Sunday, October 1, 2017

Flora Sapio: Reflections on "Internationalization and Engagement: How Foreign Students May be Reshaping What is Taught at Global Universities"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_university#/media/File:Laurentius_de_Voltolina_001.jpg
(By Laurentius de Voltolina - The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=160060)

In Internationalization and Engagement: How Foreign Students May be Reshaping What is Taught at Global Universities,  I offered reflections on recent well publicized controversy within Australian academic circles centering around the relationship between the knowledge offered in Australian universities and the narratives preferred by some of its principal end users--Chinese students enrolled in Australian universities. 
Most universities have yet to grapple with this issue of student participation and societal expectations respecting the way that "facts" are selected for presentation in an appropriate interpretive form. But Australian universities now appear at the forefront of the reshaping of the conversation about narrative. A series of recent clashes between foreign (mainly Chinese) students and Australian universities about the way that knowledge is produced and interpreted (for the student in a way that is insulting to China) suggests the emerging contours of international student engagement in what had been local contests over the ideology of narrative and the presentation of knowledge.
I posited the problem in terms of the university as a corporate actor within a competitive sector (knowledge dissemination). 
More brutally put: if universities fail to provide students (and their parents) what they think they want to learn, and in the way they think they want to learn it, then the university will lose both market share and its reputational rank will be threatened as students (and their parents' money) go elsewhere. How is this equation affected where the students are foreign and the pressure comes from foreign states?
My colleague, Flora Sapio has produced a marvelous reflection on that post, which she kindly agreed to share here.  The Essay, On the Ideal Models of the University: Reflections on "Internationalization and Engagement: How Foreign Students May be Reshaping What is Taught at Global Universities" follows below.




Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Great American Cultural Revolution in the University?: Statement by the Indiana University Bloomington Provost on the "Benton Murals"


(Woodburn Hall Indiana University;  Pix Credit)



Every civilization undergoes great periods of cultural revolution at some in point their history. These points of cultural revolution can either destroy or substantially change the civilization within which it is unleashed. In either case, the society--its law, politics, economics, culture and religion--emerges quite different at the end of the period of cultural revolution. Cultural revolution upends structures of privilege (the moral underpinning of the social and cultural order) and its hierarchies (its political manifestation). Cultural revolution transforms the core notions that serve as the glue that holds a civilization together, that provides its coherent netting of premises and outlooks from which its realities are shaped and its decisions are made to seem "right", "moral" "legitimate" and "fair"--all terms that derive their meaning from the core premises that cobble a civilization together as a self referencing and legitimacy enhancing whole.

Cultural Revolution tends to be marked by a trigger event. In the case of the Christianification of Rome (and its transition from ancient and pagan to medieval and Abrahamic) it might have been the suppression of paganism in the reign of Theodosius. The Protestant Reformation was another, as was the Iconoclasm of early Byzantium.  In each of those case, and there are others, art expressed the material incarnation of the transformation, and it was to the destruction or reshaping of art, and its meaning, that substantial attention was devoted by a society in the midst of often violent morphing (e.g., here, and here). These are cultural revolutions that are profound and that leave lasting marks on societies that cannot thereafter return to the status quo ante. They are to be distinguished from important but essentially political factional contests (no less violent in the short run) with no lasting effect.  Thus, for example, it is still too early to tell whether the so called Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (c. 1966-76) in China constituted a period of profound and permanent change or merely marked a period of intense and violent factional fighting around ideological markers.

Now appears to be a time of cultural revolution in the United States at least a century or more in the amking. Its symptoms tend to center on images as well--from the logos of athletic teams, to statues, to works of art. Every society tends to see itself in its symbolic (especially plastic) expression and it is in times of change that work that was "invisible" becomes increasingly intolerable to a society whose image of itself is in transition. Where that transition is hotly challenged, the direction and permanence of shifting approaches to specific symbolic expression can be quite volatile and sometimes violent. 

It is with this brief context in mind that one might appreciate the difficulties and context of a statement recently released by Lauren Robel, Executive Vice President and Provost and Val Nolan Professor of Law at the Indiana University-- Bloomington campus with reference to a mural painted by Thomas Hart Benton in 1933, the realities of which have now been subsumed by the great cultural and societal shifts (including shifts in the interpretation of meaning) in contemporary society.

 


That this had been a long time in coming does not change the importance of the tipping point that this year appears to portend.  The Provost's well crafted statement evidences the difficulties for institutions where the societies they serve are in transition (even if only partially and uncertainly so).  Those transitions, when expressed in engagement with symbolic expression--especially the arts--produce a communicative challenge as the cultural markers of meaning making in one age give way to anther set that invariably produces a different context within which the construction of meaning can be undertaken.  That conundrum is well evidenced in the  statement, as is its fragile solution. But more importantly, it acknowledges the strength and ultimately the legitimacy of that great cultural revolution and the passing of the prior stage of cultural meaning.  What is left, then, is little more than the preservation of artifacts that can be understood only by specialists--the specialty of museums and the university. In these circumstances, the preservation of the art (or other plastic expression) of a prior age in the face of the structures of meaning making (and cultural significance) in the next may prove an increasingly delicate task.


The statement is reproduced below without further comment. 




Friday, September 8, 2017

Internationalization and Engagement: How Foreign Students May be Reshaping What is Taught at Global Universities



The re-imaging of history and the ideology behind definitive narratives has been much in the news.  The Western taste for statue topping is merely an out sized manifestation of a more fundamental conversation going on about the nature of knowledge and its politics.  This is a particularly sensitive issue within the university.  Where once consensus about the ideology of narrative produced a robust set of assumptions and techniques for producing and disseminating knowledge, the current taste for pluralism and the politicization of knowledge as a valuable commodity of distinct communities has complicated both the production of knowledge and its dissemination in new ways.  In the absence of a new narrative orthodoxy, and for risk averse institutions--especially universities--that may mean assuming a passive position in the politics of knowledge. 

