Friday, September 30, 2011

Occupation Updates: Breaks in the Media Blackout

NFM has been following, sharing links on FB but not covering Occupy Wall Street in the same depth as either Defend Education and 'Junct Rebellion. Our readers, however, are following events and sharing similar dismay over the conspicuous absence of US mainstream media. This makes a welcome update - and, for others less keenly interested, a cautionary reminder against being too dismissive of a grassroots reaction. Having trouble viewing this? View it on the FAIR website

Activism Update: Some Breaks in the Blackout of Wall Street Protests, 9/29/11
After a FAIR Action Alert (9/23/11) criticized the virtual media blackout of the Occupy Wall Street protests, corporate news coverage has increased--sparked largely by the escalating police brutality at the ongoing demonstration. (See FAIR Blog, 9/23/11, for a sample of the messages sent by FAIR activists to the network nightly news shows.)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Upcoming Conferences on #Highered Issues

Some upcoming events posted on the Academe blog, with the request that you email at if you have events to recommend. Please share them with us too. We're trying to develop a national event calendar and plan to add a calendar feature to the newsletter. Post questions and event recommendations in comments. The following list does not include contingent faculty issue panels or sessions at professional and discipline specific association meetings. We welcome adding those to our list too.

Posted via email from Academentia

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Whither U? "Charting the Future of Higher Education"

But who or what is Education Sector (self described as innovative and an "independent think tank")?  Siegfried Sassoon's definition of foxhunting (the unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible) comes to mind.

YouTube clips from Education Sector's September 15, 2011, event, "Charting the Future of Higher Education"


 for this event include: Zakiya Smith, Senior Advisor for Education, White House Domestic Policy Council; A. Craig Powell, CEO, ConnectEDURobert W. Mendenhall, President, Western Governors UniversityKevin Carey, Policy Director, Education Sector; Paul Glastris, Editor, Washington Monthly (as moderator), with introductory remarks by  Jamie Merisotis, President, Lumina Foundation for Education.

This event will be videotaped and recordings will be available following the event.

Education Sector and Washington Monthly thank the Lumina Foundation for its support of this event.


Kevin Carey, Policy Director, Education Sector, talks about the outdated process ...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Highered in the News: Chris Newfield's Links for September 19

I've been neglecting California and good CA highered resources ~ can't say whether it's because (not being into disaster porn) I couldn't bear watching or the unfortunate influence of an equally unfortunate tendency to focus East Coast and upper Midwest. Time to stop that. California, the Southwest and the Deep South are not separate countries even it may seem so at times. Besides, there is that legal maxim about CA as bellweather (in reference to legal trends and changes in state codes) that other states will eventually follow. A mismatched pair with Ohio as presidential bellweather. Or mine canary. It's OK too reminding me if I forget or you notice neglecting an region or topic. Mind you, I can't blog everything relevant to the deplorable state of highered adjunctivation. I keep an overflowing feed reader and recommend it as Rx for the insufficiently informed. So, finally. here are Chris Newfield's highered but not just about CA Links for September 19, emphasis added:
To distract yourself from the California meltdown, read UK Universities Minister David Willetts take to the Guardian defend the multi-year elimination of nearly all direct public funding, among his other measures. See Willetts sophistically claim that government investment has not been cut because student loans are really the same as grants.

This weekend the New York Times magazine had several good pieces on education. See in particular What if the Secret to Success Is Failure, which is about the role of education in building personalities that can sustain effort, insight, creativity, and success -- all depending on the kind of individualizing environment that budget cuts are wrecking at the public college level.

Salt Lake's Deseret News seems to be one of the few dailies that noticed the US slipping again in the OECD's international rankings of student attainment, this time from 12th to 16th. Paul Glastris attributes national complacency to US News's annual parade of elite privates, which he says suggests the U.S. is still on top.

But there's a deeper dynamic at work, something more weirdly self-destructive within American policy today. For example, Paul Krugman writes what must be his 50th denunciation of irrational Hooverist austerity that torpodoes the economy -- or, in today's metaphor, that applies leeches to bleed an already enfeebled patient.

Closer to hope, I am nearly done listening to a recording of last Thursday's UC Regent's Committee on Finance discussion of UCOP's idea of presenting Sacramento with a simple tradeoff between increased state support and tuition hikes. There is no consensus among the Regents about what the legislature thinks of UC, and thus nothing close to a strategy. I'll say more about this meeting later, but a mysterious vortex is pulling at everyone.

