Thursday, June 30, 2011

Books: 5th Floor

As preparation for our fabulous Show Me the Money campus tour tomorrow, at noon, starting in front of Morris library, I've been thinking again a bit about one of my favorite issues from a couple of years ago: the fact that our new library has rather fewer books than our old one did. Progress! I was even able to snap a picture today of one of my all time favorite campus signs, from the elevators in Morris:

My nine year old son, who is currently "assisting" me in typing this up, at once noted the great thing about this sign.  Son: "Why do you always have to be working on that stupid blog?"  Dave: "Check out this sign from the library."  Son: "Oh yeah, that's really cool, Dad.  But wait, so why can you only get books on the 5th floor of your library?"  Exactly.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Summer enrollment

A quick comment on summer school, which has been in the news of late due to the screw up in Political Science and the ballyhooed rise in enrollment of 100 students, about 1%.

This will come as news to few reading this, but bears repeating: summer enrollment is dictated more by the supply of courses than by student demand. For the details, and a suggestion for how to improve things, read on.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

SIUC Athletic Budget Up 121.6% in last five years

That figure comes from a series of articles in the Chronicle (main article; support article; table of figures),* and shows that SIUC had the third highest such increase among institutions at our athletic level, the "Football Championship Subdivision". The article's main point is that institutions like SIUC are spending more and more on athletics in what may well prove a futile and unsustainable effort to match institutions with marquee athletics programs.  SIUC is one of the poster children for this trend. In 2005-6, SIUC was spending $10.5 million on athletics.  In 2009-2010 we spent $23.2 million. Those figures are adjusted for inflation.  And they don't even include capital spending--though Saluki Way gets us several paragraphs midway into the story.

Just a little respect for adjuncts

Inside Higher Ed has an interesting article from the trenches, a meeting of the Association of College and University Attorneys, where discussion turned to how to negotiate with adjunct faculty. 
Their suggested best practices mixed sympathy for the adjuncts' plight -- recommending less costly ways to give them more respect -- with suggestions for how to avert unionization and manage protests during contentious negotiations.
Alas, it's too late to avoid unionization around here, but perhaps that bit about respect may contain some good advice. Inside Higher Ed earlier covered a similar meeting of adjunct labor activists.

One issue discussed in both articles is disparity between tenured-track faculty and their second-class cousins in the NTT ranks.  I tend to think we at SIUC have managed that tension fairly well--but then I would, since I'm tenured. Our setup, where both TT and NTT are unionized by the NEA, providing some degree of coordination and communication between them, but each has a separate local that can bargain separately on its own issues, seems like a pretty good idea.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Poshard's Granddaughter to Give Up Award

At 6:00 pm the Southern carried the news that Maddie Poshard has given up her Presidential Scholarship at SIUC [hat tip to an anonymous comment to my prior post].
“I have decided to forgo the presidential scholarship at SIU,” Maddie Poshard said in a statement. “I would like to thank the panel for recognizing by achievements, however, under the circumstances, I feel it would be best to avoid any further disparagement of Southern Illinois University and my family."
Earlier in the day Poshard had defended his family's handling of the situation on his monthly morning conversation with WSIU radio

This is probably the best solution available at this point, and I'm glad Poshard and his family came to see things this way. This was a difficult business to handle: it is understandable (and indeed a good sign) that Maddie Poshard wanted to come to SIUC, given her family connections to this place. And she is clearly a good student who wanted to win merit aid, as she did at Xavier and St. Louis University (though apparently far from enough to cover their $50k annual costs--Poshard suggested she received scholarship offers from each place that were worth more or less the $20k a student needs to attend SIUC). But the Poshard family should have seen this train wreck coming; Poshard several times said that those questioning the scholarship were raising a legitimate point, and said also that his family has been struggling with this issue forever. You'd hope they would have figured it out by now.

Poshard's Granddaughter Lands Major SIUC Scholarship

Kristi Brownfield over at Unions United brought my attention to the June 25 Chicago Tribune story about Maddie Poshard, who won one of SIUC's most prestigious "Presidential/Chancellor" scholarships (why couldn't they decide whether to name the damn things after the president or the chancellor?). It sounds like she's an excellent student, although the Tribune didn't compare her stats to other recent winners, which would be difficult, given confidentiality issues, I assume (and certainly goes beyond the energies of a lazy blogger).  

Now this sort of all expense paid scholarship isn't something one simply has to be qualified to win, I assume--it's not like you get it automatically if your ACT score is 30 and you can make some claim to "leadership skills" (which the award calls for).  It is, I assume (lots of assuming here, I grant you) highly competitive, and the final decisions would thus be judgment calls, not a objective decision based on clear data of some sort or another. That's presumably why on-campus interviews are required for the award. Maybe Maddie Poshard was so far superior to all those who applied but didn't receive the award that any rational judge would have chosen her; but we can never know this. Poshard's own endorsement of his granddaughter fails to note this point. 
"If she is unqualified that is one thing. But she is not unqualified. I'm not trying to get any special favors for my granddaughter and she didn't get any," said Poshard, who earns $320,000 a year.  [Quote from the Tribune, whose reporter deserves a Tacitean Cynicism award for tagging on the bit about Poshard's salary.]
More on how to avoid this fuss, and why the fuss is in some sense deserved, after the break.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

College Pays Off

David Leonhardt of the New York Times presents a nice argument outlining the economic benefits of college these days, despite the recent spate of stories questioning its value. An interesting feature of his argument is that a college education increases earnings even for those in occupations that don't routinely require such an education, including secretaries, plumbers, and cashiers.  And he cites a study that shows that an investment in a college education, despite rising tuition and fees, pays off at a 15% average rate over time--more than twice as much as investing in stocks, for example. And of course there are, we like to believe, less tangible pay-offs as well.