Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Statement on the Suspension of Professor Mike Shively at UVU



Mike Shively training on the San Marcos River for the
2019 Texas Water Safari
(courtesy of the Shively family)


Our colleague, Professor Michael Shively, passed away on the evening of August 19, 2019. Mike joined the UVU faculty in 1992 with advanced degrees in anatomy and veterinary science. He served as President of the Faculty Senate and as Department Chair. He was the Faculty Athletic Representative, a role he relished as he played his trumpet at many athletic events. Over the course of his teaching career he taught thousands of students in his anatomy and physiology classes and was honored with numerous teaching awards. Students found his demanding classes key components for admission into medical, dental, and nursing schools. 
Although “Rate My Professors” is an imperfect source, it is informative to see what students posted there about Mike’s anatomy class. Five recent, representative examples: 

AWSOME, 5 out of 5 rating
Anatomy is the hardest class you will probably ever take, no matter who it is from. But taking it from Shively will probably be the best decision you make. He is extremely caring and will answer any of your questions with respect. He was my favorite professor of all time, and I wish I could take physiology from him next semester!!



AWFUL, 1 out of 5 rating:
Shively does NOT prepare you for his tests and he does not treat this course like an introductory course. I put in an inordinate amount of hours into this class and I haven't learned a single thing. The average score for his tests was 30-40% and he hardly curves it. DO NOT TAKE THIS CLASS if you don't want to waste your time and money. 
GOOD, 4 out of 5 rating: This is THE hardest class I've ever taken. Lab is much easier than lecture for most people, but not impossible. Dr. Shively seems scary because his tests are HARD, but he's hilarious, with crazy raccoon stories (ask him about that) and jokes. Taking him for lecture is a good idea, as he writes the lecture tests and is helpful. He's a genius

AWESOME, 5 out of 5 rating: TAKE THE HONORS VERSION OF ANATOMY!!!!!!!!!!!!! It is the same material as the other anatomy classes just not a lecture hall and the average grade was an A-. This was the best choice I made. My class had 12 people in it and we all got super tight, even Shively. He is the smartest person and invited us over to his house to study for the final.
AWFUL, 1 out of 5 rating: this was a very difficult class. When people say this class is hard, they are not kidding at all. I've met other students from different schools that took the same class and got A's without as much effort. 
A 2018 student wrote a long letter of gratitude to Mike that included these thoughts:

You didn’t just give us a lecture; you gave us stories, hilarious jokes, deep real-life applications and humbling moments. . . . Yes, your class was one of the most difficult I’ve ever taken, but you taught us so much because of that. You taught us how to work hard, harder than we ever had before, and how to be self-reliant. You taught us how to push ourselves to the limit and hold ourselves to high standards. You taught me that I had the ability to do hard things if I was determined. But most importantly, you taught us all that we each had an impact and that our attention to detail would be critical in our future. . . . I remember being so nervous to ask you about something I didn’t understand, but you were so sweet to me. I realized how much you cared about our understanding then, and how much you just wanted what was best for us and wanted us to succeed. (courtesy of the Shively family)

Over the 2019 spring break Mike was on the San Marcos River training for the Texas Water Safari, a 260-mile canoe race he had excelled at for three decades. The day he returned he was suspended from his professional duties. Under the stress of allegations about his conduct as a member of the UVU faculty, over the course of five months of intense and inconclusive investigation, Mike found it impossible to sleep, lost twenty-five pounds from his already spare frame, and grew increasingly anxious and despondent. The assault on his reputation and the possibility that he might never teach again devastated him. 

We mourn the loss of a respected colleague.

The letter that announced the beginning of Mike’s ordeal, dated March 25, 2019, stated that he was suspended from his professional duties, effective immediately, because of serious charges that affected the public interest. Mike was required to gather what he needed from his office and to relinquish his keys, after which he was immediately escorted off the campus where he had worked for 27 years. He was allowed to return only when summoned for sessions related to the investigation. He was isolated by an order restricting contact with colleagues and students. In mid-semester, his students were left with substitute teachers. At some point during the summer, because the investigation was predicted to continue into Fall Semester, a replacement was hired to teach his fall classes. Mike died the first day of the new semester.

The March letter listed six complaints: Mike had violated UVU policy by requiring course books for which he received royalties; he had intimidated and threatened students and employees in ways that caused significant psychological distress; his course requirements and grading were arbitrary and capricious; he had violated the academic freedom of colleagues; he had not adhered to accommodation policies; and he had discriminated and harassed members of protected classes.