Many Regents returned to the old standby solution of increased private fundraising, this time with more emphasis on scholarships to preserve access. At the same time, coverage of Moody's new report on higher education begins, "Public and private universities across the United States have been struggling with endowment losses, thin liquidity, declining gifts, reduced state help and resistance to tuition hikes since 2008." Fundraising was flat in 2010, and the decline in megagifts implies that the costs of fundraising are increasing faster than the returns themselves. The Regental debate suggests skepticism towards philanthropy on the Board as well.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

How to save the traditional university

More homework, reading to get us up to speed for when the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education meets in Boston at UMass, November 4-6 ... and this isn't even the half of it.  Got questions for the Think Tank (Center for the Future... etc), ideas to add or items to suggest for the agenda? We'd like to hear them and promise to pass them on. Come too if you can. The better our turnout, the stronger our voice; and the stronger our voice, the harder ignore us and our issues.

From the Graduate Journal of Social Science, a special issue on Interdisciplinarity and the "New" University
Storm the Ivies, revolutionaries of North America — nationalize them into submission, kick away the American plutocracy’s favorite ladder and watch a thousand flowers bloom. 

From LRB, from Robbins to McKinsey: Stefan Collini on the dismantling of the universities.  From Arena, an article on the idea of the university, out of the shadow of the neo-liberal academy.... Clayton Christensen and Henry Eyring on how to save the traditional university, from the inside out.

While global elites continue their cynical assault on higher education unabated, the global student movement shows us that another world is possible .... 

Read the rest of How to save the traditional university 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Catching up with California: links for September 15 & 16

By Michael Meranze from Remaking the University: excerpts from links for September 15

Participate in NFM Survey on Back to School Hiring Experience

Yes, the survey again.... and this won't be the last time either. If there is any problem with the link in the message below, try this link.

New Faculty Majority Foundation

The NFM Foundation is launching a  survey today to study the Fall 2011 back-to-school hiring process experienced by those faculty members employed in contingent (also known as adjunct or non-tenure-track positions, whether full-time or part-time).  

The survey, which  should take no longer than 15-20 minutes, is part of a larger study we are doing of hiring practices.  This survey is intended to give us some preliminary data on what contingent faculty experience during the beginning of the academic year.

The survey link can be found below.  We would appreciate receiving responses no later than Sept 20.  We look forward to sharing the results with you.  Please feel free to contact Dr. Esther Merves, Director of Research and Special Programs, if you have any questions or if you are interested in participating in more surveys and/or helping with research projects.  She can be reached at

Thank you for your participation in this important research!

Paul Ehrlich, Board President
Maria Maisto, Executive Director
New Faculty Majority Foundation

New Faculty Majority Foundation supports the work of New Faculty Majority: The National Coalition for Adjunct and Contingent Equity with complementary programming.  Its mission is to educate the public about the impact of the contingent faculty crisis on educational quality and the public good, and to mobilize a broad coalition of constituencies to support ethical reform. The NFM Foundation has received support from The Marguerite Casey Foundation, The Ford Foundation, and the French American Charitable Trust. Federal tax-exempt 501(c)3 sttus is pending for the NFM Foundation. Tax-deductible contributions to the Foundation can currently be made through our fiscal agent, The Center for Community Training and Assitance (CTAC) in Boston, MA.
New Faculty Majority | 1700 West Market Street #159 | Akron | OH | 44313
PS ~ I asked for information on how survey data would be used and am still waiting. If you have questions about the survey, contact Dr Merves,

Sketches of academic loons

Once more into the breach, a ready made Reading Room post for the harried blogger. Forget Calgon take me away: Omnivore to the rescue. It's not like I don't have posts simmering in drafts (notably), issues to address (some even relevant) and drums to beat. but this is like coming home late after a tiring commute and not having to cook dinner.

What, you might ask, is the point of loons? For starters, that is the stereotype held by much of the public, not Indiana Jones but the Nutty Professor. Loons are not the best marketing image unless marketing to other loons. Why read about them? Go ask Bobbie Burns, you louse, or if the unexamined (professional) life is worth professing

The Left-leaning tower: why conservatives steer clear of grad school. Left-leaning lecture halls: Universities like to think of their lecture series as&In academianbsp;extensions of the education that students get in their classrooms — unfortunately, they usually are. Paul Gottfried on character sketches of academic loons. Less academics, more narcissism: The University of California is cutting back on many things, but not useless diversity programs. English professors have long been straying far afield from literary studies, expanding into women’s studies, disability studies, ethnic studies, even fat studies — recently they have migrated into animal studies. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Devolving public universities

Article by Christopher Newfield in radical philosophy (UK) #CFHE
It is easy enough to be fatalistic about the current funding situation in higher education. US public universities have locked themselves into a model that has led to the slashing of public funding off and on for thirty years and that has been forcing public universities towards an ever-growing dependence on private money. This funding model rests on (though is not limited to) the 'high tuition/high aid' paradigm, in which tuition is to be pushed up rapidly – it's now between $15,000 and $20,000 for in-state students at many leading public universities – with offsets for needy students that come through financial aid, and a vast pool of student loans whose total volume last year surpassed the country's aggregate credit card debt.1 

Oddly enough, the unsustainability of the overall financial system that became obvious in 2008 has for the moment made that system politically stronger. The same has happened to the American funding model for higher education (AFM). Its clear failure to maintain necessary revenues has only increased its power over the educational mission. In the incumbent model's weakness lies its strength. In the strength of the criticisms lies their futility. Hence our widespread fatalism.

