Sexist banners at Old Dominion point to a practice at many campuses

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Fraternity members at an off-campus house near Old Dominion University are under fire for hanging sexist "welcome" signs -- behavior that offends many, but is a crude tradition at many colleges. Until now, few academic leaders have spoken out.

Community college in New Jersey struggles to break through with adaptive math courses

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Newark's Essex County College tried adaptive learning software to improve remedial math success rates. It hasn't worked, as students and faculty have struggled with the "self-regulated" approach to learning.

Study Outlines When in Year Students Start Substances

A new study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration reveals when in the calendar year college students are most likely to start using various substances. June is the month students are most likely to start using marijuana, and is also the month for people to start underage drinking. Winter months, however, tend to be when college students start nonmedical use of prescription drugs.

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Non-tenure-track faculty members say they want more professional development, with compensation

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Non-tenure-track faculty members say they want more convenient, compensated professional development.

Bucknell Investigates Racist Incident

Some six months after one racist incident on campus, Bucknell University is dealing with another -- this time directed at a faculty member. President John Bravman said in a statement to faculty, students and staff this week that a “message containing racist, hateful language was found written on a whiteboard hanging on a faculty colleague’s office door,” and that the university is “doing all that we can to try to identify the individual(s) responsible for this disgusting display of intolerance.” Details, including the name of the targeted professor, have not been released.

This week’s incident comes a semester after three students were expelled for using racial slurs and making threats during a student radio station broadcast. Bravman said in his note that the “events of last semester made us acutely aware of the discrimination that exists on campus and in society more broadly,” and that everyone at Bucknell “must continue to work in earnest toward confronting those inequities.”

He added, “We cannot allow acts such as this to derail our efforts toward genuine and needed change. To accept anything less than a safe, inclusive community for all is to fail. I urge you to continue this fight for yourselves, for our colleagues and for our students.”

Local NLRB: Manhattan Adjuncts May Tally Union Vote

A regional National Labor Relations Board office said Wednesday that adjuncts at Manhattan College may count their union election votes. The ballots have been impounded since 2011, when the Roman Catholic college objected to NLRB jurisdiction over its campus, citing its religious affiliation. The case was pending before the NLRB in Washington until earlier this year, when the board sent the Manhattan adjunct union case and a handful of others involving would-be adjunct unions at religious colleges back to their regional NLRB offices for re-evaluation based on the recent Pacific Lutheran University decision. In that case, the NLRB said that adjuncts who wanted to form a Service Employees International Union-affiliated collective bargaining unit could do so, because their service to the institution was not sufficiently religious in nature to conflict with the National Labor Relations Act giving workers the right to organize.

The Pacific Lutheran decision included criteria by which other adjunct union bids at religious colleges were to be assessed. In her decision regarding Manhattan, Karen P. Fernbach, director of the NLRB’s regional office in New York, said the college “failed to establish that it holds out the petitioned-for adjunct faculty members as performing a specific role in maintaining” its religious educational environment. For example, she said, the college's faculty application materials say there is “no intention on the part of the [governing] board, the administration or the faculty to impose church affiliation and religious observance as a condition for hiring or admission, to set quotas based on religious affiliation, to require loyalty oaths, attendance at religious services, or courses in Catholic theology."

The proposed Manhattan adjunct union is affiliated with New York State United Teachers, which is in turn affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. Paul E. Dinter, a visiting professor of religious studies, said that as "an educator, a Catholic and a social justice advocate, I have to be pleased that the NLRB decision supports the clear Catholic moral teaching that workers have a right to organize. All of us who love Manhattan College and its social justice mission are heartened by this fair and long-delayed decision.”

In a statement, Brennan O'Donnell, Manhattan's president, said, “We are disappointed, but not surprised, by the ruling. We continue to assert our position that the NLRB does not have the right to define what constitutes the Catholic identity and mission of the college.” Manhattan has the option to appeal the ruling. The college said in a statement that it's considering how it will respond.

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Cengage's Technical Education Portal

Cengage Learning will offer the 24,000 members of the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE) access to a portal of online courses and professional development tools. The site will include more than 350 online courses in health care, business, IT and other areas. Cengage also will provide 100 certificate-bearing career training programs through the portal, which will be accredited through community colleges and other institutions.

Middlebury to sell stake in online language learning provider

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Middlebury will sell its stake in for-profit online language learning provider, an initiative that never sat right with many faculty members. But future online education initiatives are in the works.

New presidents or provosts: Brown Grossmont Mercer Mercyhurst Minnesota West Philadelphia Santa Fe Singapore UNCG

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  • Nabil S. Abu-Ghazaleh, president of West Los Angeles College, in California, has been named president of Grossmont College, also in California.
  • Matt Dane Baker, executive dean of the College of Science, Health and the Liberal Arts at Philadelphia University, has been promoted to provost there.

Why professors shouldn't view administrators with such disdain (essay)

When I moved into administration after being a professor, a colleague who had made the same move years before told me to brace for the loss of my faculty friends.

