Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

June 2, 2014

A short new book on becoming an adjunct, Become a Part-Time Professor, got some tough reviews on Twitter over the weekend, with adjuncts objecting to the seemingly carefree existence the book's illustrations suggest are part of the life of those off the tenure track. Illustrations suggest that adjuncts can do their jobs with a laptop from the beach, or from a boat, and don't convey much of the stress one hears from those working as adjuncts. The book is by Lesa Hammond, an administrator at Alliant University, who is also working to create databases to make it easier for colleges to identify potential adjuncts. Some on Twitter were inspired to use the hashtag #clueless. The book also has a YouTube video that conveys some of the tone that is raising eyebrows of those who work off the tenure track.

Via email, Hammond said: "The book is written primarily for professionals who are qualified, but either don’t know how to become an adjunct or who have not considered becoming adjunct faculty. For the right person, a part-time faculty position is a way to help them promote themselves as an expert in their field and it can provide flexibility to live where they want or continue working full-time. The images on the front cover are designed to show that flexibility."

 

 

June 2, 2014

Moody's I Investor Service, the credit ratings agency, has downgraded the credit outlook for Laureate Education to negative from stable, citing the global for-profit chain's increasingly leveraged position. Laureate, which is based in Baltimore and enrolls 800,000 students at 200 campuses around the world, has used debt to finance many of its acquisitions. The pending purchase of a Brazilian university for $500 million would bring the company's total debt to roughly $6 billion, according to Moody's.

"The company's current pace of investment has resulted in leverage that is now quite high," the ratings agency said in a written statement. "Moody's believes that the company will be challenged to restore lower leverage over the near team."

The $6 billion in debt is more than Laureate's annual revenue. However, the company's liquidity is adequate, Moody's said. Laureate has $427 million in cash on hand. And the ratings agency said Laureate remains in a "prominent market position," thanks to solid enrollment growth and "favorable industry fundamentals."

Doug Becker, Laureate's CEO, recently told Inside Higher Ed that the company plans to continue its growth strategy.

June 2, 2014

Harvard University's business school is known for the advice it gives organizations on how to respond to technology and competition, but The New York Times notes that when it came to online education, many at the business school were divided. The article explores the debates and how the school ended up on a path to embrace online education, but in ways that would not compete with its in-person M.B.A. program.

June 2, 2014

Non-tenure-track faculty members at the San Francisco Art Institute, a private, nonprofit college, have voted to unionize with the Service Employees International Union. The vote was 124 to 35. SEIU officials said that nearly 80 percent of the faculty members at the institute are off the tenure track and have no job security. The effort at the institute is part of a larger SEIU campaign to unionize adjuncts in major metro areas. The vote came two weeks after Mills College's adjuncts voted to unionize.

A spokeswoman for the art institute released this statement: "The administration of SFAI acknowledges the decision of the visiting faculty to be represented by SEIU and we remain committed to ensuring an extraordinary future for this beloved institution."

 

June 2, 2014

Bryan College, facing enrollment declines, is eliminating 20 of the 173 full-time employee positions, The Times Free Press reported. The college is also halting retirement contributions for a year, and imposing salary cuts on top administrators. The cuts come as some faculty members have already quit the Tennessee evangelical college because of a new statement of faith that they say required such a literal interpretation of the Bible that it was impossible for them to teach and sign the statement.

 

June 2, 2014

The North Carolina Senate dropped plans to call for a study that could have led to the closure of Elizabeth City State University, a historically black institution. The study provision, which was presented as a cost-saving measure, would have required the University of North Carolina Board of Governors to study closing any institution that saw an enrollment drop of at least 20 percent from 2010 to 2013. Black lawmakers last week protested the attempt, which was included in a draft of the state's budget bill, and noted that Elizabeth City State is the only part of the UNC system that would be covered by the provision. Further, they say that if the provision becomes law, students may be reluctant to enroll. 

Senator Bill Cook, a state lawmaker who filed the amendment that lawmakers approved to kill the study plan, said in a statement that Elizabeth City State had its "fair share of problems in the past few years, but I do not think this study is the best way to begin addressing them. I have prepared an amendment and after my discussion with Senate leadership they have agreed to support the elimination of the provision completely from the budget.”

June 2, 2014

The California State University System is planning to hire 700 full-time tenure-track faculty members, reversing a decline in the number of positions in recent years, The Los Angeles Times reported. From 2008 to 2013, the number of faculty members either tenured or tenure-track fell from 10,700 to 9,800 -- while enrollment and the use of adjuncts increased. With a better state budget picture, Cal State hopes to reverse that trend, although the hiring would not restore 2008 levels, even though enrollment is up.

 

June 2, 2014

Last Friday's edition of This Week @ Inside Higher Ed, our new audio newscast, featured discussion about the Modern Language Association's report on reforming the English Ph.D., growing conflict between faculty members and administrators on many campuses and strategies for easing it, and whether the recent violence in Santa Barbara might spur increased activism by college presidents on the issue of gun violence. On Friday's program, the MLA's Rosemary Feal and Susan Resneck Pierce, president emerita of the University of Puget Sound, joined Inside Higher Ed's Scott Jaschik and the moderator Casey Green for the discussion. Click here to view Friday's program or here to receive an email alert about each Friday's new program.

June 2, 2014

Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the two universities behind the massive open online course provider edX, on Friday released the data sets behind the data visualization tool Insights. The data covers students who enrolled in the 16 edX courses offered by the two institutions during 2012-13, and has been scrubbed for information that could identify individuals. The data set can be downloaded from the MITx and HarvardX Dataverse.

June 2, 2014

Academe has been debating -- on this site and elsewhere -- trigger warnings, notices on a syllabus to let students know that they may be hurt or traumatized by some of what they are about to read. Advocates see the warnings as a basic courtesy, while critics see political correctness. The National Association of Scholars, which advocates for a traditional curriculum and opposes what it sees as political correctness, is, not surprisingly, dubious of trigger warnings. So the association is starting a contest today, asking people to tweet (with the hashtag #triggerwarningfail), mock trigger warnings for classic books. For example, the association says that a warning for Oedipus Rex might be "warning – prejudicial treatment of alternative family structures" and that one for Gulliver's Travels might be "warning -- size-ist."

 

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