Saturday, December 7, 2013

Fordham Students and Transparency in Catholic Higher Ed

Ok, kids, this is maybe one sort of transparency, but not what I had in mind. 

End of October it was, and I was saying look in coming weeks for an article in the Fordham student newspaper, The Ramfor a good student-written article on adjunct faculty.

Well, that wasn't The Ram, it seems, but The Paper, which is the other student newspaper at Fordham, and I did manage to figure that out, and to grab a few copies before they all disappeared.

You know, it was a very good article, by Matt Winters, and I hope the editors will post it up on their website, and soon, because, in truth, it was buried--and big time--in the middle of an issue which did not, to put it mildly, feature any outward sign at all that anything serious was contained within its exuberantly adolescent pages.

By which I mean to say: These darn kids! They're all beer bong and grasshopper now, and that's natural, sure, and there's nobody likes a sock hop more than me, you'd be surprised, but these young people, you know, it breaks your heart, they'll find themselves sadly in need of fiber and formic acid when the hard freeze comes, and I'm just trying to provide some guidance. You can see more here. 

So straighten up and fly right! 

I expect a corrected copy of that whole edition, in my box, by Monday morning, with Matt Winters' excellent article on adjuncts featured prominently on the front page, and NO images of attractive nearly naked young ladies suggestively brandishing machine guns. Just cut that stuff out right now and it won't be too soon. 


Now, in another sector of Catholic academe, please see An Open Letter on Transparency: Fears, Problems and Solutions, by John H. Sceski, Managing Editor of the Catholic Higher Education Advocate (CHEA).

I think perhaps you need to register to comment, something you really should do, especially if you work at a Catholic school. Here, though, are the last several paragraphs of John Sceski's letter and I join him in asking you to "please get involved."

To test the waters, over a year ago CHEA contacted the heads of faculty senates and congresses at what we believed were eight Catholic universities where faculty appeared to have more clout and success in working with their administrations. We asked these Catholic schools to provide the following information (This request still exists on the Stats & Legislation page of the CHEA site):
The average percent faculty salaries have increased over the past three years (if any).The percent of the school’s budget devoted to faculty compensation compared to capital expenditures.The current ratio of full-time faculty to contingent faculty (i.e. adjuncts, visiting assistant professors, graduate students, non-fulltime faculty of any type) and the percent of increase or decrease in the use of contingent faculty over the previous three years.The number of departments/programs added or deleted over the past three years.The average years of service required to achieve tenure.The average percent of increase or decrease of healthcare cost at your institution over the past three years.

Most schools did respond, but not with the requested information.  In fact, several individuals requested complete anonymity concerning any communication between themselves and CHEA. To be connected to providing the requested information and make it available for public consumption is just too professionally risky.  CHEA now realizes it was wrong to request that information from publicly recognized leaders.
But without transparency about the true state of things how can we effect change at our schools that will benefit our careers and Catholic higher education in general?  Two solutions seem to be available: 1) If every Catholic school provides the above information (and perhaps more directly damaging information about practices at its school), then the rules of the game change since administrations will now know that such practices are commonplace and the likelihood of being punished for participating in an industry wide practice will diminish, 2) create a safe haven where anonymous dumping of information cannot be traced back to its source, but the information is accessible for all to see.  CHEA will now make option number two a reality.  Personnel from any school will be able to post information on the CHEA “Information Dump” in a way that it cannot be traced to its source.  We cannot claim credit for this idea. In February 201 3, CHEA linked to a story about Gustavus Adolphus College (see here) where an information dump was created that empowered their faculty to effect real change at the college.
No doubt downsides remain. Schools that choose to provide information when other schools do not provide such information run the risks of having such information negatively affect: hiring, funding opportunities for research, potential donors, accrediting agencies and the like.  As well, non-sourced and untraceable information invites reporting abuses.  Indeed, scholarly activity eschews not citing one’s sources, so this solution seems at odds with established academic practice.  However, our quest for a better workplace is not solely an academic matter. It seems reasonable to trust in the intentions of those individuals who dump information and the critical thinking skills of the people who choose to access this information. 
Finally, CHEA is requesting a dialogue with Catholic academe about the value of such an information dump before it is launched.  Criticisms of what is written above and new ideas are welcomed.  Please get involved.
John H. Sceski, Ph.D.
Managing Editor

Monday, December 2, 2013

Cringing Again-OSHA Inaugurates New Faculty Protections

I'd just like to take this opportunity to welcome myself back to this space, and to note that I've been doing some very dangerous work lately 1) trying to recall my username and password, and 2) researching the increasingly bizarre claims of our higher education leaders. But there is hope: check out the OSHA info on "temporary workers."

The OSHA site features info on the Protection of Temporary Workers: God Bless Big Government!
Who knew they were trying  to protect adjunct and contingent faculty from noxious fumes (from DOE?)? 

I expect to shortly have a decent source of oxygen, and will be posting again regularly, just as soon as all the hoses and other gear are properly installed.