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.”

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The AAUP Centennial Declaration

The AAUP issued its first statement about academic freedom and tenure in 1915. As the centennial of that beginning approaches, it has published this statement (go to the link to read more and to sign the declaration):

Institutions of higher education are conducted for the common good and not to further the interest of either the individual teacher or the institution as a whole. The common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free expression
-1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure

  1. The university is a public good, not a private profit-making institution, and corporations or business interests should not dictate teaching or research agendas.
  2. The life of a university should reflect all dimensions of human endeavor and be built on the full and open participation of diverse faculty and students.
  3. The main aims of teaching are the dissemination of knowledge and the fostering of creativity; learning is not just about developing “job skills.”
  4. The main aim of research is to create new knowledge, and academic freedom is essential for the free search for truth and its free expression. Research is not just about enhancing the profit margins of corporations.
  5. After teaching and research, the third mission of universities is about engaging communities and addressing social disadvantage, and not just about “enterprise engagement” or “economic development.”
  6. All who work at universities are entitled to a dignified and collegial workplace free of surveillance and authoritarian dictates and to resist the degradation of their working conditions.
  7. Students are the next generation of enlightened and humane citizens, not just revenue streams or the bearers of collateral for unsustainable debt loads.
  8. Information and communications technologies are welcome tools for teaching and research but should not be used to impoverish the quality of education or reduce faculty-student contact time.
  9. University management should resist public education cutbacks and reverse the multiplying of senior management posts, many of which are unnecessary.
  10. Faculty shared governance is the cornerstone of any university that values teaching and research. The authority of faculty in hiring decisions, promotions, and curricular matters should not be compromised by donors, trustees, or administrators. Similarly, the faculty voice in budgeting, institutional planning, and other internal operations should not be marginalized. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Postscript: The Integrated Studies Hiring Case

Speech given to the UVU Faculty Senate
2 September 2014
(after a speech given by IS Chair Wayne Hanewicz and preceding a speech given by AAUP President David Knowlton)

Thanks to David Connelly and the executive committee for agreeing to let us bring this to the Senate.

This is an awkward position for us. As a Department we have always worked well with the administration of the university. Over the years we have been well respected and well supported.

This is awkward in another way as well. When I was President of the UVU Chapter of the AAUP, Ian Wilson and I spoke each year about questions of academic freedom and due process and concerns of the faculty. Kat Brown invited my feedback on new policy related to academic freedom. Current chapter president David Knowlton has worked skillfully to maintain that relationship even as he has represented members of our faculty in problematic cases of academic freedom and due process.

Given that history, and given the importance of good relations between faculty and administration, it is awkward for us to challenge our administrators publically.

We are proud of UVU. With the rest of you, we work hard to build and maintain a university worthy of the name. We have no wish to cause trouble. We simply want to hire a lecturer after having conducted a rigorous search.

As a search committee with a hundred shared years of full-time teaching behind us, we are having trouble making sense of the reasoning for turning down our choice for a one-year lectureship: Scott Carrier, one of the most widely published and aired American journalists of our time.

The reasons given by Ian Wilson and Kat Brown, the first of which was then repeated by Jeff Olson fall into two categories:
1.        they are prohibited from approving the hire by policy
2.        they do not think Scott Carrier should be a member of the UVU faculty

Ian Wilson refused to approve the appointment with this email to Dean Yells, who had supported the hire:

Kat informed me of your request to hire Scott [Carrier] in a lecturer position. We have had these requests before to hire faculty denied tenure into lecturer positions. We have felt that this would not be in the best interests of the students or the university. [Our legal counsel] David Jones agreed with this position. Therefore, we can’t approve Scott’s appointment as lecturer.