A broken funding model 

Read the rest here; see also preview and brief commentary at reclaim UC"provisional home of the College of Debtors in Defiance"
A new article from Chris Newfield about public universities and the "American Funding Model" (AFM) whose primary effect has been to shift "public university revenues to a specific kind of private source, for three decades. Voters are often told that the shift means that wealthy donors and research sponsors have picked up a big part of the educational bill, but this is simply not true. The AFM means shifting educational costs from the overall population to students and their families. The model also shifts costs from old to young, and in California from a 70 per cent white voting public to a 70 per cent student-of-colour secondary-school population."

Monday, September 12, 2011

#CFHE Meeting

Come to Boston November 4-6 for The Campaign for the Future of Higher Education Meeting at UMass. It starts Friday at 5 P.M. and ends Sunday at 12 Noon. We will have a packed agenda, but also plenty of time to get to know and learn from each other in more relaxed ways. 

You will hear and discuss how disinvestment, privatization, cost-shifting and curriculum changes – i.e. the attack on students and the public sector – are playing out on campuses and in states around the country. We will hear how students, faculty, and citizens in coalition are finding new ways of fighting back. Most important, together we will build on the vision for CFHE and decide on activities to help us attain that vision. And we might even have an action while we're all here!

Most meals will be provided; donations will be accepted on a voluntary basis. Address conference inquiries to CFHE.conference@gmail.comLocal CFHE organizer John Hess imanaging the email address, responding to emails, answering questions and appropriately redirecting ones he can't.

A block of rooms has been reserved at Hampton Inn and Suites - Crosstown Center, 811 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston 02118. Tel:617-541-2406. Rates: Double Standard $139.00 plus 14.45% tax; King Standard $129.00 plus 14.45% tax

All rooms include a full hot breakfast buffet, free shuttle service to and from Logan Airport from 5 am – 10:30 pm, indoor heated pool, fitness center open 24 hours, free high speed internet throughout out the hotel.
There is public transportation to UMass Boston via the #8 bus which picks up right outside the hotel and drops off at UMASS.  But it doesn't run as frequently as we might like outside of rush hour, so taking a taxi to UMass, which with three or four or more in it would not be expensive, basically the cost of the bus, might be the best bet.
The rooms are on hold for us until October 15, so please register by then. The hotel won't guarantee availability after the 15th. Register as early as you can and be sure to mention you are registering for the CFHE meeting. If you encounter any difficulty registering, ask for Erika Ortiz, the events manager.  

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Heads Up Writing Teachers! The Machine is coming for you too!

... and you, Dear Adjunct, were worried about text analysis based grading and editing software replacing you. Today, journalism: tomorrow, romance novels, content mill articles and student essays. When students submit machine written essays, just send them to another machine to grade. Students, teacher, all middlemen ~ superfluous? Forget the Terminator narrative: could this be how machines really start talking to one another? 

This story, surely a foreseeable next step for text analysis software, surfaced over a year ago in the business press. Later, bloggers and web writers started receiving email offers on software to generate content, not just edit articles but write them from scratch. Now the Grey Lady is running with it in the business section. Is anyone among us so foolish as not see any connection with the much touted free open access Stanford AI Course? Recent articles suggest less transparent motives, Beta testing a platform for mega delivery and assessment modes, may trump touted Open Education impulse.

Narrative Science

"In Case You Wondered, a Real Human Wrote This Column," September 10, 2011, in the New York Times business section

WISCONSIN appears to be in the drivers seat en route to a win, as it leads

51-10 after the third quarter. Wisconsin added to its lead when Russell
Wilson found Jacob Pedersen for an eight-yard touchdown to make the score
44-3 ... .

Those words began a news brief written within 60 seconds of the end of the third quarter of the Wisconsin-UNLV football game earlier this month. They may not seem like much but they were written by a computer.

The clever code is the handiwork of Narrative Science, a start-up in Evanston, Ill., that offers proof of the progress of artificial intelligence the ability of computers to mimic human reasoning.

