Is there really a freedom of speech problem in US universities?
Inside Higher Ed has a report on a new publication on free speech on US campuses.
Nearly 59 percent of campuses have policies that “clearly and substantially” restrict students’ protected speech, according to an annual report from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and another 36 percent have policies that “overregulate” speech on campus. Private colleges, which are not legally bound by the First Amendment, fare slightly worse in the report; about 62 percent of those campuses substantially restrict student speech, compared to 58 percent of public campuses. However, the percentage of campuses seriously restricting speech is down 17 percent from six years ago, the report says.
Obviously the legislative framework governing free speech in US universities is very different from the UK but this does seem to be an extremely pessimistic picture. You do suspect there is something of a political agenda here though. Indeed anything at all which limits total freedom of speech is characterised as a problem.
The Big Match: University of Nottingham v Nottingham Trent University
Earlier this week I attended the annual Nottingham v Trent Varsity ice hockey match. It really is a fantastic sporting event and must be the biggest of its kind in UK higher education. With a sell-out crowd of over 7,000 the atmosphere was terrific.
It was a pretty good game too. Some of the rules remain a little unclear to the uninitiated but the level of enthusiasm from both sets of fans was a constant feature.
Trent Students’ Union magazine has a full match report. It’s not entirely even-handed about the outcome:
All we did know is, Trent lost. Not only that, but Trent lost by a solitary, lonely, tear-inducing goal, 4-3… having raced into a three-nil lead.
But, as disappointing as that is, is the ice hockey Varsity ever really about the result? Well, yes, I guess it is. It’s also about the occasion though, and, as ever, the Varsity event of the year delivered.
The celebrations begin
The infamous chanting didn’t take long to get going at the start of the night. The ever graceful University of Nottingham fans greeted the announcement of all the Trent players with a delightful, “SHIT!” but hey, as their favourite and not-in-any-way-shape-or-form irritating chant of “UNAAAAY” proves, ingenuity is not their strong point.
The chanting did get more creative (and boorish) and the cheerleaders did some pretty spectacular gymnastic routines to sustain the feverish excitement but the game was only going to end one way after that amazing comeback by the University.
In an earlier blog post I noted the noted the importance of good discipline on campus. A sound disciplinary framework is important for sustaining a strong idea of community, ensuring students are able to get on with their studies without unwarranted distraction and for developing s sense of social responsibility across the student body. It was interesting therefore to happen across this disciplinary code from the (intriguingly named) Lovely Professional University in India. A few of the highlights follow:
Disciplinary misconduct constitutes but not limited to one or more of any of the acts that follow; and any student found guilty of disciplinary misconduct shall be liable for severe disciplinary action beside the action imposable under any law or regulation in force:
Physical assault or threat to use physical force, against any staff member, visitor, student of the university or any other person;
Irregularity in attendance, persistent idleness or negligence or indifference towards the classes, test or examination or any other curricular or co-curricular activity, any other work assigned or a student is expected to participate in;
Carrying of, possession of, use of, or threat of use of or abetting the use of any kind of weapons including sticks, rods, guns, swords, knifes, etc. and any kind of firework, cracker or any other explosive or anything barred by the university and/or the law;
Misbehaviour or cruelty towards any other student, staff of the university or any other person;
Possession, use of or dealing with or abetting the use of any kind of intoxicating material including alcohol, drugs of any kind, gutka, tobacco, cigarettes or any other sedative material or anything, except those prescribed by a qualified doctor;
Any violation of the provisions of the Civil Rights Protection Act, 1976 or any other law for the time being in force;
Indulging in or encouraging violence or any conduct which involves moral turpitude;
Any form of gambling;
Discrimination against any student or a member of staff on grounds of caste, creed, language, place of origin, social and cultural background or any of them;
Practicing casteism and untouchability in any form or inciting any other person to do so;
Drinking or smoking;
Although some of the language is a little quaint, some elements look rather strange (I fear there might be rather a lot of what might be described as moral turpitude as well as a bit of drinking and smoking on UK university campuses) and some aspects are quite specific to the national context (casteism for example), overall the code is not that different from what we might expect in any western university. So perhaps discipline arrangements at Lovely Professional University are not that remarkable.
Last year it was Times Higher Education but this year it is the turn of QS to produce a ranking of newer universities, presumably on the basis that somehow they suffer in the rankings for not having done enough stuff over their limited histories. Unfortunately, this rather discriminates against older institutions which are also often disadvantaged in the rankings for being, well, old.
So, it’s time to right this wrong by producing the all new top 20 of universities over 500 years old. Let’s hear it for the ancients!
And the good news is that European universities once again dominate and Italy in particular does extremely well. It is also another good year for the University of Bologna, the grandaddy of them all, which is top of the heap for a record-breaking 925th year. Let’s look at the full top 20:
Uncontrolled expansion of athletics can cause real problems
Interesting piece in Inside Higher Ed on a paper which looks at the academic damage of an expanding independent athletics program with a particular focus on Berkeley:
When describing the approach that administrators at the University of California at Berkeley took to the university’s sports program, John Cummins consistently uses a somewhat unexpected term: ambivalent.
