Can Productivity Be Measured?

from Inside Higher Ed

October 25, 2016

“Since the first decade of the new millennium, the words ranking, evaluation, metrics, h-index and impact factors have wreaked havoc in the world of higher education and research.”

So begins a new English edition of Bibliometrics and Research Evaluation: Uses and Abuses from Yves Gingras, professor and Canada Research Chair in history and sociology of science at the University of Quebec at Montreal. The book was originally published in French in 2014, and while its newest iteration, published by the MIT Press, includes some new content, it’s no friendlier to its subject. Ultimately, Bibliometrics concludes that the trend toward measuring anything and everything is a modern, academic version of “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” in which — quoting Hans Christian Andersen, via Gingras — “the lords of the bedchamber took greater pains than ever to appear holding up a train, although, in reality there was no train to hold.”

Gingras says, “The question is whether university leaders will behave like the emperor and continue to wear each year the ‘new clothes’ provided for them by sellers of university rankings (the scientific value of which most of them admit to be nonexistent), or if they will listen to the voice of reason and have the courage to explain to the few who still think they mean something that they are wrong, reminding them in passing that the first value in a university is truth and rigor, not cynicism and marketing.”

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In Solidarity!: Faculty on Strike at 14 Pennsylvania State Universities

from The New York Times


WEST CHESTER, Pa. — Professors at 14 Pennsylvania state universities went on strike Wednesday, disrupting classes midsemester for more than 100,000 students, after contract negotiations hit an impasse.

The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties announced its members went on strike at 5 a.m. because no agreement was reached with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The union represents more than 5,000 faculty and coaches across the state.

This is the first strike in the system’s 34-year history. State-related schools — Penn State, Temple University, the University of Pittsburgh and Lincoln University — are not affected.

The state said despite the strike, students should report to their scheduled classes, unless the university indicates otherwise.

“We are headed to the picket lines, but even on the picket lines, our phones will be on, should the State System decide it doesn’t want to abandon its students,” union president Kenneth Mash said in a statement.

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State University System Wants to Reach Union Deal at Table

[Preface: Frank Brogan, the current Chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, was once the Chancellor of the State University of System of Florida as well as president of Florida Atlantic University from 2003 until 2008. Sadly, his ill-informed ideas about higher education and faculty unions have not changed. Often a prominent government figure will spread his/her half-baked ideas about higher education through various states like a contagion. See Charles B. Reed, the chancellor of the California State University System who helped bankrupt public higher education In California and who was once chancellor of the State University System of Florida.]

from Higher Ed Jobs

by AP News

October 6, 2016

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The chancellor of the state higher education system says it rejected a union proposal to have a third party outline mandatory contract terms because the system’s negotiators remain dedicated to reaching a deal at the bargaining table.

“That’s the way the process is supposed to play out,” state system Chancellor Frank Brogan said during a webcast to students on Tuesday.

The faculty union has called the denial disappointing.

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Florida Poly faculty the latest to join statewide faculty union

Tampa Bay Times

Claire McNeill

By an overwhelming 38 to 6 vote, the faculty of Florida Polytechnic University have elected to become the newest chapter of the United Faculty of Florida.

The union now represents faculty members at all 12 of Florida’s public universities.

The vote means faculty get crucial leverage at the fledgling university, associate professor David Foster said in a statement.

“Faculty came to this brand new institution to redefine STEM education and build a new university from the ground up,” said Foster, who teaches computer engineering. “Collective bargaining unionization ensures that faculty are an important voice at Florida Poly from the very beginning.”