This instability now acquires transnational dimensions within globally committed universities, especially where they become dependent on the willingness of foreign students to matriculate and absorb their local curricula.  Indeed, the trend within global universities suggests that the traditional parochialism of universities--everywhere--may now be giving way to a more nuanced approach to knowledge narratives as foreign students become more influential participants in its construction. Universities with a global reputation may no longer be able to indulge mere naitonal conversaitons about the way that knowledge is understood and presented.  Increasingly, global universities will have to develop a more nuanced set of sensitivities to the way that knowledge is presented if they mean to keep and expand their stake in the business of global education. But that challenge affects not merely the way that "things" are taught to students (on the basis of the offense and clash of knowledge ideologies approaches). It will likely also affect the sort of societal censorship that shapes the scope within which academics feel safe in producing knowledge for the consumption of students (specifically) and society (in general to produce the data bits of reputation necessary to draw fee paying or high status students).  

More brutally put: if universities fail to provide students (and their parents) what they think they want to learn, and in the way they think they want to learn it, then the university will lose both market share and its reputational rank will be threatened as students (and their parents' money) go elsewhere. How is this equation affected where the students are foreign and the pressure comes from foreign states? This post considers the way these issues are now exploding on the academic scene in Australia. 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

AALS Statement of Good Practices on Gender Identity and Gender Expression



There has been much attention paid recently to issues around gender identity and gender expression in all aspects of social interactions.  The American Association of Law Schools has recently also sought to develop a position with respect to those issue sin law school operation. This post includes the AALS Statement of Good Practices on Gender Identity and Gender Expression.


Friday, September 1, 2017

Revoking PhDs: Questions But No Answers Around the Value of Transparency, Robust Research Communities, and the Construction of Culpability for Senior Researchers




It was reported that a "U of Arizona professor’s Ph.D. is withdrawn after her findings on violent video games are questioned. Some wonder why her mentor and co-author, a senior scholar, has not shared the blame." Colleen Flaherty, "Revoking a Doctorate," Inside Higher Education (September 1, 2017). Ms. Flaherty reports:
Ohio State University took the extraordinary step of revoking a graduate’s doctorate last week. Now her future at the University of Arizona, where she is an assistant professor of communication, is unclear. Jodi Whitaker’s problems started in 2015, after scholars in two countries noticed irregularities in the data in her 2012 paper on video games. The study in Communication Research, called “‘Boom, Headshot!’ Effect of Video Game Play and Controller Type on Firing Aim and Accuracy,” found that playing a violent video game improved real-life shooting skills. Initially, it was something of a boon for both Whitaker, then still a graduate student at Ohio State, and her co-author and dissertation committee chair, Brad J. Bushman, the Margaret Hall and Robert Randal Rinehart Chair of Mass Communication there. That’s because Bushman served on President Obama’s committee on gun violence and his research challenges what he calls myths about violence, including that violent media have a trivial effect on aggression.

But Patrick Markey, a professor of psychology at Villanova University -- whose own findings on video games clash with Bushman’s -- soon challenged the paper, as did Malte Elson, a postdoctoral researcher in educational psychology at Ruhr University Bochum in Germany. Together they alerted the Committee of Initial Inquiry at Ohio State to what they called irregularities in some of the variables of the data set. The values of questioned variables could not be confirmed because the original research records were unavailable, according to Communication Research, which in 2016 decided that a retraction was warranted.

Bushman was cleared of wrongdoing by Ohio State, but he agreed to the retraction. He also agreed to the retraction of another paper in which Whitaker was not involved -- one finding that watching violent cartoons inhibits children's learning -- earlier this year, as reported by Retraction Watch. Data on a second 2016 paper by Whitaker and Bushman (on which Bushman was the lead) also have been corrected; that study found that "catharsis beliefs" attract people to violent video games.

But Whitaker, the 2012 paper’s lead author, was found responsible for the errors. And Ohio State’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously last week to revoke her doctorate, granted in 2013.
With the strong caveat that I am not privy to the evidence adduced nor to the proceedings, here are some initial thoughts on potentially important implications that may flow from this altogether sad events:

Friday, August 18, 2017

Efficacy Studies and the Education Sector


 In "A Primer on Effectiveness and Efficacy Trials" (Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology (2014) 5), Amit G Singal MD, MS, Peter D R Higgins MD, PhD and Akbar K Waljee MD, MS, explain:
Intervention studies can be placed on a continuum, with a progression from efficacy trials to effectiveness trials. Efficacy can be defined as the performance of an intervention under ideal and controlled circumstances, whereas effectiveness refers to its performance under ‘real-world’ conditions.1 However, the distinction between the two types of trial is a continuum rather than a dichotomy, as it is likely impossible to perform a pure efficacy study or pure effectiveness study. (source, see also here)
This method  appears to be on the horizon of those who influence the cultures of the education industry (here, here, here, and here). 

Goldie Blumenstyk has recently reported for the Chronicle of Higher Education about the release of papers from a first of its kind symposium on efficacy research hosted by the University of Virginia:

1. Colleges spend upward of $5 billion a year on educational-technology products, but often they lack data that could better inform the decisions they make on what to buy. Over the past year, several dozen academics, business executives, and policy wonks researched why “efficacy research” isn’t more of a factor in these decisions. Some of those findings were presented at a symposium in May, and now the full reports are available.

