Wisconsin Supports UVA

Tuesday, June 26, 2012
The nation is waiting on the UVA Regents to do the right thing.  There is plenty of action afoot at UW-Madison to weigh in on these key issues of money and power, and you'll see more in the coming days. In the meantime, let's make this point loud and clear whenever and wherever possible.

‎"In solidarity with our colleagues at the University of Virginia, we affirm that a public institution of higher education is not a business."

Here are initial signatories-- please comment on this post to add your voice.

Gloria Ladson-Billings, Kellner Family Chair in Urban Education, UW-Madison
David Ahrens, President, Wisconsin University Union
Charity Schmidt and Matt Reiter, Co-Presidents of the TAA
Seth Hoffmeister, President, United Council of Students
Beth Huang, Incoming Vice-President, United Council of Students
Sara Goldrick-Rab, Chair, UW-Madison Committee on Undergraduate Recruitment, Admissions & Financial Aid

Reflections on Foundations, ALEC and Higher Ed Reform in Wisconsin

Sunday, June 24, 2012
Last week, a fellow Madison blogger drew our attention to some potentially troubling relationships between a major higher education foundation, a DC-based consulting group, a conservative political organization, and a new initiative in the UW System.  Scott Wittkopf at Badger Democracy is playing a critical role in attending to the relationships among funders of higher education reform efforts, and political constituencies.  He has since mapped in greater depth the work of one foundation, Lumina, and another blog post is forthcoming.

Since I have established relationships with both Lumina and HCM Strategists, the consulting group in question, and have blogged (and hosted guest blogs) before on the large role that foundations are playing in pushing the higher ed reform agenda, I want to fully disclose as much as possible my role and assessment of this situation.

First, readers of this blog know my work as an expert on college student success, and as an outspoken champion for expanding college access to underserved populations. I am proud of the major role I played in the fight against the New Badger Partnership and other local efforts to prioritize institutional prestige over the needs of Wisconsin residents. I am constantly engaged in the struggle to ensure that public institutions of all types survive and thrive. At this point I have been active in Wisconsin research, policy, and activism circles for more than eight years. 

In my work I spending a lot of time interacting with the higher education reform movements nationally.  It is for this reason, over the last decade I have engaged with both Lumina and HCM many times. I am also very well-acquainted with the Gates education initiatives, having been both a grantee (to the tune of $1.2 million for the Wisconsin Scholars Longitudinal Study) and a consultant. Moreover, I participant frequently in the bipartisan higher education working group hosted by the American Enterprise Institute and funded by Gates.  

Why do I do these things, despite recent evidence that these places have ties to ALEC and others?

Good question, and one I'm thinking a lot about.  I think it is because at the heart of it, the main thrust of reform efforts to improve higher education are bipartisan. We on the Left and the Right share a desire to get colleges and universities (and state legislatures) focused on college completion rather than enrollment, and to make opportunities for all people more affordable.  

We diverge most often on the methodology-- what approach we think will work best.  Some people I work with really think innovation is encouraged by competition, while others (including myself) advocate for greater cooperation, and a strong faculty role.  But I have found over time that it is far better to be in active conversation with those I disagree with rather than limit myself only to relationships I am in alignment with because: 
  • It makes me much more cognizant of what other points of view mean and how people argue their case 
  • It helps me sharpen my own lenses and causes me to ask more relevant questions in my work
  • Being around others with differing points of view doesn't change my fundamental principles or make me their pawn but rather helps me establish credibility on both sides of the aisle.  It is because of my continuous willingness to show up and engage-- to banter, to debate, and to speak freely--that both Democrats and Republicans now talk with me about higher education
So, yes, here's the truth: I have received substantial funding from both HCM Strategists and Gates. I talk with HCM partners Kristin Conklin and Terrell Halaska regularly, including about Wisconsin. Kristin is an old friend of my husband's, from when he worked at National Governors Association, before coming to work as Governor Doyle's education policy advisor.  And, I helped Wisconsin become a College Productivity Strategy Lab state.  I did this because Strategy Labs bring money that help us to get people informed on key issues, bring in speakers, and open doors to conversations with other leaders nationwide. The fact is that obviously Wisconsin has had a fair amount of academic and political transition and has not engaged much in the Strategy Labs since Lumina invited it to be part of it in 2010. There is no fee to join, just a commitment to try to improve system and state policies for students. 

