“$100K endowment goal reached by Eastern Michigan University scholarship foundation”

From mLive, “$100K endowment goal reached by Eastern Michigan University scholarship foundation.” From the article:

Eastern Michigan University has announced it reached a $100,000 endowment goal for criminal justice students thanks to the annual Greg O’Dell Golf Outing.

For the last three years, the outing has been held each September at the Eagle Crest Golf Club in Ypsilanti. Thanks to the efforts of the outing the university will continue to issue the scholarships in the coming years.

“Retire Already!”

A kind of long but interesting article/post at the Chronicle of Higher Education site by recently retired art professor Laurie Fendrich, “The Forever Professors:
Academics who don’t retire are greedy, selfish, and bad for students.”  I thought it was kind of interesting because I more or less see myself in that “halfway” space in my career: I’ve been on the tenure-track for 18 years now (16 of them have been at EMU), and in another 18 school years, I’ll be 67. Time flies.

I have mixed feelings about this. I think Fendrich has a lot of good points about why it is faculty should think about retiring sooner. It probably contributes to the “adjunctification” problem of higher education, though I think that’s debatable. Older faculty are less likely to do the “heavy lifting” in terms of service and scholarship and they are often/typically not as current as younger faculty. And to be too honest, I have some colleagues who need to retire– and a number of them are nowhere near retirement age.

On the other hand, I also have a lot of senior colleagues who are still very active, who play key leadership roles, and who have a lot more institutional memory. That last one is pretty important at a place like EMU, in my view. Besides, everyone is waiting longer to retire– not just academics– because of increasing life expectancies and decreasing certainties about the retirement “safety net.” No one wants to outlive their savings, and a very simple way to avoid that is to keep working.

Personally, I vacillate between the two logical poles of retirement. A part of me– most of me at this point– thinks “retire from what exactly?” As it is, I have a tremendous amount of autonomy in the work I do, I feel like I’m “doing good” in society by teaching and helping students, I keep interested in things with scholarship, and I get to do a lot of my work in my pajamas– not to mention that I get a lot of time off. Plus most of my “personal worth” is tied to my work as an academic. It’s not like I’m rushing to get my work done so I can spend time doing what’s really important to me. So as long as I stay healthy, I don’t see any point in retiring at all. It beats shoveling coal.

But when I’m facing another stack of a ton of stuff to grade, when some anonymous administrator asks for yet another report on something that will never be acted upon or even read, when I have to deal with another meeting to nowhere, etc., etc.– that is, when I’m having one of those days, I wonder how soon I can join the ranks of the emeritus.

Mark your calendars: Cary Nelson coming to EMU on November 19

Mark you calendars, folks: Cary Nelson is going to be giving a talk at EMU on November 19 at 7:30 in the Student Center Auditorium.

It ought to be interesting because of what this poster says Nelson is going to be talking about, the efforts of various academic organizations to boycott, financially divest, and otherwise sanction Israel. But it ought to be interesting because of what Nelson will probably have to spend most of his time talking about, which is his rather outspoken defense of the firing/dehiring of Steven Salaita for his offensive (depending on who you ask, of course) anti-Israel twitter rant last summer.

I blogged about it a couple of times here already– for example, “Chancellor Phyllis Wise Explains the Firing of Steven Salaita” (or, U of Ill “doubles down” on a pretty indefensible position). Personally, I find Nelson’s position on this confusing and ironic (given that he’s an “outspoken advocate for academic freedom”) and just kind of wrong. So I’m kind of curious to hear what he has to say about all this in person.

Meanwhile, at least we don’t have UNC’s problems (I hope)

So, today’s game day! No, I don’t mean Michigan versus Michigan State, though as a tangent, two thoughts on that:

  • This game seems like it is being promoted as a bigger “rivalry” game than it was in the past; maybe that’s just my impressions. And as far as I can tell, every Big Ten team really wants to beat Michigan (that was certainly the case when I was a student at Iowa).
  • Given the lopsidedness of the teams this year, I’m not exactly expecting a very good game.

No, of course I’m referring to the EMU versus Northern Illinois game! Sorta. Our friends at Eagle Totem have several posts about it all, and they point out that the halftime band show is some kind of tribute to Batman. That and the beautiful weather today could make the game worthwhile, though the Emus are 21 point underdogs.