Impossible, I argued -- we attended regular Friday cocktail hours, had fought and won battles across campus, supported each other across the thorny paths leading to tenure and promotion. We’d been through it all, and those are precisely the kinds of experiences that make for lasting relationships.

I was wrong. My colleague was right.

About this time in my career, I began noticing for the first time the term “incivility” in higher ed news. Perhaps I noticed it because for the first time, it rang true. Where once I had been respected as a caring teacher and a hardworking colleague, I was now viewed with suspicion.

Now perceived as someone out for personal glory and set on bungling things for everyone else, I began finding it difficult to interact with my department (where I still taught one course a semester). After my move to the administration building, returning to my home department was like returning to the house of ex-in-laws after a bad divorce -- everyone froze, smiled stiffly and waited for me to leave. This office had been my home for over 15 years.

Inside Higher Ed recently reprinted a letter to the Financial Times advice column “Dear Lucy,” in which a disgruntled faculty member inquired, “Should I plot the downfall of our dean?” The offense that inspired this angry faculty member to ask the question was this: while traveling to Asia with a special delegation from his university’s business school, he had been forced to sit in coach. Directly in his line of sight was his dean, seated in the much more comfortable business class. For this, the dean must be destroyed.

While not all of us in the academy engage in this kind of career terrorism, we have all at least witnessed or been privy to such schemes and dark plots. I have myself experienced deep frustration as a faculty member, feeling underpaid, overworked and underappreciated. Certainly I would not have been pleased to be dragging an administrator along to a professional meeting, either. And I would have especially been dreading the stiff small talk at baggage claim, or the forced chat at the evening’s cocktail hour.

Also quite familiar was the willingness on the part of a faculty member to assign the worst motives to that seat placement and to wish on the dean the disaster of losing his job. The language “plot the downfall” contains a kind of professional violence too often at play in relationships between faculty and administrators. It’s an aspect of academic life of which we should not be proud.

Over lunch I once asked a professor friend whom I admired a great deal -- with impeccable scholarship, this superb teacher made one of the highest faculty salaries and enjoyed research release time and summers away -- if s/he really thought “all administrators were bad people.” The answer came back an unblinking, “Yes.”

I was an administrator at the time.

“Administrator” does not signify “human being” in scenarios like the one I just described. In such cases of deep suspicion administrators are assumed to be self-centered mismanagers or, worse, bloodless careerists. And certainly not committed to the institutions they serve. This is precisely the objectifying of others that we teach our students to recognize and reject. It is a powerful tool for excusing or justifying hostility toward an identity position. And it was certainly at play inside that airplane.

As an administrator I am precisely the same person I was when I was on the faculty. Same strengths, same weaknesses, same commitments to my family, identical professional goals. And to be fair, when I made the move to administration, I did not lose every friend, and my next administrative post included some very nice relationships with faculty colleagues.

But there is no question that once I became an administrator, simply by virtue of being an administrator, I fell under the suspicion of many. Was I seeking power? Would I continue to value teaching? Had I lost my mind? Was it mere greed driving my decision?

The truth is, on most campuses, there are not pots of money squirreled away under deans’ desks; we don’t enjoy giant travel budgets or outsize benefits packages. And we continue to possess whatever powers of ratiocination we enjoyed before.

What’s different: we carry responsibilities across a college or unit that force difficult decisions that are quite visible and affect many people, and that will often result in deep disappointments for some while satisfying (even rewarding) others. Many deans/provosts admit that these are jobs few would actually want if they knew beforehand what they were getting into, because it can be difficult to exist happily on a campus under a cloud of suspicion, making decisions that will destroy your credibility with one half of the campus one week and render you despised by the other half the next.

Yet I chose administration because of these difficulties; they suit me. I love higher education, am committed to student success, deeply respect faculty and research. Me? I’m a fine (not great) scholar and a respected teacher, but my heart is in the institutional project and has been for a long time.

And while I have endured much incivility in my new administrative life, it would not be fair to attribute the loss of true friendships to mere malice or professional pettiness. In truth, we tried to stay close at first, but whatever suspicions my faculty friends harbored about administration in general hung between us, squashing conversation.

Friday night debriefs over cocktails became impossible if I attended. There were things I couldn’t share, gossip I could no longer indulge in -- guessing other deans’ motives, parsing the language of the president’s latest missive. We have all known the fun of harmless gossip with colleagues; it’s part of being close friends at work. Sadly, the nature of academe itself, with its intractable tension between faculty and administration, had rendered me an outsider, and I could never go back.

Academe has become known for its internecine warring, as a place fraught and gossipy and deeply bifurcated. And often not a little ridiculous. Certainly the gentleman asking Lucy’s advice above works in a place like that.

If you are a career academic reading this, you recognize what I’m saying. You’ve been on one or both sides of this business. As an administrator who still believes in the higher education enterprise, I’d ask faculty to think next time the impulse to plot strikes, and to remember that many of us in administration are just as competent as we were as faculty, and no matter where we are seated on a plane, still as human.

After 15 years as a professor of English, Kellie Bean became an associate dean and then provost.


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