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The Weekly Blab 5.3

The Weekly Blab

Volume 5, Issue 3—September 6, 2010



Call Me Steven

Just call me “Even Steven”, just like in the Seinfeld episode.  Last week, on Monday, I got an unexpected royalty check that had been sent to my previous college and forwarded to me.  On Wednesday, I broke a tooth.  On Friday, I found out that my share (after insurance) to do the root canal and get a crown was exactly the amount in the royalty check.  Even Steven.


The Week in Review

Monday started with an afternoon session on Emergency Planning, focusing on an Incident Command System (ICS) overview.  For those who don’t know what this is, whenever an incident (an accident, an attack, a hurricane, etc.) occurs, a team is assembled to deal with it in a standardized way designed to deal with most types of events.  The idea behind ICS is to establish an orderly chain of command, which can then deal with the various aspects surrounding the incident (safety, logistics, legal issues, reporting issues, political issues, public information, post-event evaluation, and so on).  Faculty and staff have important roles to play in many emergency situations, not least of which include identifying students who may be under heavy stress (and referring them to counseling), and knowing how to get students (and themselves) to locations of safety if an incident occurs.  We’ll be doing training and getting information out to people as our emergency planning work continues.


On Tuesday, Lisa and I met with Kimberley Blue, who is from the Career and Counseling Center.  Kimberley will be joining us at this week’s ALC meeting (September 8), to talk about some opportunities for interacting with various organizations in Atlanta and elsewhere, such as with the High Museum.  Organizations like this can be sources of internship opportunities for our students, as well as sources of speakers and curricular ideas.  It should be an interesting meeting.


One of the more interesting events last week was the Executive Leadership Institute luncheon on Wednesday, held at the Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center.  I had a dentist appointment (where they put in the post and a temporary crown) that morning which ran a bit long, so I had to rush down to the luncheon still all Novocained up.  Fortunately, the Novocain wore off just as the food arrived.  The ELI is designed to help identify and prepare leadership from within the USG.  SPSU’s participants last year were Han Reichgelt and Khalid Siddiqi, both of whom felt that participating was quite worthwhile.  SPSU also hosted to ELI scholars from other USG institutions—Al Panu, who is now the acting VPAA at Gainesville State, was my job shadow as part of the process.  This year’s SPSU participants are Robert Forbes (Procurement, Buildings and Grounds) and Julie Newell (SIS).  I was asked to potentially mentor another ELI scholar, so if the details work out, I’ll be involved again. 


Thursday had a fun lunch with the Biology and Chemistry students, and later in the day, the A&S Beer Committee meeting at Rocco’s.  Yes, Beer Committee.  Don’t you wish you were a member?


Friday was “wear your colors” day, so I had to come in (of course) in my Chelsea blues.  Many of the other folks were wearing T-shirts for this newfangled sport they’re also calling football.  I’m not sure what’s up with that.  The Academic Integrity committee met in the afternoon, and is almost done with the first phase of its work.  Bob Brown (IT) did a fabulous job in pulling together the various pieces we had discussed into a policy document.  This will all soon be going to the faculty for review.


More About Women’s Suffrage

In last week’s Blab, I mentioned that this is the 90th anniversary of Women’s Suffrage, and that Georgia came rather late to the table, having ratified the amendment in February 1970.  I’m finishing a book called “America on Trial” by Alan Dershowitz, and an interesting book it is.  The book deals with the various major court cases that have affected American history.  One of the cases was where Susan B. Anthony was arrested for having voted (well before the suffrage amendment was passed).  The defense attorney pointed out that if she had been a man, she would not be being prosecuted, but rather, would have been seen as doing something commendable.  Thus, her “crime” effectively was being a woman.  The judge, sensing some sympathy on the part of the jury (all male, of course) directed them to bring in a verdict of guilty.  The jury refused, and stood mute.  The judge then entered a guilty verdict for them.  Anthony requested that the jury be polled.  The judge refused.  He then, not wanting to make her a martyr, decided against jail and instead imposed a fine of $100.  She refused to pay, and the judge declined to jail her for not paying.  And thus things stood.


It was a Hot Summer, Part 2

I often forget these days that many people don’t end their summers until early September, after Labor Day.  Thus, summer isn’t really over, and the articles on the Future of Academia continue.


The first set dealt with budget cuts at various institutions.  The University of Washington is apparently being hard hit, and the argument goes that it is the flagship universities that are being uniquely impacted.  State legislatures are trying to cut budgets, and are now willing to make the deal of giving more autonomy to the flagship universities in exchange for reducing state support.   The flagship universities are more capable of raising tuition than their smaller and less well known sister institutions, and have more money coming in from research and alumni gifts, the argument goes.  In some states, state support has dwindled to very small levels:  U. Michigan and U. Virginia are down to 12% in 2007-8 (from 17 and 19% in 2001-2, respectively), with U. Washington not far behind, at 16%, with tuitions rising proportionately.