2. Efficacy research isn’t just missing in ed tech. It’s also all-too-absent when it comes to the burgeoning world of “alternative” educational credentials, at least according to a new report by Ithaka S+R, a nonprofit consulting organization, for the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Among other recommendations to policy makers, funders, and the higher-education community, the report recommends broadening quality-assurance processes so they can include educational programs not offered through traditional colleges as well as an investment in “a more comprehensive data system that captures longitudinal, student-record data on students’ experiences across the full array of postsecondary pathways, as well as information about providers and their programs and credentials.” In a world where some advocates are still pushing for more complete data on students in traditional higher-education settings, that could be a big ask. Or perhaps it will become one more argument in their favor. —

The links to the reports produced from the symposium and the press release follow. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

From the Journal of Legal Education: Legal Academics Speak to Sexual Harassment, Academic Policies and Title IX


(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2017)

In 2016, Georgetown Law, The Journal of Legal Education and the Georgetown Gender Justice Project hosted a conference on the subject of Sexual Assault and Academic Freedom on College Campuses. The Press Release Conference Note explained the scope of the Conference:
Universities occupy a hallowed position in American culture. But numerous studies showing high rates of sexual assault on college campuses, as well as several well-publicized incidents, have spurred not only a wave of concern about students' safety but also new and more rigorous policies for addressing these assaults in universities and colleges across the country. While the importance of protecting students from violence is unquestioned, these new policies call for consideration of issues such as the appropriate role of administrative decision-making, the role of governmental regulations, the need for academic freedom, and the rule of law generally. How can we best ensure an educational environment free from sexual violence but, at the same time, provide for academic freedom and fair processes? How might we best maintain academic freedom without making it a defensive shield against enforcing equal opportunity requirements within academic life? These and related questions will inform the symposium.
The Journal of Legal Education has now published articles from that conference in its Summer 2017 issue.  The articles, with links, follow.  The articles merit serious study and discussion:


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

From the AAUP: academic freedom and tenure investigative reports, a report on the independence of student media, updated policy statements on collective bargaining and collegiality





The Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors is published annually as the July–August issue of Academe. This year's Bulletin features academic freedom and tenure investigative reports, a report on the independence of student media, updated policy statements on collective bargaining and collegiality, and annual reports and other business documents.
 
Links follow.
 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Thoughts on Maranto and Woessner: "Why Conservative Fears of Campus Indoctrination Are Overblown"





(Pix source HERE)



There has been some attention paid to the challenges of being a conservative (however one defines that term) in the modern American academy (e.g., here and here). That attention has drawn the intersst of important political forces that have manged, yet again, to draw universities into the middle of contemporary political struggles, and likely for all the wrong reasons. Much has been written of, about or around the issue. Some of it is quite good, others mostly polemics meant to advance one agenda or another by frightening stakeholders with select references to data or other bits of "information" to suit. For a taste, see also Why Colleges’ Liberal Lean Is a Problem; Academe Is Overrun by Liberals. So What?; and The Academy’s Assault on Intellectual Diversity; Liberal Academia in Donald Trump’s World; and A Confession of Liberal Intolerance.  There is much more, of course, all easy to find via internet search engines. And they appear to have had some effect (e.g., here).

Robert Maranto and Matthew Woessner have just published an interesting contribution to the debate, "Why Conservative Fears of Campus Indoctrination Are Overblown," Chronicle of Higher Education (July 31, 2017). Robert Maranto is a political scientist and professor in the department of education reform at the University of Arkansas. My colleague Matthew Woessner is associate professor of political science at Penn State Harrisburg and co-author of The Still Divided Academy: How Competing Visions of Power, Politics, and Diversity Complicate the Mission of Higher Education (Rowman & Littlefield, 2011). Professor Woessner is currently serving as Chair of the Penn State University Faculty Senate, in which I serve this year as Parliamentarian.


The essay is well worth reading.  This post provides some brief thoughts on Maranto and Woessner's excellent essay.

Monday, July 10, 2017

2017 Transnational Law Summer Institute Call for Applications: "Inequality: Reproduction, Alienation, Intervention"



It is my great pleasure to pass along this 2017 Transnational Law Summer Institute Call for Applications: "Inequality: Reproduction, Alienation, Intervention."  The theme deals with issues of widening economic inequality on the global plane, but also aims to foster broad-ranging inquiry confronting the production and reproduction of inequality in many settings and modes, with a focus on both the past and our present day.
 
The Summer Institute will be hosted at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia and take place 3-8 December 2017. It is co-hosted by The Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College London, and UNSW Law School, UNSW Sydney, as is an interdisciplinary workshop on transnational law and global governance, scholarly publishing and networking, teaching and critical pedagogy. Judging from past TLSI events, this will be an excellent and profoundly engaging event. 
 
My complements to both institutions and especially to Fleur Johns, Professor, Associate Dean (Research), University of New South Wales and Peer Zumbansen, Transnational Law Institute Director, Professor, Dickson Poon School of Law, King's College London, for putting this together. 
 
The Call for Applications follows along with useful links.   HERE for further information and to apply. HERE for a video. HERE for the Program.


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Valuing Labor in the Academy--Considering the Problem of Pricing the Production of Faculty and Administrative Outputs in the University and the Suggestion of an Alternative Approach

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2017)


The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published an article in which it described some ranges of compensation for the top executive officers of public universities (Dan Bauman, Executive Compensation at Public Colleges Rises by 5%, With Texas Leading the Way, Chronicle of Higher Education 27 June 2017).  To no one's surprise, the news was big. . . bigger . . . and more! Beyond the presidents of two Texas universities compensated in excess of $1 Million, the article noted 
The average pay of public-college leaders, including those who served partial years, was roughly $464,000 in 2016. Among presidents who served the whole year, average pay was slightly more than $521,000. Leaders who served full years at institutions surveyed in both 2015 and 2016 saw a pay increase of 5.2 percent. (Dan Bauman, Executive Compensation at Public Colleges Rises by 5%, With Texas Leading the Way,supra). 
Most of these stories--along with stories of high pay for "star" academics and less for everyone else is justified either because of the inescapable workings of wage labor markets or because of the unique characteristics of the job or the person filling it.

Yet all of these methods--and the focus of pay generally, tends to focus on the individual.  Indeed, the personality of labor appears always to be bound up in the individual.  That is quite distinct from other forms of factors in the production of university wealth.  For other input factors, the general tendency is to understand them as a function of productive force--that is the relative cost of the factor relative to the quantity and quality of the production to which it contributes.

