Saturday, September 5, 2015

Krisis: Perspectives for the New University

Michael Minch forwarded this link from Krisis: Journal for Contemporary Philosophy:

and this introduction:

The new issue of Krisis, Journal for Contemporary Philosophy deals with the future of the university. The desire for a special issue on this topic was provoked by the Maagdenhuis protest at the University of Amsterdam in the early spring of 2015. The energy of surprise and enthusiasm released by the protests, the fact that direct and confrontational action “worked”, that it was even taken seriously and responded to, seemed to open up new horizons. We strove to capture some of the imaginative energy that was released by these events.

The issue is organized along three points of focus: struggles, diagnoses and futures. Under the heading of struggles, the reader will find contributions that not only describe specific fights taking place but also be able to sense the passion and engagement. Diagnoses deal with the problem at hand. What is actually the problem and how can we grasp it in such a way that we do not argue ourselves into passivity? Finally, there are contributions which explicitly propose future images of the university, both in terms of structure and organization as well as alternative concepts and callings.

UVU’s Exploitation of Adjunct Faculty, A Labor-Day Statement

Labor-Day Statement
UVU’s Exploitation of Adjunct Faculty
Many of the classes at Utah Valley University, especially General Education classes, are taught by adjunct faculty members. They are, in most cases, experienced and professional teachers who work under the following exploitative conditions:

The positions are contingent, meaning there is no commitment for ongoing employment. Classes can cancelled and/or added on the spur of the moment.

The semester salary for a 3-hour class is $2,725. There are no medical or retirement benefits.

The number of courses adjunct faculty may teach is severely limited. (If it were not, the University would have to include adjunct faculty in its medical insurance plan.)

In order to earn a living and to sidestep institutional limits on numbers of classes, many adjunct faculty teach at several different institutions (2 classes at UVU, perhaps, and 2 at SLCC, and 2 at Westminster or BYU).

A set of “Background Facts on Contingent Faculty” can be found at this site provided by the American Association of University Professors:

Why do these facts matter?

They matter because our adjunct colleagues are human beings who deserve to be fairly rewarded and respected.

They matter because students can rightly expect to be educated by members of the faculty who have offices, who have research support, who are full-fledged members of the university community, who have a course load that enables them to teach each class with rigor and depth and who teach few enough students that they can teach individuals rather than masses.

The UVU Administration, in all likelihood, agrees with most of this statement so far. Why, then, do they continue to foster a structure that exploits our colleagues?

One answer is that UVU pays its adjunct faculty at the same average rate as its sister institutions. Fair enough, unless, of course, its sister institutions are all exploiting their adjunct faculty. This is a corporate answer rather than the answer of an administration eager to serve its faculty and its students as well as possible.

Another answer is that it would cost between $25.5 million to $41.7 million to move adjunct faculty to full-time positions (Calculation for What-If Scenario of All Salaried Faculty at UVU, Made in cooperation with Vice President for Planning, Budget Human Resources 1/20/2015).

That's a lot of money! But what if we shift the focus from what better conditions for faculty and students would cost to a focus on what adjunct faculty contribute to UVU in terms of cold, hard cash?

This is the calculation:

For a 3-hour class an adjunct member of the faculty is paid $2725.

For a 3-hour class a full-time student taking 15 hours pays $538.

The adjunct professor’s salary is thus paid by 5 students in a given class.

A class of 25 students, then, has 20 students whose tuition for that class adds up to $10,760.

1000 such classes taught by adjunct faculty earn $10,760,000 for UVU (HR reported 978 part-time professors in November 2014, many of whom taught more than 1 class).

The quality education students pay for requires quality teaching. With our exploitation of adjunct faculty, we are acting like a sub-standard for-profit university whose aim is to teach as many students as possible at the cheapest possible price.

My mother taught in the Alpine School District until she retired. A combination of reduced funds and increased class size led teachers in that district to design and wear t-shirts that read:


That, I suggest, is what it means to teach so many classes at UVU with adjunct faculty.

Scott Abbott
Professor of Integrated Studies, Philosophy and Humanities

—In Labor-Day Solidarity—

A chorus of “The Preacher and the Slave” by Joe Hill, who was executed in Salt Lake City a 100 years ago,:

Long-haired preachers come out every night,
Try to tell you what's wrong and what's right;
But when asked how 'bout something to eat
They will answer with voices so sweet:

You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,

You'll get pie in the sky when you die.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

(More than 100) UVU Scholars for Diversity and Inclusivity

On the first of May of this year over one hundred current and former members of the UVU faculty and Staff (several us members of the UVU Chapter of the AAUP) published this letter in the Salt Lake Tribune.

