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.