This post considers the problem of the valuation of labor in the university and suggests a possible approach to a usable measure of the value of labor production that makes it easier to treat together the productive value of administrative and faculty production.


Sunday, July 2, 2017

In the Battle for Control of the Contested Spaces of Speech Within the Business of the Academy: The Trinity College AAUP Chapter Statement on the Suspension of Prof Williams

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2017)



As is well known by now, the contests over control of the "spaces" for "speech" have become much more heated over the course of the last several years. There have been any number of high profile (and by that I mean cases where national media have deemed the events of sufficient interest to report) events in which the social media statements of faculty, as well as the efforts of faculty to speak at academic institutions, have been the subject of agitation and threats.  The events have targeted people of all political views and appear to suggest the intensification of campaigns not just for control of the borderlands of "acceptable" speech but also to regulate not its contents (directly) but the consequences of its use.  To that end the conflation of the ideal of the university as a place for discourse of all sorts is increasingly bumping up against the realities of markets for educational services (and the business of education) with respect to which speech is part of the production of income for institutions. But also changing are the frameworks of academic speech culture that once served to discipline the scope and manner of faculty speech within a common culture of academic speech that has long been shattered  and whose shards increasingly sting their targets. Universities have responded to these increasingly conflicting demands in quite distinct ways (see, e.g., here, here, here, here).  The academy has finally come face to face with the end product of the revolution in academia that began in the second half of the 20th century to the three strands of academic life--the university as an institution, the ideal of the university and the role and place of faculty within both. 

The line drawing between speech, faculty speech cultures, and the business of education have become more risky as individuals (students, other faculty, administrators, and outsider stakeholders among others) have intensified the nature of their responses to speech.  Where once speech was countered by (more) speech, today the most effective (in terms of getting results including drawing media attention) now speech tends to be countered by physical acts and threats. The most powerful speakers today wrap themselves within the emotive and physical power of the mob and of the threat of the use of physical force. These trends ought to be greatly lamented.  And one ought to be troubled by the increasing propensity to back counterspeech with physical acts is likely to dramatically change the shape of the dynamics of discussion about the speech of academics (and others int he academy) in years to come. Yet, perhaps, as culture itself becomes a political objective, it might well be expected that the issues around speech of these sorts no longer are mere matters internal to the university but are now important aspects of larger political battles affecting society. And that also substantially changes both the context in which speech debates may be had.  This is not new--recall earlier periods of substantial political instability in the United States and elsewhere where academic speech became more sensitive as a political matter.  But historical resonance does not necessarily suggest either response or outcome in the peculiar contemporary context.  

One already gets a sense of this, as well as of the increasing irrelevance of traditional patterns of discussion of speech and speech rights within the academy in the latest manifestation of the new emerging pattern of the battle over speech and the power to control it. And it is not clear that the traditionally based responses of academics (see, e.g., Targeted Online Harassment of Faculty,”) are sufficient in the face of substantial changes in the nature and context in which these issues now arise.  Hank Reichman, posted on the AAUP's Academe Blog posted:
The following statement on the suspension of Professor Johnny Williams was issued by the Executive Committee of the Trinity College AAUP chapter. This morning Inside Higher Ed reports that “Williams said he was told by a dean that he was taking leave whether he wanted to or not, and that Trinity made its decision in ‘the best interest of the college, not for my family and me.’ It’s ‘not in the interest of safeguarding academic freedom and free speech,’ he added. ‘It is my hope the administration corrects its course’.’”
To read the statement click here and see below along with the brief statement of the University suspending Professor Williams.

For an update as of July 14, 2017--HERE.


Monday, June 19, 2017

Call for Papers: 42nd Annual Meeting of the Semiotic Society of America; 25-29 October 2015 Puebla, Mexico


I am happy to pass along a call for papers to what in the past has been a very exciting conference.  This year the 42nd Annual Meeting of the Semiotic Society of America will be held 25-29 October in Puebla, Mexico. I hope those interested int he subject will consider submitting a proposal.  The 2017 Conference program committee was chaired by a Penn State colleague, Deborah Eicher-Catt. The call for papers (in English and Spanish) follows. 



Sunday, June 18, 2017

AAUP Action on Censure: U of Illinois and Phillips Community College Removed from Censure List; Spalding U and Community College of Aurora Added


 
The AAUP has recently taken action on censure.   
Delegates to the 103rd annual meeting of the American Association of University Professors voted today to remove the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas from the AAUP’s list of administrations censured for violating principles and standards of academic freedom. The vote recognized that both institutions had successfully amended problematic policies and addressed the conditions that had brought about the original censure. Delegates also voted to impose censure on Spalding University (Kentucky) and the Community College of Aurora (Colorado), based on investigations conducted this year that revealed serious departures from principles and standards of academic freedom at those institutions. (Here)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Scholars and Educators for Open Travel to Cuba: A Letter to President Donald Trump



We are on the eve of an important and necessary event-  The Conference on Prosperity and Security promises an important engagement with Central America.
 Regional presidents, U.S. Cabinet members, the vice president and top Mexican officials will meet in Miami this week to take on some of the most vexing problems plaguing El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, the battered countries of Central America’s Northern Triangle.

Drug trafficking, gang violence and other criminality have taken their toll, resulting in 50,000 murders over the past three years in the Northern Triangle, and that insecurity — combined with widespread corruption and lack of economic opportunities and development — has contributed to a massive outflow of the countries’ residents. Most of them have ended up in the United States.

The Conference on Prosperity and Security, set for Thursday and Friday, is being convened by both the United States and Mexico, a country crisscrossed by drug trafficking, organized crime and people smuggling routes. (Fixing Central America is the focus of high-level Miami summit).

