John L. Hennessy announced Thursday that he will step down as president of Stanford University next summer. He has been president since 2000 and served as a faculty member and administrator at Stanford before that. While president, he launched and completed a $6.2 billion fund-raising campaign, pushed university-industry relationships, and saw Stanford assume a major role in the development of massive open online courses. Stanford's announcement, with more details on his tenure, may be found here.
In March, at the annual meeting of the American Council on Education, Hennessy discussed his vision for the future of higher education and the digital role in that future.
A 2012 article in The New Yorker explored the close ties between Stanford and Silicon Valley under Hennessy's leadership.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will not lose accreditation over the academic fraud that occurred there, but it will face one year of probation, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges announced Thursday. In October, the university released a detailed report about widespread and long-lasting academic fraud at the university. For 20 years, some employees at the university knowingly steered about 1,500 athletes toward no-show courses that never met and were not taught by any faculty members, and in which the only work required was a single research paper that received a high grade no matter the content.
In January, UNC submitted a 200-page report to the accrediting body detailing the steps it has taken since the scandal came to light. The university will have to submit a similar update after the probationary period.
"The commission’s decision is the next step -- an expected consequence -- in Carolina’s tireless efforts to ensure integrity in everything we do and that the past irregularities are not allowed to recur," Carol Folt, UNC's chancellor, said in a statement.
The editorial pages of The New York Times seem to have become the destination of choice for people who want to say uninformed things about American higher education. Let me rephrase that slightly: They have become the destination of choice for people who want to say uninformed things that are designed to get readers angry at American higher education, which I presume is why The Times keeps them coming. In today’s America, anger sells.
Though this receptivity to misleading opinion pieces has been around at The Times for a while, it seems in recent months to be building to some sort of crescendo. On April 4 of this year, the paper published “The Real Reason College Tuition Costs So Much” by Paul Campos. According to Campos, the “real reason” boils down to generous government subsidies and bloated administrations. These are longstanding talking points that are unsubstantiated by any evidence. Believe it or not, there are people who actually study this stuff, and there is evidence compiled by economists and others that explains the rise in college costs. None of that is in Campos’s opinion piece, and none of it confirms his conclusions. (I would recommend Why Does College Cost So Much? by Robert Archibald and David Feldman to those who want a thoughtful answer to the question.)
On May 20 the paper published “Platinum Pay in Ivory Towers” by Frank Bruni. I am a fan of Bruni’s work, but he seems to have lost some of his usual good judgment when it comes to the subject of colleges and universities. This particular piece expressed ire at the $8.5 million payout by Yale University to its recently retired president, Richard Levin.
It is fair to find such a sum outrageous. It is less fair to move to Bruni’s conclusion that “the lofty pay of college presidents is part of higher education’s increasingly corporate bent, of the blurred lines between the campus and the marketplace.” Using the example of how a university with many billions of dollars chooses to spend several million as the basis of generalizations about American higher education is like using Warren Buffett as an example of the typical American investor. The latest data from the College and University Association for Human Resources show that the median salary for research university presidents is about $450,000, with most other sectors not coming close to that, and community college presidents having a median salary of $188,000. By comparison, a 2012 study showed the average salary of a partner in a large American law firm to be $681,000. There are far more law partners than college presidents in America.
The nadir of this trend was reached on June 6, with the publication of “Why I Defaulted on My Student Loans,” by the journalist Lee Siegel. Siegel is the author of four books and a contributor to publications including Harper’s, The New Republic and The New Yorker. I assume he makes a living. He is proud of having defaulted on his loans, which he took out, he says, in order to attend “a small private liberal arts college.” If his online biography is correct, Siegel went on to receive three degrees from Columbia University.
It is hard to know how properly to describe Siegel’s piece. One might begin with self-centered, condescending and poorly reasoned. He accepts no responsibility for having chosen a private college over a less expensive public option in the first place; he finds offensive the notion that he might have had to take a job that he found less than true to his “particular usefulness to society” -- which was to write smart things -- in order to pay off his debts. He finds the entire notion of repaying a debt for the receipt of a benefit a “social arrangement that is legal, but not moral.” He encourages others to follow his sterling example.
All this would be easy to dismiss as a colossal display of arrogance and irresponsibility were it not for the imprimatur of respectability bestowed by The Times. I understand the fact that the views expressed on an opinion page do not reflect those of the paper or its editors. But I also believe that those editors have a responsibility to act as, well, editors, and to publish pieces that meet a certain standard of thoughtfulness and stand at least within spitting distance of the facts. It saddens me that the newspaper that is ostensibly the gold standard of American journalism seems to be taking its lead from angry blogs.
