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.


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Valuing Labor in the Academy--Considering the Problem of Pricing the Production of Faculty and Administrative Outputs in the University and the Suggestion of an Alternative Approach

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2017)


The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published an article in which it described some ranges of compensation for the top executive officers of public universities (Dan Bauman, Executive Compensation at Public Colleges Rises by 5%, With Texas Leading the Way, Chronicle of Higher Education 27 June 2017).  To no one's surprise, the news was big. . . bigger . . . and more! Beyond the presidents of two Texas universities compensated in excess of $1 Million, the article noted 
The average pay of public-college leaders, including those who served partial years, was roughly $464,000 in 2016. Among presidents who served the whole year, average pay was slightly more than $521,000. Leaders who served full years at institutions surveyed in both 2015 and 2016 saw a pay increase of 5.2 percent. (Dan Bauman, Executive Compensation at Public Colleges Rises by 5%, With Texas Leading the Way,supra). 
Most of these stories--along with stories of high pay for "star" academics and less for everyone else is justified either because of the inescapable workings of wage labor markets or because of the unique characteristics of the job or the person filling it.

Yet all of these methods--and the focus of pay generally, tends to focus on the individual.  Indeed, the personality of labor appears always to be bound up in the individual.  That is quite distinct from other forms of factors in the production of university wealth.  For other input factors, the general tendency is to understand them as a function of productive force--that is the relative cost of the factor relative to the quantity and quality of the production to which it contributes.

This post considers the problem of the valuation of labor in the university and suggests a possible approach to a usable measure of the value of labor production that makes it easier to treat together the productive value of administrative and faculty production.


Sunday, July 2, 2017

In the Battle for Control of the Contested Spaces of Speech Within the Business of the Academy: The Trinity College AAUP Chapter Statement on the Suspension of Prof Williams

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2017)



As is well known by now, the contests over control of the "spaces" for "speech" have become much more heated over the course of the last several years. There have been any number of high profile (and by that I mean cases where national media have deemed the events of sufficient interest to report) events in which the social media statements of faculty, as well as the efforts of faculty to speak at academic institutions, have been the subject of agitation and threats.  The events have targeted people of all political views and appear to suggest the intensification of campaigns not just for control of the borderlands of "acceptable" speech but also to regulate not its contents (directly) but the consequences of its use.  To that end the conflation of the ideal of the university as a place for discourse of all sorts is increasingly bumping up against the realities of markets for educational services (and the business of education) with respect to which speech is part of the production of income for institutions. But also changing are the frameworks of academic speech culture that once served to discipline the scope and manner of faculty speech within a common culture of academic speech that has long been shattered  and whose shards increasingly sting their targets. Universities have responded to these increasingly conflicting demands in quite distinct ways (see, e.g., here, here, here, here).  The academy has finally come face to face with the end product of the revolution in academia that began in the second half of the 20th century to the three strands of academic life--the university as an institution, the ideal of the university and the role and place of faculty within both. 

The line drawing between speech, faculty speech cultures, and the business of education have become more risky as individuals (students, other faculty, administrators, and outsider stakeholders among others) have intensified the nature of their responses to speech.  Where once speech was countered by (more) speech, today the most effective (in terms of getting results including drawing media attention) now speech tends to be countered by physical acts and threats. The most powerful speakers today wrap themselves within the emotive and physical power of the mob and of the threat of the use of physical force. These trends ought to be greatly lamented.  And one ought to be troubled by the increasing propensity to back counterspeech with physical acts is likely to dramatically change the shape of the dynamics of discussion about the speech of academics (and others int he academy) in years to come. Yet, perhaps, as culture itself becomes a political objective, it might well be expected that the issues around speech of these sorts no longer are mere matters internal to the university but are now important aspects of larger political battles affecting society. And that also substantially changes both the context in which speech debates may be had.  This is not new--recall earlier periods of substantial political instability in the United States and elsewhere where academic speech became more sensitive as a political matter.  But historical resonance does not necessarily suggest either response or outcome in the peculiar contemporary context.  

One already gets a sense of this, as well as of the increasing irrelevance of traditional patterns of discussion of speech and speech rights within the academy in the latest manifestation of the new emerging pattern of the battle over speech and the power to control it. And it is not clear that the traditionally based responses of academics (see, e.g., Targeted Online Harassment of Faculty,”) are sufficient in the face of substantial changes in the nature and context in which these issues now arise.  Hank Reichman, posted on the AAUP's Academe Blog posted:
The following statement on the suspension of Professor Johnny Williams was issued by the Executive Committee of the Trinity College AAUP chapter. This morning Inside Higher Ed reports that “Williams said he was told by a dean that he was taking leave whether he wanted to or not, and that Trinity made its decision in ‘the best interest of the college, not for my family and me.’ It’s ‘not in the interest of safeguarding academic freedom and free speech,’ he added. ‘It is my hope the administration corrects its course’.’”
To read the statement click here and see below along with the brief statement of the University suspending Professor Williams.

