U. of Florida Backs Off Plan on Computer Science

The University of Florida is backing off a controversial plan that would have stripped most of the research functions from its computer science department. Bernie Machen, the university's president, issued a statement Wednesday in which he said that new plans were being developed to preserve the department's research role -- the elimination of which outraged many students, faculty members and alumni. The cuts are part of large reductions at the university, resulting from state appropriations cuts. Referring to the computer science proposal, Machen wrote: "As many of you know, the proposal has been met with overwhelming negative response, much of which I believe has been based on misunderstanding." At the same time, he said that some faculty members had come forward with proposals that would meet budget goals and also preserve the research mission in the computer science program. While work is needed to further develop those plans, Machen said that the previous proposal would be "set aside."

Penn Vice Dean on Leave Over False Degree Claim

The University of Pennsylvania has placed Doug E. Lynch, vice dean of its Graduate School on Education, on leave following the discovery that he claimed to have a doctorate that he did not earn, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Penn officials first told the newspaper that the institution became aware of the problem several months ago and took "appropriate sanctions," while leaving Lynch in his role. After The Inquirer called Penn's president, Amy Gutmann, for comment, the university announced that Lynch had been placed on "administrative leave." Lynch declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the education school at Penn said that Lynch said he was unaware that he had not finished his doctorate requirements. "He mistakenly believed that it was complete," she said.

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Essay on making your own graduation ceremony

When the air is full of pollen and your antihistamine is not working properly, chances are it’s time for commencement.

Whether you completed your studies in person, online, or a combination of both, you are reaching the end of the journey. And -- let’s face it -- commencement “exercises” will be a heck of a lot cheaper if you do them at home. When you consider the traditional gloss of commencement as a beginning (not an end), why not begin on the right foot? Whether you attended a private, public, or for-profit institution, in this time of budget constraints, wouldn’t you rather that all that fuss and expense be channeled into scholarships for the class of 2015? Who needs "Pomp and Circumstance"? Replace it with voluntary frugality.

Escape the hassle. Unlike taking part in on-ground exercises, which are actually more like calisthenics, you will feel free as a bird commemorating the end/beginning of your journey on your own.

Define your terms

Don’t confuse virtually commencement with virtual commencement, which already exists and engendered 9,850 hits, if Google is to be believed. To virtually graduate is a finer point and an acknowledgement of all that hard work — but privately, in the comfort of your own home. You decide how to celebrate, when, and with whom. It’s like eloping, but with yourself and all the knowledge you gained. It’s self-directed, independent, sassy – just what college hoped you would become.

Expect resistance

As with any idea ahead of its time, expect naysayers. Innovations are always first greeted with a degree of scoffing. There are some that will counter that your virtually-commencement approach is intellectually soft, shows lack of commitment to your education or loyalty to your school, deprives your relatives the chance to celebrate your (their) success, or is just plain lazy.

It’s cost-effective

Be practical. The amount you save on a cap and gown alone just may pay for your Internet service next month. Home commencement also is green and virtually stress-free. And the well-named graduation fee may be avoided. Two things are certain in academic life: grades and the graduation fee.

Don’t mount a frontal attack on naysayers. Just don’t invite them. You did not complete that 300-level Conflict Negotiation class for nothing.

With your customized, self-directed commencement, there will be no more hassle about who gets the tickets, where to park, or did the regalia in the right color arrive. You won’t have to worry about being the bright orange standout in a sea of white -- or vice versa. You can free up all that energy and pour it into your speech.

Foster your creativity

No more sitting through an interminable address (given for a handsome fee) that usually begins: I wasn’t the best student in college and I made millions anyway or I sweated bullets writing this speech even though I have a string of best-sellers to my name

Neither opening has even the rhetorical nuance you crafted in your first essay for freshman comp.

Instead, you can listen to bits and pieces of whatever commencement speech you want, at home, with the degree of privacy provided by your computer. Or, the creatively inclined might consider opening a book of sayings at random and arranging them any way you like. A five-point speech will keep you on your toes and won’t be that different from most sentiments wafting through the air at this time.

Here were my picks:

1. “All’s well that ends well.”

2. “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

3. “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

4. “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

5. “Don’t look back. Something may be gaining on you.”

Tweak a few of these, check attribution through Wikipedia, wiggle some revisions, and soon you will have a shiny new commencement speech, without the grating feedback of a faulty microphone or having to pretend to hear despite the chattering in front of you.