We appealed the decision to Jeff Olson after he took office. He agreed with Ian and denied the hire. Responding to Senate President David Connelly’s request for clarification, he reiterated Ian’s position:

 David, . . . I am not willing to reverse Ian’s decision that the institution cannot hire Scott Carrier, as the university does not rehire faculty who have been denied tenure and granted a terminal year. Jeff

We looked carefully at the tenure policy. It is a good policy, critical for us as we work to build a good faculty. We have no arguments with Policy #637.
The policy, however, says nothing about hiring by a department different from the department that denied tenure; it is a tenure policy and not a hiring policy.
We asked Dennis Potter, the Senate Policy Committee chair to look at the tenure policy. Last week at the executive committee meeting he said first that there is no logical way the policy could be used to deny our hire. He then amended his statement slightly to suggest that only a tortured reading of the policy could come to that conclusion.
Policy #637 clearly states that A faculty member’s tenure award is tied to one specific academic department (section 4.1.4). That means that a refusal to award tenure is made by “one specific academic department.” The terminal year after the negative decision is terminal in regard to employment by that department. The reasons for requiring a professor who has been denied tenure to leave are directly related to that department’s need to hire someone into the tenure track who better meets their requirements as a department.
We are a very different department with very different needs.
Still, both Vice Presidents insist that their hands are bound by policy. They argue that it is their responsibility to ensure that policy is followed and enforced. Jeff Olson reiterated this position strongly last week in the executive committee meeting.

If policy prohibits this hire, then that is that. End of story. No other considerations apply.

Several facts suggest that purity of policy is not the driving force in this case.

One: Twice in recent history, after a member of the faculty was turned down for tenure, Ian found grounds to appoint that person to a post-tenure-track lectureship in the same department: Scott Hatch in English and Scott Williams in Exercise Science.
Two: in a meeting after we appealed the initial decision, Ian and Kat Brown told Dean Yells and Wayne Hanewicz that Carrier does not like teaching at UVU. He does not like our students. He is a bad teacher.
Three: Jeff Olson asked us to supply him with Scott Carrier’s student evaluations from his time in the Department of Communications. He asked to see an essay Carrier wrote about his difficult adjustments as a teacher. He read Carrier’s tenure file. These considerations obviously transcend questions of policy.
In the executive committee meeting last week Jeff mentioned that he had asked his former colleagues at St. Johns about this matter. He reported they said they never would rehire someone as a lecturer who had been denied tenure, that that would undermine the entire tenure system.
Before turning to the differences in judgment concerning Scott Carrier’s fitness to be a member of the Integrated Studies faculty, let me note that the answers we get depend on the questions we ask.
What question did Jeff Olson pose to his former colleagues? What question was Ian asking as he read the policy on tenure? Here are some possibilities:
Is it in the best interest of a university for a department to hire a person they have just denied tenure as a lecturer? The answer to this question is a firm no.
Another possible question: Given that tenure decisions and appointments are made by specific departments, does it harm the tenure system in any way for another department to hire a person denied tenure elsewhere? It does not.
A third question: Is there a way to read the tenure policy that would preclude the hire of Scott Carrier? Yes. That is what we have seen done.
A fourth question: Is there a way to read policy that would make the hire of a remarkable writer and teacher possible, especially since this is in another department with different needs? Yes. That’s what we are hoping for.
Now, to the second reason we were denied the right to hire Scott Carrier, to reasons beyond policy. Ian and Kat told Dean Yells and Wayne Hanewicz that Carrier dislikes UVU and Utah Valley students and is, by his own admission, a bad teacher.
Disapproval of feelings expressed at the beginning of an essay by Carrier (this seems to be the source for the assertions) is not a valid reason to overturn our carefully considered decision to offer him a position on our faculty. Use of Carrier’s published thoughts, cited without the brilliant context that shows a learning process and ultimate gratefulness for students and the university, violates UVU policy on academic freedom. Besides the critical issue of academic freedom, it is just not fair.
The decision is doubly troubling when policy is given as the exclusive reason.
Some of you may be following the current controversy at the University of Illinois over a department’s right to hire the members of its faculty. That case reminds us that reputations earned over the course of decades can be lost by a single administrative action. Although the Illinois case is not exactly parallel to our own, its twin issues of academic freedom and the responsibility to hire faculty are exactly the issues we are talking about today.