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/article155658824.html#storylink=cpy
Even conservatives and exponents of the new "America First" initiative view this effort as important (See, e.g., here). Yet on the eve of an important Central American Summit, it appears that the 45th President intends to make public an announcement that has been rumored to be focused on undoing the opening up policies of the 44th President. 
If President Donald Trump outlines his new Cuba policy in Miami on Friday, it could upstage a Central American conference that is bringing regional presidents and Mexican and U.S. Cabinet members to town this week.

Among steps Trump is reportedly considering are limiting travel by Americans to the island and restricting American companies’ ability to do business with entities controlled by the Cuban military. Sen. Marco Rubio and Miami Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, the only two local Republican members of Congress who backed Trump, have been pushing the president to roll back the opening by then-President Barack Obama. (Trump’s announcement on Cuba could clash with Central American summit).

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article155767424.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article155767424.html#storylink=cpy
To the extent that is is the result of measured considerations of state and ultimately for the benefit of the people of the United States undertaken without undo harm to the people of Cuba, one can understand (if not agree) with the specific measures undertaken.  It would be a great pity, and a derogation of the obligation that our officials owe this Republic,  if instead the policy change would be based on a a need to "repay" political favors or to satisfy the sad vision of a part of the Cuban immigrant community that is, in its own way as stuck on December 31, 1958, as the Cuban regime may be stuck on January 1, 1959 (e.g., here). Indeed, members of the President's party also share a concern about reversing course on Cuba without good reason (e.g., here). And it is not clear how the shift in Cuba policy will impact our relations with other Latin American states--nor the extent to which this was considered.  One worries because, at least with respect to multilateral relations, the President has adopted a piecemeal approach that might increase the likelihood of failing to anticipate consequences of policies adopted in one state on others int he region--much less on internal constituencies (e.g., here and here). 

There are substantial implications should the 45th President indulge the impulse to undo policy (if only to distance himself from his predecessor--a no-principles basis for policy, to be sure, but one not uncommon even for beloved former Presidents of this Republic). One of the most important and immediate may be on the production of knowledge and academic exchange.  It is with that in mind that a group of scholars have written the President urging him to reconsider any possible consideration of the sport of policy roll back that might undo the opening up to Cuba in effect since 2015. The letter, Scholars and Educators for Open Travel to Cuba: A Letter to President Donald Trump, follows.  The letter has been republished by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

When Universities Fail to Manage Abuse of Administrative Discretion the Courts Will Increasingly be Asked to Fill that Role

(Pix credit HERE)


I have been writing about the transformation of university governance from a rules based system to one in which rules are created to define increasingly broad ambit of administrative discretion (here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).  This widening of administrative discretion appears most pronounced at the middle tiers of university administration--at the level of university deans and unit chancellors. It appears to evidence two profoundly important trends.  The first is to shift effective governance power from faculty-dean collective governance models to a more hierarchical system in which middle manager deans reserve the authority to initiate and drive policy formation as well as implementation. The second is to change the character of accountability that manages to produce an expanding field of decisions that are effectively beyond the power of anyone (but perhaps the provost) to review. The result is a growing area of decision making authority in which deans may act with impunity. 

Impunity within an organization, of course, creates a legitimacy vacuum in the operation of an institution.  In the United States, at least for the moment, such structures without legitimate structures of accountability may expose themselves to the accountability structures of the state.  Generally that seepage of accountability out of the institution tends to wind up in the courts. And so, increasingly, one begins to observe a curious trend--the increasing willingness (necessity) of faculty (and eventually staff that is not unionized) to seek in the courts the protection (in the general law) of protection against abuse of discretion

This trend should be alarming.  It suggests institutional decay, at least with respect to the core structures of internal legitimacy, that once were more central to the operation of the university.  More specifically, as the university abandons effective remedial structures, individuals will seek remedies form more authoritative institutions. People may be excused for scoffing at the notion that impunity in administrative decision making (abandonment of effective remedy and failure to oversee administrative discretion based governance), and even at the very idea of the need for an effective abuse of discretion standard itself within structures of university rule systems.  They will be excused for finding implausible the suggestion that in the absence of effective university governance, its own stakeholders will seek "workarounds," and some sort of vindication, outside the structures of the university and its own administrative machinery. My sense, however, is that while initial efforts are likely to be rejected--the trend toward turning to the courts will only intensify as the transformation of the university becomes more pronounced (and as its structures become more hierarchical and impunity enhancing discretion based). 

The most telling evidence of these trends, and of the likelihood of the development of a judicially constructed standard for policing administrative abuse of discretion in the university, does not occur when these efforts are undertaken by faculty at lower ranked universities. It does start to have significant potential to affect the remedial structures of university governance when members of the university elite themselves begin to seek the protection of the courts. It is in this context that the lawsuit (filed March 23, 2017) against the Columbia University Law School (and its dean, Gillian Lester, Dean and Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law)  by one of its more prominent members (George P. Fletcher, Cardozo Professor of Jurisprudence).

This post includes some of the documents emerging from that lawsuit as well as a nice description of the issues recently posted by Paul L. Caron to his Tax Prof Blog.  The university's motion to dismiss the lawsuit provides an excellent gauge of the current position of "management," one that invokes incredulity at the notion of a faculty member running off to the courts in a fit of pique. But that incredulity, given the way the facts are described, ought not detract from a more dispassionate institutional analysis. Whether or not Professor Fletcher prevails, the case itself is another piece of evidence of the growing institutional failures of the emerging university discretionary governance model to adequately deal internally with the exercise and management of administrative discretion.  Professor Fletcher is likely not the last member of an elite institution to seek remedies where he can, and one day--sooner than institutions and their administrators may anticipate-- the courts will supply the remedial structures that universities increasingly fail to provide. 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Internship Opportunities at Foundation for Law and International Affairs



I am happy to pass along an internship opportunity at the Foundation for Law and International Affairs (FLIA), with which I am associated
The Foundation for Law and International Affairs (FLIA) is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization mandated to promote academic and public discourse at the intersection of law and international affairs. The core vision of FLIA is to promote international cooperation and public dialogue through the development of new ideas and collaboration with various academic, governmental and civil actors. . . . Our mission is to facilitate international scholarly activities, conduct high quality, independent research and policy analysis, engage in public education and awareness-building programs, as well as amplify the voice of the rising generation.
The internship announcement follows.


