreement. We believe that this is a fair and reasonable resolution to a difficult situation, which serves the best interests of students and the entire UW-Superior community."
Faerber could not immediately be reached for comment.