Furthermore, despite my known feelings about the current Governor, I have engaged in conversations with his office about the UW online initiative.  To me this is the true fulfillment of the Wisconsin Idea: a government official asked me for input, and rather than put my partisan political feelings in the way, I provided honest, candid feedback and advice.  Given their reputation among education leaders in other states, I didn't want Western Governors University to come to Wisconsin, and I felt it very likely that Walker was already talking to them.  In these conversation I expressed concern about WGU and I suggested that another approach--- making it an in-house public UW initiative-- would be more effective.  The effort to advance an online program was not encouraged by HCM or supported by its technical assistance. The concepts in the program are advocated by organizations like CAEL and in place or under consideration in many states. As UW moves to implement its ideas, the lessons learned from states like Maryland's University College or through SUNY's Empire State college could be accessed through the Strategy Labs.

Yes, online competency-based instruction is now here.  I'm not taking credit or blame for it.  As I wrote recently, we shouldn't be quick to judge a pedagogical technique that has the potential to bring education to people who otherwise wouldn't get any college instruction at all.  Of course we don't want it to fully replace face-to-face instruction, nor should it be operated for profit or cause students to require large loans to afford it.  Of course it shouldn't displace faculty, or be privatized.  But online instruction is likely to be about as uneven in quality as face-to-face instruction, which let's admit it, is quite uneven.

Supporting a position that is also supported by a conservative group does not mean that's the driver of the position.  Not once has HCM or Lumina or Gates ever dictated to me what I should or must say about anything. I have always been my own voice.  I speak truth to power with solid data and a clear stance in favor of students, staff, and faculty.  I know it's hard to believe, but given my disposition and the fact that my core salary comes from UW-Madison, nothing, nothing could ever change that. Sure, I could easily forgo taking their money, but honestly it would make me less effective as a researcher, and less able to have a voice in ongoing policy debates.  I couldn't conduct my large-scale expensive research, couldn't train students to think critically about these issues by actively engaging in them, and couldn't participate in these foundation and policy meetings. In the end, my absence would perpetuate their groupthink.

The fact is that since 2008 Lumina has made many, many grants under the broad umbrella of "productivity." This includes grants to the National Research Council, Public Agenda, and the National Governors Association.  I wrote a paper with Doug Harris on productivity that was funded by HCM.  Through the writing, Doug can attest that I continually worried about that term and all it means, and I tried to make the paper reflect that (the latest version, now under review, finally does). Not once did a funder object, and in fact they brought me many places to speak my mind on the topic without censorship.

As for HCM, those consultants lead a state policy network and advocate changes consistent with Lumina's Four Steps.  To build understanding among state leaders, they bring peers together and give states access to experts. I have helped by writing op eds about financial aid in several states, where policymakers want to strengthen "student incentives," and I push for them to do it in the ways that most help the truly disadvantaged.  The fact that those op-eds are bipartisan (written with Mark Schneider, a Republican), seems to be part of why Wisconsin Republicans are willing to even speak with me.

Locals might also want to know that leaders of HCM Strategists were helpful in the fight against the New Badger Partnership, prodding thoughtful higher education leaders around the nation to weigh in with their opinions. These experts did not support Biddy Martin's plans, noting the very real consequences for access to the general public.  There's no way this was in service of Walker -- or ALEC's -- agenda.

Scott isn't alone in his concerns. Other researchers have examined the issues surrounding Lumina and reached similar conclusions. In a paper presented at AERA this spring, Cassie Hall and Scott Thomas (one of my mentors) noted that Lumina's approach was uncommonly activist, and focused on student success and productivity. I completely agree with that-- but would note that being pro-student success and pro-productivity is not inherently liberal or conservative.  The approach itself could go either way, but the fundamental stance is pro-student, rather than pro-institution-- a stance I firmly agree with and have written much about. As Hall and Thomas write, this stance is driven by "an increasing level of distrust that higher education institutions can successfully enact reforms that will result in meaningful changes to our postsecondary system.”  I think that's well-placed mistrust, given the tendency of most top-level higher education administrators to advance "institutional" interests over those of faculty, staff, or students.  To be clear, I firmly believe that educators, rather than legislators or foundations, should be charged with this work. But the problem is that boards of visitors and high-level administrators tend to alienate faculty and staff, disempower them, and even portray them as the source of inertia rather than the rightful agents of change.

