Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Without Comment: Former President Sues Penn State

This version of the Associated press report from the Williamsport Sun Gazette, worth reading carefully both for what it says and what it says between the lines

(Former Penn State President Graham Spanier, Pix from Iowa State University Alumni Association Website)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Between Scholar and University--Sharing Knowledge, Protecting Revenue and Control--Is the UCSF Approach Worth Considering

It has become something of a truism that information is power; it is also true that power is money, or at least income.  These truisms speak to a larger issue now confrontation academic institutions--contests over the control of knowledge produced by academics. 

 (Pix from Happy 3rd Birthday, Open Access Directory!, Charlotte Law Library News, May 26, 2011)

But should a faculty to make each of their articles freely available immediately through an open-access repository, and thus accessible to the public through search engines such as Google Scholar?  And should a Faculty Senate spearhead such efforts?  The Faculty Senate of the University of California San Francisco has answered both in the affirmative.  It would be useful for Penn State's Faculty Senate to consider the same.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Regulating the Market for University Provided Distance Education--Administrators and Politicial Figures Aplenty But No Role for Faculty

This from the Chronicle of Higher Education:
The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities and the State Higher Education Executive Officers have organized a commission that will explore the regulation of postsecondary distance education. The commission will craft recommendations on the challenges that colleges face when they offer programs in multiple states. The group includes the Clinton administration’s education secretary, Richard W. Riley, as well as the lieutenant governor of Colorado and a former governor of Wyoming. Its first session will be in June. (Public-University Groups Form Panel on Distance-Education Regulation, The Ticker, Chronicle of Higher Education, May 23, 2012).
On the one hand this may be good news as the free market approach to the development of distance education has increased competition among universities and provided a host of distinct models.  Standardization may be useful for students so that they might have confidence in choosing among programs and understanding what each offers and lacks. On the other hand, these efforts to control and manage distance education suggests a certain degree of collusion in the control of markets for students even as they impose market discipline and standardization on the product offered. 

(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2012)

And, as appears to be usual in these endeavors, no one had thought to include in the Commission a space for the institutional voice of faculty.  As a consequence, while there will be much discussion about the management and shape of markets for distance education, and standardization of its form and content, all of this will be done without the bother of consulting with the stakeholder that will bear the largest share of responsibility for its implementation and success (or failure). 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Irony and Incoherence in the "Professionalization" of University Education

The Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics (COIA) is an alliance of 59 faculty senates at NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision schools; for more information about COIA.  It has recently posted a response (reproduced below) to certain moves by the Athletic Department of the University of Kentucky.  See John Calipari, Forming a Non-Traditional Schedule for a Non-Traditional Program, CoachCal.com, May 6, 2012.

A Sea Of Blue
(From http://www.aseaofblue.com/)

The reasoning of COIA is sound, if we mean what we say about the presumptions and objectives if university education as a good in and of itself with connection to but not a direct subordinate connection to the needs of the labor markets into which a university would like to insert its graduates.  But I am not so sure we do mean this.  The professionalization of sports may be objectionable because it has become perverse through the application of the logic of the connection between student, program and employer markets to an unreasonable limit.  But to such that the professionalization of education is itself something that is either unique to sports or necessarily always wrongheaded may be to miss the point of some other related movements in university education that do not produce the same amount of hand wringing.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Undermining the Senate, One Member at a Time

I have been writing about the institutional role of the faculty in shared governance.  I have been focusing on the constitution of a faculty government as a means of effectively organizing the aggregation of individual faculty (each holders of fundamental shared governance power) in the furtherance of an aggregate faculty governance role. On the Institutional Role of a Faculty Senate: Part 1; On the Institutional Role of a Faculty Senate--Part 2.

(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2012))

I have also been suggesting the ways in which such efforts at self constitution and aggregate action can be undermined by administrative action.  Today I speak to an important weapon in the arsenal of those who might undermine faculty effectiveness in governance--scheduling. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

On the Institutional Role of a Faculty Senate--Part 2

In On the Institutional Role of a Faculty Senate: Part 1(May 4, 2012), I considered one consequence of the idea that faculty have a role in shared governance at a university.  That consequence, that many individuals constitutes a "faculty" produces imbalances in the faculty's role vis a vis their shared governance partners in the university administration and board of trustees.  I also suggested that where the administrative officers of a university manage shared governance by faculty, especially where this management is characterized by administrative selection of individual faculty invited to the "governance table," the possibility of efficient decision-making might be furthered but such management might either corrupt or appear to corrupt the faculty role in governance. 

(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2012)

In order to reduce the likelihood of administrative capture and management, the faculty voice (spoken in the singular in decision making, but operated in the plural among all individuals who together constitute "the" faculty) requires consolidation. This Part 2 considers several alternatives to the constitution of a faculty voice that represents the aggregate of the individuals who together constitute the faculty (which in turn is the locus of faculty governance power). This si a first stab at a complex subject.  Reflections and comments are most welcome.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

On-Line Courseware--A Faculty Governance Issue? Take the Poll!

Like many universities, Penn State is constantly under pressure to manage its computing capacities..  This involves not merely hardware, but also software.  While much of this is substantially administrative in character, there are times when it may be possible to see in decision making a substantial faculty interest, and thus a greater interest in being sensitive to the shared governance aspects of decision making.

(From Dennis Carter, Open Courseware on Every Campus by 2016?: UC Irvine Official Makes a Bold Prediction During Meeting of Open Courseware Advocates From Across the Country,  e-Campus News, Feb. 14, 2011; "Nine in 10 MIT undergraduates say they use open courseware.")

One of my colleagues recently reminded us of the implications of technological decisions on faculty teaching. It also serves as a reminder that old labels and customary divisions of authority do not always serve as a guide to shared governance decisions. The issue is an important one, at its most basic level touching on the extent to which the scope of shared governance must adjust to changes in technology and academic practices and culture.

Please take the informal POLL located at the top RIGHT HAND SIDE of this WEB PAGE to tell us what you think!

Friday, May 4, 2012

On the Institutional Role of a Faculty Senate: Part 1

What does it mean for a faculty to have an institutional role in shared governance? Over the course of this year, I will consider the character and meaning of this role.  For that purpose it will be necessary to distinguish between the role of an individual member of a faculty, and that of an organization that represents all faculty within the institutional framework of a university. Every faculty member may have a role in governance but the form in which that role is structures and expressed may make all the difference in the world where the object is an effective governance role.

(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

New Name For this Blog and a Brief Reflection on Linguistic Hyper-Sexualization

With this post, this blog changes it name for the third time.  The blog started with the title "Decent Exposure" and then moved to "Show and Tell", before settling now on the more  acceptable "The Faculty Voice."  The first two names were meant to emphasize the focus on both faculty engagement and the fundamental objective of these posting--to further transparency in relations among faculty (in the context of the Faculty Senate governance structure) and between the faculty and the other four great stakeholders in governance--administration, board of trustees, students and alumni.
(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Address Delivered at Penn State AAUP Symposium on thr Relevance of a Faculty Senate in the Modern University

On April 2, 2012, the American Association of University Professors and Pennsylvania State University faculty hosted a symposium--The Future University: Academic Freedom, Shared Governance, and Contingent Faculty.  

(Pix (c) 2012 Larry Catá Backer)

What follows is the text of my presentation at the conference, Between Faculty, Administration, Board, State, and Students: On the Relevance of a Faculty Senate in the Modern U.S. University, revised slightly to fix typos from the original and to add a few explanatory footnotes that might prove helpful to the reader: