Category Archives: higher education

January 9, 2014, 2:03 pm

Downton Abbey — With Job Candidates

Mr. Carson

Mr. Carson; photo credit

John Hodgman’s spoof, “Downton Abbey — With Cats,” (The New Yorker, January 13 2014), has it exactly right. The season premiere of this popular, snooze-inducing update of Upstairs, Downstairs (1971-1975) has finally been reduced to its essence: clothing, manners, food and estate management. There is no longer a plot, nor is there really much of a script. It is not possible, for example, to issue spoiler alerts, as nothing happened in the premiere to season 4 that aired on Sunday. Nothing. You can watch it and go to bed with nothing on your mind.

This does not mean that we learn nothing from Downton, however, even though you would become a great deal more educated about the cultural history of post-war England from Bertie and Jeeves. For example, unless you have taken Modern British…

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October 20, 2013, 11:41 am

Cheaters: And The Cheating Cheat Factories That Help Them Cheat


Cute, cynical Dave.

Dave Tomar, The Shadow Scholar: How I Made a Living Helping College Kids Cheat  (New York: Bloomsbury, 2012), $16.00 paper; $9.99 ebook.

Reading this book solved a small mystery in my teaching career.

Every once in a while, even without, a paper screams: “plagiarized!!!!” About a decade ago, I received one of those papers. Only partly coherent, grammatically idiosyncratic sentences were sutured to others that flowed beautifully, delivering a punchy argument that the rest of the paragraph had lurched towards in an often obscure way. What I suspected was something called “mosaic plagiarism,” in which the students’ own writing is used as filler in between quotes lifted from books that have no quotation marks around them.  I went to the library to check a couple of the books…

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October 18, 2013, 11:20 am

At St. Mary’s College, a Salary System to Match Its Mission

sustainabilityIn today’s guest post, the faculty of one institution proposes ethical principles for re-thinking the cost of higher education. Robin Bates, Professor of English, has been at St. Mary’s College since 1981. He has written several articles on cinema, has received two Fulbright awards to Slovenia, maintains the blog Better Living through Beowulf, and is author of the book How Beowulf Can Save America: An Epic Hero’s Guide to Defeating the Politics of Rage (2012, self published). Laraine Glidden is Distinguished Professor Emerita, and has been a faculty member and administrator at St. Mary’s since 1976.  Her authored and edited books as well as scientific articles, many of which are published with undergraduate co-authors, are in her specialty area of children, families and disabilities.

The Chronicle regularly features articles about the exponential growth of tuition and executive…

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October 9, 2013, 9:23 am

Talking Policy During the Shutdown: Obama Education Plan Part II

obama-nd-458x310Some of you may be starved for real policy conversations as we all wait to see if  Rep. Michelle Bachmann is correct that we have entered the Last Days.

Should the Last Days not be imminent, however, people will still need to go to college. Therefore, today we are delighted to post part II of a series on President Obama’s plan for higher education by guest blogger Judith C. Brown. The conversation began here on September 22 2013.

How to Combat Rising College Costs, Make College More Affordable, and Provide Better Information so Prospective Students May Decide What is Best Value for Them: Further Comments on President Obama’s Higher Education Plan

President Obama’s plan for higher education seeks to address very real challenges: the rising costs of providing a higher education, the decreasing ability of prospective students to afford it, and the inadequacy as well …

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September 28, 2013, 7:10 pm

The Associate Professor Blues

yeswelacanIn “Supporting the Second Book,” (Perspectives on History, September 2013), American Historical Association President Kenneth Pomeranz elaborates on a topic he launched in the previous issue. I thought it was great that Pomeranz came out last month about his post-tenure publishing delay: one of the things that I have learned on the #GraftonLine is that academics — particularly senior people — don’t talk about their difficulties enough, nor do we share strategies for changing the bad writing karma that can afflict anyone. No wonder people who are struggling with their writing don’t talk about it – it’s not allowed!!!!!

