“The New Normal for Humanities: Death by a Thousand Cuts”

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Aaron, on the way from a meeting with a Japanese CEO of a shipping firm at the Port of Los Angeles, interviewing for a possible job next year.

“The New Normal for Humanities: Death by a Thousand Cuts”

By Teri Yamada, CSU Long Beach

 

We now live in a nation where doctors destroy health, lawyers destroy justice, universities destroy knowledge, governments destroy freedom, the press destroys information, religion destroys morals, and our banks destroy the economy.

—Chris Hedges    (Henry A. Giroux, “Beyond Savage Politics and Dystopian Nightmares)

Warning!  This is yet another sorrowful examination of the shortsighted privileging of STEM and the defunding of the Humanities now occurring across the United States.  It reflects Chris Hedges lament that our universities (certainly not all of them equally) are now in the business of destroying knowledge. This also appears to be the “unintended consequence” of the California State University system since 2011, echoing Governor Brown’s  and the federal government’s  ideology that STEM fields will make California and the U.S. more globally competitive.

Consequently, diverting funds from foreign languages, religious studies, philosophy, and ethnic studies programs, for example, just because these disciplines have never really drawn hundreds of majors each year is now rationalized by a new numbers game of student-customer demand plus class fill rates at my campus in the CSU.  It becomes death by a thousand cuts for the Humanities.   The administrative subtext, always subject to denial, is that Humanities’ disciplines are of low value in our stagnant economy.  Who needs another “worker” with a English, psychology, religious studies, or Chinese language degree?  Why spend money on classes with just 15-25 students in the language disciplines!  Or on departments with under 100 majors?  Or on MA programs in the Humanities?  Move students over to STEM where they at least have a chance for a stable, well-paying job after graduation!

Or do they?

What is the reality of the competitive global marketplace that our graduates now enter seeking these “better” jobs?  It is a world of increasing contingency and contract labor.   A world of no benefits, pensions, or job security.  A world where, beyond any STEM skill set, you must be entrepreneurial (think outside the box), proficient at professional networking, and aggressively self-promoting to land even a short-term contract.  It is a world where analytics will be used to measure your personality and past performance to assess whether you are a good-enough fit for your new, transitory “team” ( see Tyler Cowen’s Average is Over. Dutton, 2013).

IBM phrases it this way in its self-promotional report “Redesigning work creates a Smarter Workforce” (2013):

 The labor market inside each organization will need to change as the percentage of independent and contingent workers rise. This transformation can bring about the creation of a true labor force. This true labor force will be global, complete with a “common currency,” a “common language” and the free flow of information. People will earn a “talent passport” that expresses their true value based on their actual skill set, achievements and the continuous feedback of nearly everyone they interact with at work. The data on this “passport” will enable virtually every company and individual to rely on the accuracy of the information, and locate experts for projects and work at just the right time, creating greater efficiencies and higher engaged employees.

Or from the Harvard Business Review  (“The Rise of the New Contract Worker,” 9.7.12):

Contingent workers can add to an organization’s intellectual capacity and provide instant expertise as needed….Not only can organizations derive a cost savings from adjusting staff sizes up and down based on business requirements, but they are also able to control the wages paid for particular tasks by using contingent talent on a project basis.

Or Fox News:

The use of temps has extended into sectors that seldom used them in the past — professional services, for example, which include lawyers, doctors and information technology specialists….

Beyond economic uncertainty, Ethan Harris, global economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, thinks more lasting changes are taking root. “There’s been a generational shift toward a less committed relationship between the firm and the worker,” Harris says.

An Associated Press survey of 37 economists in May found that three-quarters thought the increased use of temps and contract workers represented a long-standing trend….”You have your just-in-time workforce,” Houseman says. “You only pay them when you need them.”

Take the experience of my former student Aaron as he navigates the global contingent-worker marketplace.  A 2011 graduate in Asian Studies at CSU Long Beach, language emphasis Japanese, he just signed a contract to teach English at a public elementary school in Saitama, Japan.  It took two years of effort to land this “one-year contract,” including a short trip to Japan to investigate the job market and improve contacts by establishing firmer relationships through face-to-face meetings, extensive online-research and networking, and a successful job interview in both English and Japanese via SKYPE.  It also entailed Aaron giving up his Longshoreman’s job at the Port of Los Angeles, a decision not made lightly.  But  unlike his father who is now in a permanent senior position as a Longshoreman at the Port, Aaron entered the workforce at a time when management was using technology to reduce union jobs while demanding more contingent workers.  He spent the last eight years, trying to obtain more work hours at the Port, hoping to move up the union hierarchy, showing up early mornings on non-school days to see if his number was picked, worried about finances while living with his dad.   So if Aaron cannot leverage this year of opportunity in Japan with his other skill sets—including expert knowledge of Japanese popular music culture—he may find himself back at his dad’s place, without any job.   But he takes this chance because of a deep interest in Japan.  He is following his dream.