Friday, April 28, 2017

"Insulting or Defaming Religion" and the University--A Story of Christus Ranae

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2016)

One of the more interesting trends in the management by universities of the spaces within which discourse and engagement is supposed to occur, are issues revolving around religion.  That management, of course, is always subject to whatever is fashionable among the managerial classes at the university and those they serve.  Yet universities also serve, when it suits, the ideals they are constantly invoking in their efforts to compete effectively in the market for student (as input commodities to generate revenue) and output markets (enterprises willing to hire the commodities produced. In the U.K. many universities appear to have moved the line of management from expression to the protection not just of sensibilities but of the integrity of the belief systems of religious institutions themselves. (See, e.g., here "London South Bank University's Code of Practice for Freedom of Speech, which warns students that one definition of an 'unlawful meeting' is one "at which there is a likelihood that the speaker(s) may… commit blasphemy"").  How might that be approached in the United States (e.g., here and here)?

This post provides a brief discussion that frames the issue and an example of the sort of mundane events that may trigger more profound discussion.


Monday, April 24, 2017

Call for Papers: Dickinson Law School--"Balancing the First Amendment With Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education"


I am happy to pass along a call for papers to what looks like an exciting conference in the works at Penn State's Dickinson Law School.  Please consider attending and, better yet, submitting a proposal, whatever your views on the subject. The issues are current and quite contentious; the solutions will tend to shape the way we understand ourselves as a nation of people guided by fair  norms expressed through law.

The Conference concept note and proposal submission information follows:

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

How Faculty Undermine Shared Governance--A Set of Perverse Lessons





I have been writing about the way that change sin the institutional mission and cultures of universities has produced greater fissures between faculties and their managers (Deans, chancellors, etc.) and the way that manifests in a set of perverse "lessons" (How Not to be a Dean--A Set of Perverse Lessons).

Yet faculty are not innocent bystanders in these great transformations and the resulting reshaping of academic governance cultures. Indeed, in some sense, faculty may themselves be the most important drivers of changes that increasingly see them shut out of governance except in episodic and well controlled ways. They are their own worst enemies when it comes to the protection of shared governance--and their cultivation of cultural bad behaviors will contribute greatly to the passing of shared governance int he coming decades.
Faculty, like academic middle managers increasingly find themselves in a bind. But unlike the bind that traps academic middle managers--torn between the academic culture of the professorate and the corporate cultures of senior management--faculty are torn between two quite distinct trends that produce bad behavior. On the one hand, faculty see themselves increasingly threatened on a personal level where advancement is viewed as a zero sum gain within a faculty (that is a faculty member can rise only by an equal downward movement by one or more colleagues). That sets up hyper competitive cultures that erode both cooperation and civility. Second, faculty collectively see themselves threatened by productivity cultures grounded in assessment. To the extent that "stars" drive baselines for productivity, it becomes collectively rationale to enforce (informally) a set of norms that compel all faculty to produce toward the average. These contradictions in academic culture for personal and collective action, in turn, require the cultivation of sensibilities that draw faculty into increasingly adversarial relationships with each other, but also necessarily into more opportunistically servile relationships with middle managers.

Like their middle managers, most faculties navigate this contradiction in time honored fashion. They develop a rhetorics of solidarity among themselves seek personal advantage in a culture that one cannot win without another losing. These contradictions, of course, are heightened in a "mixed" faculty, with tenured and fixed tern faculty sharing governance responsibilities. As a consequence, the modern university is witnessing an interesting trend--fracture among the faculty where cultures of "you eat what you kill" are increasingly cultivated, and growing solidarity among managers who increasingly share a distinct but coherent culture and its quite distinct approach to the management of the production of students through a transnational web of knowledge dissemination and production.

What contradiction produces, of course, is another trend--as faculty solidarity dissipates, so too does effective participation on shared governance. The incentives grow for individual faculty members to sacrifice shared obligation in the protection of individual interest--not against administration but against their own colleagues. And to the extent that collective action is still feasible, the trend produces both inertia and conservatism--a drive toward the average that then shifts innovation (and effective governance) from faculty to the administrators.

In that context, it may be necessary to begin to think about the ways that these fissures show up in the techniques of faculty (self and shared) governance. This post considers some of the most interesting and telling examples of the perhaps inevitable bad behaviors that faculty might fall into as incentives induce behaviors that ultimately contribute to the transformation of faculty from an active participant in the operation of the university to a passive factor in the production of exploitable value to the university. It is put together as a set of lessons for the young faculty member on the emerging rules of navigating faculty interaction in governance, the effects of which are likely to be the opposite of what is intended.

Let folly reign again!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

AAUP Releases its "2016-17 Faculty Compensation Survey"



Universities, and faculty organizations like the American Association of University Professors and the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT), have published variations of faculty salary surveys for some time now.   I have been writing about faculty compensation and the underlying ideologies and management strategies (conscious and unconscious) for the presentation of "facts" (harvesting of data) and the extraction of inferences from the data (here, here, and here).  I have also suggested how these exercises do as much to veil "data" and avoid "inference" as it aid in their development and exposure (for a more theoretical discussion HERE).
These are meant to serve a useful purpose--as an important contribution to informational transparency.  This transparency, in turn is meant to paint a picture of the state of faculty earning that can be used, as an authoritative data set, to further  positions and negotiating strategies,  of university administrators, faculty, legislators and the like.  It is also a valuable mechanism for managing public opinion about the state of the university and the privilege (or lack thereof) of a key university stakeholder.