Yes, I would much prefer to see Lumina and Gates, among others, embrace the talents of faculty in rethinking how we can best serve students.  I said this over and over again at a Gates Foundation convening last week.  Recent discussions about the governance crisis at UVA reveal that many professors there have, and are plenty happy to, teach online-- and had they been included in the conversation they would have found good solutions to the problems identified by Helen Dragas and the Board of Visitors.  The same thing could be said about last year's discussion about the NBP -- Biddy Martin and her team did not engage the faculty, staff, or students in the problem-solving needed to address UW-Madison's financial woes.  They went straight to Scott Walker, and embraced an agenda that has demonstrably been shaped by ALEC's desires. This reflects an unfortunate move over the last 20-30 years to portray faculty, staff, and students as naive, ill-equipped obstacles to change, and this I think is not a coincidence-- it is a move to disempower the most expensive part of colleges and universities: the full-time tenured labor. If Lumina, HCM, or anyone else were to support that approach, I'd be utterly opposed to it.

I also fully support and echo Hall and Thomas's concerns about the role these major foundations have played in limiting what is studied and how it is studied, given their small emphasis on peer review and high priority on strategic goals that often do not seem to align with research evidence. In other words, even having been funded by them, I am far from satisfied with their approach and as you can see I still feel confident that engaging in this type of critique will not result in my being deemed ineligible for their support. Recall that I helped bring Robin Rogers' wonderful critique of Gates to the public eye by first running it here before it was in the Washington Post.  For Gates to retaliate would be incredibly unwise, and they know it.  They don't ask me to give them a pass for their errors-- in fact at a recent Gates convening I tweeted openly of my discontent with some of their practices, and their program officers were open to that conversation. 

Perhaps the best way to wrap up this little tell-all is with a quote from Jamie Merisotis from Lumina: All we can do is be transparent about what we’re trying to achieve and let people decide how we’ve done." While I might prefer to remove the word "all," I think this is basically right. We should hold foundations and public officials, including educational institutions, to full disclosure. In turn we have to consider all potential interpretations of the evidence we have.  And we must weigh their approaches against the alternatives.  In this case, I think the agenda is focused improvements in student success accomplished by increasing the incentives for colleges and universities to focus mainly on high-quality education, rather than competing for rankings driven by dollars spent and enrollment of elites.  That sounds good to me.  Yes, let's keep our eyes on ALEC.  Yes, let's always question and critique.  We must avoid privatization of public education-- and we want to educate people while growing and expanding the labor market so there are jobs waiting on the other end.  But the goal of expanding access to a high-quality education while driving down costs is a laudable one-- as long as the role of public democratic governance of that education is preserved.  Let's focus on that, and together find the best way forward.

Faulty Inside Higher Ed Survey Demonizes Faculty

Thursday, June 21, 2012
This morning's Twitter feed was rife with news of a story from Inside Higher Ed directly relevant to the UVA fiasco. President Teresa Sullivan was reportedly canned for failing to push an agenda for online education at UVA, standing in the way of so-called "progress."  Is this because she catered too much to faculty, who are increasingly described as the main obstacle to reform?

It seems some people want you to believe yes-- the real problem isn't the rampant excitement over a fairly untested pedagogical approach to education, but the resistance of the educators.  So today IHE shares a new survey: Conflicted-Faculty and Online Education, 2012.  The story's lede reads: "Faculty members are far less excited by, and more fearful of, the recent growth of online education than are academic technology administrators."  Professors are described as lacking optimism, having a "bleak" view of the quality of online education.  The survey report wonders "why"-- rather than praising profs for their skepticism, something faculty are widely known and respected for.

So-- big finding, right?  WRONG.  This story doesn't belong in a respected publication like IHE.  Here's why:

The survey, conducted by a team known for its studies of distance learning, and including advertisements by online educators, obtained a 7.7% response rate among faculty, and a less than 10% response rate among administrators. 
Yes, you read that right. About 60,000 professors were surveyed and just 4,564 provided enough of an answer to be included in the study.  For real? This isn't nationally representative of anything. It's a horribly biased little subsample, and yet the RR isn't even mentioned in the reporting!

