Saturday, April 16, 2016

April 20 Protest Day

A comment just made by Mike Sullivan reminds me that I should flag the April 20 rally in Springfield.
Here's the announcement, which came in a recent email from FA president Rachel Stocking:
The Faculty Association has already organized and/or participated in a number of budget actions over the last months.  On April 20, the FA (working with the Illinois Coalition to Invest in Higher Education and other unions across the state) will be taking people up to Springfield as part of a campaign to fund higher education in Illinois.
We will leave at 8:30am from the IEA office in Carterville.  We have a full day planned: IEA contingents will meet at 12:00 at the IEA headquarters, have an event with speakers, and then go speak with legislators in the capital.  Rides are open to people not represented by the FA as well, such as students, friends and family, etc. We want Springfield to know Southern Illinois is upset!

To RSVP call the IEA Carterville office - (618) 733-4472 and tell Linda or J’Neita.

WIU announces 110 more layoffs

Western Illinois University has announced 110 layoffs, bringing the total number there to 160. Western had also successfully encouraged 59 staff to retire early as of the end of 2015.

The university had hoped to achieve some $4 million in savings from furloughs negotiated with campus unions, but was unable to reach agreements with most of them. The head of the WIU faculty union was quoted as saying the following:
"By putting faculty and staff last on his list of priorities, President Thomas is shortchanging our students, who are already being shortchanged by our Governor, who refuses to fund their college dreams.”
I do not know the details of the failed negotiations at WIU. Contrast EIU, where the faculty union (from the same parent union, UPI/AFT) agreed on a deferred pay plan to save the university some $2 million.

Some remarks on our own situation after the break.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Enrollment in free-fall

Rich Miller at Capitol Fax collects a set of links to meaty but depressing stories about Illinois high school seniors making plans to attend college out of state or giving up on college altogether. May 1 is the traditional deadline for accepting college offers, and financial aid offers in Illinois this year come with an asterisk ("contingent on state funding"). Of course the quality of the education on offer, given the budget, is also asterisk worthy.

It's hard to judge the magnitude of the drain from anecdotes in stories, but there lots and lots of anecdotes. Randy Dunn is quoted saying that our rivals sense "blood in the water" and are actively poaching students.  One of the stories notes that FAFSA applications are down by 14% for MAP-eligible students. Many of those students will simply not attend college. Given how many higher-income students will choose to attend college elsewhere, I'd guess that 14% is a conservative estimate for how much public university enrollment will decline state wide.

We already lose more college students to other states than any state in the country other than New Jersey. Only four other states suffer from an "out-migration" in college students. In 2014, 16,623 more students left Illinois to attend college elsewhere than came to Illinois to attend college. That's the equivalent of the entire undergraduate enrollment at SIU.

A local angle after the break.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

SIU plans for cuts up to 18%

I've been told that deans at SIUC have been asked to make plans for cuts of up to 18%. I don't know the background for this stage in the planning process. My initial impression is this: so much for the onion.

Cuts to college budgets aren't to "outer layers of the onion", in Dunn's analogy from last summer. They aren't to regional services, student service, athletics, etc. Large cuts to college budgets would mean major cuts in instructional staff. Major cuts to instructional staff, at least if made quickly and legally, would have to be to NTT faculty (GA budgets have already been allocated, at least at a large extent, with some cuts included). Such cuts would be distributed not based on the results of some program prioritization scheme, but simply on which programs have lots of NTT faculty. Those programs face de facto elimination. So we would not just be lopping off selected parts of the university, but eliminating academic programs that happen to be NTT heavy.*
The university's lack of funds isn't an Anthony Hall crisis but a Springfield crisis. But if the administration doesn't do all it can to protect academics, and makes academic cuts in a  ham-handed manner, it will add an Anthony Hall crisis to the mix. We can't afford that.