Unexpected, says Cummins, a former associate chancellor at the university, because Berkeley, like all other big-time football programs in the major athletic conferences, is in a “spending race” on facilities, coaching salaries and conference-related travel in order to lure – or, as the paper puts it, “in the hopes of luring” – the best recruits.
Because the university continues to admit underprepared students because of their athletic prowess, he says, despite football boasting the lowest graduation rate (44 percent) of athletes of any Division I program this year, and despite athletes consistently graduating at lower rates (especially black athletes) than non-athletes do.
And because administrators have allowed the athletics department to move further and further outside the institution and operate simply as a business, he argues, no matter what deficits, internal conflicts, scandals and National Collegiate Athletic Association violations ensue.
Given the general direction of things, that all sounds pretty purposeful, not evidence of ambivalence.
It’s a pretty scary piece overall but really does feel like a completely different world to the UK experience. Could it happen here? I don’t think so and certainly not at such scale. But it is conceivable that institutions may compromise on admissions standards in order to recruit sporting stars.
2 University College Cork National University of Ireland Ireland
3 Northeastern University US
4 University of Bradford UK
5 University of Connecticut US
6 Universite de Sherbrooke Canada
7 University of Plymouth UK
8 University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill US
9 University of California, Davis US
10 North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State Univ US
The details of the table can be found at UI GreenMetric site. The aim of the ranking is, at least in part, to promote sustainability in universities:
The aim of this ranking is to provide the result of online survey regarding the current condition and policies related to Green Campus and Sustainability in the Universities all over the world. It is expected that by drawing the attention of university leaders and stake holders, more attention will be given to combating global climate change, energy and water conservation, waste recycling, and green transportation. Such activities will require change of behavior and providing more attention to sustainability of the environment, as well as economic and social problem related to the sustainability. We believe that the universities that are leading the way in this regard need to be identifiable and so we have decided to make a start in doing this. Initially, we will collect numeric data from thousands of universities world wide and process the data provided to arrive at a single score that reflects the efforts being made by the institution to implement environmentally friendly and sustainable policies and programs. Universities will be ranked according to this score. We hope that the rankings will be useful to university leaders in their efforts to put in place eco-friendly policies and manage behavioral change among the academic community at their respective institutions.
The methodology, criteria and scoring can be found here but in summary the approach is as follows:
We selected criteria that are generally thought to be of importance by universities concerned with sustainability. These include the collection of a basic profile of the size of the university and its zoning profile, whether urban, suburban, rural. Beyond this we want to see the degree of green space. The next category of information concerns electricity consumption because of its link to our carbon footprint. Then we want to know about transport, water usage, waste management and so on. Beyond these indicators, we want to get a picture about how the university is responding to or dealing with the issue of sustainability through policies, actions, and communication.
Overall a good result for UK institutions and Nottingham in particular (as well as for Bradford and Plymouth in the top 10 and Bath in 15th and Bangor in 19th place). The number of institutions participating this year has again increased and it does rather look as if this league table is becoming more established.
More recently, there has been a series of books intended to capture the humorous and darker side of British higher education life:
A comic portrayal of modern university life seen through the eyes of a Professor of Christian Ethics. Married to the daughter of a baronet, he is rich, successful and eminent. Yet, as he approaches retirement, he is caught up in a conspiracy involving sexual harassment, victimisation and fraud. As he seeks to escape from the web of deceit that surrounds him, he uncovers the dark side of the modern university.
Written anonymously by a prominent academic this comic novel exposes the petty jealousies, excitement and intrigue of campus life in the twenty-first century.
I failed to get excited by the extracts of this series I have read. However, others were more enthusiastic:
‘I charged through the opening chapters with a growing sense of horror,
paranoia–and recognition. This is a rattling read, and a chilling expose
of political correctness on campus.’ Boris Johnson, [then] Shadow Minister for Higher Education
The ‘action’ (used in the sense of the narrative and in no way intended to imply that anything active actually occurs at Burston Central) takes place during the spring and summer terms. Car parking is still important, and the anarchy over kettle ownership rumbles on. And as for the ‘multi-functional devices’ which have replaced personal printers….maybe they’re working better. Or maybe not.
So, apart from this latter splendid effort, there really hasn’t been a lot to get excited about on the satire front. But then this very amusing video emerged which was an informercial for a fake online for-profit university. As the Chronicle reported:
At first blush, it might seem like an ad for another online university you haven’t heard of. But “Let’s Profit Off Each Other” is, in fact, the slogan of the fictional “For Profit Online University”—the subject of an 11-minute parody infomercial that, according to the blogSplitsider, was created by former writers for The Onion, a satirical website, and has been airing at 4 a.m. recently on the cable-television channel Adult Swim.