George Pyle wrote Sunday in the Salt Lake Tribune that Gene Schaerr, the lawyer hired by the State of Utah to argue against marriage equality in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, has filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case and has done so for “100 Scholars of Marriage.” Pyle noted that among the 100 are 13 with connections to Utah, including, “most notably, Matthew Holland, the president of Utah Valley University.”

All of us, including our university president Matthew Holland, have the right to speak publicly as private citizens on controversial issues. However, as the public face of UVU to the larger community, Holland has a special responsibility to avoid public pronouncements that would harm his ability to carry out his duties as president of a state university officially committed to "diversity and inclusion."

As current and former members of the Utah Valley University faculty and staff, we find President Matthew Holland's promotion of the spurious ideas expressed by the “100 Scholars” and the potential association of UVU with the Schaerr brief to be disappointing and harmful to values at the core of our public university.

Jim Harris, Biology
Scott Abbott, Integrated Studies and Humanities
Daniel Horns, Earth Science
Catherine Stephen, Biology
David Knowlton, Anthropology

Sam Rushforth, Biology
Lyn Bennett, History
Alan Clarke, Integrated Studies
Alex Simon, Sociology
Angie Banchero-Kelleher, Dance

Christa Albrecht-Crane, English
Jeff Torlina, Sociology
Dan Stephen, Earth Science and Environmental Studies
Karin Anderson, English
Robert Robbins, Biology

John Hunt, History
Nancy Rushforth, Integrated Studies and Humanities
Laura Hamblin, English
Katherine Paulick, Sociology
Bob Palais, Mathematics

Steven Emerman, Earth Science
Denise Richards, Student Leadership and Success Studies
Nathan Gorelick, English
Laurie Whitt, Integrated Studies and Philosophy
JaNae Haas, History

Michael Bunds, Earth Science
Stacy Waddoups, Student Leadership and Success Studies
Bill Evenson, Physics
Kate McPherson, English
Anita Bradford, History

Chris Weigel, Philosophy
Mike Jensen, Student Leadership and Success Studies
Emily Holt, Biology
Lydia Kerr, English
Cindy Hamman, Dental Hygiene

Janice Sugiyama, Biotechnology
Larry Harper, English and Philosophy
Kevin Eyraud, ESL
Christine Contestable, Philosophy and Student Leadership and Success Studies
Monica Campbell, Dance

Matt Horn, Chemistry
Lisa Hall Hagen, Theater
Gaya Carlton, Nursing
Joel Bradford, Earth Science
Mark Lentz, History

Lisa Lambert, Student Leadership and Success Studies
Michael Goode, History
Ross Hagen, Music
Jan Wellington, English
Hazel McKenna, Developmental Mathematics

David Yoder, Anthropology
Leslie Simon, Humanities
Sandy McGunigall-Smith, Behavioral Science
Anne Arendt, Technology Management
Richard Tolman, Biology

J.C. Graham, Suicide Prevention
Dennis Potter, Philosophy
Paul Bybee, Biology
Glendon Parker, Biology
Deb Thornton, English

Lee Anne Mortensen, English
Kindra Amott, Philosophy and Humanities
Erin McClure, Summit Program Manager
Colleen Bye, Developmental Mathematics
Alex Strasburg, Center for the Study of Ethics

Karen Mizell, Philosophy
Deborah Marrott, Basic Composition
Keith Snedegar, History
Sam Liang, Humanities
Sandra García-Sánchez, Developmental Mathematics

Jamie Johnson, Veteran Coordinator
Mavis F. Green, Aviation
Robbin Anthony, Student Life and Wellness
George Veit, Dental Hygiene
Garth Tino, Exercise Science and Outdoor Recreation

Lisa Williamson, Women’s Success Center
Liz Owens, Sociology
Jenna R. Atkinson, Assistive Technology
Brooke Swallow, Student Life
Heather Holland, Philosophy and Humanities

Chelsey Darrington, Graduation and Transfer Services
Gabriel Black, Lead-Staff Interpreter
Tiffany Yoast, Student Leadership and Success Studies
Tia Sorensen, Prospective Student Services
Michaela Giesenkirchen Sawyer, Humanities

Samuel Banford, English
Numsiri Kunakemakorn, Secondary Education
David Heldenbrand, Computer Science
Kristin Nuesmeyer, Academic Advisor
Betsy Lindley, Exercise Science and Outdoor Recreation

Jerry Petersen, English
Sarah Donohue, Dance
Terrell Wyche, Biology
Wioleta Fedeczko, English
Russ Harrel, Earth Science

Brad Morin, Mathematics
Scott Williams, Exercise Science and Outdoor Recreation
Suzanne Walther, Earth Science
Mark Olson, Integrated Studies
Michael T. Stevens, Biology