The companys software takes data, like that from sports statistics, company financial reports and housing starts and sales, and turns it into articles. For years, programmers have experimented with software that wrote such articles, typically for sports events, but these efforts had a formulaic, fill-in-the-blank style. They read as if a machine wrote them.

But Narrative Science is based on more than a decade of research, led by
two of the companys founders, Kris Hammond and Larry Birnbaum, co-directors of the Intelligent Information Laboratory at Northwestern University, which holds a stake in the company. And the articles produced
by Narrative Science are different.
Experts in artificial intelligence and language are also impressed, if less enthralled. Oren Etzioni, a computer scientist at the University of Washington, says, The quality of the narrative produced was quite good, as if written by a human, if not an accomplished wordsmith. Narrative Science, Mr. Etzioni says, points to a larger trend in computing of the increasing sophistication in automatic language understanding and, now, language generation.

The innovative work at Narrative Science raises the broader issue of whether such applications of artificial intelligence will mainly assist human workers or replace them. Technology is already undermining the economics of traditional journalism. Online advertising, while on the rise, has not offset the decline in print advertising. But will robot journalists replace flesh-and-blood journalists in newsrooms?

Read the complete article at

Additional related links:

Monday, September 5, 2011

The first Labor Day parade: "Let Labor Unite"

Reposted from Fight Back News, pictures and links added, because a) it's worth it, and b) I have no intention of working on Labor Day. This post was assembled Sunday and scheduled to post Monday. Look for Labor Day relevant music video links here and on our Facebook wall (music keeps it from counting as work)

The huge procession began with 400 members of Bricklayers Union No. 6, all dressed in white aprons. They were followed by a band and then the members of the Manufacturing Jewelers union. The jewelers marched four abreast, wearing derby hats and dark suits with buttonhole bouquets. They all carried canes resting on their shoulders (similar to the way infantry officers carry swords when on parade.)
As the day went on, the parade included contingents from the Manufacturing Shoemakers Union No. 1 (wearing blue badges), and an especially well-received contingent from the Big 6 - Typographical Union No. 6 - whose 700-strong delegation marched with military precision (they had practiced beforehand.) The Friendly Society of Operative Masons marched with their band. They were followed by 250 members of the Clothing Cutters Benevolent and Protective Union, the Dress and Cloak Makers Union, the Decorative Masons, and the Bureau of United Carpenters (who marched with a decorated wagon).  
First Labor Day Parade, 1882, Union Square NYC 
The parade was filled with banners: "Labor Built the Republic - Labor Shall Rule It"; "To the Workers Should Belong the Wealth"; "Down with the Competitive System"; "Down with Convict Contract Labor"; "Down with the Railroad Monopoly"; and "Children in School and Not in Factories," among others. The members of the Socialist Singing Society carried a red flag with a yellow lyre in its center. The banner which perhaps summed up the entire procession best was carried by members of the American Machinists, Engineers, and Blacksmiths Union (who wore heavy leather aprons and working clothes). It read simply: "Let Labor Unite."
It was the first Labor Day parade - and it took place on a Tuesday.
Labor Day became official in this country when the U.S. Congress passed a law in 1894 making the first Monday in September a legal holiday. But this holiday was not simply given to the workers of the United States by the government as some act of charity. The tradition of publicly honoring labor’s contribution to society is a custom established by the workers themselves.
The first Labor Day parade in the United States was held in New York City on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1882. More than 10,000 workers marched. It was organized by the Central Labor Union, a body representing 60 unions and over 80,000 people. The CLU was a secret lodge of the Knights of Labor, the major national union of the time.
To really appreciate the September 1882 labor parade, it’s important to keep in mind the profound changes that this country had gone through in the 17 years before it took place. After the Civil War ended in 1865, the capitalists of the North emerged triumphant. They went on the offensive, bitterly opposing labor’s demands. By the time the depression of 1873 took place, any lingering unity between the different forces which had united in opposition to slavery had been torn apart.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Reading Room: In defense of public education

Public education, higher, middle and lower, is under siege. I'm old enough to remember reading "Why Johnny Can't Read" (Time, 1955), but the current fever pitch reaches new levels: rants, critiques, conflict and conflicting solutions multiply. Johnny still can't read, yet there is still no agreement on the why or the how. If that was a problem in middle school, imagine Johnny in college now because, ready or not, everyone is supposed to go.

New this round are two game changers.  One is disruptive innovation in the form of advances in communication technology, learning analytics and sophisticated algorithms for learning software touted as capable of supplanting teachers or at least reducing the number needed. The other is the economy shrinking education funding. See the connection?

Enter conflicting solutions and the players bearing them ~ the tech team vs the traditionalists or New School vs Old School.
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