Higher Education Quick Takes
Teacher education students at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, with the support of some faculty members, are refusing to participate in a pilot project in which Stanford University and the education company Pearson are analyzing whether the students have demonstrated proficiency in their student teaching, The New York Times reported. Because UMass is participating in the project, the students were directed to submit two 10-minute videos of themselves teaching, and to take a 40-page take-home test to submit to Pearson. Some states are already planning to use that process as a key part of the credentialing of new teachers. Stanford officials said Pearson has provided key support for the project, which comes at a time that many have questioned the systems currently used by states. At other universities participating in the pilot, there have been no protests, Stanford officials said.
But the students and some professors at UMass say that faculty review of students over a six-month period is a much better way to measure teaching ability, and that good reviews can't be done by people who have never seen the students in person. And so they are refusing to send Pearson the required materials. "This is something complex and we don’t like seeing it taken out of human hands," Barbara Madeloni, who runs the university high school teacher training program, told the Times. "We are putting a stick in the gears."
A majority of voting faculty members approved resolutions recently of no confidence in the presidents of Wilkes University and the University of Southern Maine. At Southern Maine, a vote of no confidence requires the backing of two-thirds of all faculty members to pass, and while the measure won the support of 194 faculty members (with 88 opposed), it needed 251 votes to officially pass.
- At Wilkes, faculty members voted no confidence, 81-19, in President Tim Gilmour, The Citizens Voice reported. Gilmour is planning to retire, but faculty members are angry over benefit cuts and a wage freeze he has proposed to deal with budget deficits, and his decision to accept a paid sabbatical upon retirement. Gilmour said he is making "difficult decisions," and so accepts that they will be controversial.
- At Southern Maine, faculty members have expressed frustration over budget decisions of President Selma Botman at a time she awarded large raises to some non-faculty employees, Maine Public Broadcasting reported. Botman has defended her decisions, but vowed to reach out to faculty members. James Page, chancellor of the University of Maine System, said he takes the vote "very seriously" and plans to meet with Botman to discuss it.
Michael Adams, who announced last week that he plans to retire as president of the University of Georgia, will receive $2.7 million in a five-year retirement package, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. About $600,000 is deferred compensation, tied in part to Adams having served for more than 15 years. State Representative Bill Hembree, who has criticized some spending decisions by public universities, said he was stunned by the package. "That seems like an outrageous amount of money," he said. "He’s done a good job, but these golden parachute deals … they just send the wrong message. This isn’t General Electric or IBM. This is the University of Georgia.”
To better manage protest situations and avoid future conflicts like the ones stemming from the Occupy protests this fall, a draft report says University of California campuses should – among other things – modify their policies to recognize civil disobedience as a protest tactic, open lines of communication between administrators and would-be protesters, better train police on how to respond to civil disobedience, adopt policies that would guide officers if administrators decide police response is necessary, and adopt a systemwide post-event review structure independent from the police or administration.
Following high-profile and at-times violent confrontations this fall between police and students at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of California at Davis, UC system President Mark G. Yudof requested a review of UC policies and practices regarding institutional responses to campus demonstrations, which would include identification of best practices in hopes of avoiding future conflicts. “This report is premised on the belief that free expression, robust discourse, and vigorous debate over ideas and principles are essential to the mission of our university,” wrote authors Charles Robinson, UC general counsel, and Christopher Edley, law dean at the University of California at Berkeley. “The goal of this report is to identify practices that will facilitate such expression – while also protecting the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, police, and the general public. For some campus administrators and police, this will require a substantial shift away from a mindset that has been focused primarily on the maintenance of order and adherence to rules and regulations. For some protestors, this will require taking more responsibility for their activities as well, including by educating themselves about protest-related rules and considering the impact acts of civil disobedience can have on others in the campus community.”
The report features 50 recommendations in nine areas including civil disobedience challenges, relationship building, hiring and training, communications with protestors, and response and documentation during events. The public can submit comments through May 25, and Yudof will receive the final draft “by late May.”
Part-time faculty members in Taiwan are protesting their treatment at a time that universities are increasingly relying on them to teach, The Taipei Times reported. A petition delivered to the Ministry of Higher Education noted low wages, lack of pensions and other benefits, and the inability to apply for research and teaching support that is available to full-time faculty members. Further, they noted that there are no maternity leaves available for part-time instructors, effectively barring the women who lack full-time positions from becoming pregnant.
Educators and some political leaders in Australia are concerned about a sharp decline in the study of Indonesia, The Age reported. Many in Australia have hoped that its proximity to Indonesia could, with greater knowledge of the country, provide an economic edge as economic growth in the area takes off. Instead, the opposite seems to be taking place, with a 37 percent decline in university enrollments in Indonesian in the last decade. Enrollments are also down in courses focused on Indonesia's history and economy.
In today’s Academic Minute, Jason Kring of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University describes the known and unknown challenges of long-term space flight. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
Many German academics are frustrated by the impact of the Bologna Process, under which European nations have moved to make their degree programs consistent and to outline appropriate learning outcomes, Times Higher Education reported. The article quoted comments from a conference in Germany where academics said that the Bologna emphasis on job-related skills had resulted in less emphasis on encouraging critical thinking skills. “Employers complain that students are immature, unprepared and not comparable with former graduates," said Felix Grigat, a representative of the German Association of University Professors and Lecturers. “Students and staff are also complaining about a move away from an academic experience to one concerned with skills."
Anna Maria College last month withdrew an invitation to Victoria Kennedy, the widow of Senator Ted Kennedy, to deliver a commencement speech, citing opposition from the local bishop, who said that some of Kennedy's views conflict with Roman Catholic teachings. Now it turns out that the bishop won't be attending commencement either. A spokesman for the Rev. Robert J. McManus, bishop of Worcester, told The Boston Globe that college officials "felt the bishop would be a distraction to the event,’’ and so asked him not to attend. "He was going to attend, but that’s not going to happen now," the spokesman said.
J. Paul Reddam, owner of Saturday's Kentucky Derby winner, I'll Have Another, was once a philosophy professor at California State University at Los Angeles. He left academe to found DiTech, a mortgage loan company, and his sale of that company gave him the resources to become a major player in horse racing, The Louisville Courier-Journal reported. In an interview with the publication Thoroughbred Owners of California, Reddam gave this reason for leaving academe. "Money," he gave as the reason. "You know, I enjoyed the teaching, and certainly the hours were very flexible. But you can only make so much money at it, which isn’t very much, so I decided I needed to get a real job."