I’m thinking of submitting an opinion piece to The Times entitled “College Causes Cancer.” I don’t have any facts to support the claim, but apparently that doesn’t matter, and the title is catchy as hell.
Brian Rosenberg is president of Macalester College.
Most people agree that faculty performance evaluations should be based on more than student feedback, grants and publication counts. But what does a more complete evaluation process look like? And how would a more progressive department function? The New American Colleges and Universities’ answer is Redefining the Paradigm: Faculty Models to Support Student Learning. The new monograph is based on new faculty evaluation models at NAC&U member institutions, and pushes other colleges and universities to rethink traditional department structures and processes to better support student learning. The monograph promotes the development of “holistic departments” that reject the arguably outdated scholarship-teaching-service faculty evaluation model in favor of processes that are more fluid and responsive to the changing faculty role and departmentwide needs. It also promotes active learning, in which professors are not “sages on the stage” but rather guides in research and other experiential learning.
The Teagle Foundation supported the project. Judith Shapiro, Teagle Foundation president and former president of Barnard College, recently wrote about the benefits of a redefined faculty paradigm here. Representatives from the Sage Colleges and Valparaiso University talked about their involvement with the project at the annual meeting of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. “One of the big issues here is to relook at teaching, scholarship and service and the collapsing boundaries between the three,” David Salomon, co-editor of the monograph and a professor of English and director of undergraduate research at the Sage Colleges, said at the time. “In a holistic department, someone might pick up more service, and we want to make sure we account for that in the evaluation, as well.”
The New York Legislature, winding down its session, has yet to approve legislation proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, to require public and private colleges to adopt “affirmative consent policies” -- in which students must explicitly consent to sexual activities. Seeking to build support for the bill, Cuomo wrote an essay on it, with Lady Gaga as the co-author. The piece, which has just been published in Billboard, makes a case for why the legislation, which also includes other protections for those who report that they have been sexually assaulted, is needed. “Last year, the governor’s office asked the state’s public university system to step up on this issue. They did,” write the governor and Lady Gaga. “Now, every public college student in New York is protected by a strong policy against sexual assault. But without changing New York’s laws, private colleges don’t have to live up to the same standard. That’s why the state legislature must pass the proposed bill. Without it, students at private institutions are more likely to be left at risk.”
National poll gives low marks to the college selection process, with parents saying institutions aren't doing enough to place graduates in jobs and the value of degrees has dropped sharply over the past decade.
Assuming “Bothered” is still interested, Science Careers is offering new advice to the postdoc who asked what to do about a professor who tries to look down her shirt. The original advice offered by Science Careers columnist Alice Huang, a senior faculty associate in biology at California Institute of Technology and former president of Science’s publisher, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, attracted widespread criticism last week for being “sexist.” Huang wrote, “As long as your adviser does not move on to other advances, I suggest you put up with it, with good humor if you can,” and many readers accused her of treating possible sexual harassment casually.
Science pulled the column and later offered an apologetic editor’s note. Late last week, editors published another post called “Better Advice for ‘Bothered,’” referencing the pseudonym the postdoc used to asked her question. The advice -- ranging from a simple “Hey, I’m up here” comment to developing relationships with other faculty mentors and advocates -- is mostly crowdsourced from online commentary and social media posts about the original column. You can read it here.
A regional National Labor Relations Board office decided late last week that adjuncts at Duquesne University may form a union affiliated with the United Steelworkers. Adjuncts teaching at Duquesne’s McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts voted to form a union in 2012, but the Roman Catholic university argued that its religious identity put it outside NLRB jurisdiction. The university’s appeal was pending before the national NLRB for some time, but earlier this year that board sent back several similar adjunct union cases to their local NLRB offices for further consideration in light of the recent Pacific Lutheran University decision.
In that case, the national board determined that Pacific Lutheran adjuncts could form a union affiliated with Service Employees International Union, since their duties were not of a religious nature. The landmark decision also included new guidelines for evaluating such cases, and those guidelines were used to re-evaluate the Duquesne case. The local board office found there was “no evidence” that adjunct faculty are told they have religious duties, or that religion is a consideration in hiring, performance evaluation or course content.
In an open letter, Duquesne President Charles J. Dougherty said federal courts maintain that the NLRB “should not be determining whether we are religious enough by their own standards, and we intend to appeal the local NLRB’s decision” to the national board and federal courts, if necessary. In a news release, the United Steelworkers said the university’s interest in blocking the union appeared to be financially, not religiously, motivated.