And my point is this.   Every time we privilege STEM and kill an opportunity in the Humanities, by eliminating Japanese or Chinese or philosophy through a slow death by a thousand cuts, we diminish our own culture by reducing opportunity for those who DO NOT WANT to pursue STEM careers.  We eschew diversity and diminish our students’ competitive advantage in the global market place.


State-Mandated Online Degree Programs: The Threats to Real Learning, True Access, Employability, Citizenship, and National Security (Boak Ferris)

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Guest blogger Boak Ferris, author of the e-textbook Think and Rethink, is a former test-coordinator, current 30-year faculty member, and writer at CSU Long Beach.

State-Mandated Online Degree Programs:

The Threats to Real Learning, True Access, Employability, Citizenship, and National Security

States, governors, universities, in their rush to provide ostensible “increased educational access”—but more likely to cut education costs—are speeding out of control downhill to mandate that universities generate online degree programs and online credit-satisfying courses.  Downhill is the operant term, as advocates of these programs have not fully analyzed the risks and dangers, first, to the overall quality of American life and education, second, to the American spirit of innovation, independence, and creativity, and third, to American public safety.  Also at risk are our national reputation as the world leader in quality secondary education, our historic democratic compassion in granting one-on-one access between any student and a specialist/experienced educator, our intentions to maintain a civilized public body, and indeed, our national security.  Until certain urgent issues are addressed, and solved, educational policymakers must exercise restraint in establishing mandated online degree programs.

First, educators in a classroom play a much greater role than rambling about specialized stuff.  Recent neuroscience research and breakthroughs have demonstrated that human learning is a motor process. Even learning abstract subjects is best anchored in pedagogies that require students to engage motor processes.  The most lasting learning takes place when students can watch, in person, an expert model the skills and leverage disciplinary knowledge expected to be applied in a specific profession.  Students also need to demonstrate, via writing or speaking, their evolving acquisition of these skills and knowledge. It’s more than spectating during an online presentation on how to do something.  A live, present student can immediately ask a live, present expert about obstacles and roadblocks confronting the learning process.  These golden opportunities to rapidly learn and spontaneously engage diminish when students do not share the same loci as their experts.  Of equal value are the opportunities for students to observe the application of motor skills and analytical methods from outside their elected fields of study, via general education electives, so that they can learn to cross-associate the best that other disciplines offer to the standard sets of skills they will eventually need in their chosen professions.  Thus, American education in a physical classroom involves a democratic—and professionally socializing—process, some or much of which must be lost, if students become more like agreeable sheep sitting at distant computer monitors.

High school students often arrive to college too passive.  Critical thinking skills have all but disappeared, as college professors around the country have written about and can attest.  Perhaps the passivity is a natural artifact of media-device addiction coupled with a state of permanent hypnosis produced by obsessing over national testing standards on so-called facts.  Still, the freedom to speak with, and challenge, a physically present professional has drawn invested students from all over the world to matriculate in American universities.  But imagine the possibility, if badly designed online courses, with untold numbers of enrolled students, end up mechanically providing inflexible course curricula.  Consider the possibility that very little distance exists between a blanket standardization of curriculum across a variety of degree-granting institutions and institutionalized fascism of university content overseen by a few CEO/CFO administrators who may have little to no successful in-class teaching and improvisatory experience.

Also, once faculty become disinvested from curricular decisions, and once cross-applicable, broad-spectrum knowledge, academic and pre-professional experience, and artistic skills (i.e., outside-the-box innovation) are considered “irrelevant” or separable by the interests of private investors and “education vendors,” then American education becomes solely a capitalistic endeavor, where conflicts of interest must eventually play a sole role in driving curricular offerings and specific degree programs.  Lobbyists for investors and vendors can approach university administrators with their particular “brands” and perhaps insist on brand placement being tied to funds, resources, and the sole teaching of specific courses and disciplines and the granting of degrees.  Does an educated democratic citizen of the United States truly believe that engineers, scientists, and business students seeking degrees benefit by not having to take art or liberal arts or languages or ethics classes?  The lifeblood of science advancement depends on publication, whereby professional documentation leverages linguistic skills to yield logical and theoretical rigor.  Transferring these skills to students belongs to the purview of linguistic experts who understand how graduates must eventually learn to compensate for the limitations and irrationalities inherent in all human languages.