Anyway, while you’re half-watching either of these games, take a moment to read through this article from the Chronicle of Higher Education about the cheating scandal coming to light at the University of North Carolina, “Widespread Nature of Chapel Hill’s Academic Fraud Is Laid Bare.” It’s pretty startling. Basically, about 3100 students at UNC (about half of them were athletes) took these sham classes in the African and Afro-American Studies department that never actually met where students would get As or Bs for turning in one paper. And the whole thing was run by the department’s long-time secretary and the department’s chair. Here’s a long quote from the beginning of the article:

An academic-fraud scandal at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill took root under a departmental secretary and die-hard Tar Heel fan, who was egged on by athletics advisers to create no-show classes that would keep under­prepared and unmotivated players eligible. Over nearly two decades, professors, coaches, and administrators either participated in the scheme or overlooked it, undercutting the core values of one of the nation’s premier public universities.

Such are the sobering findings of an eight-month investigation led by Kenneth L. Wainstein, a longtime official of the U.S. Justice Department who was hired by the university to get to the bottom of a scandal that came to light four years ago.

Mr. Wainstein’s 136-page report, made public on Wednesday, lays much of the blame at the feet of Deborah Crowder, a secretary and then manager in the department of African and Afro-American studies, which is often called AFAM. Ms. Crowder worked with Julius E. Nyang’oro, who was then chairman of the department, to develop what the report calls a “shadow curriculum” that awarded students, many of them athletes, with high grades for classes that required no attendance and minimal work.

Ms. Crowder and Mr. Nyang’oro’s role in academic fraud has long been acknowledged, but the new report is the first to reveal the broad involvement of a variety of actors, including a faculty leader and other professors in the AFAM department. The investigation delves deeply into the motives of central players and provides a complex picture of Ms. Crowder, a relatively low-level operator who investigators say acted as a professor in all but name, routinely grading students’ papers and forging faculty signatures.

This went on for 18 years and it appears that it only became visible and impossible for administrators and others to ignore when Crowder retired. Yikes.

Though I have to say that I can see how this could happen and I can see how it might not really be noticed by administrators and the like. The department secretary is a powerful figure, actually. At EMU, she (and it is usually a “she”) can create special sections of courses for students, and it wouldn’t take a lot of fraud to sign off on grades and the like too. And unless someone was paying really close attention, this could go on pretty much unnoticed.

I guess what I’m saying is it wouldn’t surprise me if there were other universities besides UNC where some slightly crooked faculty and administrators weren’t doing some student athletes a favor or two.

“America’s Worst Colleges”

Kind of an interesting article in The Washington Monthly, “America’s Worst Colleges” by Ben Miller. Here are a long quote from the beginning:

… [T]he truth is that students choosing among selective schools are making largely inconsequential decisions. Whether it’s a northeastern private college, a well-regarded midwestern public institution, or some other school rich with financial and reputational resources, any option will provide students with what really matters: overwhelmingly high odds of graduating from a well-recognized college. For them, even the dreaded “safety school” is likely still a better option than the best choice available to large numbers of students.

Less-fortunate students, by contrast, are often forced to choose among the many colleges that get lumped into broad lower tiers on best colleges lists, or from private for-profit colleges that are not even ranked at all. Many of these colleges are dropout factories, where students are unlikely to graduate and prices, debt levels, and student loan default rates are high. For these students, the crucial question is where not to go to college. When you’re wandering through a minefield with destructive options that lead to high loan debt and no degree, it’s worth having a map.

Yet the newsstands don’t sell guides to America’s worst colleges. Nobody writes stories about high school seniors beset with anxiety about whether to attend a community college with a rock-bottom graduation rate, a nearby private college with shaky finances, or a shady for-profit institution.

Miller goes on and explains a couple of different categories of “the worst colleges,” all of which are either for-profit or private institutions– no public universities or colleges are on the list. I think there are ways to quibble with the way that Miller categorizes things here, but it’s an interesting list. And frankly, it’s the worst colleges (along with fly-by-night bartending schools and hairstyling “academies” and the like) that are the real problem with dropout rates and students not finishing and then defaulting in huge piles of student loan debt.