Mike had indeed collected royalties for his required book after the new policy was adopted. He turned over his publisher’s records to investigators, had his contract with the publisher revised, and agreed to donate royalties to a department fund as required.

The other complaints left him dumbfounded. 

Who, he asked, felt intimidated and threatened so seriously that they experienced significant mental distress? And when did that happen? Who had complained about arbitrary and capricious course requirements and grading for courses he had taught successfully for decades and for which he had received teaching awards? Whose academic freedom, he asked, had he violated? When had he failed to follow disability accommodation policies and to cooperate with Accessibility Services? Whom had he harassed and discriminated against?

Why, he asked, does a letter of suspension claiming possible serious harm to colleagues and students include complaints about teaching methods? How could UVU administrators and the lawyer hired by them to investigate the case possibly judge the quality of his anatomy teaching? Why do the allegations read like a prosecutor’s grab bag of charges assembled in the hope that at least one will stick? Is this simply a concerted attempt to end my career, he wondered? And how, he asked finally, can I possibly defend myself without knowing the specifics of the accusations?

You will know those details only after the investigation is completed, he was told. In the meantime, you are required to appear when summoned and to answer whatever questions the investigator poses.

For support, Mike contacted me, Vice President of the UVU Chapter of the American Association of University Professors, and Alex Simon, President of the UVU affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. We agreed that I would accompany Mike to his next hearing. I recommended that Mike answer no questions unless he had detailed, specific information about the allegations. 

I was turned away from the meeting after a call to UVU’s General Counsel, who said that policy did not allow faculty support at this stage. While Mike continued to meet with the investigator and an Associate Vice President, I appealed that interpretation of policy, Additionally, I addressed the absence of the specific information Mike needed for an adequate response. 

As the basis of the appeal, I cited the statement on due process in policy #648 Faculty Reduction / Faculty Discipline:
4.7 Due Process
4.7.1 In all disciplinary, suspension, or termination proceedings, or proceedings regarding academic freedom, the faculty member shall be subject to the following policy provisions: 
1) Notice. Written notice shall be delivered personally, or by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the faculty member under investigation. Such notice shall contain the following: 
2) Statement of facts. A concise statement of the facts, conduct, or circumstances reported to constitute failure to comply with the Standards set forth in this policy, including the names of those persons making the charges. 
Professor Shively did receive a notice, I wrote, but it did not include the names of persons making charges and, other than the royalty question, it failed to state any specific facts to which he might respond. 

The General Counsel answered my email, explaining that “Suspensions pending action do not require the elements listed in Section 4.7.1. . . . When a suspension pending action is provided, this is not a disciplinary notice, but instead an interim measure that places the faculty member on a paid leave while the investigation and/or disciplinary action is pending.”

I repeated that the policy promises due process “In all disciplinary, suspension, or termination proceedings . . .” and argued that the member of the faculty would certainly perceive a letter announcing suspension as a disciplinary notice.

The General Counsel further informed me that prior to any suspension, “there has first been an analysis and conclusion by several decision makers, with my office providing legal counsel, that the allegations are serious and that there is a risk to public harm.”

I responded that to decide there is a risk to public harm by a 73-year-old professor whose contributions to UVSC and UVU over many years are legion, and to do so before allowing him to address specific allegations, is simply not right. Fundamental fairness at each step of the process, I argued, heightens the trust we have in one another and provides the most likely avenue to discern the truth of allegations.

Faculty Senator Alan Clarke joined the email exchange with the General Counsel at this point, arguing that “due process means ‘fundamental fairness.’ While it does have legal dimensions which you’ve focused on, such a perspective when applied to university procedures is unnecessarily crabbed. . . . Would it not be better from the university's perspective to provide as much fairness in the process as possible?” 

There was no softening of the University’s position and the investigation continued with no opportunity for my supportive involvement and with no revelation of specific details. It would be months before Mike was finally allowed to know who made the complaints and the substance of those complaints. 