As an example illustrating the necessity to maintain arts and letters in a complete scientific education, consider that Galileo, a man of science, seemingly initiated the science revolution in Europe.  Indeed, Galileo worked as an experimenter and observer, leveraging his motor skills, in a 3-D space, but he also was a man of letters, who wrote up his results in order to better understand and reflect on the foreseeable hidden prejudices lurking in his analyses.  Now juxtapose Boccaccio, however, who single-handedly invented both European humanism and rationalism, thereby giving birth to and setting the ideological precedents for the Catholic-Galileo’s “scientific impulses,” by way of his literary masterpiece, The Decameron, published two hundred years before the appearance of Galileo.  In that work, the narrator implicitly challenges God’s policy of non-interference in the recent Plague.  Boccaccio’s literary, rhetorical, and comic techniques shook Europe loose from a primitive, anti-education Catholic church, by articulating an implicit call for a human-based response—requiring measured methods (rationalism) to confront the obstacle that threatened humanity’s survival.  Literary artists have always questioned and re-envisioned the causal forces of the cosmos, leading to myriad advancements in science.  Art inspires science which informs art and so-on, a mighty recursive engine of innovation.  Do budget-conscious curricular designers really wish to remove arts, literature, philosophy, and languages from a potent higher-education experience?  And to do so in a one-size-fits-all online setting?  It’s like moving from a jet engine to a one-stroke lawnmower.

Arguably, then, a true democratic top-notch education must never be tied (down) to cost-effective shortcuts-to-degrees in a country that wishes to maintain a competitive global edge.  Evolving young professionals most need a supervised domain of space and time where they can develop and practice—and cross-associate—a wide range of skills sets.

However, once policy makers blend into one pot education, curriculum, brands, testing, degrees, and money, then a Democratic American education becomes prostituted.  Money for degrees, quick and dirty, in and out the door.  These are not alarmist concerns, as some CSU’s already have corporate sponsors for different divisions and departments and colleges, whereby implicit external pressure rationalizes reducing so-called irrelevant courses, the kinds of courses that delay students toward acquiring useful rapid degrees:  humanities, art, ethics courses, music, and foreign languages curricular offerings, among others.  My own home CSU, over the last few years, has implemented similar such curricular changes and policies, with more pending, to my shame and sadness.  Such deletions may serve private institutions, but they are certainly not satisfactory for public and state universities, where students need to develop humanistic, cross-cultural, linguistic, and compassionate “citizenship” skills.  (California’s Governor Brown has not let on that he sees these dangers.)  Frankly speaking, news stories of lame-duck online programs failing have increased over the past year and a half, largely because the programs’ constituencies and clientele have not graduated nor found success, notwithstanding the rapacious and usurious financial practices associated with these programs.  To put it briefly, national employers know whom they wish to hire, and where from, and their hiring practices will serve as the ultimate certification of successful secondary institutional online degree-granting programs. Late-breaking news, as of April of 2013, shows that indeed, national employers are reluctant to hire, perhaps because they suspect that the omnipresence of online courses betokens a lack of citizenship skills in candidates.  Graduate schools will similarly screen successful candidates by undergraduate institution reputation.  If the CSU-system wishes to truly serve its students and guarantee employability, why would it want to follow these online failures?  Why would legislators admire these failures?

Note how a very strong secondary public effect intensifies and speeds student-learning, when learners “compete” and educators are present in the same physical space.  Competition to learn is also felt more keenly by candidates when they can see and hear their “classmates.”  Similarly, watching an immortal drama or a comedy or political speech in a public space shared by other thinkers responding audibly increases a spectator’s awareness and sensitivity to the nuances of art and performance and ideology. Premature babies grow faster and respond more positively when a live musician plays music in the nursery, as opposed to those infants who heard the same music piped in over loudspeakers.  Human charisma produces more impact in person, than over a television or monitor.  When tied to learning, the tangible aura of a present gifted instructor inspires students to learn faster and more enjoyably, whereas the square shape of a monitor arguably squeezes a viewer’s brain forward into an unreal and distant 2D cartoon. Neural-mapping research shows that learning among students proceeds faster and embeds longer when experienced in a shared three-dimensional visual and acoustical space.  Also, in an era where public policymakers encourage diversity, how much can diversity be respected when a threatened state-mandated curricular uniformity underlies online degree programs and courses?  Currently, localized public universities construct specialized curricula to serve students belonging to nearby populations or sub-populations, students who end up working for local industries and employers—a necessary service that may end if a “one-size-fits-all” education package is “legislated” for the sake of “consistency.”

Furthermore, “classrooms,” plural, imply the existence of neighboring classrooms, adding to the public perception of knowledge and other intangibles gained transparently.  Faculty, students, and observers walking by can witness what transpires in a public university classroom, sans any “secrecy.” The implicit transparency of democratic and public educational practices contributes to a shared sense of evolving professional responsibility among instructors, students, and visitors alike.  Public classrooms provide an arena for a “live” screening process whereby experienced instructors can directly observe students, participating, working quietly, or in teams.  The public nature of American higher education discourages and inhibits psychopaths and, to a lesser degree, sociopaths (who are more adept at hiding in plain sight), from advancing to positions of responsibility. People of aberrant psychopathology require institutionalized practices that allow them to hide, work, and advance in secrecy to further their aims. How can it not be mentioned or considered that criminals will benefit from a “knee-jerk” proliferation of online degree-granting programs?  Evil requires four little helpers to engender chaos: fear (No money!, Students will challenge the status quo!), ignorance (Is there evil?  What is it?  Let’s not learn about that.), complicity (look the other way.  Stand aside.  Institute practices to help it proliferate.), and a dark space where it multiplies unnoticed.  It also requires people in positions of authority who know better to “pretend” that evil doesn’t exist, that evil is a supernatural concern, not one of confronting everyday anti-social human behaviors.  To understand evil and its etiology means to “see it,” recognize it, interrupt and eliminate its causal factors, and thereby, leave it to a culture of the human past.