So good for you, Professor Pomeranz. Many people will feel their load lighten just a little bit from hearing your story, particularly those who work at institutions that require a second book just for tenure. But, as Pomeranz also points out, promotions to full…

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September 22, 2013, 10:54 am

Out With Tenured Radical: President Obama’s Plan for Higher Education

Screen Shot 2013-09-22 at 10.44.21 AMIf MSNBC can have Up w/ Steve Kornacki on Sundays, and All In w/ Chris Hays Monday through Friday, why can’t there be “Out w/ Tenured Radical,” where guests get their ideas out there without being interrupted? As a bonus, there is no stale, uneaten Danish on the table! 

Today’s policy expert and guest blogger is Judith C. Brown, a historian and a former provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at Wesleyan University (aka, Zenith University, for long-time followers of this blog.) Her other posts for Tenured Radical on the economics and politics of higher education have appeared here, here, and here. Today’s discussion is an in-depth assessment of President Obama’s plan for higher education.

In his recent “Plan to Make College More Affordable,” President Obama observed last month that higher education is “the single most important investment students can make in their…

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September 10, 2013, 10:35 am

Tenured Faculty Tie Shoes; Crowd Cheers Wildly

good-job-not-done-anything-stupid-in-five-minutes-funny-retro-posterDo you ever wonder how anyone graduates from college if tenured and tenure-track faculty are as hapless, incompetent and unmotivated as we are said to be?

The latest argument for reducing all faculty to positions to piece work performed by casual laborers is this study out of Northwestern University claiming, according to the title given to it by The Atlantic, that “Tenured Professors Make Worse Teachers.”

Oh No-o-o-o-o-oes!

As Jordan Weissman writes, “Turns out, tenured and tenure-track professors underperformed on both the inspiration and preparation fronts. Controlling for certain student characteristics, freshmen were actually about 7 percent more likely to take a second course in a given field if their first class was taught by an adjunct or non-tenure professor. They also tended to get higher grades in those future courses. (more…)

August 30, 2013, 2:53 pm

There’s Nothing That Says I Haven’t Got A Plan….


Just keep saying: Mitt Romney would have been worse, Mitt Romney would have been worse…

…Like President Obama’s new College Affordability Plan.  (For intelligent and thoughtful responses to this announcement, go to the AHA Roundtable on President Obama’s College Affordability Plan and Inside Higher Ed, August 8 2013. For an outraged polemic, keep reading.)

Like practically everything else about what passes for federal education policy today, the Obama administration’s problem-solving  nibbles around the edges of the issue. There is nothing that is a genuinely new idea or even a well-recycled old idea. Reforms consist of a few small financial incentives awarded to institutions that play along, injecting a good shot of standardized testing, and giving “education consumers” information so that they can make…

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July 21, 2013, 11:39 am

F is for Failure; Or, Don’t Invest Your Pension in MOOCs Yet

600px-Semaphore_Foxtrot.svgWill Oremus reports at Slate that San Jose State University is suspending its online classes after over half the students in them failed their final exams. Sebastian Thrun, the founder of San Jose’s provider, Udacity, explained to the Associated Press “that the failure rates in the five classes ranged from 56 to 76 percent. Nor was the course material exactly rocket science—the five classes were in elementary statistics, college algebra, entry-level math, introduction to programming, and introduction to psychology.”

I’m really glad they weren’t teaching rocket science, because clearly the people who put the courses together weren’t rocket scientists either. (more…)

July 12, 2013, 9:43 am

Do Big Bucks for High Profile Guest Profs Petray Public Education?

Petraeus_Khawam Kelley-award

David Petraeus and gal pal Paula Broadwell

In a word? Yes.

We at Tenured Radical would like to urge greater public scrutiny of the CUNY policies that permitted the appointment of General David Petraeus as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at well over 30 times the average adjunct salary. For teaching one seminar each semester in 2013-14, the retired military dude is expected to receive somewhere between $150,000 and $200,000. The best part is all he has to do is show up: he has three teaching assistants who will put the course together and grade all fifteen students.

That’s one TA for every five students. I know this number is correct ’cause I checked it on my calculator.

For starters, I would like to hear from some of our mayoral candidates, as well as Eliot Spitzer, who announced his candidacy for…

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