Moreover, look at the questions-- where'd they get the "fear vs. excitement" answers? Because they only provided those two options.  Gee, am I fearful or excited about a new untested pedagogy being pushed on me?  Well...neither. But I'm not stupid enough to jump on a bandwagon, so I will choose "fearful." By which I mean skeptical.

I have such respect for folks like Doug Lederman and his crew at IHE, that I am honestly shocked this is running in that publication at all. It shouldn't.

Take it down.

Update: I have already heard from Doug Lederman, and he will be adding the response rate to the text of the article and to the PDF of the study. He feels a low response rate is a non-issue here, doesn't imply selection bias, and it is an achievement to get 4,500 faculty to do any survey at all. Moreover, he does not agree that the study demonizes faculty.  We can agree to disagree on that. 

More on the Efforts to Marketize UW-Madison

A few months ago I wrote about the HR Design process at UW-Madison.  Some readers questioned the accuracy of my assertions.  We have new confirmatory information obtained via open records requests.  It seems the Huron Engagement has been expensive, indeed.   In the following memo, the Wisconsin University Union summarizes what we now know. It's a bit long, so I have underlined and bolded key points.

To: Interested campus employees
From: WUU
Date: June 20, 2012
RE: Memos from Huron Consulting Group

As you may know, Wisconsin University Union (WUU) has filed a series of open meeting and open requests to UW administration to gain access to information on the HR Design Project (the Project).  We initiated these requests because we believed that the effects of the Project will likely be far-reaching and long-term and that despite the administration’s attempt to project a gloss of participation and transparency to the process, it was fundamentally top-down and opaque.

When the administration finally complied with our request, we were disappointed, though not surprised, that most of the documents added little if anything to our knowledge base. For example, minutes of meetings described the topics under discussion but gave no account of the discussions themselves. The exception to this lack of transparency were memos from Huron Consulting Group (HCG) to the Project managers. These memos very briefly summarized the week’s events and posed concerns and questions on the future work of the Project.

For this reason, a month ago, we filed a new request for records specifying HCG memos to administration along with a request for their billings to the UW. After a month wait, we received the records this week.

The memos did not disclose a “smoking gun.” Instead, they confirmed much of what we know about the potential effects of the recommendations.  The following are excerpts of the HCG memos:

(5/3/2012) The work teams are proposing a “contemporary” but not radical approach to HR management at a research university. The model puts greater emphasis on performance and employee development and shifts the focus from internal equity to external competiveness.

The implied shifts for HR management implied (sic):
Greater emphasis on data and analysis (over set rules)
Greater reliance on the skills of managers/supervisors
Ongoing development of central HR as a center of excellence

I (from the HCG staff member) don’t have a good sense of the project team’s appetite for this type/level of change. If this does turn out to be the direction you choose to go, substantial pieces of it will be phased in over time. Still, it represents a significant amount of change that will to be championed by OHR and supported through the application of potentially significant resources.

(5/10/12) Compensation, Performance Management and Workplace Flexibility all have suggestions related to boards or committees being involved in appeals of decisions that impact employees. Ongoing governance (small “g”) of HR functions and processes will be a topic that we need to address over the summer. This is an area where I expect that the campus community will want more specificity in the fall.

Understanding our resource requirements for the summer will evolve as our project plan evolves. At the same time, I would suggest that adding resources is an opportunity to start to build the long-term capabilities of OHR in areas such as compensation.


These excerpts confirm a few of the central objections we have made in prior analyses:
Salary equity will be abandoned in favor of labor market “competitiveness.”

Compensation based on labor market analysis will require a substantial on-going investment to build capacity. It is difficult to estimate the cost for new HR staff members or more likely, consultants, to conduct wage and benefit analyses for hundreds of job titles.

Supervisors and managers will have substantial new powers due to the major shift in compensation responsibility along with new discretionary authority in promotion, hiring, etc. This will require a major investment in training and, one would hope, oversight and supervision of the supervisors. What will be the safeguards against favoritism, discrimination and other adverse effects?

HCG advises that, that because these new offices will be “substantial”, HR should build its new “empire” slowly and incrementally so as not to call attention to its long-term costs.

