Sunday, June 19, 2016

Rearguard Actions--AAUP Censures Missouri (Columbia) and Takes Other Action at its Annual Meeting






On June 18, 2016 the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) took a number of actions relating to conduct by university officials. Among the most important, the AAUP voted to censure the University of Missouri (Columbia) and St Rose University of NY for violation standards of academic freedom and tenure.

This from its Press Release:
Censure and Sanction Actions

Washington, DC—Today, delegates to the 102nd Annual Meeting of the AAUP voted to place the College of Saint Rose in New York and the University of Missouri (Columbia) on the AAUP’s list of administrations censured for violating standards of academic freedom and tenure. The annual meeting also voted to remove from the censure list two institutions that had taken the necessary steps to address the AAUP’s outstanding concerns: Metropolitan Community College in Missouri and Grove City College in Pennsylvania. Grove City College had been on the censure list since 1963, longer than any other institution. However, the annual meeting did not approve a conditional removal of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from its censure list.
I have written about the action against the University of Missouri (here) and the University of Illinois (here). The actions evidence the scope of the battleground that defines emerging relationships between university administration--increasingly bureaucratic, self referencing and remote from its faculty--and faculty, increasingly de-professionalized and torn between global movements in disciplinary interests and the market oriented programming of universities and their outside stakeholders. Where once the object was to flesh out and broaden the space within which the professional competence of faculty was recognized and the self regulation of faculty through their own communities of scholars in their fields was understood as the primary instrument of discipline, now the focus increasingly is on building walls to protect faculties who are no longer viewed as the superior authority with respect to the knowledge they produce or the structuring of its dissemination.  Administrators have sought to transfer authority for both knowledge production and the structure of its dissemination (coursers and majors) from disciplinary communities of scholars to markets for knowledge consumption (labor markets and the institutions that seek to develop and exploit knowledge and to make use of the students produced for consumption within labor markets). Though the language of university administration and the AAUP remains locked in that of the normative structures of the 1980s, the world in which these contests are undertaken have changed (e.g., here and here).

The Press Release follows along with links to the original investigating committee reports.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Challenging the Ordering of Markets for Academic Prestige: On the Business of Academic Conferences, Status Hierarchies and the Markets for Knowledge Production and Dissemination

(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2013)

I have written before on the ways in which markets for academic prestige, and for sorting academics within informal "ranks", have become routinized and institutionalized over the last 30 or so years in their current form. In Ordering Markets for Academic Knowledge Goes Global: Pablo Lerner on "Foreign Influences and 'Law Reviews Rankings' in Israeli Legal Scholarship "I suggested methodologies for knowledge production valuation within institutions that sought to capture some of the intrinsic value of the thing produced, even when measured extrinsically.  The problem, of course, is the nature of the market for knowledge.
The production of knowledge, especially among academics, is not simply offered for consumption.  Like all consumables, it is judged and valued in the market within which it is offered.  And again, like other consumables, the judging of academic knowledge products has become standardized, and its assessment routinized in ways that  both make it easier to understand what one is buying and also makes it more likely that all products will resemble each other. 
One of the principle external consequences of this market for academic production, is that much of what is produced is predictably the same--and the market likes it that way.  Another is that producers are judged  (tenure and promotion) by their fidelity to the packaging (law review articles and books) and content standardization (its fidelity to the generally shared normative presumptions of the leading practitioners in the field) features of  knowledge commodities.  To that end, assessment structures are required not merely for the academic, but also for the secondary structures within which her status is itself assessed. (Cf. Backer, Larry Catá, Global Panopticism: States, Corporations and the Governance Effects of Monitoring Regimes. Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies, Vol. 15, 2007).
Along with others, I have suggested the consequences of rmeasurement--and asessment--within systems  constructed specifically to permit a continuous and self reinforcing system of hierarchy and protecting the privileges of "leading" groups within disciplines ("Defining, Measuring and Judging Scholarly Productivity: Working Toward a Rigorous and Flexible Approach," 52(3) Journal of Legal Education 52(3):317-341 (2002) (examining, in part, the way that discussion od scholaraship and its produciton is skewed by other issues, principally the objectification of scholarship goals)).

Two items suggest that what appeared to be a stable environment for such markets may be coming to an end. One, in English from Duncan Green appearing on an LSE Blog,  Conference rage: How did something as truly awful as panel discussions become the default format? touches on the organization and hierarchies of the performances through which knowledge is disseminated to the academic community. . .and others. The second, in Spanish, an open letter from Roberto Breña, El Colegio de México, is in the form of an open letter to the leadership of the Latin American Studies Association on the deficiencies of the structures of contemporary conferences for academics in a recognized "field" of study. Part of both follow along with my brief comments.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

AAUP Investigative Report on the Dismissal of Professor Melissa Click From the University of Missouri--Of Process and Speech Acts in the University


(Colleen Flaherty, "A Firing With Consequences," Inside Higher Education, May 19, 2016).