For an update as of July 14, 2017--HERE.


Monday, June 19, 2017

Call for Papers: 42nd Annual Meeting of the Semiotic Society of America; 25-29 October 2015 Puebla, Mexico


I am happy to pass along a call for papers to what in the past has been a very exciting conference.  This year the 42nd Annual Meeting of the Semiotic Society of America will be held 25-29 October in Puebla, Mexico. I hope those interested int he subject will consider submitting a proposal.  The 2017 Conference program committee was chaired by a Penn State colleague, Deborah Eicher-Catt. The call for papers (in English and Spanish) follows. 



Sunday, June 18, 2017

AAUP Action on Censure: U of Illinois and Phillips Community College Removed from Censure List; Spalding U and Community College of Aurora Added


 
The AAUP has recently taken action on censure.   
Delegates to the 103rd annual meeting of the American Association of University Professors voted today to remove the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas from the AAUP’s list of administrations censured for violating principles and standards of academic freedom. The vote recognized that both institutions had successfully amended problematic policies and addressed the conditions that had brought about the original censure. Delegates also voted to impose censure on Spalding University (Kentucky) and the Community College of Aurora (Colorado), based on investigations conducted this year that revealed serious departures from principles and standards of academic freedom at those institutions. (Here)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Scholars and Educators for Open Travel to Cuba: A Letter to President Donald Trump



We are on the eve of an important and necessary event-  The Conference on Prosperity and Security promises an important engagement with Central America.
 Regional presidents, U.S. Cabinet members, the vice president and top Mexican officials will meet in Miami this week to take on some of the most vexing problems plaguing El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, the battered countries of Central America’s Northern Triangle.

Drug trafficking, gang violence and other criminality have taken their toll, resulting in 50,000 murders over the past three years in the Northern Triangle, and that insecurity — combined with widespread corruption and lack of economic opportunities and development — has contributed to a massive outflow of the countries’ residents. Most of them have ended up in the United States.

The Conference on Prosperity and Security, set for Thursday and Friday, is being convened by both the United States and Mexico, a country crisscrossed by drug trafficking, organized crime and people smuggling routes. (Fixing Central America is the focus of high-level Miami summit).

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/article155658824.html#storylink=cpy
Even conservatives and exponents of the new "America First" initiative view this effort as important (See, e.g., here). Yet on the eve of an important Central American Summit, it appears that the 45th President intends to make public an announcement that has been rumored to be focused on undoing the opening up policies of the 44th President. 
If President Donald Trump outlines his new Cuba policy in Miami on Friday, it could upstage a Central American conference that is bringing regional presidents and Mexican and U.S. Cabinet members to town this week.

Among steps Trump is reportedly considering are limiting travel by Americans to the island and restricting American companies’ ability to do business with entities controlled by the Cuban military. Sen. Marco Rubio and Miami Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, the only two local Republican members of Congress who backed Trump, have been pushing the president to roll back the opening by then-President Barack Obama. (Trump’s announcement on Cuba could clash with Central American summit).

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article155767424.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article155767424.html#storylink=cpy
To the extent that is is the result of measured considerations of state and ultimately for the benefit of the people of the United States undertaken without undo harm to the people of Cuba, one can understand (if not agree) with the specific measures undertaken.  It would be a great pity, and a derogation of the obligation that our officials owe this Republic,  if instead the policy change would be based on a a need to "repay" political favors or to satisfy the sad vision of a part of the Cuban immigrant community that is, in its own way as stuck on December 31, 1958, as the Cuban regime may be stuck on January 1, 1959 (e.g., here). Indeed, members of the President's party also share a concern about reversing course on Cuba without good reason (e.g., here). And it is not clear how the shift in Cuba policy will impact our relations with other Latin American states--nor the extent to which this was considered.  One worries because, at least with respect to multilateral relations, the President has adopted a piecemeal approach that might increase the likelihood of failing to anticipate consequences of policies adopted in one state on others int he region--much less on internal constituencies (e.g., here and here). 

There are substantial implications should the 45th President indulge the impulse to undo policy (if only to distance himself from his predecessor--a no-principles basis for policy, to be sure, but one not uncommon even for beloved former Presidents of this Republic). One of the most important and immediate may be on the production of knowledge and academic exchange.  It is with that in mind that a group of scholars have written the President urging him to reconsider any possible consideration of the sport of policy roll back that might undo the opening up to Cuba in effect since 2015. The letter, Scholars and Educators for Open Travel to Cuba: A Letter to President Donald Trump, follows.  The letter has been republished by the Chronicle of Higher Education.