Committees acknowledged that some form of dispute resolution methods will be necessary but have either not specified how this might occur or recommend that the dispute process be overseen by HR. The HCG seems to recognize that employees will likely want better answers.

Consultant Costs:
Billings to UW from HCG:
Nov. 2011: $32,751
Dec. 2011: $154,738
Jan. 2012: $61,714
Feb. 2012: $93,798
Mar. 2012: $89,976
Total:     $432,977

The Travesty at UVA-- Commentary from Judith Burstyn

Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Today I welcome guest blogger Judith Burstyn, professor of chemistry and former chair of the University Committee at UW-Madison.  She has a short commentary in today's Chronicle of Higher Education, and with her permission, I am printing the entirety of that piece here. Judith was a faculty leader in the battle over the New Badger Partnership, and remains a key player in the efforts to preserve shared governance on our campus. 

Apparently, at today’s University of Virginia, business values trump all. There is a troubling recent trend toward viewing all public institutions in market terms, where value is measured by dollars produced. In recent years, UW-Madison has felt this too, as some of our leaders focus on efficiency via new “flexibilities.” But universities are not businesses. The proper role of universities is the creation of knowledge for the public good, and education of the new generations of citizens and leaders for civil society. Business management approaches are ill suited to nurture the intellectual expansiveness that underlies great scholarship and deep learning. Reliance on narrow, industry-driven curricula simply won’t do. Great universities encompass a wide variety of disciplines, methods and perspectives, irrespective of the marketability of the knowledge they create. Nourishment of the young minds of our future leaders is invaluable to our country, and the University of Virginia and UW-Madison are shining examples of excellence in this regard. I worry that this excellence is at risk.

Without the human capital embodied in their faculty, universities have nothing to offer the students who enter their doors. Great scholars are in high demand, and competition to hire and retain them is fierce. As President Sullivan said yesterday, “At any great university, the equilibrium - the pull between the desire to stay and the inducements to leave - is delicate.” If faculty members feel unsupported in their scholarly pursuits at one institution, they will move to another where there is greater support. The best scholars are the ones with the greatest number of opportunities; therefore, maintaining an outstanding cadre of faculty is an ongoing challenge. Money, as salary or support for scholarship, is only one of many parameters that influence an individual’s decision to stay at an institution or leave it.  And perhaps some of those who threaten UVA know this—aiming to drive out many of the full-time faculty, creating the opportunity to replace them with bottom-line focused adjuncts.

It is far easier to lose stature as a great university than it is to gain it; wise university leaders understand this, and they bring change to their institutions through steady and deliberate engagement of faculty, staff and students. This was precisely the type of leadership that President Sullivan appeared to be providing. Meaningful participation by these stakeholders in institutional governance is a hallmark of universities that are the most productive in terms of scholarship, and where faculty are most likely to happily reside throughout their careers. The courageous opposition to President Sullivan’s dismissal by the University of Virginia faculty senate and its executive committee, and the student council and their leadership, speak of an institution where shared governance is valued and appreciated—if not respected by its Board of Visitors.

The unilateral decision to remove a sitting university president, in the midst of a summer weekend no less, is unprecedented. Despite objections to the firing of President Sullivan by faculty and student leadership, including a vote of no confidence in the board itself by the faculty senate, the board continued its takeover. Acting like a cabal of thieves, they met late into the night, emerging with an egregious decision to replace Sullivan, a sociologist of work, with an interim president: Carl Zeithaml, F.S. Cornell Professor in Free Enterprise and Dean of the McIntire School of Commerce. This action is inimical to their responsibility as the governing board of a university.  In the words of Hunter R. Rawlings III, president of the prestigious Association of American Universities and former president of Cornell, “This is the most egregious case I have ever seen of mismanagement by a governing board.”

Last year UW-Madison engaged in many discussions about the creation of its own governing board. The actions at UVA leave great cause for concern. As University of Michigan professor Michael Bastedo has written, governing boards are increasingly embedded in money and politics, engaging in self-interested decision-making.  They tell us “it’s for your own good” in an attempt at moral seduction, and a desire to appear ethical.  Intelligent communities like those at UVA and UW-Madison do not buy this. And they shouldn’t, if they are to remain the excellent and public institutions we can all respect.