All of this is well and good, and fair game, in the context of the politics of university administration, public policy development, and the operation of wage labor markets for university faculty labor talent.  Yet, data is a relational as well as an objective measure.  For policymakers, and especially for engagement, the choice of relational elements--the way data is packaged and the choice of data types to place in relationship to each other--will have a profound impact on the way on which the data is read and understood. More importantly, if done with some calculation, the careful presentation of relationships among data (including some excluding others) can be used to manage conclusions as well. This no doubt is usually inadvertent, but perhaps not always so. (HERE)
With that in mind it is worth considering the AAUP's recent release of its 2016-17 Faculty Compensation Survey.  It provides data that supports what is becoming too obvious to ignore as the fundamental character of the academy changes: (1) part time employment continues to grow as the profession builds a segmented workforce with growing blue collar and seasonal segments; (2) cost cutting on the labor force side appears to have the inverse effect on administrative salaries that continue to grow (also here); and (3) the state has lost its taste for funding education. Still, the AAUP does try to put the best face of the data.  But you can decide for yourself. In any case there is one great value to this data--the more obvious it becomes that faculty are reduced to a mere fungible labor force the stronger the case for unionization.  The irony is, of course, that it will be the administration of the university, and its embrace of the new logic of university operation that more than anyone will be responsible for this movement.

The press Release with links follows.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Without Comment: Judge Grants Mike McQueary's lawyers $1.7 million; had awarded McQueary nearly $5 million in November






(Pix credit HERE)


There is little need for comment here. . . . other than to remind people that sometimes the most important morality plays tend to unfold at the margins of larger events. And there is a great moral here, and perhaps substantial fodder for considering ethics over passion within university administrations, when large institutions facing events that pose substantial challenges.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

On the Front Lines in the War on Tenure: Wayne State and the Changing Dynamics of Tenure in Knowledge Factories



(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2017)

When universities loudly proclaim a desire to revoke tenure en masse, both the cat and the proclamation (as theatre covering motives and agendas) ought to be the subject of some consideration.  That was what came to mind as I read the recent quite public efforts of Wayne State University to shed a large number of its medical school faculty. "In a move rarely seen in academia, Wayne State University is trying to fire multiple faculty members depicted as abusing their tenure by doing as little work as possible" (here). Of course the rationale is absurd but in a way that reflects the disconnect between reality and administrators: had these faculty really done as little work as possible then it would not have been an abuse of tenure--the abuse comes when they work less than the minimum expected.  Of course the true of phrase might merely be bad writing. I suspect the writing is true, but the motives it exposes are not--that what it reveals is the effort to invert the standards of tenure to capture greater productivity to the university without any corresponding payment. 

This post considers the recent move by Wayne State to remove a large number of its tenured medical school faculty for non or under productivity in light of the two motives that may underlie both the move and the consequential weakening of tenure: (1) money and (2) labor flexibility.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Presentation: "Diversity in Legal Education: Considering the Hollow Spaces Between Speech and Action"





It was my great pleasure to participate on a great panel at Penn State Law recently. The panel, All in at Penn State Law: Addressing Diversity & Implicit Bias considered issues of diversity from a variety of distinct perspectives. It was organized by the Penn State Law Diversity Committee on March 16, 2017. The program was covered by Penn State's student newspaper, Daily Collegian (Katie Johnston, "Penn State Law hosts panel on diversity in legal education," The Daily Collegian March 16, 2017).

I spoke to issues of institutional implementation and accountability of diversity projects for law schools specifically and large research universities more generally. I started with a consideration of the 2010 ABA Report “Diversity in the Legal Profession: The Next Steps” especially as they relate to “Recommendations to Law Schools and the Academy (pp.17-25). This was used as a baseline for analysis. I then reflected on their consequences for Law Schools in light of the work of Penn State's Joint Diversity Awareness Task Force and their Reports of 2016 adopted by the Penn State University Faculty Senate in 2016.

The presentation PowerPoints may be accessed HERE.

The video of the presentation may be accessed HERE.

A summary of the presentation follows and may be downloaded HERE.

Monday, March 6, 2017

How Not to be a Dean--A Set of Perverse Lessons


Academic middle managers increasingly find themselves in a bind.  On the one hand they, unlike more senior administrators, tend to be drawn from the ranks of faculty (though nor necessarily of the faculty over which they have been given dominion) and have been socialized  deeply in academic faculty centered cultures.  On the other hand, the emerging cultures of administration--autonomous of and quite distinct from that of faculty centered cultures--require the cultivation of sensibilities that draw middle managers into an increasingly adversarial relationship with the factors in the production of unit wealth that faculty represent.  

Most successful middle managers navigate this contradiction in time honored fashion.  They develop a rhetorics of solidarity with their staff while at the same time embrace the cultures of administration and its quite distinct approach to the management of the production of students through a transnational  web of knowledge dissemination and production.  However, as the cultures of administration and those of faculty increasingly diverge, and as faculty itself begins to fracture along worker class lines (tenured and nontenured full time staff, fixed term faculty, research or teaching faculty, adjuncts and graduate assistants) the natural solidarity of middle managers toward their colleagues will dissipate as well. 

In that context, it may be necessary to begin to think about the ways that this fissure between deans and faculties now shows up in managerial techniques.  This post considers some of the most interesting and telling examples of the perhaps inevitable break between faculty and those charged with their oversight.It is put together as  a set of lessons for the young manager on the emerging rules of managing faculty , the effects of which are likely to be the opposite of what is intended. 

Let folly reign!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Conundrums of Rank and Title at the University: Faculty Solidarity Versus Consumer Protection



(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2017)


Universities worldwide have long dealt with the core issue of how an institution may convey information respecting individual faculty members.  The information that is conveyed relates to (1) rank, (2) status, and (3) function.  The information is usually embedded within what is commonly called the rank and titling of faculty within the university. Information conveyed by titling is directed to the community of academics and also to critical stakeholders (students, outside funding agencies, and others). 