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Educators Look to Unions to Lock in Paid Family Leave

[Preface: Paid family leave was won by UFF-FAU in 2013 after the union organized a task force of faculty to study the issue. After the task force completed its research and synthesized its findings with the executive committee of the union, paid family leave was bargained with the administration. Many of the members of the task force helped bargain this issue. Task forces are one of the primary ways UFF-FAU can assist addressing faculty concerns. Through them we also bargained instructor promotions and partner benefits. If there are specific issues you want bargained, contact us and let us know. If enough faculty are concerned around the same issue, we will constitute a task force so faculty can help create the change they want to see. Contact us at: ]

By Mary Ellen Flannery

from NEA Today

When University of Central Florida (UCF) associate professor Yovanna Pineda learned she was pregnant, she did what comes naturally to her: lots of research. At UCF, she learned, there was no such thing as paid family leave for educators. “I talked to a lot of people and realized, we had a terrible situation,” she recalls.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, Fran Zumwalt, then-president of the Grossmont Education Association near San Diego, also was concerned with what she considered to be a social justice issue among her K-12 members. “A lack of paid maternity leave is absolutely the thing that keeps women earning less than men!” says Zumwalt.

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Report: Florida’s College Students Face Deep Education Cuts

From Public News Service

August 31. 2016

A decline in education funding means college students in Florida are facing higher tuition costs. (jzlomek/morguefile)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Over the last eight years, Florida has reduced its spending per student in higher education by about 22 percent.

And a new report from Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says these kinds of cuts are having an impact on students’ potential for success.

In addition to cutting services, public universities in the state are raising tuition.

Michael Mitchell, senior policy analyst at the Center, says the high cost of college is putting a lid on what graduates can achieve post-college.

“High levels of debt, even with a diploma, can prohibit newly-graduated individuals from starting their own businesses and becoming entrepreneurs, which of course has implications not only for their own lives, but for the communities that they live in that would have benefited from having an additional entrepreneur,” he points out.

Overall, Florida’s reduction in state funding adds up to nearly $2,100 less each year per student, when adjusted for inflation.

Mitchell says while the funding increase in the last budget cycle helped, Florida’s public colleges are still left to figure out how to address the needs of their students, with fewer dollars.

“As states have made these cuts to higher education, schools have had to make decisions about increasing tuition, or they’ve had to cut their own campus budgets, which means that they’re providing fewer services, there are fewer extracurricular activities, class sizes may get larger,” he explains.

The report says nationwide, funding for two and four-year colleges is still $10 billion below what it was just prior to the recession, which forced many schools to raise tuition and cut faculty to find extra dollars.

In Florida, public college tuition has increased by nearly 65 percent in the last eight years – the fourth highest increase in the nation.

St. Petersburg College faculty petitions for union certification

From Saint Peters Blog

By Anne Lindberg

The United Faculty of Florida delivered more than 180 signed cards from faculty members at the St. Petersburg College to the Florida Public Employees Relations Committee, calling for certification of a faculty collective bargaining unit at the college.

In accordance with state law, the faculty must submit a petition accompanied by 30 percent signed statements indicating the faculty’s “desire to be represented for purposes of collective bargaining by the petitioning employee organization.” The signed cards from SPC represent about 50 percent of the proposed bargaining unit. This action follows a recent union certification vote at Tallahassee Community College, where faculty voted for representation by UFF by a 139-22 vote.

“I believe that if there is to be true shared governance at SPC, then faculty needs a collective bargaining unit in order to have a shared and collective voice at the college,” said George M. Greenlee, economics professor at the Clearwater campus. “Real shared governance will allow our students to reach their highest potential.”

Juan Flores, communications professor at the Tarpon Springs campus, said, “In essence, our voice — our experienced and hands-on concerns — are not being heard by the Legislature or even the governor. This is why we seek greater, more organized representation. This is why we seek to establish a union at SPC. Democracy teaches us to do that.”

David Manson, music professor at the Gibbs campus, said, “These are challenging times for higher education as forces seek to transform public colleges into diploma mills. The faculty at St. Petersburg believe that collective bargaining will give greater voice to those who teach and will serve our students better.”

Dr. Jennifer Proffitt, president of the United Faculty of Florida and communications professor at Florida State University, said, “SPC is the only public higher education institution in the greater Tampa Bay area that does not have a collective bargaining agreement for its faculty. This faculty deserves to be treated equitably by SPC administration and its board of trustees and has decided that a collective voice will enhance the college’s mission and growth.”