UW System's Online Endeavor

Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Today Governor Scott Walker (whom my son happily continues to call "RecallWalker") and the UW System announced a joint effort to provide competency-based online degree programs. The program will be initiated and led by UW Extension faculty and staff under Chancellor Ray Cross.

My feelings about Walker are well-known.  I have a hard time believing he has the best interests of UW System at heart.  That said, I don't think this was Walker's idea, and I don't think his interest in it means it's necessarily a bad idea. Here are a few reasons why:

1) Competency-based online instruction has been implemented all over the world. It aims to break the link between seat-time and credit in order to get students accessible, affordable degrees. Those are good objectives. Credit for sitting in a seat for a certain amount of time has never felt smart.

(2) The typical conservative approach to implementation is a clear effort to undermine full-time faculty --bring in an outside group reliant on adjuncts. In other states that is Western Governors University.  (Ok, slight modification-- WGU uses full-time contracted faculty. Not tenured. And not really faculty-- they don't instruct or grade, they "mentor" and coach.)  While he may have considered it, that's not what Walker's done here. Smart- because if he had, the faculty and academic staff would have been rightly up in arms -- me included. (Indeed, that's what's happening in California.)  Instead, this program is led by UW Extension faculty and staff.  That's good- Cross is smart, and I am betting he brought this idea with him, perhaps even discussing it in his job interview.

(3) The focus here isn't UW-Madison (despite some poor press tweets)-- it is aimed at folks on the margin of no credential or an online credential. That's the right demographic.

Now, here are the key questions and big things to keep an eye on:

  • What will be the balance between industry and educators in crafting these programs?  If they are too specific, the programs will have little value over the long haul.
  • Who will actually teach?  Will UW Extension put the resources in to ensure that full-time faculty add online teaching to their load, or segregate it to adjuncts?
  • Good technology isn't free. Will Walker invest in helping UW Extension with the resources needed to ensure the platform for delivery is of high quality?
  • Will some potential students perceive this as their ONLY option for higher ed in the state? Will this mean other opportunities will be constricted or narrowed? Will these programs serve as entry points to other blended or in-person forms of instruction?
One way to ensure quality is pushed higher is to encourage the kinds of students who now take in-person courses to try out these online classes, perhaps in summer, and have them react/respond with their demands.  They will help raise the bar and keep standards high. In other words, diverse online classes of learners, rather than segregated ones, will ensure the quality of instruction.

So no, this isn't a blanket endorsement of a Walker policy. I would like to know more about the evolution of this plan, and the role faculty played in it.  But from what I know, it has evolved with the input of UW Extension and UW System, and is explicitly run by them.  That, at least, is a step in the right direction. 

Edited 6/20 for the parenthetical on WGU's staffing model.

It's Time to Wake Up

Saturday, June 16, 2012
The smoldering ashes of public higher education can be seen and smelled across the nation, as the once much-lauded, now much-decried University of Virginia goes up in flames.

Pardon my French, but it's about time everyone opened their eyes, ears, and mouth. This stuff stinks!

It's impossible to count how often during the past several years those of us residing at her sister public flagships have heard UVA held up as a model, a "best-practice" of public higher education for the 21st century.  Haven't you heard all about her wondrous break from state government that allowed her the "flexibility" and "innovative freedoms" to raise tuition while expanding affordability, thriving when the rest of us starved?  We at UW-Madison got an earful of it from ex-chancellor Biddy Martin during the fiasco known as the New Badger Partnership. And true believers abounded.

As I said then, that emperor has no clothes.  UVA hasn't been a true public university in some time. It is not a democratic institution where the voices of all constituencies are honored. It is not succeeding in expanding affordability with Access UVA, an ineffective sinkhole into which millions of dollars have been thrown.   It is not flourishing with strong academic programs and a great faculty retention rate.  It is not innovative, not independent, and not a model.  No, it is a rich man's campus, run by millionaires and political conservatives, who are driving agendas disconnected from the needs of educators and students. And those elites just got their way, evicting a president who appears to have stood up to their efforts at "strategic dynamism"-- e.g. the crappification of all that is good and meaningful, and worth investing in in public higher education.