At our university, recently, we all signed mandatory intent-to-inform acts in cases where faculty suspect child abuse occurring to any of our students.  The expectation placed on our experienced judgment reflected an appropriate professional concern.  Our duties include custodianship of a free and democratic society.  But faculty and university officials will be less able to meet such duties and obligations to protect society or even to recommend candidates for professional service when all we see are “avatars”—or perhaps a single camera lens.  And note that at least one CSU intends to use students!  as faculty (called Instructional Student Assistants) in its online program(s).  As an undergraduate I would have been a good candidate to serve as an ISA running an online course for my home university—except.  Except—I had not the maturity, experience, or insight to recognize abusive personalities, to avoid their manipulations, or to deflect them back toward their assignments and academic and citizenship responsibilities.

All of the above lead to another immediate and urgent concern, which should engage Homeland Security, often overlooked in online education incentives, and which involves confirming the identities of enrolled students.  How does the instructor of record, or indeed a university administration, know if a student enrolled in online curricula is the person doing the work and achieving the degree?  Yes, high-school seniors must verify their identities and complete college-level testing to apply to and enroll in a university, but identities can be stolen or “piggy-backed” or duplicated.  Outright criminals, who need entry to professional work or graduate school, could easily “buy” an identity, and then a degree simply by hiring desperate scholars to do online work for them.  At some private universities, it’s already possible to buy a degree, i.e., without attending class—and that may be bad enough.  But the concern here centers on public universities, where policymakers should consider a graver threat.  Imagine a terror cell, wishing to infiltrate positions in government and industry, but needing advanced degrees, stealing or duplicating identities, and then hiring substitutes to attain those degrees on their behalf, so as to gain access to our citizenry—and/or to our infrastructure.  Their cause could be aided by finding at least one willing faculty member, advisor, or administrator at the university of record.  By the time employers or graduate schools found out the frauds, it might be too late.  As a former testing coordinator, I had the responsibility to address identity frauds, and I can vouch for this scenario above not being some kind of movie-fantasy.  Adequate identity and security checks for online enrolled students do not exist at this stage of our technology, especially in an era when cash-strapped state and public universities already struggle with the easily-hackable student-population management software they have available so far.  By contrast, in a physical classroom, the student of record must be present with approved student identification, which an instructor can spot-check.

These concerns, and others not listed here for lack of space, all urge taking deep responsibility, conducting thorough analysis, and engaging in cautious planning prior to enacting premature policies and legislation prior to rolling the big snowball of state-mandated online degree programs.


Highlights: Campaign for the Future of Higher Education, 3rd National Meeting (May 18-20, 2012)

Report from the Third National Meeting of the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education (CFHE)  

Teri Yamada, Prof. Asian Studies, posting from Phnom Penh

APSCUF March 2012 campaign against state budget cuts to public higher ed.

CFHE, May 20, 2012, Joint Statement on Federal Financial Aid  

Demand for college is at an all-­‐time high and student debt has reached a devastating one trillion dollars. Despite this, Congress is debating whether to cut student aid.

This kind of cut would further close off college access, particularly for lower income students and students of color, the growth demographic of traditional age students.

Proposals to reduce eligibility and the size of Pell Grants and to increase interest rates on student loans, if adapted, would be a tragic and short-­‐sighted slamming of the door on our nation’s future.

We need a strong Pell Grant program that does not reduce either eligibility or the size of the grant. We also need the lowest possible interest rates on federally subsidized student loans.

This is not the time to curtail the prospects for students to attend colleges and universities.

We need a national discussion about how ensure that higher education is affordable, available and accessible to everyone who can benefit from it. 


The third national meeting of the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education (CFHE) was held under beautiful blue skies in Ypsilanti, Michigan, May 18-20, 2012 (1).   More than 60 faculty and professional staff, including members of the Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions, participated in a grassroots assessment of the challenges facing public higher education.

The event began with short reports on challenges and successes.   A noteworthy success since the last CFHE  (Boston: December 2011) was a formal meeting with U.S Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter.  The CFHE contingent was able to correct some misinformation, such as the belief that increasing costs in public higher education are due to high faculty salaries rather than dramatically higher administrative costs and expensive building projects that are unrelated to direct instructional needs. Other topics  included problems facing the contingent faculty workforce. Over the past 40 years, institutions have shifted away from tenured faculty to 70% of the workforce being underpaid, contingent or “adjunct faculty with no health and other benefits” (2).    CFHE will schedule a follow-up meeting with the U.S. Department of Education to continue this discussion.