Three months after Professor Shively received the initial letter, worried about his increasing anxiety and inability to sleep, I sent an email to President Tuminez, new Provost Wayne Vaught (shortly after his arrival on campus and several weeks before his official duties commenced), and General Counsel Clemes:

21 June 2019

Dear Colleagues,

This letter is in response to the ongoing case of Professor Mike Shively. . . .
Attached, you will find an email thread with details and arguments about what we see as violations of due process. Senate President Thulin and incoming President Arendt were copied on the thread and will go to work in the fall to produce a less ambiguous and more fair policy. 
The short version of our concern is that Professor Shively was escorted from campus as a threat to the public interest (this obviously has nothing to do with sales of his book) without any chance to dispute that decision. In subsequent meetings with an Associate Vice President and counsel, he was questioned about supposed violations without having [relevant] details . . . . 
How does one defend oneself against accusations lacking any detail, accusations made by unknown persons? How is it possible that you will issue an investigative report on Professor Shively before he has had a chance to give you information based on the names of the complainants and the details of their allegations? He can, of course, respond after he reads the report and he can appeal a negative decision, but shouldn’t your initial decisions be based, in part, on his responses to specific charges by specific people? Shouldn’t the decision to ban him from campus take into account his initial responses to the accusations, not to mention his distinguished career?
It is now the 21st of June, three months since Professor Shively was escorted from campus. It seems unconscionable to keep him in suspense for this length of time, with no communication for weeks now.

Several sleepless weeks later Mike was finally allowed to review the 31-page investigative report and two stacks of exhibits. His reading of the report and notetaking were limited to two hours. When he called me after reading the report, Mike was relieved, he said, but also astonished that he remained isolated and suspended after months of investigation resulting in a report that failed to substantiate the supposed threat to the public interest.
On the 18th of July, Mike wrote a response to the report. He disputed the use of solicited and anonymous complaints. He countered the claim of arbitrary and capricious course requirements: “I have not changed the difficulty of the course or tests in the last 20 years, nor have my department chairs or deans ever expressed a need for me to do so.” He complained about the fact that his book had been sent for review by an academic whose work he had disputed for several decades (and why was his book in question in any case?). And finally, Mike wrote that he was always open to suggestions on how to improve his teaching. Mike was a teacher first and last. 
When we spoke after he wrote that letter, Mike wondered if he had been unwise to challenge any of the allegations. Perhaps he should have just agreed to anything that would have made it possible for him to continue teaching. I reminded him that the mismatched set of allegations had been assembled to make a case for termination. They call into question your ability to teach anatomy, although so many of our alumni have reported that your course was outstanding preparation for their careers. Complaints about your book should be evaluated by colleagues whose prerogative it is to control the biology curriculum. Disagreements between colleagues about pedagogy should be a matter for departmental deliberation, not grounds for administrative investigation. By policy, you have the academic freedom to teach your classes according to your best professional judgment. If I had written the letter, I would have requested additional information about the decision to declare you a threat to the public interest. They have kept you under investigative pressure for months. Your mild response is nothing to worry about. Whoever assembled the hodgepodge of allegations is the one who should be concerned. 
When he died a month later, Mike had still not received a letter from the UVU administration deciding his case. A negative decision would have triggered the first involvement of Mike’s faculty peers—a Faculty Senate-appointed Due Process Committee, whose charge would have been to evaluate whether due process had been afforded. 
How might this deeply flawed process be improved as we look forward?
AAUP recommendations for termination for cause include initial steps to ensure a fair process: “(1) discussions between the faculty member and appropriate administrative officers looking toward a mutual settlement; (2) informal inquiry by the duly elected faculty committee . . . ; (3) a statement of charges, framed with reasonable particularity by the president or the president’s delegate.” 
It seems likely that this recommended process would have led to a more reasonable outcome. Let’s imagine how it might have played out in Mike Shively’s case.

(1)   In discussions between Mike and administrative officers, before being suspended for issues perhaps affecting the public interest, Mike would have a chance to clarify, to question, to defend himself. If, at this point, issues were still unresolved, the process could move to the second step.
(2)   In an informal inquiry, members of the faculty committee might realize that while the other issues need addressing on some level, only the complaint about intimidation and threat to the public interest would require suspension. Investigating that question, they might find sufficient evidence of threat and recommend suspension. Or they might find that the complaint was unfounded and recommend against suspension. If they found the threat substantiated, the process could move to step three.
(3)   At this point Mike would receive a formal list of charges listed with reasonable particularity. The question of suspension would hinge on his ability to explain, to question, to factually contest, and/or to accept responsibility.
(4)   If he were suspended after these steps, the following formal investigation would have a legitimacy the actual one Mike was subjected to did not.

Repeated decisions by the Holland/Olson administration, along with this case initiated by the Tuminez/Olson administration working on inherited principles, have caused harm to individual members of the faculty and have degraded our confidence that principles of fairness and due process will be adhered to. With a President just beginning her second year and with a new Provost, the administration of UVU is in a good position to rethink how its actions in termination cases might be altered to serve fundamental principles of due process and shared governance.