The AAUP released its investigative report touching on the actions taken against Professor Melissa Click by the University of Missouri in the wake of the protests at the University of Missouri.  The decision is a very narrow one.  As reported in Inside Higher Education:
AAUP does not argue that Click’s actions toward two student journalists during an on-campus protest in the fall were protected by academic freedom. Rather, the association argues that in failing to adhere to established disciplinary procedures in her dismissal, the university compromised academic freedom for all. (Colleen Flaherty, "A Firing With Consequences," Inside Higher Education, May 19, 2016).

Brief comments follow along with the AAUP Press Release.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Challenging University Approaches to Sexual Assault: Time to Reassess University Approaches in Light of the the ALI's Rejection of Proposed Changes to its Model Penal Code?

(Pix © 2015 Larry Catá Backer)

The sexualization of conduct, and its management, has become an important element of the discourse of rights, and of human dignity in American society.  Such sexualization, and its punishment, extends from the most egregious conduct traditionally suppressed (rape) to conduct that in another era might have been annoying but hardly criminal (wedgies). It is viewed by some as a battleground for gender equality, and for others, as a means for using the state to effect substantial changes --and to harmonize norms respecting--a broad range of conduct that is deemed sexual and with respect to which there is substantial controversy in society. But as important, that discussion of sexualization is also tied to a number of related issues, from the legal effects of individual interactions, to the complexity and degree to which such conduct might be minutely regulated, to the standards of liability, and to the procedural protections of both parties in disputes touching on sexualized conduct. My thoughts may be found here

This post considers the effect that the recent actions by the elite American Law Institute--in rejecting changes to the criminal statute on Sexual Assault in its Model Penal Code--may have provided a basis for seriously reconsidering the conventional university constructions of sexual violence rules adopted uncritically and at the instance of the federal education bureaucracy. 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Sexual Assault at the American Law Institute (ALI)--Intensified Controversy Over the Criminalization of Sexual Contact in the Proposed Revision of the Model Penal Code


(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2015)


In 2012, the American Law Institute (in which I am a member), agreed to launch a revision of its famous and quite influential Model Penal Code to focus specifically on rising issues of "sexual assault and related offenses." The project It was acknowledged at the time that the issue of the decriminalization of certain conduct around sexual activity "deals with some of the most controversial matters on the current public agenda." (Richard L. Revesz, Director ALI in Forward ALI Model Penal Code: Sexual Assault and Related Offenses (Tent. Draft No. 2 (April 15, 20916). The project has been overseen by its reporter, Stephen J. Schulhofer and its associate reporter, Erin E. Murphy, both of NYU Law School. But it has been highly controversial as I reported last year (see, Sexual Assualt at the American Law Institute--Controversy Over the Criminalization of Sexual Contact in the Proposed Revision of the Model Penal Code).

The controversy is well evidenced by the history of this project before the ALI. In 2013, a draft on procedural and evidentiary principles applicable to the sexual assault provisions (¶ 213 of the Model Penal Code) and on collateral consequences of conviction was presented to ALI for discussion but no vote. For the 2014 ALI meeting, a tentative draft containing substantive material for discussion and an evidentiary section (proposed revision ¶ 213.7) for approval was submitted but no vote was taken. Again, for the 2015 meeting a draft on substantive and evidentiary material was presented for discussion but no vote. For its 2016 meeting, the ALI is asked to consider for approval two key provisions: ¶ 213.0(3) (definition of consent) and ¶ 213.2 (sexual penetration without consent).

Both proposals have produced some significant opposition--both to the specifics, and generally to the approach taken on the spirit of the revisions of Section 213 in its entirety. This post briefly discusses the context in which this highly controversial project is going forward and includes (1) National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Memo Comments on Preliminary Draft No. 6, and (2) a two Memos (dated April 4, 2016 and May 12, 2016), signed by a number of ALI Members summarizing concerns about Draft No. 6 Revisions to the Sexual Assault Provisions of the Model penal Code.

This is a discussion that is quite relevant to the university.  It suggests that the federal government's efforts to legislate new forms of criminalization through its administrative powers under Title IX may indeed be subject to challenge.  It also suggests the extent to which the conversation about sexual mores--whether in the context of criminalizing behaviors or changing cultural norms--is far more complex that than the federal regulators would have it.  This suggests some caution for universities who seek governmental approval by all to quick compliance with standards that themselves may be controversial.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Consequences of Power/Responsibility Asymmetries: Administrative Power and Faculty Responsibility at the College of Saint Rose





As universities come under greater financial pressure, as the function and role of universities change, university administrations are showing themselves sometimes unequal to the task of responding to these challenges in an ethical and orderly way. 

It is easy to be a highly paid administrator during good times.  It is tempting to embrace the increasingly separate cultures of administrations during these good times.  The logic of administration at the contemporary university increasingly sees administrators as a privileges class with obligations to manage their resources, and the factors in the production of their "product".  These resource management cultures increasingly dehumanize and objectify labor--and especially the expert professional labor of faculty.