Other successes reported on opening night include UFF-Florida International University’s contract gains; Rutgers AUP-AFT advance of Non Tenture-Track (NTT) faculty issues using a caucus model and its successful negotiation of the first promotion pathway for NTT faculty; the Inter Faculty Organization of Minnesota, which successfully negotiated a restoration of Professional Improvement Funds.

In an age of shock-doctrine capitalism, many states—Pennsylavania, New Jersey, and California, for example—are still experiencing dramatic budget cuts to public higher education, while other states like New York have revenue streams that have stabilized.  New York’s CUNY now has other restructuring challenges, however, with the imposition of mandated Pathways.  The upper midwestern region—Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin—is facing an onslaught of antiunion legislation promoted by ALEC and funded by the Koch brothers.

Over 80 pieces of antiunion legislation have been introduced in Michigan, attempting to change it to a “right-to-work” state. One plan attempts to divide the state by a patchwork of “right-to-work zones” that would be locally implemented in more conservative areas of the state. In response, Michigan-AAUP has organized the Protect Our Jobs campaign, which includes advocating for a state constitutional amendment to protect collective bargaining rights. It succeeded in gathering enough signatures to put an initiative on the November ballot. Ohio faculty unions are working on a similar initiative.  The Association of Pennsylvania State Colleges and University Faculties (APSCUF) is facing another 20% state reduction to higher education in Pennsylvania.  In response they initiated the United we Stand, Underfunded we Fail campaign in March 2012.   APSCUF is confronting both Governor Corbett’s higher education task force, which narrowly focuses on “technical experience, distance learning and job training”  and the specter of right-to-work legislation.

Discussion on contingent faculty.

Also discussed over the weekend were the poor working conditions of contingent faculty who face at-whim employment and poverty level wages.  The New Faculty Majority (NFM) has contributed to a recent publication on these issues: Embracing Non-Tenure Track Faculty: Changing Campuses for the New Faculty Majority.  As part of its coalition building campaign, NFM convened a national summit in Washington, DC on January 28, 2012: Reclaiming Academic Democracy: Facing the Consequences of Contingent Employment in Higher Education.”  This summit focused on improving communications among stakeholders, identifying broad-based reform goals along with strategies for their implementation.

The reduction in state spending for public education is still a common trend across states.  As Rudy Fichtenbaum and Howard Bunsis stressed in their presentation on university budgets—“Taking on the administration’s ‘We’re broke’ argument”—a state’s fiscal crisis is being used by many institutions as an excuse to restructure. Restructuring is imposed irrespective of the hefty unrestricted reserves which institution’s refuse to allocate to instructional support.  This restructuring conforms to the current trend to vocationalize and standardize pubic higher education while weakening faculty governance.  To track our institution’s actual financial health, we need to examine its audited financial statements.

Several ideas for funding public higher education were brought forth for discussion with the understanding that states alone cannot solve the public higher education funding problem.   A menu of solutions could be used across states depending on their specific situation.  Some funding ideas at the federal level were a “pay it forward” plan that includes doubling the size of PELL grants while increasing the scope of eligibility and providing maintenance of effort provisions at the state level; other ideas involved various taxes including a financial speculation tax.

Gary Rhoades, Head of CFHE Virtual Think Tank

CFHE’s Virtual Think Tank was established to introduce a faculty voice in the national discussion of higher education policies, currently dominated by executives, consultants, and philanthropic foundations.  Gary Rhoades provided an update on CFHE’s first two policy reports.   “Closing the Door, Increasing the Gap: Who’s not going to (community) college?” (April 2012) analyzes recent problematic enrollment and policy trends at the nation’s community colleges. As caps on community college enrollment are expanding, the scope of educational programs is narrowing; as quality is undermined, access is denied to large numbers of lower-income students and students of color.  The second policy report, forthcoming shortly, “Who is professor staff and how can s/he teach so many classes?” is based on New Faculty Majority research regarding contingent faculty working conditions and their affect on student learning. Just-in-time hiring practices do not allow any faculty adequate time to develop a course.  Also, the demographics of contingent faculty models complex racial inequities.

CFHE plans its next meeting, Sacramento, January 2013.

Some Shared Resources:

  • Profs. Douglas Carr (carr@oakland.edu) and Roger Larocca (larocca@oakland.edu).  In response to the advocates of performance funding in higher eduction, including Lumina Foundation and the National Governors Association, and the fact that “many states have adopted performance-funding programs in spite of the weak evidence of their effectiveness” (Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee and Texas, for example), Professors Carr and Larocca have co-authored “The Effects of Performance Funding on Higher Education Outcomes” (26 March 2012).

Abstract: “We study the effects of performance funding metrics for graduation and retention on actual graduation and retention rates at all 4-year and 2-year public universities…. We find no significant effect of graduation metrics on graduation rates at 4-year or 2-year institutions, and no significant effect of retention measures on retention rates at 4-year institutions.  We do find that retention measures are significantly associated with higher retention rates at 2-year institutions, but only for 2-year institutions that receive a relatively large share of their funding from state appropriations.”