            The Faculty Senate is poised to address a revised policy on faculty discipline, suspension, and termination that will better protect our joint interests. The new administration, if it were so inclined, could show a heightened commitment to shared governance by negotiating the policy with the Senate until all parties are satisfied. This would be an improvement on the historical practice of regarding Senate input only as recommendation.

At a minimum, the revised policy on faculty discipline should require that from the beginning the administration provide anyone accused of misconduct with sufficiently specific charges to allow an informed response. The policy should allow the accused to be accompanied at each step of the process by a faculty advisor as well as a lawyer, if so desired. Complaints should be evaluated by a Senate-appointed committee before action is taken. Any subsequent investigation should be concluded in the shortest possible time.

            Finally, the Faculty Senate would do well to investigate the investigation Professor Shively underwent. How was the jumbled list of charges developed and to what purpose? Most critically, what was the specific basis of the decision to suspend him as a threat to the public interest? Why, if the investigation revealed that there was in fact no threat, was the suspension not lifted at whatever time that was established? Instead, descending into despair, Mike was left to contemplate an investigation with no perceivable end and a fall semester during which he would be unable to do what he loved best: teach his anatomy class. The Shively family deserves, as do we all, a clear sense for our joint commitment to due process going forward.
            
Sincerely,
Scott Abbott 

For the David R. Keller Chapter of the AAUP at UVU
Professor of Integrated Studies, Philosophy and Humanities



Wednesday, October 2, 2019

UVU Faculty Senate Resolution on Professor Mike Shively

Yesterday the UVU Faculty Senate overwhelmingly passed the following resolution (in response to which one Shively family member said: "this warms my heart"):

Resolution to Acknowledge the Service of Dr. Michael Shively to the 
UVU Faculty Senate and to the UVU Community at Large
Resolution #
The Faculty Senate of Utah Valley University,
Whereas: 
Professor Michael Shively, former President of the Faculty Senate, having joined the UVU faculty in 1992, having served as Department Chair, having excelled as the Faculty Athletic Representative, having taught thousands of students in his rigorous anatomy and physiology classes, having been honored with numerous teaching awards, did pass away on the evening of August 19, 2019,
now, therefore, be it
Resolved, that the Faculty Senate of Utah Valley University, on behalf of its members:
Gratefully acknowledges Dr. Michael Shively’s service as Faculty Senate President, his service to the students of Utah Valley University, and his service to the Department of Biology and to the University in general.

Movers: Lyn Ellen Bennett, Senator-History & Political Science 
Kelli Potter, Senator-Philosophy 
Alan Parry, Senator-Mathematics

October 1, 2019

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

CIVILITY

The new UVU draft policy on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities refers several times to a responsibility for civility. The AAUP has emphasized the need for civil interactions as we work together at a university, but points out the problems that ensue when civility becomes a criterion for tenure or in termination proceedings.

Here a new essay on civility from the latest issue of the AAUP Journal of Academic Freedom:

https://www.aaup.org/JAF10/compulsory-civility-and-necessity-uncivil-disobedience#.XZQciy2ZM0o

A quotation from the piece:

Some faculty who have been pushed out, fired, bullied, or treated unfairly in tenure and promotion processes have come forward to tell their stories. Steven Salaita is a prime example. He fought back in writing and in court. In 2015 UIUC settled with Salaita for $875,000 and no gag order, but also no job. He writes, “If I could convey a single point about the experience of being fired and ending up as a news story, it would be that oppressive institutions never subdue the agility of mind and spirit. Humans can be disciplined, but humanity comprises a tremendous antidisciplinary force” (Salaita 2015, 4). Noting the administrative rush to issue civility statements and policies, form task forces, and schedule courses following the Salaita firing, AAUP president Rudy Fichtenbaum cautions, “Trying to stifle free expression and academic freedom in the name of civility is at best misguided and at worst a cynical attempt to undermine democracy.” He notes that some of the most important gains for women and racialized groups were due to “uncivil behavior” (Fichtenbaum 2014), or what Crenshaw and others label “backtalk.”

Civility is wonderful as an aspirational goal. It can be devastating when required.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Fall Meeting of the UVU Chapter


David R. Keller Chapter of the American Association of University Professors at UVU
September 12, 2019 Meeting


Our meeting last Thursday was very productive.  Here is a very brief summary.