It’s dignified

At home, there will be no embarrassing walk across the stage in the wrong shoes (too formal or too casual) and no more long lists of mispronounced names to listen to. There will be no more last-minute crises when commencement was scheduled outside in a downpour for your rural school or in a noisy rental hall miles away for schools without a massive auditorium or at an urban coliseum with a cavernous parking garage. Commencement should not end with panic. That’s how college, in many cases, began.

In the virtually accessible commencement arena, it is always sunny and seats are unlimited; however, there is a real chance of lumbar injury if you’re not careful to get up and stretch once in a while.

And there is no need for anyone to hold their applause until the end, which always demanded unreasonable restraint after all those years of worry and effort.

High tech – if you want

At home, you can run through the ceremony quickly with a series of clicks — if you decide to go virtually virtual. If you are sociable, arrange a viewing party. If your friends are don’t care that much about you anyway, they can read your Twitter update.

Even for a scaled-down ceremony, it is best to prepare emotionally and physically as you would for any rite of passage. Budget; plan; expect delays. People study online, date online, and soon will marry, give birth, divorce, and have their memorial services strictly online. This is the next logical step.

No tussles with tassels

Commencement garb is cost-prohibitive. Most would agree that the look is archaic even as the prices tilt to the progressive. Here is a list, only slightly modified, from one school’s website:

Undergraduate candidates: $34.99
Master’s degree candidates: $54.99
Ph.D. degree candidates: $74.99 (indefensible)
Law degree candidates: $89.99 (negotiable)

Furthermore, there are stiff fines if one does not get the gown back in time. Do you think Cinderella had problems, with her coach turning back into a pumpkin and one missing shoe? That will be the least of your worries, if you are found in default of the fees of renting your commencement gown. And have you ever wondered who wore the gown last?

Avoid bad feng shui. Wear something else. A bathrobe also erases class distinctions and may do just fine.

Many schools will reclaim the cap and gown but let you keep the tassel — and how generous is that? Can it be used as a bookmark? If you hang it in your office, will that impress anyone?

Not to mention the silly fumbling of which side it starts on and where it should be placed next. You simply can’t do that and text at the same time.

Full disclosure

Though I work only intermittently on my second master’s, I do try to practice what I preach, so I virtually practiced writing my own commencement speech last year at this time. I even practiced it in the park, to an audience of Canada geese and my dog. I wore pink shorts, and my shoes got a little muddy. I drank two cups of strong coffee while orating, and the speech received a standing ovation. I would not have been able to do any of that at a traditional commencement ceremony.

A rousing finale

Select your own music. Give your school orchestra or band the day off. Or, turn on a relaxation CD to catch up on your rest; you’ll need it when you prepare to enter the job market. A forearm splint might soon replace the traditional mace, which always looked a little scary to most folks anyway.

Click when you are ready to graduate.

Maria Shine Stewart teaches writing on three campuses and works as a contributing editor/writer for a northeast Ohio business publication. She writes the "A Kinder Campus" column for Inside Higher Ed.

Faculty Union Advances at U. of Oregon

A faculty-administration agreement has cleared the way for a faculty union (including both tenure track and non-tenure-track faculty members) at the University of Oregon. The union -- organized jointly by the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers -- first submitted cards indicating that the professors wanted to unionize. The administration objected to the make-up of the bargaining unit, but negotiations resolved those differences, and the process of union certification is now expected to proceed. The new union is the result of a campaign by the AFT and the AAUP to jointly organize more faculty members at public research universities. Union organizers pledged to use collective bargaining to improve working conditions for all instructors in ways that would also improve the quality of education.

Robert Berdahl, interim president of the university, issued a statement in which he said that "we have acknowledged from the beginning that our faculty has the right to organize. We did not oppose the organization effort nor did we support it. We simply recognized the rights of those who chose this route." His statement added: "While the University of Oregon has a long history of working with collective bargaining units on our campus, a faculty union will present unique questions that must be addressed. This will be particularly true when we account for tenured and tenure-related faculty. For example, tenure-related issues typically involve peer review. The peer review process is an essential means by which universities have always assured the achievement of quality; it must remain central to how we evaluate faculty in the future, even with a union overlay."

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Sociologists Rally for Suspended Appalachian State Prof

More than 300 professors from around the world have signed a petition asking Appalachian State University to reinstate Professor Jammie Price, according to a news release. Price's supporters planned to hand Provost Lori Gonzalez the petition on Wednesday.  Price was suspended last month after showing an anti-pornography documentary in her sociology class. The video, which she checked out from the university library, included explicit scenes. Price was suspended after students complained that she had created a hostile learning environment by, among other things, not adequately warning them about the documentary's content. Price's advocates believe her suspension is a breach of academic freedom.

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Academic Minute: Natural Anti-Microbial Compounds

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