Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Critical University Studies

In the latest issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, Jeffrey Williams writes "Deconstructing Academe: The Birth of Critical University Studies," which essentially sets forth the rationale, and much of the reading list, for a course like our own.   Williams visited Rutgers last year and much of this article was discussed in the talk he gave.  His essays on the student debt crisis are very valuable and anyone writing on those issues should seek out his work.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

HILT Conference on College Teaching

It has long been acknowledged that most faculty in higher education have never had specific instruction in teaching.  So the Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching (HILT) is a huge step forward.  You can read more about the initiative in "New Initiative for better teaching" (Harvard Gazette) and "Harvard Conference Seeks to Jolt University Teaching" (The Chronicle of Higher Education).  There could be a great paper on how college instruction could be improved.

Christie proposes increased aid to higher education - The Daily Targum

The Daily Targum reports that Gov. Christie proposes increased aid to higher education, noting that Gov. Chris Christie's annual budget address calls for a 6% increase in funding for higher education.  As the Governor explained: “In our society, education is the key to advancement. More attainment in education is the path to more earnings and success in life. And a highly educated work force is a key to New Jersey’s competitiveness.”  Of course, coming after many years of decreasing funding, even a 6% increase is not a significant change, and his call for more funding comes as he is also calling for tax cuts, so there is some question of how long any increase could be sustained.  That said, however, we should still applaud the Governor for his vision and his understanding of the value of higher education to the state -- something he has also demonstrated with his recommendations for restructuring Rutgers.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Obama Tries to Keep College Affordable

Though he can't make states devote more resources to cash-strapped public colleges, President Obama is pursuing ways to keep college more affordable, as he announced in his most recent State of the Union speech and a talk on College Affordability in January (see above).   The outlines of his plan are discussed in "Obama Links College Aid with Affordability" (The New York Times, January 27, 2012).  The idea is to link financial aid to college value and affordability, denying money to schools with low standards and offering incentives for states and schools that do more to keep costs low and quality high.  Though it is very unlikely that this plan will pass through congress, especially in an election year, it does offer an interesting vision of what the federal government can do to address the many problems we have been discussing in this course.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

International Students and Privatization

The Daily Targum has an editorial today on College Budgets: Filling the Gaps, which points to a New York Times article (Taking More Seats on Campus, Foreigners also Pay the Freight) about the University of Washington's efforts to recruit international students to help make up for cuts in state support.  The writer suggests this is a good model for Rutgers, and I can tell you that Rutgers is already doing this, though on a much smaller scale than UW.  Maybe we should all ask ourselves if we agree with the Targum editorial writer, though, that this is a generally positive trend:
Still, there may be some value to be found in this trend — and the pros do seem to outweigh the cons. Yes, some in-state residents are denied certain opportunities. But on the other hand, at a time when the only other alternative for these schools seems to be cutting valuable programs and laying off instructors — or worse, raising tuition prices for all students — looking to the term bills of more international students for extra cash may be the lesser of two evils.
All we can say for sure is that both the trend and the Targum writer's reaction to it are more evidence that we have all come to accept the privatization of public education as a given.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Public University in the 21st Century, Feb. 24

The Public University in the 21st Century is a conference that will help you to see how the issues we have been discussing are being addressed by academics.  The conference meets from 10 am - 6 pm on Friday, February 24th, in the Alexander Library's Teleconference Lecture Hall, on the fourth floor (right next door to where we meet for our library sessions).  I hope to attend the entire day myself and would be glad to see you all there.  Here is a list of speakers:

10:00: Welcome Remarks, Meredith McGill, Director of the CCA

10:15 Craig Calhoun, President, SSRC
“The Public Mission of the University”

11:15 Carla Hesse, History, UC Berkeley
“The Meanings of ‘Public’ at Public Universities”

12:15-1:45 Lunch break

1:45 Chris Newfield, English, UC Santa Barbara
“The Future of the Public University in the Age of Privatization”