Not to be outdone, the University of Southern Mississippi has announced that it will be cutting two dozen degree programs and cutting 29 faculty (half of them tenured).  It’s not clear if this is a “worst case” projection to show the legislature what will happen if the cuts go through or if this is really going to happen.  The blogged responses were interesting.  One was from an Accounting professor at USM, who did a freedom of information request and found out that USM’s president spent $591,000 over 17 months on flights on a private airplane leased by the university, not including an upcoming $900,000 final balloon payment due on the plane itself.  My guess is that USM’s president has some explaining to do.



Really Bad Idea #1035 comes to us from Texas, where everything is bigger.  Texas A&M has decided to rate itsprofessors on their bottom-line value, calculated by adding up the amount of money they individually bring in from research, adding the money their class enrollment (also individually) brings in from tuition, and subtracting their salary.  Needless to say, many of the comments thought this was a screamingly simplistic was of looking at things—it gives no credit for all sorts of important activities (such as advising and working with students, or whether the research is actually worthwhile), doesn’t recognize that upper level classes are smaller than big lectures (thus, the upper division faculty would have a smaller bottom-line) and reduces things to a single metric (which, in the way the article reported it, one blogger pointed out, is actually calculated incorrectly—it will give the negative of the desired number).


A follow up article appeared the next day, saying that he could see some good in having some cost metrics for faculty, however: “I also see, however, the immediate dangers of the overcommidification of academe that can arise from a bean counter’s approach to such formulas…How can we strike a necessary balance between being fiscally responsible and utterly ruthless in assessing genuine education value?”  The first blogged response to that question was: “First of all, let all university administrators justify their own jobs in the same “bean-counting” terms some are so anxious to impose on hoi-polloi faculty members.  I have a feeling very few stones will be thrown after that clarifying exercise.”  I suspect that will be the last word on that subject for that article.


A final article on this subject, jumping off the deep end entirely, is entitled “Public Higher Education is ‘Eroding From All Sides’ Warn Political Scientists”.   Clyde Barrow, Director of the Center for Policy Analysis at UMass Dartmouth, said: “We’ve crossed a threshold.  Higher education is no longer viewed as a public good in this country. As tuition at public universities becomes more expensive, middle-class parents say, ‘I'll bite the bullet and pay this for four years, but I don't want to pay for it a second time with taxes.’ And families who are frozen out of the system see public universities as something for the affluent. They'd rather see the state spend money on health care.”  Faculty won’t be able to resist this push because 2/3 are now on contingent appointments, and therefore don’t have enough power in their institutions.  Cary Nelson, President of the AAUP, wasn’t going to take this lying down.  “Instead, he said that faculty activists should open up a more basic debate about the purposes of education. They should fight, he said, for a tuition-free public higher-education system wholly subsidized by the federal government. “Higher education needs to be reconceived as a public good and a human right,” Mr. Nelson said. “The only battle worth fighting now is a battle over fundamentals, not crumbs.”” 


It’s certainly true that higher education has been hit hard in this recession, with many institutions suffering cuts in their state budgets appropriations of 30% (and some, even more).  It’s also true that higher tuition has offset some of the cuts, as has stimulus funding.  I see little evidence that anything near a majority of the public (or of legislators) have written off public universities receiving state aid.  I also see no evidence that there’s any appetite for making higher education tuition-free, and subsidized by the federal government.  Maybe I’ve been in Georgia too long, but I think the chances of having free higher education are somewhere between diddly and squat dink.  Most people are aware that higher education is what made America great, and don’t want to mess with it in any big way.  There is a call for more accountability, which is fair enough if it doesn’t go too crazy.  I won’t comment on the fact that the president of the AAUP has a name so close to Carry Nation (look up who she was and what she did, if you don’t know!).


Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s contest generated lots of correct respondents, so the winner is the first received, Ronny Richardson (Business Administration).  Ronny wins the usual jazz CD.  Here are the correct answers:


(1)  What is the longest river in the United States?  Missouri River

(2)  What is the oldest city that is located in the United States?  St. Augustine, FL

(3)  What is the northernmost point in the United States? Point Barrow, AK

(4)  What is the second smallest state in the United States?  Delaware

(5)  Harvard is the oldest University or College in the United States.  What is the second oldest?  William and Mary


This Week’s Trivia Contest

As usual, the most correct answers take the swag.  This week, our questions are all about postage stamps.


(1)  What country issued the first postage stamp?

(2)  What two people appeared on the first two U.S. postage stamps?

(3)  From what country is the world’s most expensive postage stamp?

(4)  From what country is the first postage stamp that could be played on a record player?

(5)  The first Israeli postage stamps do not actually say “Israel” on them, because the name of the country hadn’t been decided on yet when the stamps were printed.  What is inscribed on the stamps?