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The Weekly Blab 5.5

The Weekly Blab

Volume 5, Issue 5—September 20, 2010



Welcome to the fifth issue of the fifth volume of the Weekly Blab, where there’s much to comment on and much to not comment on.  Don’t know what I mean?  Read on…


The Week in Review

For those following the beautiful game, Chelsea is now 5-0, having beaten Blackpool 4-0 on Sunday.  Thus far, Chelsea really hasn’t had to play any tough teams.  We’ll see what happens when they do.   If you want to see something crazy, check out these pictures of Stephen Ireland’s house (he plays for Aston Villa), especially the last one of his daughter’s room.  Some soccer players are obviously being paid too much!


SPSU didn’t fare quite as well as Chelsea, losing its first regular season game since 2008, 1-0 to Bryan College; and then losing again 3-2 against Mobile University in double overtime.  Better luck next time.


We got news that graduate enrollment at SPSU this term has passed 700 for the first time.  The programs in IT and Accounting are really growing quickly.  Great job to Nicki and to the faculty and staff in those areas.


I got a copy of the textbook I’ll be using next term when I teach Main Group Chemistry.  I’m really looking forward to this, not having taught an advanced inorganic chemistry course since 1999. My previous college didn’t have a chemistry department (we cobbled together an Environmental Chemistry degree while I was there), and the Chemistry program at SPSU is, of course, quite new and only offering these advanced courses for the first time.  Back in the old days, I used to teach advanced inorganic every year, alternating main group chemistry and transition metal chemistry.  I spent some time laying out a syllabus and some course outcomes for the class, and I’ve started reviewing the material.  On Tuesday, I attended the first meeting this year of the Chemistry Club.  About a dozen students turned out, and the ice cream was excellent.  The club plans to do a chemistry event with the Girl Scouts next month.  Stephanie McCartney is doing an excellent job advising the club, and they’ll have lots of great activities.


On Wednesday, SPSU hosted Phillip Jennings, author of "The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Vietnam War", thanks to our own Prof. Roger Soiset (SIS).  Jennings was a marine helicopter pilot in Vietnam and an Air America (CIA) pilot in the "secret war" in Laos.  About 100 people, mostly students, attended the talk in H-203.  It was an interesting talk that presented a conservative view of the Vietnam War.  Jennings’ view can be summarized as follows: President Johnson ignored the advice of his military leaders, and basically tried to fight a contained war.  The United States won a major victory during the Tet Offensive in 1968, basically destroying the Viet-Cong’s ability to fight further (the North Vietnamese carried the war from that point on).  When Nixon became president, he put into action the same plan that the military had suggested to Johnson, namely, to bomb military targets in Hanoi and blockade Haiphong.  This forced the communists to the negotiating table, where they basically surrendered to the US.  The famous scene of US diplomats being evacuated by helicopter from the embassy came two years later, as a result of the US not fulfilling its treaty obligation to the South Vietnamese, who fought bravely, but lost.  The media basically lied about the war after 1968, led by Walter Cronkite who became an 'expert' after a one-week visit, thereby turning middle-America against the war.  A number of our Chinese exchange students were present at the talk.  I'm curious to know what they make of this view, and what they were taught about the Vietnam War back in China.  My own views?  I won't comment other than to say that I think the situation was far more complex than the above outline suggests.


Speaking of not commenting on things (as it were), I trust most people have seen the article in the Thursday Atlanta Journal-Constitution about UGA submitting proposals for Engineering to the Board of Regents, and the subsequent Board of Regents meeting on Wednesday.  The press was present at the meeting, and reported a lively debate.  We’ll see how things come out, and in the meanwhile, continue our quest for excellence within SPSU’s seven engineering and six engineering technology programs. 


Thursday, the Faculty Senate endorsed the Honor Policy statement adopted by our Student Government, and will consider the faculty’s adopting this statement at its next meeting.  It also voted to eliminate reading day for the fall and spring semester, since this year’s calendar constrained us to only three days of finals if this wasn’t done, and this led to lots of scheduling problems.  Steve Hamrick has devised a new academic calendar (to start Fall 2011) that contains 15 full weeks of classes and five full days of finals by starting classes the Wednesday of what was kickoff week.  This solves almost all scheduling problems, and also allows for a reading day.  It will be taken up at the full Faculty meeting.


