Yesterday, my Leadership 323: Local and Global, class (one of the classes required for a leadership minor at UTM, if you know of a student who might be interested, send him or her my way), watched as the House Education committee passed a bill that if signed by the Governor, would make it illegal for a teacher of reproductive science to mention anything other than “natural heterosexual reproductive science”. We also had a speaker on campus yesterday, Brad Palmertree, who discussed this and other legislation designed to keep our state’s K-12 education cleansed of the notion that there are members of an LBGT community among us. If you ever want to watch live committee sessions, go to these links:
Senate Education Committee live video link
House Education Committee live video link
The story below was included among those sent out by our legislative team in Nashville this past Friday. As you can see, national organizations are working hard to keep the guns issue before state legislatures, including Tennessee.
“Legislation, introduced by Sen. Mike Faulk (R-Church Hill) to require all employers – public and private – to allow employees to store firearms in personal vehicles at their workplace is scheduled to be before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. SB 3002 would arguably go as far to include employees of K-12, as well as colleges and universities. UT and Tennessee Board of Regents remain opposed to any change in the current law easing restrictions on firearms on campuses. Both Systems believe that current law provides the necessary exemptions for law enforcement, active military, ROTC and select others to possess firearms on campuses. The House companion, HB 3560, is carried by Rep. Eddie Bass (D-Prospect) awaits scheduling in theHouse Consumer and Employee Affairs Committee.”
So, by the time we meet today, both versions of this bill may have passed in Nashville.
Did you know that the President of Virginia Tech, Charles Steger has been considered a defendant in the case of the deaths of two of the students killed in April, 2007 until a few days ago? According to the article at the link below, Steger was the only individual charged in the suit brought by parents of the students. They are still pursuing $10 million in damages, I would assume from the State of Virginia.
The Delta Cost Project disseminated their findings a couple of years ago, but they are back in the news, because the Obama administration has discovered them and used their insights to scare University Presidents in his recent State of the Union address, by suggesting future federal higher education monies will be tied to holding the line on tuition costs.
The upshot of their 2010 report is this:
(1) University costs have increased primarily due to more money going to research, student services, instructional support, administration and athletics; meaning, those schools that did less of these things were better able to hold down their costs.
(2) Universities raise money for pet projects rather than for core instructional support or for programs tied to greater student achievement
(3) Universities are increasingly rewarding faculty who teach less and publish “second rate papers on third-rate issues for fourth-rate journals”.
I find it difficult to argue with their findings, but it seems if the Obama administration would like to do things correctly, they should not punish all schools, but rather those who are “sinning” in the above ways and honoring those who are “living right”.
It would do us all good to get to know the work of Jane Wellman of the Delta Cost Product. She has apparently influenced the Obama Administration recently on why college costs are escalating and helps explain why the administration is planning to put greater pressure on Universities to keep costs down. I am not far enough into her work yet to figure out where state budgets fit into the entire picture, but I plan to look further into what she has to say.
Here is the url for a link: http://www.deltacostproject.org/
If you’ve been saving your exceeds expectation performance, this might be a good year to reprise it; since Governor Haslam says state workers will be getting a 2.5% pay raise and the DiPietro administration is keen on merit allocations rather than across the board.
As you likely know by now, President O’bama said in his State of the Union Address, that those public universities who continue to raise tuition, will see a reduction in federal allocations. If this seems unfair in light of the pressure states have been putting on us, you would be about right. It is an interesting gambit on the part of the President, I suppose to see if professors and students will occupy state houses and effect a change in attitude toward the public value of higher education. If we do not, the great squeeze is on.
You might also have caught Rick Santorium’s recent accusation that public universities were indoctrinating our young with liberal values. You may recall Socrates was accused of the same thing, so don’t despair; keep teaching the facts of evolution, that the earth is not the center of the universe, that the universe is around 14 to 15 billion years old, the earth between three and four billion years old (and not six thousand), and that the renaissance and enlightenment have given us great art and science. I suspect his concern is that the young of our land do not appear to be sufficiently inoculated against legitimate education.
I did not find it surprising certain recent majors faced greater unemployment than others, [ http://chronicle.com/article/Unemployment-Varies-by-College/130212/ ] but what I found most interesting was that in the entire workforce, only three percent of graduate degree holders are unemployed and only five percent of bachelors degree holders are unemployed. That means non-degree holders are taking the brunt of this brutal economy.
College professors are the ones most likely to be sifting through history’s remains for meaning and contemplating the future for human direction, which means that Universities are not merely places to get an education, they represent institutional memory, seats of reason and places of planning. So what happens if we begin to judge the merit of these intellectuals on the basis of whether their students get high paying jobs or give fortunes back to the university? To put it bluntly, we may well start to lose our “collective mind”. No other segment of society is as dedicated to cataloguing, criticizing, calculating and codifying human understanding. Journalists, historians, psychologists, and various groups of scientists working outside academia are certainly allies in these efforts, but they are products of universities; where they gradually accumulate their expertise. We must not lose perspective on what we do in our profession. That’s what I wanted to say, I guess. Have a great day!!
This past Thursday a group of us from around the state met by conference call at 10 am central, 11 eastern; calling in from our offices and homes as it was convenient to do so; discussing our assignment as members of the Faculty Affairs task force, one of twelve such forces created by the NAPA group consultants and system-wide strategic planners appointed by Dr. DiPietro. Our assignment will be to come up with recommendations to guarantee quality faculty inputs and outcomes across all UT campuses and units, for the foreseeable future. We will focus mainly on three goals: educational excellence, research capacities and our land-grant mission. Of the three, I find the land-grant mission one the most exciting, because it fits nicely with my philosophy of how education should work; namely that it should be active and have immediate and as much as possible local impacts, along with inevitable global impacts, once people start moving about the world after initial local active learning.
There are eleven other task forces at work and along with us, their deadline is Feb 3, 2012. So, that is why I am calling this the Twelve Task Forces of Christmas. A lot of us will be thinking on our assignments over the holidays. Most of us are happy to do it, especially since, as usual, our jobs are flexible enough that we can choose when we think or act on our tasks. It’s not like we are cleaning up an oil spill or fighting a fire, with no choice but to do it now and all together.
Gary Gutting, writing in the “Stone” Column of the NY Times, today; says well, what I have tried to say before in this blog, that college should be about more than getting a job, since if that were all it is, we can surely more efficiently “job train”. If college is strictly about helping students get jobs, then poetry, physics or philosophy are not much more than unnecessary speed bumps along the way. But, as Gutting says, if it is about inspiring them to richer understanding of the world in which we live; then these courses become essential. I think he even stops short, honestly; since I believe he should say that getting a good job is only a byproduct of what colleges should be doing for their students. I believe this, because today’s jobs/careers will evaporate over time, leaving the most important factor of quality of life as: how well one thinks and adapts to new situations/life demands.
I also believe he comes up short in his depiction of the classroom, meaning; I think it is important to define the classroom as more than tails sitting in seats listening to lectures, but as active minds and bodies exploring ideas in and out of the classroom, on and off the campus proper – learning in the laboratory of the word. Active, problem-centered, passionate, compassionate – these are the adjectives we should be applying to college learning and those doing the learning.
Gutting’s article was found today at this link: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/14/what-is-college-for/?hp