More context and speculation after the break. I don't know all the details of administrative planning, of course, so my worries may prove unfounded. That would be a happy result. In the meantime, the worries can be taken as my sage advice on how to avoid making this an Anthony Hall crisis.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

State roundup

Capitol Fax concludes that it's now all but certain that Attorney General Lisa Madigan will indeed file a lawsuit arguing that the State of Illinois cannot legally pay state workers. (Previous coverage of that move can be found here.) The politics of this are mind-boggling. Democrats want a real shut-down to force the governor's hand, and to get the crisis resolved to benefit the 10% of state government that is already slowly shutting down. The governor responds with pious words about paying dedicated state employees--at least those not laid off yet, and attacking the Democrats for prolonging the crisis in order to push through a tax hike.  Assuming Madigan's legal reasoning is sound and supported by the courts, her move would result in a nearly complete shutdown of state government, which would presumably in result in some sort of resolution. But she hasn't filed her lawsuit yet, and it would obviously take time to get through the courts.

After the break: what Madigan is saying in the photo below, and an update on a bill that is intended to provide funding for universities and social services.

Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, says that compromise with Gov.
Madigan speaking to the GA on 4/12, via the State Journal-Register.

Pluses and minuses

Another non-budgetary story, this one perhaps a bit less contentious than the racism story (for which I got to write my first harsh anti-comment comment).

The Faculty Senate has voted to change SIU's grading scale to include pluses and minuses. Here's the DE lead-in story, here's their brief story with the results. Passage of this measure certainly reflects the view of the majority of faculty I've talked to about this. I'm less sure myself.

I worry about excessive reliance on extrinsic motivation. This may sound naive, but my understanding is that at least under certain conditions extrinsic motivation actually undermines intrinsic motivation. I know of one such study (and only one--to make my lack of expertise clear: I'm sure many social scientists on campus know of lots of studies on this topic). In it participants were given an impossible task to complete. Some were promised a reward for completing the task, others were not. Those not promised a reward worked on it considerably longer than those who were promised a reward. They came to view it as a challenge they had some investment in solving, not just a way to earn $25 or whatever the prize was.

I learned of this study from Ken Bain's What the Best College Teachers Do, which I found a very impressive book (though I don't necessarily follow all of his suggestions, since I'm not one of the best college teachers*). One thing Bain argues is that the best teachers promote intrinsic motivation in their students rather than relying on things like grades. Their assessments through the course of the semester are designed to help students improve, including in their understanding of their own progress, not to motivate them to turn in assignment X on date Y; they assign cumulative grades at the end of the semester based on their final judgment of students' overall progress, not how many hoops they've jumped through en route, or some average of how well students did on weekly assignments.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Racism at SIUC

A black woman student at SIUC posted a powerful video listing multiple examples of racist language on campus, above all in several open forums for students who support Donald Trump.  "Go back to Africa" and the N-word were among the things she reported being said by students at that forum. She made a good effort to distinguish between legitimate political speech and speech she felt questioned her right to be on this campus. Her language was vernacular and profane--she was aiming this video not at "polite society" but at people on Facebook, particularly black students on other majority white campuses. She closed with a positive message calling on such students to stand their ground and get the education they need despite the obstacles. Without being there, one can't sure sure she accurately characterized everything that took place, but I think we ought to be proud of having a student with the courage to speak up, and the ability to powerfully articulate challenges facing black students on this campus.

A brief follow-up story in today's Southern attempts to get at the other side of the story, getting some quotes from the "CEO" of the Alpa Tau Omega fraternity, which sponsored the event. The ATO leader, however, appears first to use the "bad apple" defense, and then to make more blanket denials that anyone in the fraternity used racist language. (It would however be unfair to judge his position solely from the reporting there--the follow-up article in the Southern is not very impressive.) Friday's DE has some links to reactions to the video in social media, and links to some thoughtful commentary from a GA who has taught the student in question. Comment streams to relevant stories in the Southern are revealing, and not always in very flattering ways, about local attitudes towards these issues.

Chancellor Colwell has sent out two careful emails on this topic. The first can be found here; the second is pasted after the break. Also after the break, some context from other campuses, and a reaction to the Chancellor's words about hiring practices, an area where I have rather more relevant experience than regarding the larger issues of race relations and free speech.