I also used some frames that Jeff Orr was kind enough to find to frame several record albums I got from the library.  Jeff had already done this with several albums in his office, and the results looked so good I wanted some in mine.  If you want to see some really great kitschy artwork from the early 60's (the albums are:  the Four Freshmen "First Affair"; Ray Ellis and his Orchestra "Let's Get Away From It All"; Alvino Rey and his Guitar Orchestra "Popcorn"; and Jack Jones "This Love of Mine"),  stop by for a visit.


Friday, the ad-hoc Academic Integrity Committee nearly finished its work of editing the policy document that they will present to the Deans Council and then to the Faculty Senate.  All that remains is to finalize the reporting form to be used for incidents of academic misconduct. 


Saturday night to Sunday night was Yom Kippur, a 24-hour fast.  I’m not sure which is harder—the 24-hour straight Yom Kippur fast or the month-long sunrise to sunset Ramadan Fast.  Yom Kippur is a time for personal introspection and prayer for a good year.  You all have my wishes that the upcoming year will be a good one for you and your families, and for SPSU.


Treatment of Part-Time Faculty

Treatment of part-time faculty is something I’ve written about from time to time, most recently in this year’s first Blab:  “Nationwide, the percentage of faculty in tenure-track or tenured positions has declined, and depending on whom you believe, is currently as small as 33%.  This trend has been accelerated by the recession, but has been going on for at least 20 years.”  Not surprisingly, the AAUP has noticed, and issued a report entitled Tenure and Teaching-Intensive Appointments where it argues that as American universities rely to a greater and greater extent on lecturers, full time temporary faculty, and part timers (“contingent faculty”), they need to move contingent faculty to the tenure track.  The AAUP report further argues:  “For faculty who wish to remain in the profession on a part-time basis over the long term, we recommend as best practice fractional positions, including fully proportional pay, that are eligible for tenure and benefits, with proportional expectations for service and professional development. [Italics theirs]”

While many contingent faculty would like to believe that the AAUP proposals have a chance of becoming reality, I’m afraid that the chance is quite small.  A few universities—the Pennsylvania State System, St. John’s, Santa Clara, Western Michigan, Colorado-Boulder, and Rutgers—have converted some selected contingent positions to tenure track.  It’s a pretty thin soup, since none have done a general conversion or laid out ongoing means by which further conversions will continue.  Part-timers being paid at proportional rates to full-time faculty almost never occurs.  Why?  It's because most universities use contingent faculty in part because they cost less.  If the cost were the same, what would be the point?  The two categories would then become one.

Just when I was thinking that the report was a pointless polemic, it took a sudden turn and reported things that some universities are doing that make more sense.  For example, the University of Colorado-Boulder has decided that instructors (what we call lecturers) can now be tenured (with no change in pay, rank, or expectations).  Rider University allows adjuncts to get “preferred” status, and gives those who have it for three years annual contracts contingent on sufficient enrollments.  Adjuncts also have ranks (adjunct instructor, adjunct assistant professor, etc.), which presumably have higher pay for higher ranks.  In many cases, universities have given their part time faculty explicit academic freedom rights.


SPSU has submitted an innovation initiative to the USG (which has asked for such initiatives as projects for its Executive Leadership Institute) to investigate what other universities are doing to enhance the academic security of lecturers and part-time faculty that might be adopted within the USG, and to prepare a draft policy for consideration.  We’ll see if the initiative is chosen for adoption.


Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s contest generated several strong applicants, only one of which got them all right.  Diane Mercure (Office of Sponsored Programs) wins the usual jazz CD.  Here are the correct answers:


(1)  What was the name of the smarmy kid that was Wally’s best friend?  Eddie Haskell

(2)  In what town did the Cleavers live? Mayfield

(3)  What was the Beaver’s elementary school teacher’s name?  Miss Canfield or Miss Landers

(4)  What was Lumpy’s real name? Clarence Rutherford

(5)  What was to be the first episode of the show was actually broadcast second, due to not being able to pass the CBS censor.  What did the censor object to?  It was the first TV program to show a toilet.  There were several wrong answers submitted, most of which cannot be printed!


This Week’s Trivia Contest

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


1.  What is Superman’s dog’s name?

2.  What does red kryptonite do to Superman?

3.  What studio produced the original (and excellent) Superman cartoons?

4.  What 2006 movie was about the death of George Reeves, the actor who played Superman on TV?

5.  What did Superman do in the first Superman movie (the one with Chris Reeves) that is expressly impossible by the “rules” of the comic books?