We discussed recruiting membership for our $0.00 dues local chapter.  People merely need to alert Rick McDonald mcdonari@uvu.edu to become an official local chapter member.  If you can recruit additional faculty or you yourself missed the meeting and want to become an official member, just let Rick know.  Individuals should also consider joining the national AAUP and or the UVU chapter of the AFT.  Membership in the association or union can offer you support in understanding and coping with institutional power.

We tackled a number of issues relating to Faculty and Policy:
o   We discussed concerns about the due process elements of the RTP appeals process.
o   We discussed concerns about due process relating to the policies relevant to faculty termination.
o   We discussed concerns about the Faculty Rights and Responsibilities policy 635.
Yours in solidarity,




Rick McDonald
Secretary of the UVU Chapter

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Meeting with President Tuminez

In February, Chapter President David Knowlton and I, Vice President, were fortunate to meet with our new University President. We talked for about an hour, touching on various issues related to our work on academic freedom, due process, and shared governance at UVU. In advance of the meeting, we sent President Tuminez the following description of our activities:


31 January 2019


A Brief Introduction to the Activities of our Chapter

Before there was an organized chapter of the AAUP at UVSC, the college (as do most US colleges and universities) drew on AAUP statements and recommendations (https://www.aaup.org) for policies like this one on faculty tenure: https://policy.uvu.edu/getDisplayFile/588a60b23543020f057db59b
and this one on Faculty Rights and Professional Responsibilities: https://policy.uvu.edu/getDisplayFile/563a40bc65db23201153c27d.

            As members of the UVU Chapter, we focus on three issues: shared governance, academic freedom, and due process. 

Shared Governance
We support the UVU Faculty Senate as our elected and official representative body. Most of our Chapter members have served as senators over time. Our current president, David Knowlton, ran for Senate President about fifteen years ago and came within one vote of being elected. On extremely rare occasions (only two that we can remember over twenty years), we have written an open letter and invited faculty to sign it when speed was of the essence. The first one protested Matthew Holland’s signature as UVU President of an amicus brief for the Supreme Court opposing marriage equality­–over 100 of us signed the letter that filled most of the Salt Lake Tribune’s opinion page that day. The second was in 2018 in protest of sabbatical denials, pressure to increase class size, and other unilateral measures that lessened the quality of our instruction (published in the UVU Review).
Our former Vice President for Academic Affairs, Ian Wilson, invited our officers to his office annually for discussions about the state of the University from our perspective. Relations with our current SVPAA have not been as cordial, and at several points relations have deteriorated substantially.

Academic Freedom
            On two occasions we have sponsored day-long discussions of the principles of academic freedom. For the first, we invited the Cary Nelson, President of the national AAUP and author of several books on university governance and academic freedom, including No University is an Island. He gave a memorable keynote speech. The keynote speech for the second discussion was given by Jackson Newell, former president of Deep Springs College and author of several books about education, including The Electric Edge of Academe. We are pleased to report that with one exception we have not been asked to support a member of the faculty whose academic freedom has been infringed on. We remain ready to do so if needed.

Due Process
            Much of our work over the years has involved supporting colleagues who have, in our judgment, been denied due process in tenure decisions or in grievance procedures of various sorts. We don’t presume to judge tenure decisions or the facts of grievances. Worthy of tenure or not, deserving of the grievance or not, faculty members have a right to due process. When our colleagues contact us for support and when it appears to us that due process has been violated, we offer counsel, help with appeals, and even represent our colleagues in the appeals. We don’t have official standing at UVU as an organization, but because we have standing as members of the faculty, we often act simply as faculty representatives as allowed by policy. We work with two or three faculty members each year. Three quick examples will provide a sense for our work.

In 2008, a Korean/American member of the Art faculty was denied tenure. She was (and still is–represented by galleries in Santa Fe and NYC) a nationally known painter and an extraordinary teacher by all accounts. Tenure was denied after two of her colleagues inserted accusatory letters in her file and when, in a clear breach of due process, she had no chance to see or respond to the Chair’s letter or to the Dean’s letter before receiving notification from the Vice President that she would not be given tenure. We helped her craft an appeal. The Senate committee appointed to decide if she had received due process heard the appeal and resolved that due process had been violated; they ordered that the tenure process be redone. In the end, she was awarded tenure. And then, deeply offended, she left the University.