  • AAUP-Connecticut State University.  Academic Year in Review: 2011-2012. Vol. 3.13 (May 3, 2012).  This report contains information on major administrative restructuring a new Board of Regents for Higher Education imposed on the Connecticut State University System (CSUS), a seventeen-campus system, to prepare “students for productive and satisfying futures.” Restructuring eliminated twenty-four top administrative positions from CSU and CTC. It consolidated higher-Ed into ConnSCU (Connecticut State Colleges & Universities) a merger of CSU, Community/Technical Colleges, and Charter Oak State College.  The legislature was also busy, passing HB 5030 that established a “general education core of courses.”
  • PSC-CUNY.org. (PSC-CUNYORG@PSC.CUNY) “What is Pathways?” In June 2011, CUNY Board of Trustees passed a resolution to establish a new, uniform General Education Framework, called “Pathways” “…ostensibly created to facilitate student transfer throughout CUNY.”  This mandate requires a 30-credit common core for CUNY colleges: 12-credit “required core” and 18-credit “flexible core.”  All Common Core courses must fulfill learning objectives established by the Chancellor’s office. This resolution was passed over the objections of the University Faculty Senate, Professional Staff Conference, among others. Pathways is aligned with the national reform agenda, funded by Lumina and the Gates foundations, that stresses ‘college completion’ above all else.  PSC-CUNY considers this reform an assault on faculty governance and a further corporatization of the university system.  As a form of austerity education it establishes an impoverished curriculum “that will prepare CUNY students for low expectations in an austerity economy,” one that accommodates to rather than challenges underfunding of the system.  See also the CUNY Community College financial analysis report “Invest in Opportunity: Invest in CUNY Community Colleges” prepared by the Professional Staff Congress (PSC).  In fall 2012, tuition will have increased by 212% since 1990-91. “In 2011-12 CUNY community college tuition and fees ($3,946) were 33% higher than the national average tuition and fees at 2-year public colleges ($2,963).”
  • Bruce Nissen and Yue Zhang. Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy.  “How FIU Spends Its Money: FIU Expenditures on Faculty and Higher Level Administration with special emphasis on the two years between 2008-09 to 2010-11.”  The United Faculty of Florida at Florida International University (UFF-FIU) commissioned this report to establish creditable data on the number and salary of administrators compared to faculty as well as data on increased faculty workload.  Information in this report reflects patterns across the United States: administration is diverting resources away from faculty and instruction to administrative personnel and salaries.  Between 1993 and 2007, the number of full-time administrators at America’s leading universities grew by 39%, while the number of faculty and service employees grew by 18%.  At FIU during this period, the number of administrators per 100 students grew by 79.5% while the number of faculty decreased by 29.2% as instate undergraduate tuition grew by 40.3% and FIU enrollment rose 57%. During the past two years covered by the study, the pace of administrative growth has slowed to 10.2%; yet the growth in faculty numbers has increased only 4.2% as the growth in students increased 10.7%.  Average annual faculty workload increased 3.5% per year at a rate consistent with the previous 13 year period, when the teaching load grew 56%.  The number of faculty tenure track positions at all levels declined over the past two years by 11.25% as the total salaries for these positions decreased by 5.27%.  The top 40 highest paid administrators at FIU have salaries that range between $522.750 and $217,508.  The average salary of $198,643 for the second tier of top paid administrators, when adjusted to faculty, is $41,789 more than the average salary for full professors.
  • Prof. Rudy Fichtenbaum (President-elect AAUP). “How to Invest in Higher Education” proposes the idea of a “financial speculation tax.”  According to a study published by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, “A financial speculation tax would generate $176.9 to $353.8 billion in revenue per year.” Some federal legislators have proposed bills based on this idea, which is supported by a number of prominent economists including Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman.
NOTES
  1. Special thanks to Michael Bailey and others of the MI-AAUP (Michigan Conference American Association of University Professors) for hosting this conference.  Twelve CFHE affiliates also assisted with funding for this event.
  2. For further information, see the New Faculty Majority.

Selling Water By the River: Reflections on AAUP and NEA’s national leadership strategy

Earl Warren Japanese Garden, CSU Long Beach

Selling Water By the River:  Reflections on AAUP and NEA’s national leadership strategy

Teri Yamada, Professor of Asian Studies, CSU Long Beach

In our current gilded age where all politics is business, we educators yearn for ethical leaders to admire.   Under assault in the trenches, our faculty unions are undermined at the local level, often by both political parties who are using this bad economy to privatize public education.  It is depressing as we fight the good fight against multibillionaires.   Therefore, we can at least hope that our national education associations will have our backs, effectively lobbying for us at both the federal and state levels to stop this wildcat privatization.  As associations who represent us, we expect NEA (National Education Association) and AAUP (American Association of University Professors) to model the highest standards of ethical conduct and leadership as we struggle daily on our campuses to organize against faculty apathy, and as we lobby our state legislatures to act responsibly for the public good. In our local fights for equity and access to public higher education for every qualified student in our respective states, in our struggle to maintain quality education and academic freedom, in our efforts to preserve secure jobs with benefits, we need help!  We need effective ethical help.