The consequences in Illinois to date have been striking: the AAUP has issued a strong statement about the Illinois controversy; 7 professors scheduled to give major lectures this fall at Illinois have cancelled their speeches; a major conference has been cancelled; three Illinois departments have posted statements of no confidence, and this Sunday The New York Times published a strong piece about the controversy.

The potential for such a national outcry over our department’s case is low, although the national reputation of our candidate and the key issues of academic freedom and faculty responsibility raise the possibility.

More importantly for us, the potential for disruption of the shared governance we all say we hold dear is great.

When our vice presidents discount our experience, when they question our judgment about what our students need, when they claim their administrative look at a Scott Carrier’s credentials trumps our
  • repeated interviews
  • and our careful reading of his two books
  • and our listening to dozens of radio pieces, many of them on This American Life
  • and our experience with Carrier as advisor for the best thesis ever produced for IS,

they show a profound disrespect for our judgment and for our responsibility as members of the UVU faculty.

As the faculty senator representing the Department of Integrated Studies, I propose the following Senate Resolution:

The Faculty Senate
That the case be reassessed by the Vice President in consultation with the Faculty Senate President on the basis of legitimate considerations and with respect for the responsibility of the members of the faculty of the Department of Integrated Studies to hire their own colleague. Failing a resolution by the next meeting of the Senate Executive Committee, the Senate will consider further action for the good of the University, including a possible vote of no confidence.

The resolution passed.

Friday, September 5, 2014
To: Jeff Olson, SVPAA

You are making your arguments, I think, the way a good lawyer would—with a narrow focus on the one issue that will win the case.

You know that many of us think the tenure policy (which we fully support) is misapplied in this instance; and you ignore the other issues that are deeply important to us:

…that Ian and Kat did not want Scott Carrier at the university for reasons they made clear when talking with Dean Yells and IS Chair Wayne Hanewicz

…that it is a faculty responsibility to hire their colleagues.

Dislike of Scott Carrier is the question here, not tenure. Dislike of a job candidate is an unacceptable reason to reject the hire.

A decision based on the single issue will affect what we might call "hearts and minds." Perhaps shared governance at a university is a different matter than a court case.

Scott Abbott

In the September 9 meeting of the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate, David Connelly presented the results of his work in response to the Senate Resolution:

Integrated Studies Resolution: Findings as Reported to the UVU Faculty Senate
September 16, 2014

Resolution as passed September 2, 2014
The Faculty Senate Resolves
That the case be reassessed by the Vice President in consultation with the Faculty Senate President on the basis of legitimate considerations and with respect for the responsibility of the members of the faculty of the Department of Integrated Studies to hire their own colleague. Failing a resolution by the next meeting of the Senate Executive Committee, the Senate will consider further action for the good of the University, including a possible vote of no confidence.

·      Due Process- we have nothing in policy concerning a matter such as this- thus good principles of due process (right to appeal aspect) apply
o   Informal attempts at resolution
o   Formal attempts at resolution
o   Final authority
·      I can see no path regarding the “personal” accusations- Ian has been accused of playing this, Scott is being offered employment in a department with many friends, Dr. Olson- hard to see the personal since he has been here 75 days and does not know Scott- as I see it if anyone wants to make accusations regarding the personal then that is a legal matter and should be pursued as such- it is not an academic consideration- if it is true then it applies to employment law and should be adjudicated as such- otherwise it is simply speculation- this is a policy issue when it comes to academics- nothing more or less
·      Who grants tenure?  There is a difference between where tenure resides and who grants tenure- tenure is clearly granted by the Trustees- granted based on a series of recommendations which generally have a narrowing scope of review