“Why Colleges Don’t Want to Be Judged by Their Graduation Rates”

I actually follow Provost Kim Schatzel on Twitter, and she posted this article this morning I thought was worth sharing here: from CHE, “Why Colleges Don’t Want to Be Judged by Their Graduation Rates.” It’s mostly an info-graphic explaining why calculating graduation rates isn’t so easy.

I think this is important to explain– especially to people outside of higher education– because Obama wants some kind of college rating system where college graduation rates would be a key measure. In principle, that might be a good idea. But before that happens, the feds have got to change what they count as graduation.

“Eastern Michigan University again expected to seek state funding for Strong Hall renovations”

From mLive comes “Eastern Michigan University again expected to seek state funding for Strong Hall renovations.”  Not particularly exciting news in that this is a request that EMU has been making since 2010, but still, news of a sort.

Also in this same article is a new major that I guess has to be approved by the board, one that is kind of a merger between Journalism in the English Department and the TV/Radio program in Communications.  I don’t think it quite eliminates redundancy because both departments will still keep separate majors– at least for a while– but it’s probably a decent idea.

“Steven Salaita: U. of I. destroyed my career”

From the Chicago Tribune comes the latest in this ongoing saga, an op-ed written by Steven Salita, “U of I destroyed my career.” It is a short and articulate column where (and as far as I know the first time) Salita publicly explains the tweets that got him unhired from the University of Illinois.

I am kind of torn by this. I agree with the position that criticizing Israel (for example, it’s recent military actions in Gaza) is not the same as being anti-Semitic, and it is true that Twitter as a format/platform is a “medium that is designed to be quick and sometimes cutting.” And as an academic-type, I’m in the same camp as those generally calling for his reinstatement.

On the other hand, as I have written about here and on my own blog before, I do think there ought to be some logical limit to the protections of tenure in terms of one’s ability to say and do anything. Like many people/entities who become poster children for free speech and the ACLU and the like (for example, “2 Live Crew” way WAY back when, marching Klan folks, etc.), I’m not all that comfortable defending Salita’s views on the world generally. And if you have to write a column to defend and explain the tweets that got you unhired in the first place, you might be doing something wrong.

Still, an important and thoughtful essay worth the read.

“New TRUEMU campaign ‘Elevating Communities, Inspiring Generations’ to showcase research at Eastern Michigan University”

From The Ypsilanti Courier comes news about the “New TRUEMU campaign ‘Elevating Communities, Inspiring Generations’ to showcase research at Eastern Michigan University.” Or: the new light-post signs are here! the new light-post signs are here!

I kid, but I think it’s a nice campaign (though I’m still not sure how to pronounce truemu), and I know most of the folks on this group of posters, including my wife, and I applaud EMU engaging in a marketing campaign that actually focuses on faculty and the kind of educational opportunities we have here, rather than on focusing on the football team or comfy dorms or whatever.

These posters will also be convenient to stand under if we end up picketing or going on strike if contract negotiations go sour.

Board of Regents Holding Special Meeting About EAA on September 22, 3pm-5pm in 205 Welch Hall

I just received an email from EMU-AAUP President Howard Bunsis where he mentions a meeting announcement in the EMU-AAUP Newsletter. My first thought about all that was “there’s an EMU-AAUP Newsletter?”

But the more significant issue here: there’s going to be a special meeting of the EMU Board of Regents about the EAA on Monday, September 22, from 3pm to 5pm in 205 Welch Hall. Here’s what the newsletter says about this:

As many of you know, the EMU administration agreed to be part of the Educational Achievement Authority, which took  over the management of several Detroit Public Schools.  Besides doing this without faculty input, there are numerous problems with the EAA, which you can read at:

http://emuprofessors.org/attachments/EAA%20Not%20Rea
dy%20for%20Expansion%20flyer%20revised.pdf

Up to this point, we have tried various ways to convince the  EMU administration to completely sever ties with the EAA. Now, we have a real chance to make our case: On September 22th, EMU faculty members will get to make the case before the Board of Regents in a special meeting that  will deal only with the EAA. Welch 205.

The EMU-AAUP and Faculty Senate are working together to identify who will represent the faculty, as well as work with the College of Education faculty to identify any students who can make also support our position. Maybe the tide is changing on this issue.

As Bunsis says in his email, “this meeting, like all Board meetings, is open to the public, so please come and support your colleagues.” I’ll actually be teaching, but of course I’ll post whatever news comes out of this here.