In 2015, UVU’s EOAA Officer responded to claims of harassment and religious discrimination against three members of the faculty. She decided that seven-of-ten allegations were unfounded and forwarded a recommendation for disciplinary action to the VPAA for the other three. The three allegations that were judged acts of religious discrimination involved attempts by one of the accused, then in a supervisory position, to require that UVU Family Science courses not be structured after the LDS “Proclamation on the Family.” We supported the three faculty members because the accused were denied access to the original claims, because they were not allowed to bring a representative to the sessions with the EOAA Officer, because the hearing was done by the Officer and not by a committee as policy requires, because the accused were not allowed to question the accuser, and because the investigation stretched on for months. We wrote a letter to the SVPAA asking him to step in. When he answered that he would assess no punishment but that the findings would stand, we repeated our request that he expunge the case from the records of the faculty members. He refused. We asked the national AAUP to review the case. Their counsel wrote the SVPAA a strong letter protesting the lack of due process and the frivolous attribution of religious discrimination in discussions about a shared course. The Vice President then relented.

The third case was more recent, unfolding in the Spring of 2018. After positive decisions from her RTP Committee (the committee voted unanimously for tenure), from her Chair, and from her Dean, the SVPAA denied tenure The letter from the SVPAA referred to supposed “conduct that threatens, intimidates, or coerces an employee.” It claimed that there were “substantial concerns about your past conduct towards others. . . .” Because policy requires that tenure decisions be made onlyon the basis of what is in the tenure file, and because there was nothing in the tenure file that could by any interpretation be construed as rising to this level of offense, we offered our help. She appealed and the appropriate Senate committee was convened to judge if there were violations of due process. As opposed to the collegial process in the 2008 case, this appeal was held behind a metal detector attended by an armed man in uniform. The SVPAA was accompanied by counsel who challenged our representative’s right to testify about policy. The committee allowed our person to point out 1) that by policy the committee was to decide only whether or not due policy had been violated and 2) that if there were any witnesses called regarding supposed threatening or intimidating conduct it would be a breach of the policy that requires that tenure decisions be made only on the contents of the tenure file. After this testimony, the faculty member’s lawyer stated that they would rest their case – the breach of policy and the undermining of due process having been so clearly established. Nonetheless, a set of witnesses were called who painted the faculty member as a singularly horrible person. A settlement between the faculty member and UVU followed.

These, then, are examples of the kind of work we do as faculty advocates. We see ourselves as good citizens of a University we love. And we hope to work effectively, intelligently, and supportively with a new administration.

Academic Indulgences

Just over 500 years ago, Martin Luther, professor at the University of Wittenberg, tacked up his 95 theses to announce a forthcoming debate. In dispute was the practice of selling indulgences by which the buyer received forgiveness for sins committed and the Catholic Church received money to complete St. Peter’s Cathedral. No need for actual repentance or character development.Universities in the Utah System of Higher Education are issuing what amount to indulgences as they sell certificates of graduation without compelling students to complete meaningful courses of study.
Utah Valley University, Utah State University, Southern Utah University, and Dixie State University have recently developed General Studies degrees for the purpose of increasing “student success.” Student success means graduation. The General Studies degrees were designed “for students who cannot complete or pass final requirements.” Why would a university sell certificates of graduation to incapable students?
USU is now proposing a back-up degree for students who can’t finish their General Studies degree but who have “accumulated large numbers of credits” in various fields. Graduates will “enjoy the economic benefits associated” with “an undergraduate degree from an accredited university.” Don’t economic (and other) benefits follow from increased ability rather than from a degree meant to facilitate graduation?
Our state universities are obsessed with graduation rates. As an open-enrollment university, many of UVU’s beginning students are unprepared for college. We are reducing standards to raise the percentage of students who graduate, but shouldn’t we reserve graduation for students whose dedication and perseverance and ability lead them to the skills and knowledge that a college degree should certify?
UVU, defined in the state system as a “teaching university,” is in the process of raising class sizes and increasing teaching loads and discouraging research by its professors and denying sabbatical leaves and reducing requirements for introductory courses in order to increase the quality of teaching so students will graduate with more skills and knowledge. Wait, I got off track there somewhere. How could I forget that “student success” is achieved by paying tuition for a certificate?
Luther promises eternal condemnation for buyers and sellers of indulgences and predicts that the corrupt practice will destroy reputations:
#32 They will be condemned eternally, together with their teachers, who believe themselves sure of their salvation because they have letters of pardon.
#81 This unbridled preaching of pardons makes it no easy matter, even for learned men, to rescue the reverence due to the pope [and university administrators] from slander, or even from the shrewd question of the laity.
Scott Abbott
Professor of Integrated Studies, Philosophy and Humanities, Utah Valley University