How Not to Use Laptops Given to You by Your University

Brent Sandy, a music professor at the University of Iowa, is facing multiple criminal charges after he reported his university-issued laptop missing and presumably stolen, The Iowa City Press-Citizen reported. The university was able to trace the laptop to Sandy's home. He then confessed, authorities said, to taking the laptop home and reporting it stolen because he was scheduled to get a new laptop and had porn on the existing laptop. When authorities searched his house, they also found a container of marijuana. So Sandy now faces charges related to the false report and the pot.

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College of Idaho relies on minors to promote general education

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A liberal arts college in Idaho is trying a new approach to ensure depth as well as breadth in the student experience.


Professors Doubt Value of Consultant at Louisville

Faculty members are raising questions about the value of a consultant -- hired for $1.1 million, primarily with no-bid contracts -- at the University of Louisville, The Courier-Journal reported. University administrators say that they are finding ways to save money, and that only some preliminary recommendations have been released. But professors say that the analyses that have been released seem obvious and not worth the money. Some of their examples come in reports stating that  the university's “greatest strength is the quality of our people” and that the university “must be globally engaged to be a leading institution of the 21st century.”

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Colorado State removes email account of professor who criticized cuts

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Colorado State-Pueblo professor who is outspoken critic of budget cuts sent out an email comparing them to a century-old massacre. Hours later, university took away his campus account. UPDATE: University president cites Virginia Tech and Columbine.

U. of North Carolina shuts down whistle-blower on athletes

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U. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill stops researcher from discussing her controversial findings on literacy of athletes.

The Assessors Are Coming! The Assessors Are Coming! (essay)

It’s that time of decade again, when randomly selected departments at U of All People are faced with assessment. The administration brings in a posse of NAAAAAA experts with credentials bought from the people who sell fake IDs, and has the faculty entertain them for three days while they poke their noses into everything, including Professor Winkle’s Dryden seminar, which no one has disturbed in years. Here’s how the process works, at least in the English department:

Three months before the assessors arrive, the department is galvanized into action by the chair, acting on directives from the dean, obeying the orders of the provost, who bows to the president. “The assessors are coming, the assessors are coming!” shouts the chair from the comparative safety of the rostrum at the semester’s first departmental faculty meeting while everyone else dives for cover. After this warning shot comes the collective indignation of the faculty -- How dare they judge us? We’re in the humanities! -- as the professors go through the Kübler-Ross stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

When everyone has settled down (except for Professor Winkle, who’s settled in for a nap), the chair starts planning the arduous task of self-judgment. The task consists of recruiting three faculty members who blinked at the wrong time, including Professor Winkle, who opened his eyes after his nap. The disgruntled three are assigned to gauge how much the students aren’t learning from the department’s courses.

What are the standards, criteria, methods? The Renaissance contingent proposes noble goals, such as achieving wisdom and learning to appreciate a Shakespearean sonnet, but no one wants to set the bar too high, or the assessment will be that this department needs to pull up its socks.

The faculty debate setting the bar absurdly low: for instance, that students should learn to read, but there’s no guarantee of students passing that bar, either. After several more meetings and the formation of a committee to oversee the assessment committee, the proposal is that each student should be familiar with the terms literature and irony; must know how to put together an argumentative essay proving that Shakespeare was a great writer; and should have enough literary history to realize that 1800 came after 1564, and that both are before 1922. These arbitrary criteria, once insisted upon, achieve a solidity as satisfying as trompe l’oeil papier-mâché walls.

The methods for data collection are decided by the assessment committee, eager to pass on responsibility to other, unwilling faculty. The methods involve snatching away student essays for disappointed analysis: counting how many times the words in my personal opinion and irregardless appear in the essays, seeing whether the arguments hold water (Professor Winkle performs that job over the sink in the fourth floor men’s restroom), and checking for spelling and grammar, assuming that the faculty are up to it.

As an extra concession, the department tracks alumni/ae to see whether anyone actually used the English major to wangle a job; and contemplates giving an exit exam to department seniors, though the offer of free pizza to anyone who’ll sit for the exam gets only three takers. The sample questions include references to periods, movements, literary terms, authors and works, and seven questions on Dryden. The sample size of all the data varies from a dozen to one faked reply by Professor Winkle.

Other creative assessment methods involve tossing the student essays downstairs to see which go farthest, and throwing the I Ching. To tabulate the results: charts with percentages look good, as do bulleted lists, though the superimposition of one over the other is probably (too late) a poor decision.

Tension mounts till the assessors arrive, at least one in a rumpled brown business suit, all looking as if they haven’t slept since the start of the fall semester. The assessors ask a lot of questions, visit classes, and interview people whom no one ever thought to talk to previously, including Clarice, the custodial supervisor for the liberal arts building. Eventually, they write up a report that recommends a 15 percent reduction in adjunct labor, greater funding for core courses, less departmental internecine warfare, and more attention paid to Dryden.

The report is circulated down the ranks until, months later, it reaches the English department faculty. Since the administration has ignored the implications of the report, the department restricts discussion to only 17 hours, spread out among four faculty meetings.

What rides on all this? Not much till next decade’s visit, when the department scrambles to recall what it did the last time.

David Galef directs the creative writing program at Montclair State University. His latest book is the short story collection My Date With Neanderthal Woman (Dzanc Books).

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A professor's new appreciation for how tough administrators have it (essay)

The year he spent assisting a college president in a tough spot gave Eric Robinson new appreciation for the challenges campus leaders face.

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Why one adjunct gave up on college teaching and created his own business

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One longtime philosophy adjunct comes to terms with academic job market -- on his own terms.

Yale Professors Move to Create Faculty Senate

The Yale University Faculty of Arts and Sciences has voted to form a faculty senate. The faculty was one of the last of its kind in the Ivy League not to have a senate or similarly formal representative body. Tensions between the faculty and administrators highlighted that fact in 2012, as some professors questioned the university’s partnership with the National University of Singapore to create a new college.

The vote was initiated by the Faculty Input Committee, an ad-hoc group of professors that investigated shared governance on campus, starting last year. Steve Wilkinson, a professor of political science who chaired the committee, said via email: “Our committee looked at a number of peer institutions and we realized that we’re an outlier. Most other universities, as their faculties have grown significantly in size, have moved from the traditional town meeting model to an elected representative body which reflects the broader faculty’s interests and concerns.”

Wilkinson said his own opinion was that a faculty senate was a good idea, regardless of the Singapore debate. “Universities are grappling with lots of big issues where faculty input is needed -- budget issues, MOOCs, internationalization, to name just a few – and faculty also have a role to play in providing advice on a whole host of other more routine issues that affect the [Faculty of Arts and Sciences],” he said.

A Yale spokesman said the President Peter Salovey will appoint a faculty committee early this semester to design the structure, staffing and rules of the new senate. The committee will report back to the full Faculty of Arts and Sciences by December for a vote on the plan.

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Report Documents Ties Between Libraries, University Presses

Ties between libraries and their institutions' university presses are growing, according to a survey released Tuesday by the Association of American University Presses. A report issued with the survey results praises this collaboration, but urges both parties to work to avoid duplication of services and to coordinate their activities.


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