Our expectation of ethical and effective leadership holds true for both AAUP and NEA.  Both serve the public higher education sector as our national representatives to the media and the Department of Education in Washington D.C.  How our AAUP and NEA leaders comport themselves, what they say to the media, to Arnie Duncan and President Obama, reflects back on the entire higher education sector.  It is time for some self-reflection.

In a recent Chronicle of Higher Education commentary, former AAUP general secretary Gary Rhoades made a number of points about leadership and the difficult questions that AAUP must face if it is to survive as a respected and effective association.  The challenges are great.  But we all will be diminished if AAUP is unable or unwilling to embrace constructive criticism and prove by its actions that transformation is possible.  The United University Professions  (SUNY), have demonstrated the consequences of unresponsiveness by their February vote to end affiliation with AAUP after twelve years of relationship, citing a number of complaints including poor communication and lack of responsiveness.

NEA has also challenged patience.  Several years ago, NEA decided to establish or form a relationship with a proprietary affiliate called the NEA Academy (1) .  This Academy’s purpose it to serve as a portal to “online professional development products,” which means it provides a link to other providers’ online courses for teacher continuing education and Master’s Degrees.  Claiming to have a Content Quality and Review Board, the NEA Academy has published its Requirements for Inclusion in its products list.    These requirements include such standards as “content that aligns with NEA policy.”   One of the top three providers for NEA Academy’s courses is Western Governors University (WGU)

NEA stipulates that its vision is “a great public school for every student” and that its mission is “to advocate for education professionals.”  It promotes public education as a core value: “We believe public education is the cornerstone of our republic. Public education provides individuals with the skills to be involved, informed and engaged in our representative democracy.”   The question then is why does NEA embrace Western Governors University, a private, anti-faculty union provider of online courses?  How does this fit with NEA’s mission to advocate for “education professionals” when WGU is an institution that eschews teacher-based instruction; it has no teachers.  Why do this when so many excellent public universities and community colleges across the nation have online programs of the highest quality which adhere to the philosophy that teachers form the core of education?  Shouldn’t educators also deserve “a great public school” for their continuing education?

When our national associations fail to serve us well —as we battle on the ground to protect faculty jobs and save collective bargaining, to preserve adjunct positions with benefits and job security, to ensure quality control over curriculum, to save public education and academic freedom—we must wonder whom AAUP and NEA are serving.

Notes:

(1) This relationship needs further clarification.  NEA Academy charges a course fee for its portal services.

References

Rhoades, Gary. “Forget Executives the AAUP Should Turn to Grass-Roots Leaders” in The Chronicle of Higher Education, 8 January 2012.

Schmidt, Peter.  “AAUP Loses Major Affiliate at SUNY” in The Chronicle of Higher Education, 6 February 2012.

2/19/12

DISCLAIMER:  Restructuring Public Hi Ed is curated solely by me.  All editorial decisions as to what is posted are based upon my interest and concern about restructuring in the public higher education sector.  These blog posts should in no way reflect upon any other person or organization since this is a “personal blog.”   Please send your blog posts and comments on restructuring in public higher education for consideration to me at teri.yamada@gmail.com.


A tale of “haves and have-nots” ( or life and death) at the University of Vermont

Nancy Welch, a professor of English at the University of Vermont, relays a contemporary Dickensian tale of academic life in her guest blog .

A tale of "haves and have-nots" (or life and death) at the University of Vermont

When University of Vermont President Daniel Fogel resigned this summer in the wake of a Peyton Place scandal involving his wife and a vice president, trustees rewarded him with a golden handshake that has proved much more shocking for Vermonters than who in the administration building was trying to sleep with whom.

According to the deal Fogel struck with trustees, he’ll receive a monthly salary of more than $35,000–including a car, housing, and “wellness” allowance–for a leave that’s to extend to the start of the Fall 2013 semester. At that point he’ll join the English department at an annual salary of $195,000–more than double the department average for a full professor.

How do the trustees justify such largesse, especially when students face another tuition hike and campus workers have been told to expect frozen wages and benefit cuts? On the grounds of compassion, explained board chair Robert Cioffi: the former president has “poured his heart and soul” into the university; he now needs the university’s support given “the personal issues he is facing.”

I would have liked these trustees to have met one of my colleagues, Steve, who passed away in Summer 2008 just after he poured his heart and soul into teaching a summer session first-year composition class. Steve taught at UVM for nine years. Most often, he was given three composition courses each semester, six courses a year not including summer. But UVM still called him “part-time,” which meant that he wasn’t eligible for UVM’s health insurance plan. As a result, he paid $356 each month for an individual insurance plan, with a deductible of up to $18,750 a year.