The people governing UVA are like so many of the so-called "reformers" who think efficiency and flexibility are magical words, and who have conveniently but very wrongly diagnosed the challenges facing colleges and universities as residing in the "inmates" -- i.e. the faculty.  These boards and trustees have an unbelievably disrespectful attitude towards the teachers to whom they pay tens of thousands of dollars to educate their children in what they fondly call an "asylum."

The conservative agenda to defund public institutions at all possible levels has created this situation-- not the faculty.  Don't fool yourself -- those who advocate for "holding the line on college costs"  are not doing it for the good of the students but for the good of the corporations who seek to benefit from the rapid growth of the for-profit sector. It is nothing short of devastating that this agenda had confused the public from embracing a genuine affordability agenda, such as the one I support, that works with educators to find affordable approaches to high-quality education and a system of paying for it that maximizes the enrollment and success of students who will benefit most.

Institutional insiders-- high-level administrator types-- have too-easy embraced (sometimes unwittingly) the conservative agenda because they are paid handsomely to do it.  Heck, if they don't oblige quickly, it's clear they'll be fired! After a bit, they begin to enjoy drinking that kool-aid, since they are ensconced in fancy homes, taken to lovely meals, and sent on jaunts to Paris. It's far easier to embrace the business people than to labor in the trenches doing battle with state legislators who fear college's so-called liberalizing tendencies (what we call "being educated").   It's not surprising that the Board at UVA assumed Teresa Sullivan would go along with them.  It's pretty clear that Biddy Martin would've.   But they made a mistake, since as a sociologist Teresa has a knack for using her skills as an "outsider looking in" as well as an "insider looking out."  She's a sociologist of work and organizations and no doubt saw their scheme for what it was, refusing to play along. After all, she views the university as a "compact among generations," not a compact between business and politics.

She was ousted. Good for her.  Twenty minutes of good hard labor in public higher education is worth far more than decades of pandering to the likes of business school deans, Bob McDonnell and Scott Walker, and wealthy alumni.

Want to be a 'Sconnie, Teresa?  We'd love to talk.

ps. For more superb reading on the UVA drama, I recommend these astute commentaries:

Kris Olds-  a friend, a colleague, a genius
Dagblog -- this guy even uses the word 'neoliberalism'

Beware the New "Education Sector"

Friday, June 1, 2012
Over the years, Kevin Carey and I have had our tussles, most recently over whether some of his recent stances on education reform were too faithful to a business model, which I called "neoliberal."  But throughout it all, I have remained a fan of both Kevin and his shop, Education Sector, since both are known for asking hard, data-driven questions about whether higher education is meeting the needs of students from disadvantaged families.   So I am extremely disappointed to see that Education Sector has been hijacked by the conservative Right, and now clearly represents the interests of business elites, pushing free-market principles on all of education.  Kevin, to his credit, is getting the hell out of there, moving to the New America Foundation, accompanied by his talented colleagues Stephen Burd, Amy Laintinan, and Rachel Fishman.

Within a few days the change at Education Sector will be complete.  The leadership includes several consultants to the Romney campaign and members of the Hoover Institution, such as John Chubb, Macke Raymond, and Bill Hansen, who seem to believe that markets have magical powers, and that educating students is akin to making hamburgers or sauerkraut. Worse yet, Hansen is a former Bush appointee who lobbies for the Apollo Group, and has worked against every effort to contain corruption in for-profit schools.  He was president of Scantron, of the "fill in the bubble" testing industry, and has worked to advance the cause of student loan providers. And his jobs have been described as things like "creating a new education line of business...and  integrating the education services activities throughout the company into a strategic product portfolio." Stephen Burd's long been on to this guy- he is trouble.

No doubt about it, these folks will use Education Sector to advance an agenda aimed at ensuring the federal government stops helping students afford college.  They'll start by telling us that college isn't really necessary, and that financial aid is ineffective-- but they'll also do nothing to ensure public higher education becomes free. Instead, they will push free-market solutions -- mainly online education-- for other peoples' children, while probably sending their own kids to elite private schools.

So next time you see a report from Education Sector, give it a second look.  Theirs are no longer "Charts You Can Trust."  They are acts of political manipulation pushed by the hard Right.

Consider yourself warned.

Updated at 11:16 am CST. Gee, Google is so much fun.