Travis Reynolds, Behavioral Science
Catherine McIntyre, Archivist and Digitization Librarian
Maritza Sotomayor, Finance and Economics
Reba Keele, Public and Community Health
Lucille Stoddard, Business and Academic Administration

Eric Robertson, Humanities
Suzy Cox, Education
Machiel Van Frankenhuijsen, Mathematics
Joshua Snyder, Biology
Emily Bullough, Library

Grant Moss, English
Paul Weber, Physics
Rick McDonald, English
Ed Firmage, Humanities

Click HERE for the newspaper version.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Disrupting Clayton Christensen's Speech about Disrupting Education

Response to the talk by Clayton Christensen, sponsored by the UVU Faculty Senate (and, given those in attendance, by President Holland and by all the UVU Vice Presidents and Deans and by the UVU School of Business and by the BYU School of Business and by the BYU School of Law, etc.)

As befits a professor at the Harvard Business School, Christensen’s basic question was how universities can teach their students more cheaply and thus make more money and avoid being “disrupted” or “killed” by private universities like the University of Phoenix.

The short answer, according to him, is online and hybrid courses.

MOOCs, for example. It would be much more efficient, he said, for a single MIT physics professor to tape a set of physics 101 lectures that all universities could use for their physics 101 course. Ditto economics 101, and so on. (No thought of the advantage of local professors in first-year classes to inspire and mentor and lead students to majors that match their interests and skills. No thought of the decrease in the size of departments this would cause, of the shrinking of the pool of professors working together in support of a history or English or biology major. No thought of the national effects of drastic reductions in the number of professors working in each discipline. No respect for the advantages our research provides to our society. Simple efficiency is enough.)

He gave the example of his own doctoral student who had returned to Scandinavia to teach business at a university there. When his daughter contracted a rare form of cancer and had to spend a summer in Boston to be treated he still taught his class of 20 students through a form of Skype that included a little robot carrying an IPad around the class and buttons the students could push if they wanted to talk. (Basically a face-to-face class with some expensive machinery involved; clearly not a money-saving or money-making class like a MOOC. But he told the story charmingly.)

When Eugene Seeley of UVU asked him about the difference in motivation between Gene’s own online students and his face-to-face students Christensen answered with a Rhode Island study that showed that all attempts to motivate students with better teaching failed but that giving students a sense at the end of the day that they had accomplished something made them happy. (This was obviously a non sequitur.)

The claim that better teaching is no answer to any question related to the purpose of a university was repeated several times.

For instance, he said, the milkshake. McDonalds was trying to sell milkshakes but attempts to improve the quality of milkshakes made no difference. So Christensen and his colleague studied the issue. The problem was the reason people wanted milkshakes in the morning. It turned out that they wanted something in their free hand while driving to work and it had to make them less hungry. They had no desire for quality, just to have something filling in their hand and stomachs while they drove to work. Knowing that, McDonalds gave up trying to make a better milkshake.

By analogy, students don’t want quality from universities. They want to be certified. They don’t want to graduate. They want to be trained in job skills. Attempts to increase the quality of teaching are wasted efforts since that is not what students want. We should provide what they want. (He ignores the multiple reasons we have universities: preparation for jobs, yes, and also the public good of an educated electorate, the public good of citizens educated in ways that allow them to address societal problems, the personal good of a life examined. He ignores students who are hungry to learn things, who are curious, whose reasons for attending a university are only secondarily to be trained for a job.)

Christensen also attacked the idea that universities should sponsor research by their faculty. It will soon prove to be too expensive, he said. There is too much knowledge already, he said, and there’s no way it can all be taught. (No sense at all for how our teaching is enhanced when our students can see that we ourselves are engaged in the tasks we are trying to get them to perform, that we are skilled at those tasks, that we both do and teach what we do.)

Christensen asserted that it should be a "visible hand" organizing this, as opposed to Smith's "invisible hand." By that he meant that administrators should take over this move to online education, that the people involved in producing quality teaching will never make such a disruptive leap.

That Christensen simply dismissed research on these grounds and summarily dismissed the faculty role in decision making was exemplary for his assumptions and claims as a whole. He has the one theory of “disruption” that has made him famous in business circles. The theory is, perhaps (but probably not), useful as he applies it to his myopic question about universities—how can they keep from being disrupted by the University of Phoenix? (As if we had that problem at UVU with our scrambling to work with the growing number of students who are well aware of the quality we offer versus the quality of a for-profit “university.”) But when use of the theory leads him to discount all that we do and all that we have done for a couple of centuries at European and American and Indian and African and Chinese universities, when it leads him to disrespect our commitment to quality education for our students, when it sets aside all questions of quality whatsoever, then we should set aside his theory with a resonant “No Thanks.”