2:45 Mary Beth Gasman, Education, U Penn
“The Role of Public Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Past,
Present, and Future”

4:00 Peter Osborne, Philosophy, Kingston
“‘Purely Financial’? Philosophy and the Future of Universities”

5:00 Michael Kennedy, Sociology, Brown
“How Publics Matter in Higher Education”

Sunday, February 5, 2012

College Rankings and Privatization

One contributing factor that has made college into a commodity, no different from sports cars or perfume, has been the college rankings system -- which is explored in great detail by Malcolm Gladwell's "The Order of Things: What College Rankings Really Tell Us" in The New Yorker (February 14, 2012).  Focusing on the US News College Rankings, the article ends up deconstructing the entire ranking process, showing how arbitrary choices in what factors to value, and whether or not price gets included, can have dramatic impacts on where a college stands in the final tally.  What none of these rankings get at is "value," which Marty Nemko tries to address in "The Case for a College Report Card," which calls for schools to be judged on dollars and cents: how much do they charge and how much do their students make upon graduation?  In none of these articles does anyone pause to reflect on whether or not college should be just a monetary proposition, since we now live in the age where it is all dollars and cents.  That is the thinking that informs the lawsuits brought by law school graduates against their schools for inflating placement rates -- a practice that is bound to increase if Nemko has his way.  How college rankings are determined, and how Rutgers and other schools try to raise their rankings, would make for a very interesting topic.

Friday, February 3, 2012

"The Story of a Suicide"

Ian Parker's "The Story of a Suicide" in The New Yorker (February 6, 2012, pp. 37-51) offers a very detailed account of the relationship between Tyler Clementi and his roommate, Dharun Ravi, as seen through their use of social media, to which the writer gained remarkable access.  The story of Clementi's suicide and the ongoing trial of Ravi are well known and many of the details of the story have been widely reported.  But Parker's fascinating article adds many new layers of detail that plumb the depths of the issues at stake, including the ways that young people use social media to construct and explore identity, the issues of privacy and sociability raised by life in the dorms (the students were roommates in the Davidson residence hall on Busch), the treatment of homosexuality and sexuality in general in dorm life, and the quite "alone together" non-relationships that college roommates often develop.  Anyone interested in exploring any of these topics will find the article a must-read and impossible to put down.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

SAS Faculty Votes Against Football

By an overwhelming majority (175 174 to 3) the Faculty of the School of Arts and Sciences today voted to cut the athletics budget in half and to require greater budgetary transparency in the future.  Though largely a symbolic gesture, the vote clearly signals the start of a re-evaluation of the place of sports at Rutgers in light of the impending retirement of President Richard McCormick, Coach Greg Schiano's departure for Tampa Bay, and the revelations last month of just how much athletics is costing the school.  The vote will likely make headlines as it coincides with National Signing Day, when new recruits commit to schools, and it may contribute to a feeling of uncertainty that could impact student decisions despite the speedy naming of Kyle Flood to take Schiano's place. 

In an article titled "Rutgers Is Left to Evaluate Program's Worth," The New York Times summed up the financial dimensions that have faculty concerned about the place of sports at Rutgers: 
During the 2010 fiscal year, the university’s subsidy to the athletic program was $26.9 million, or about 42 percent of the athletic budget. The university’s $102 million stadium expansion project, finished in 2009, has not prevented the athletic program from being one of the country’s largest money losers, according to an analysis by The Star-Ledger.
The place of football at the University will certainly be a large part of the conversation surrounding the hiring of a new president and will continue to make headlines throughout the semester, despite it being the off-season.  I can't think of a more interesting time for students to consider a research project for this class devoted to college sports.

Update: The story is covered in The Star-Ledger: "Growing resentment evident in overwhelming vote to cut Rutgers athletic budget, faculty say" (Thursday, February 2, 2012) There is also a story in The Daily Targum: "Faculty supports [sic] athletics budget cuts."