This post considers briefly the complexities of titling faculty, revealing of the underlying issues that tend to make any real sort of principled construction of a coherent structure for titling faculty  unlikely.   It suggests that current efforts to reform issues of rank and title may not be able to avoid conflicts between principles of consumer protection and those of equity and solidarity among faculty workers.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Abuse of Discretion at the University: A Construction Built One Act at a Time

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2017)


I have been writing about the transformation of the scope and functions of middle level administrators at the university--either public or private (here, here, here, here).  I have been suggesting that the symptom that is much in evidence--the emergence of cultures of soft retaliation, personally directed but not in violation of the rules under that empower administrative action--hides its cause, the rapidly expanding scope of administrative discretion within ever more complex regulatory structures (here, here, here, here, here).  As these regulatory structures move from rules based to principles based structure--from commands to conditions of service (here, here, here, here)--the administrator charged it is operation becomes the receptacle of an increasing amount of discretion.  This discretion may be exercised in the administration of a unit with impunity--that is it may be exercised within a broad, and increasingly unreviewable, discretion that falls well within the scope of the authority with which the administrator has come to be vested.

This emerging system of university governance, then, is founded on two great foundations.  The first is the legalization of conduct within the university.  All conduct is meant to be subject to rules and the rule systems are designed to be opaque.  Like the most arcane regulatory structures of the public administrative state, the volume of regulation within the university will be fractured (divided into a large number of distinct categories) and will be memorialized in a language increasingly open only to specialists.  In the public sphere that describes the relationship between lawyer, judge and law; within the university that describes the relationship between the administrator and the university's regulations. The second is the shift of authority for decision making and rule interpretation to a class of administrators through which the university may manage those who are necessary for its operation. This produces the construction of regulatory governance that vests interpretive discretion and the power to apply the rule solely in the hands of a hierarchically arranged administrative structure, in which each level is responsible only to itself and protected by a regulatory structure that is meant to protect the integrity of the system.

The resulting practices, perhaps some abusive, have not been well documented precisely because the framework within which they are committed have remained obscure.  Yet that documentation ought to be commenced, and the stories that suggest the mechanics and habits of discretion--its use and abuse within the university--ought to be told.  With this post I will try to give form to the many ways in which discretion may be exercised and abused.  I will leave it to the reader to determine the extent of abuse, but will call on others to share stories that may add to our construction of the actual operation of the discretionary administrative university of this century. All stories will be stripped of identifying information to serve as the faceless indictment of a practice that has until now been able to thrive in the shadows protected by an ignorance of the methodologies and tactics of the modern university.


Friday, February 24, 2017

Consequences of the Growing Divide Between the Ideal of the University and its Reality: Thoughts on the Unionization of Student Labor (Graduate Students and Athletes) in this Age of the Learning Factory

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2017)

There is a sort of culture war that is entering into a decisive stage within the American University. That culture war is most clearly exposed in the contrasting narratives about the character of the university. The culture war is marked by a great contest over the master narrative that defines the way in which people understand the university within our culture.

On one side stands the narrative of the traditional ideal of the university, painstakingly fashioned over the course of the last century.  It is an ideology nurtured on the notion of the university as a place where knowledge is produced and disseminated  by and under the supervision of an autonomous  professional faculty in accordance with the inherent logic of the academic disciplines within which knowledge production is organized.  Within this narrative of the ideal university, students acquire experience through supervised teaching and research under the direction of faculty. Within this narrative, individuals are seen as students (e.g., here).  On the other stands the narrative of the university as its emerging operational reality--a corporatized institution for the production of candidates for efficient insertion into global or local labor markets at the least possible expense, and one in which the university's stakeholders are increasingly understood as factors in the production of product (the employees) and funds (alumni contributions after insertion and tuition on the promise of insertion into targeted labor markets. Within this functionally framed institutional narrative, students are seen as service workers, contributing to a reduction in the cost of disseminating and producing knowledge for the market.  Within this narrative, individuals are seen as workers (e.g., here).

The conflicts between universities and their graduate students are shaped by these two quite distinct narratives. 
Caroline A. Adelman, a spokeswoman for Columbia, said that “Columbia — along with many of our peer institutions — disagrees with this outcome because we believe the academic relationship students have with faculty members and departments as part of their studies is not the same as between employer and employee.” (here).
And universities have been aggressive in seeking to quash the unionization effort (see, e.g., here). Graduate students tend to take a different view.  At Columbia they note:
“What we’re fundamentally concerned about isn’t really money,” said Paul R. Katz, one of the Columbia graduate students involved in the organizing efforts. “It’s a question of power and democracy in a space in the academy that’s increasingly corporatized, hierarchical. That’s what we’re most concerned about.” (here).
At Penn State they note something similar in recent efforts to begin the process of unionization, where the focus is on engagement and working conditions, especially those touching on benefits (see, e.g., here). At the University of Pittsburgh graduate students and faculty have moved forward in parallel efforts (see, e.g., here). The narrative focuses on the corporate model of labor exploitation in the learning factory.
Speakers at the news conference, including some individuals hoping to join the bargaining units, cited issues including fairness, job security, transparency and workplace justice as key themes of the effort. “We deserve to be recognized for our indispensable roles,” said Hillary Lazar, 37, a graduate student employee and a teaching fellow in sociology. “The University continues to profit off our labor.” (here).

Similar disjunctions in narrative have produced efforts to unionize athletics as well (see, e.g., here), in which student athletes increasingly see themselves as factors in the production of university wealth while universities seek to cling to the ideal of the student athlete-scholar (e.g., here). The tensions has produced efforts to recognize the student aspects of their role but also the nature of their contribution to the "life" of the university (see, e.g., here).

This post reflects on the inevitability of these moves and their wider ramifications for the academy.  Starting with students and athletes, it is clear that the pattern is symptomatic of a larger change in the structures and logic of the academic enterprise that will likely produce some transformative changes,.  These are considered below.