Meaningless metrics mask troublesome trends in higher education

from Florida Politics

By Florence Snyder

Florida changes higher education funding formulas nearly as often as Kardashians change clothes. At the Department of Making Things Incomprehensible, Metrics Mavens have their hands full monkeying around with the Ten Metrics that determine which universities get the rich gravy, and which get the thin gruel.

Florida’s Ten Metrics appear to have been written by the folks who write insurance policies, credit card contracts and the scoring system for figure skating. We could get the same results cheaper with an actual tribe of monkeys throwing stuff against the wall.

For university boards of trustees, The Metrics may as well have been brought down from Mount Sinai by Moses himself. They are carved in stone, at least for the current budget cycle.

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Holiday Party 2016


Join us for the 2016 United Faculty of Florida – Florida Atlantic University Holiday Party!

WHERE: Villagio Ristorante, 344 East Plaza Real (Mizner Park in Boca)
WHEN: Friday, December 9th, 7:00 – 11:00 PM
WHO: You (and your significant other is welcome too!)
WHY: To celebrate the Season, enjoy the company of fellow Union members, partake in excellent food and drink

Click link for FREE tickets to attend: (Hurry! Seats are filling quickly)

Impacts of Prestige Seeking in Higher Education

Academe Blog

By Desiree Zerquera

With fall recruitment in full swing, many colleges and universities may be eager to tout their updated facilities, star faculty, and standings among one of the many rankings that evaluate higher education on the basis of a variety of metrics across lists and sublists. However, the cost of earned rankings and expensive amenities during times of increased financial restraint and stratification of opportunity in higher education warrant scrutiny.

In 1956, the late sociologist David Riesman depicted higher education as a snake-like procession in which colleges and universities within lower tiers of the academic hierarchy imitate those within higher tiers. He explained this imitation game as one that persists within a system based on imitating top-ranked institutions on elements that may have more to do with perceptions and less to do with serving students.

This depiction rings ever true today. Contemporary scholars have described this as prestige seeking—collective activities engaged in that are thought to enhance rankings and public perceptions. Recent analysis of data from the National Center for Educational Statistics show that all types of four-year colleges and universities engaged in prestige seeking over the past decade, which can be seen in changes in undergraduate selectivity, increased investment in research revenue, and the development or investment in men’s football teams.

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Sign Up!: Union Family Bowling Event


UFF-FAU is excited to announce a family-friendly social event. On November 5, 2016, the union will gather with their families at Strikes at Boca for an afternoon of socializing, laser-light bowling, and a bit to eat. We’ll begin at 12:30pm and shoes and lanes will be provided until 3:30pm. Food and soft drinks will be provided with additional options available for purchase ((

We’ve reserved a fixed number of spots so we do ask that you RSVP at the link below.

WHERE: Strikes at Boca (21046 Commercial Trail Boca Raton, FL, 33486)
WHEN: Saturday, November 5, 12:30 – 3:30 PM
WHO: You AND your family
WHY: To meet union members, have fun, and to bowl a strike

If you have any questions, please contact event organizer, Ethan Fenichel at or as always, Bob Zoeller, UFF-FAU President at

Living in an Extreme Meritocracy is Exhausting

The Atlantic

Victor Tan Chen

A century ago, a man named Frederick Winslow Taylor changed the way workers work. In his book The Principles of Scientific Management, Taylor made the case that companies needed to be pragmatic and methodical in their efforts to boost productivity. By observing employees’ performance and whittling down the time and effort involved in doing each task, he argued, management could ensure that their workers shoveled ore, inspected bicycle bearings, and did other sorts of “crude and elementary” work as efficiently as possible. Soldiering—a common term in the day for the manual laborer’s loafing—would no longer be possible under the rigors of the new system, Taylor wrote.

The principles of data-driven planning first laid out by Taylor—whom the management guru Peter Drucker once called the “Isaac Newton … of the science of work”—have transformed the modern workplace, as managers have followed his approach of assessing and adopting new processes that squeeze greater amounts of productive labor from their employees. And as the metrics have become more precise in their detail, their focus has shifted beyond the tasks themselves and onto the workers doing those tasks, evaluating a broad range of their qualities (including their personality traits) and tying corporate carrots and sticks—hires, promotions, terminations—to those ratings.

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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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