1-    Due Process
·      Informal
o   There were several communications both via email and face-to-face between Ian, David Y and Wayne H once Jeff arrived a similar situation ensued with informal discussions seeking a resolution
o   I find nothing here that suggests a reasonable and good faith effort was not made at an informal resolution
·      Formal-
o   This is trickier since there is no explicit set of due process actions associated with this situation- what is apparent is that final decisions were communicated between Ian, David Y and Wayne H and since Jeff’s arrival, similarly formal communications have taken place regarding requests for re-evaluation and hire
o   No hearings were held or committees formed for evaluation but none ever would be in a hiring situation that I am aware of
o   Faculty Senate has begun action on the matter per request which has allowed for a formal and open exchange between all interested parties
o   The formal process would seem sufficient- policies at UVU usually require that a denial be accompanied by a “detailed explanation”- however, explanation is all that is required not a change in the outcome- the explanation suffices as to the resolution of the case in all policy I am aware of.
·      Final Authority-
o   Due process generally terminates with a final decision maker- closest corollary here would be hiring
§  Appointment or continuation is by letter from the President but all decision making (ePAF approval) is delegated to the SVPAA
§  The President can delegate authority per most policies

2-    Previous Instances where a request for hire was made after a tenure decision-
·      Over the last five years, UVU has granted tenure to 113 faculty members and denied tenure to nine (a denial rate of 7.96%- this deserves a discussion).
·      Of the nine faculty members, eight accepted a terminal year.  Of those eight, there is documentation/evidence that four asked/applied, or had a department or members of a department ask on their behalf, for additional years in lectureships.
·      One faculty member received a lectureship- under Liz Hitch- after the terminal year.
·      Two faculty members were denied such a request under Ian Wilson.
·      One faculty member was denied- first under Ian Wilson, and then Jeff Olsen.
·      Also- since 2006-07 to 2013-14- 197 have successfully passed their mid-term review and 6 were denied

3-    Administrative Denial of Faculty decisions to hire-
·      In a review of all faculty-hiring decisions since 2009 requiring SVPAA approval of an ePAF there was no instance found where the hiring recommendation of the department and Dean was denied.  Some adjuncts have been denied but these were cases where workload limitations would be exceeded.

4-    Executive Committee Recommendation based on the above and further discussion
·      The conditions of the resolution have been met in that the case has been reassessed in light of legitimate considerations.  Furthermore ExCo recommends no further action on this particular matter based on the fact that a full discussion of the legitimate considerations has taken place (as evidenced by ExCO and Senate discussions) and that the denial of hire is based on an interpretation of policy (637) along with an explanation of that interpretation. 
·      ExCo further asserts that the passage of the resolution was an indication that this matter deserved further discussion and that the primary concern expressed in the resolution was that of preserving the right of a department to determine who it feels should be hired while acknowledging that the hiring process involves more than departmental approval.  In short, the department should determine whom it hires and that should only be questioned under extraordinary evidence indicating the desired candidate is not fit for hire or if policy is being violated in terms of the offer to hire and that this should be communicated with a “detailed explanation” as to why.

AAUP Statement as referenced in the Senate discussion:

8. Question. I have been denied tenure but want to continue to teach at the college. The administration is willing to offer me either a full-time non-tenure-track appointment or a part-time appointment if the offer is consistent with AAUP policy. Is it?

Answer. The tenure decision is sometimes described as a matter of “up or out.” If the decision is favorable, the faculty member remains at the institution and is usually promoted to a higher rank. If it is negative, the faculty member leaves the institution after a terminal year of service. There is one caveat: tenure, rightly understood, does not require that a positive decision be accompanied by a promotion. Indeed, the tenure decision is more accurately described as a matter of “in or out”: the candidate for tenure is successful and remains at the institution, or is unsuccessful and departs. There is no third, or residual, category that allows a faculty member denied tenure to continue to teach at the institution. Certainly, for the affected faculty member, a job in hand is better than no job at all, while the administration may see an advantage in retaining the services of an experienced teacher without having to make a commitment to indefinite tenure. But if a legitimate third category existed, the consequences for tenure and academic freedom would be severe. The importance of the tenure decision as a thorough assessment of a faculty member’s performance would be undermined if a negative decision could result in continuing employment. Why invest heavily in the scrutiny of an individual’s work without a fixed resolve to let go the faculty member who has been denied tenure? Even more troubling is the prospect of faculty members continuing to teach at an institution after their probationary service has ended but without the safeguards of tenure to protect their academic freedom. Their insecurity would likely be even more acute after tenure has been denied than before. Regular evaluations during the period of probation, including the tenure review itself, are brakes on precipitate and improper action. No need would exist for such evaluations after probation has ended and tenure has been denied. Because faculty members who remain at their institutions under these circumstances would serve at the discretion of others, they would have good reason for being cautious in expressing their opinions.