When he was diagnosed with stomach cancer and underwent two rounds of debilitating chemotherapy, he could have used–he desperately needed–time off. (He would bring a chair with him into the Xerox room so he could sit, head resting on the copier, while Xeroxing handouts for his students.) Given that he was also caring for his disabled father, some compassion from the university he’d served would have been both welcome and deserved. But in two rounds of negotiations with “part-time” faculty, UVM’s administration declined to recognize that faculty teaching six, eight, and more courses a year are not in fact part-time and should receive UVM healthcare benefits. Steve now needed not only to pay $356 a month for his insurance but $8,200 for each chemotherapy infusion. He continued teaching at UVM; he also began teaching additional courses at other area colleges. He was teaching to save his life.

In summer 2008 after he held final conferences with his students, returned their papers, and turned in their grades, Steve checked into hospice and a few days later died. I attended the funeral lunch and met his parents. They were so proud that he had been a lecturer at UVM. And I am so ashamed at what this university’s administration did to him and continues to do to others.

So, Mr. Cioffi, meet Steve. And try meeting more faculty, service workers, and staff. It might deepen your acquaintance with people who make remarkable contributions to our state university and who are miraculously able and willing to be UVM?s heart and soul without car, housing, and “wellness” allowances. It might also broaden your idea of compassion and how broadly it should be shared.

For further information:

The scandal
Fogel’s separation package
[The trustee chair's defense of the package was in the Burlington Free Press story "Governor Says Compensation Is Corporate" that is only available to subscribers or through ProQuest]


Higher Education at the Crossroads in New Jersey

Adjunct Professor William Lipkin has been adjuncting in History and Political Science for fifty years (right out of grad school), mainly while working as a controller in private industry. For the past 12 years, he has been a professional adjunct in several colleges and universities in New Jersey. He is the immediate past president of American Federation of Teachers New Jersey (AFTNJ), consisting of 30,000 education workers in NJ, and current Secretary/Treasurer (and co-founder) of United Adjunct Faculty of NJ. Lipkin is also co-chair and treasurer of the Union County College Chapter of UAFNJ and Treasurer of New Faculty Majority and NFM Foundation. He is a dedicated supporter of equity and respect for adjuncts in the United States.

Higher Education at the Crossroads in New Jersey

New Jersey, the former long-time home of the Miss America pageant, now has to deal with a governor who thinks he is Mr. America.  In eighteen months Governor Chris Christie has orchestrated legislation that changed the health care and pension program for New Jersey educators and support
staff, forcing all public employees to pay a much larger share for their benefits while getting a lesser coverage plan. All he has done for Higher Ed is change the state from 'The Garden State' to 'The Poop State'.

The major reason that the NJ Pension Fund is on the verge of bankruptcy is that over the past 20 years the state made minimal (or no) contributions of its share into the fund, while we all paid our share from every single paycheck. The Republican governor had been held back by a Democrat legislature for over a year; but deals were cut with Democrat leaders, and they gave the governor the votes he needed to pass this legislation that increases the employees' contributions to health care and pension. This has caused a split in the legislature and between public employee unions and the trades. Earlier this month when the state AFL-CIO refused to endorse any state legislator who supported this bill, for re-election this November,  over 100 members of trade unions walked out and blamed the teachers for the split. The governor has also launched an attack on collective bargaining and his supporters have introduced legislation to make NJ a 'right to work' state. There also has been a change in tenure for public institutions of Higher Ed in the state adding at least one year to the process.


As an adjunct in NJ I am part of a large group of long-suffering, exploited, at-will employees in higher education. This is especially apparent in community colleges. In NJ there are 19 community (county) colleges, each of which negotiates pay scales with its employees (union shops) or sets the
scale on their own. Nine of these colleges have recently federated under the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) to become the 3,100 member United Adjunct Faculty of NJ (UAFNJ). The per credit pay scale among these colleges ranges from $500.00 to $880.00; no health care is provided, and we all contribute into the state pension plan.

Most of us use our cars as our offices and float between three or four schools to try to make a living. We call ourselves 'roads scholars'.  We get very little support at the schools, have little or no role in college governance, and can have a course taken away from us up to the first day of
class. Scheduling is a major problem and many of us turn down classes at one school only to be bumped from a class at another. We are used as an economic expediency by the schools. A big issue we have at present is that some of the colleges are blaming adjunct faculty for the lack of student success mainly due to the circumstances they themselves have created. Pay rates at public four-year colleges and universities are higher but the other problems exist there as well. Private colleges and universities in NJ make their own scale and usually freeze the rate. For example, I have been adjuncting at Seton Hall University for six years and am still making the same $700.00 rate per credit I started with.


College and university presidents in NJ are earning over $200,000 with many perks, and bloated administrations pay several vice presidents, deans and provosts six figure incomes while full time faculty have their salaries frozen and pay more into the benefit systems, adjuncts have to eke out a
living or go on food stamps, and students have to pay continually rising tuition rates. There is truly no equity in higher education in NJ.


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