June 12, 2012, 4:55 pm
Ms. Mentor’s delightful article “Novel Academic Novels: the Sequel,” (she gave us a similar list last year, graded no less) officially signals the start of summer break. My first reaction to it, given that I’m as obsessed about all aspects of our profession as many of the rest of us, is that I’ve read exactly one novel on both her 2011 and 2012 lists (Francine Prose’s Blue Angel—about which Ms. Mentor, I think, commits grade inflation). Why? Not laziness on my part. I just think we write about ourselves ad nauseum. I could easily come up with a list of academic novels as extensive as Emily Toth’s, though I doubt I could write it up with as much wit. I suspect many of my colleagues could do the same. My list would be more of a hall-of-fame document than a most-current must read set of recommendations: G.B. Shaw’s Pygmalion, Kingsley Amis’ Lucky Jim, Tom Sharpe’s Wilt…
June 4, 2012, 8:54 am
Thanks to all of you who commented on my last post about the proposed closing of the University of Missouri press, supplying me with valuable information and links. Special thanks to Ned Stuckey-French for the encouraging update detailing the recent protest—on campus, local, statewide, and national—against the closing of the press. That’s a very good sign, for if a press as significant as Missouri’s were allowed to simply slip away, we should all be alarmed by the apathy, but based on Stuckey-French’s list, the response is far from apathetic. I also received a lot of recommendations that suggest that if university presses are to survive, they have to change their business model, and move toward a system of open-access e-books.
I don’t doubt that this may eventually happen, but I have serious reservations about how it would transform the very nature of authorship….
May 30, 2012, 12:33 pm
In a story covered by the Chronicle, but not widely in extracurricular news venues, it was announced that the University of Missouri would phase out its press beginning this July. As the article’s author, Jennifer Howard, points out, “Such announcements about other university presses have often spurred protests and attempts to save them, but so far at least, the news about the Missouri press has been greeted quietly.” This is, in itself, is quite remarkable. While not Harvard or Chicago, we’re talking about the press of a major public flagship state university. It publishes about 30 books a year, and is home to the collected works of Langston Hughes, Mark Twain, and Harry Truman.
The rationale: “Although the Missouri legislature did not cut its budget for higher education this year, Timothy M. Wolfe, the university system’s president, said it was essential ‘to be good…
May 21, 2012, 6:06 pm
The news last week makes my prediction that student-loan debt would be a political hot potato for the duration of the presidential campaign a certainty: The Senate Republicans picked up enough Democratic votes (52 to 45) to block a vote on student-loan debt. The bill, as most of us now know, would extend interest reductions on Stafford loans. The current extension, which fixes rates at 3.4 percent, is set to expire on July 1, at which point they would double to 6.8 percent. Earlier, the Republican-controlled House had rushed through a bill that would extend the reduced rate, but would pay for it by defunding part of Obama’s health-care plan. That bill passed 215-195. Now the Senate has essentially decided not to act, so there will likely be no bill for Obama either to hold his nose and sign or to veto.
First of all, there’s a reason why neither the House nor the Senate vote fell…
May 11, 2012, 10:17 am
More nuanced information about the difficult-to-pin-down numbers of student-loan debt appeared in a front-page article in Investor’s Business Daily. Conservatively biased, IBD has long been a reliable source of technical, statistical financial analysis, so I was glad to see the newspaper address the subject of student loans. First, they break down the public/private divide. The article notes that student-loan debt overall has skyrocketed from “about $440-billion in late 2008 to about $1-trillion today.” It then breaks down the numbers: Of that, $500-billion is owned directly by the Education Department, according to Sallie Mae data. Another $350-billion was originated by private lenders with a government guarantee under the now-defunct Federal Family Education Loan Program. Sallie Mae estimates that the DOE will originate $113-billion in student loans this year vs. just $7-billion …
May 9, 2012, 2:58 pm
After the recently passed House bill that extends the reduced interest rate on Stafford loans for a year—and pays for it by taking money from Obama’s healthcare program—student-loan debt is likely to be in the limelight, I think, for the duration of the presidential campaign. So I want to touch on this topic from as many angles as possible. First, the tragic. My friend Martin Kich, a professor at Wright State University in Ohio, forwarded me a letter from the family of Ryan Bryski, whose brother, Christopher, died after an accident in 2006. The letter details a policy of unimaginable cruelty. While major student lenders such as Sallie Mae, Wells Fargo, and Citibank, routinely forgive the loans of deceased students, Christopher Bryski’s lender, KeyBank was still trying to collect $50,000 of his student debt. His father had been forced to come out of retirement to make the monthly …
April 28, 2012, 8:15 pm
A remarkable moment on the presidential campaign tour came on April 23.
Here’s the backdrop. Interest rates on Stafford loans are set to double, from 3.4 to 6.8 percent on July 1. The interest rates were temporarily reduced by Congress in 2007. If the reduction were allowed to elapse, the increase in interest would cost the average student borrower more than $1,000 over the life of the loan—and these are the most popular student loans available.
Of course President Obama’s position is that the interest reduction be extended, and he has said so emphatically on several recent campaign stops. But according to an AP story published on the eve of last Tuesday’s five Republican primaries, Mitt Romney does too. The story quotes Romney as follows: “I support extending the temporary relief on interest rates for students” because of the “extraordinarily poor conditions in the…
April 15, 2012, 10:58 pm
Last month the adjunct instructors at American University unionized, an event not unprecedented but still relatively rare. As The Chronicle reported on February 17, the adjuncts voted 379 to 284 to form a union, with advocates for unionization arguing that “the remaining adjuncts needed to move ahead on their own to try to contractually guarantee for themselves job protections and privileges not yet offered as a matter of policy.” It was a long struggle, waged in the face of considerable administrative opposition. As Labor Notes describes, “two years of organizing made it possible. The campaign started as adjuncts met in each others’ homes and slowly grew to encompass rallies, [and] marches.” In the meantime, “university administrators had sent anti-union memos to faculty and students, but in a surprising move, agreed to recognize the union and not challenge the election…
April 10, 2012, 5:43 pm
First, let’s break down the staggering $1-trillion in student debt that has become so familiar a number to all of us in the last year or so. First, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as quoted in Sheryl Nance-Nash’s recent article in Forbes, “Unlike other consumer credit products, student debt keeps growing at a steady clip. Students borrowed $117-billion in just federal loans last year. And students continue to borrow private student loans, which lack the income-based repayment and deferment options of federal student loans.” The average total loan debt for undergraduates is $26,000, with the debt for those choosing to attend law school, medical school, or business school obviously much greater.
This enormous amount of debt has consequences for all of us since—although few economists discuss it at length—it represents a tremendous drain on the economy …
April 8, 2012, 10:05 pm
My last post wondered, based on the intended, and carefully thought-out choice of majors in my first-year composition course (more than half want to be engineers, based on careful research they did in high school about job prospects after graduating from college), whether college students were specializing academically, and for pragmatic reasons, at far too early a point in their education, and in the process preempting much of their general education. That tendency, which some of my respondents have correctly characterized—at this point—as a cliché—has ramifications that extend far beyond college, and even STEM majors, it seems, are not immune.
Students have responded to the rising cost of college not only by choosing, in overwhelming numbers, majors such as engineering, but by borrowing money. They have no choice and the student-loan crisis simply cannot be underestimated….