Notes for remarks to be made in the Senate meeting of 16 September 2014 (I presented a somewhat shortened version):

The vote at the end of the last meeting of the Senate was in favor of a resolution I and my colleagues in Integrated Studies had proposed. It felt odd, then, to leave the meeting feeling depressed. We had won this battle, but it was clear from the Vice President’s statement by email that he would not be bound by what we did in the Senate. It was also clear that the Vice President was determined to treat the questions we were raising in the way a lawyer would argue a case. He would focus tightly on a single issue that would obfuscate and trump the issues that were important to our arguments.

We argued that using the tenure policy in this case is a misuse, that it is in fact an attempt to achieve an illegitimate goal by supposedly legitimate means. We argued that ours is a different department with different needs, that the hire is a new hire and not a re-hire.

In response, the Vice President cited a AAUP document that recommends that a department not rehire as a lecturer someone it has turned down for tenure.

We argued that shared governance in general and policy more specifically require legitimate explanation for administrative overturning of faculty decisions.

We were told that since policy requires only "explanation," our call for detailed and legitimate explanation was moot.

We argued that the vehemence with which Ian Wilson and Kat Brown listed the personal reasons Scott Carrier should not work at UVU were not valid reasons for denying our wish to hire him. In fact, we argued, they contravened principles of academic freedom. 

The counterargument is that these are personal issues without foundation.

We argued that it was our responsibility to make hiring decisions. 

We were countered by a legalistic focus on a tenure policy that has no bearing in a new hire by a new department—by a legalistic focus on a tenure policy that might have some bearing in a new hire—
by a legalistic focus on a tenure policy that absolutely prohibits the new hire—by an unrelenting legalistic focus.

Scott Carrier will not work here again and I’m left wondering why institutions tend to close-mouthed rigidity when transparent suppleness would produce better results in the long run.

On January 27, 2009, after debate spurred by concerns over perceived administrative overreach, the UVU Faculty Senate voted to approve a “Statement on Shared Governance.”  It includes the following:

The faculty has primary responsibility in areas of academic status and related matters including appointments, reappointments, decisions not to reappoint, promotions, the granting of tenure, dismissal, research, teaching methods and curriculum. The faculty is accountable to the administration in fulfilling these responsibilities. The administration has oversight of university operations, and only in extremely rare instances should object to the faculty’s decisions in the faculty’s areas of expertise and primary responsibility.

UVU policy number 635 likewise emphasizes the faculty’s responsibility for academic appointments.

Ian Wilson’s and Jeff Olson’s denial of the decision made by the hiring committee of the Department of Integrated Studies, a decision to hire ratified by the Chair of IS, and supported by the Dean of the CHSS, contravenes these statements of responsibility.

The 2009 Senate Statement on Shared Governance argues that

Shared governance is . . . founded on democratic ideals and is based on principles of mutual trust, respect, fairness, transparency, accountability, open dialogue and the best use of human talent and physical resources.

Mutual trust, respect, and fairness have been set aside for a legalistic focus on a narrowly interpreted and misapplied policy. 

Administrators will achieve what they wanted—exclusion of Scott Carrier. They have, however, lost the hearts and minds of those of us for whom shared governance and academic freedom are weighty issues.