It comes as no surprise, then, that in the face of challenge, administrators seek to preserve their privileged position and to export their mismanagement--without any accountability for their decisions--onto the "factors" in the production of "product."  That process of redirecting responsibility is particularly ironic as it also serves as the culminating point of a process in which  administrations acquire all responsibility for decision making at the university but insist that all responsibility for the consequences of operation fall to the faculty.  The consequences are perverse: administration retains an increasing monopoly on decision making, but faculty increasingly bear the burden of accountability for these decisions.

It is this pattern--this perversity of accountability--that marks university administrative decision making in many institutions today.  It is in this light that one might consider the recent evaluation of the actions of administration in the College of Saint Rose in New York, which has been the object of an investigation by the Association of American University Professor (AAUP).  The press release and links to the report follow.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Diversity at Penn State: Reports of the Joint Diversity Awareness Task Force--Moving Forward Embedding Divesity Policy--Advisory/Consultative Report




(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2016)

It has been my great honor to serve as the Chair of the Penn State University Joint Diversity Awareness Task Force (JDATF). JDATF was charged this past April by our Provost and the University Faculty Senate Chair to consider a number of important diversity initiatives at Penn State (Charge (PDF); Members). Our work over the academic year has produced four reports with recommendations for substantial changes in a number of areas.

Presented March 2016 for consideration by the PSU Faculty Senate April 2016:
1. US/IL Courses Survey--Recommendations (Legislative; and Advisory/Consultative)
2. Diversity Best Practices
3. Moving Forward Embedding Diversity Policy

Presented February 2016 and Approved by the PSU Faculty Senate March 2016
4. Moving Forward
Each of the next several posts will provide links and the text of the reports to be considered by the Penn State Faculty Senate on April 19. An "after action" report will follow Senate action on the 29th--action which I hope will be positive.

This post includes the Report, Moving Forward Embedding Diversity Policy, which was prepared by our Substantive Policy Recommendation  Sub-Committee.


Friday, April 15, 2016

Diversity at Penn State: Reports of the Joint Diversity Awareness Task Force--Diversity Best Practices--Advisory/Consultative Report




(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2016)

It has been my great honor to serve as the Chair of the Penn State University Joint Diversity Awareness Task Force (JDATF). JDATF was charged this past April by our Provost and the University Faculty Senate Chair to consider a number of important diversity initiatives at Penn State (Charge (PDF); Members). Our work over the academic year has produced four reports with recommendations for substantial changes in a number of areas.

Presented March 2016 for consideration by the PSU Faculty Senate April 2016:
1. US/IL Courses Survey--Recommendations (Legislative; and Advisory/Consultative)
2. Diversity Best Practices
3. Moving Forward Embedding Diversity Policy

Presented February 2016 and Approved by the PSU Faculty Senate March 2016
4. Moving Forward
Each of the next several posts will provide links and the text of the reports to be considered by the Penn State Faculty Senate on April 19. An "after action" report will follow Senate action on the 29th--action which I hope will be positive.

This post includes the Report, Diversity Best Practices, which was prepared by our Policy Coordination Sub-Committee. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Diversity at Penn State: Reports of the Joint Diversity Awareness Task Force--US/IL Courses Survey--Legislative Recommendations

 
 (Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2016)


It has been my great honor to serve as the Chair of the Penn State University Joint Diversity Awareness Task Force (JDATF). JDATF was charged this past April by our Provost and the University Faculty Senate Chair to consider a number of important diversity initiatives at Penn State (Charge (PDF); Members).

Our work over the academic year has produced four reports with recommendations for substantial changes in a number of areas.
Presented March 2016 for consideration by the PSU Faculty Senate April 2016:

1. US/IL Courses Survey--Recommendations (Legislative; and Advisory/Consultative)
Presented February 2016 and Approved by the PSU Faculty Senate March 2016
Each of the next several posts will provide links and the text of the reports to be considered by the Penn State Faculty Senate on April 19.  An "after action" report will follow Senate action on the 29th--action which I hope will be positive.

This post includes the Report, US/IL Courses Survey--Legislative Recommendations, prepared by our Technical Issues Sub-Committee.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

AAUP’s Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2015–16


The American Association of University Professors announced the publication of the AAUP’s Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2015–16. The report, published in the March-April issue of Academe, includes the results from our annual Faculty Compensation Survey.  Salary transparency is one of the most important elements of administrative discipline in a culture, like that of the United States, in which employers have been able to shroud their salary and pay decisions in secrecy, "for the protection of employees."

March-April 2016 (The Compensation Survey) Volume 102, Number 2 . The March-April issue is available for download as a pdf. There are two choices (AAUP member login required for both versions): A .pdf formatted as a spread for online viewing or A printer-friendly pdf. This year, some materials are being published online only. They are not in the print issue or the .pdfs listed above, but you can download them here: Online-Only Feature: Innovative Faculty Research, by John Barnshaw; Additional survey report tables ; Appendices, which contain listings for individual institutions.

The Press release with links follows.