And it’s quite brutal. Some of the gags: FPOU is “proudly unaccredited,” and its students use proprietary online “thoughtcoins” to download facts, purchase “class points,” and buy sandwiches from Panera Bread. FPOU’s enrollment policy? “Technically, if you have a credit card, you’re already enrolled.” Faculty? “Don’t like your professor? Our instructors are easy to replace because they’re spread across the whole world. And they have no way to contact each other.”
Traditional universities aren’t spared, either. For instance, an FPOU transfer student’s testimonial about his bricks-and-mortar college experience: “There were constant sexual assaults, suicides, and building collapses.” FPOU, in turn, promises to do away with “crumbling campuses, full of corrupt, anti-Israel professors.”
It really is very good indeed. Unfortunately, the video itself seems to have disappeared at time of writing.
The scandals that sometimes line these pages – from stories about grade inflation to sexual harassment and dodgy overseas dealings – often seem like the plot of a theatrical farce. So it was only a matter of time before a play was written about the current dramas besetting higher education.
Sellout – a “political comedy” by dramatist David Lane – gets its first rehearsed reading at the Exeter Northcott Theatre, University of Exeter on 24 January.
At its heart is Frank, a 48-year-old senior lecturer who has just returned from enforced leave after complaining about the fact that student “Jessica Charter was ushered through to her next year of study despite not just failing but getting one of the lowest marks the department’s ever seen”.
When it comes to students, Frank takes the old-fashioned line that “somewhere in that throng of leggings, ironic flat caps and deck shoes is something we’ve never seen before…We need to push them, it’s what they’re paying for.”
Yet everything the lecturer stands for is under threat, from a head of department who wants him to “closely monitor [his] stakeholder interface” and a younger colleague with an Excel program to “time [her] student allocations to the minute”.
With depression, excessive alcohol, collapsing families and doomed office romances thrown in, it is clear that Mr Lane has an amusingly bleak view of university life that is likely to be familiar to many academics.
Amusingly bleak? Bleak for sure. Anyway, perhaps satire in higher education does have a future.
This year’s report ranks university professor the No. 4 least-stressful job, behind audiologist, hair stylist and jeweler. Seamstress/tailor, dietician, medical records technician, librarian, multimedia artist and drill press operator round out the top 10 least stressful jobs. The No. 1 most stressful job is enlisted member of the military, followed by military general. Unlike last year – when adjunct professors pointed out that uncertain employment and low per-course pay were particularly stressful aspects of their jobs – the ranking notes that it refers specifically to tenured professors.
The 11 factors considered for each of the 200 careers reviewed are as follows:
Travel (the more travel, the higher the stress)
Growth potential (dead-end jobs tend to create more stress)
Working in the public eye
Competitiveness within the organization
Own life at risk
Meeting the public
Life of another is at risk
Given the criteria used it is perhaps not that surprising a result. However, it does not feel remotely accurate or seem at all like the other “low-stress” jobs ranked with it. Whilst academia is a long way from the most stressful jobs in front-line military roles the ranking here doesn’t quite seem to capture the realities of what can be highly challenging work.
Because universities are still difficult, but still worth it
With the latest post, on Robbins, we are now up to a total of 18 pieces to date in the Imperfect University series. Covering a wide range of occasionally relevant issues I do hope there is something for everyone in here. And there is a question at the end. Anyway, do let me know what you think – here are the posts from 2013:
A great exhibition at the Djanogly Gallery, Lakeside
This exhibition is undoubtedly the highlight of Lakeside’s winter season and is the first outing of a terrific collection of contemporary art:
The guiding principle behind the David Ross collection is of art produced during his own lifetime, and it is particularly rich in paintings by artists associated with the Pop Art movement of the 1960s including David Hockney, Peter Blake, Richard Hamilton and Patrick Caulfield. The legacy of these artists and their engagement with commercial and popular forms of visual culture is also apparent in more recent works by Young British Artists – Damien Hirst, Marc Quinn and Gavin Turk.
Other painters who came to prominence in the 60s but who worked in a more expressionist manner, such as Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff, are also richly represented.
This exhibition also includes: Derek Boshier, Gilbert & George, Howard Hodgkin, Allen Jones, R.B. Kitaj, Michael Craig-Martin, Bridget Riley, Mario Testino and Joe Tilson.
There really is some fantastic art here, with my favourites including the Riley, Quinn and Caulfield pictures and the Testino photos.
Further details of the (free) exhibition can be found on the Lakeside website and it is on until the 9th of February. Go and see it if you are in the Nottingham area.
Back in 2007 I posted on Sims 2 University. Since then things have become much more exciting it seems.
This Sims 3: University Life opportunity to “play with university life” all sounds incredibly realistic and enables you to attend lectures, organise protests and experiment with street art. And of course do lots of partying.
Engage in inexplicable activities!
Are your Sims ready for the time of their lives? Heading off to university opens up new opportunities, from social connections to career growth. From class activities to major-specific objects, your Sim will find new ways to learn! And university isn’t just about hitting the books. Join a protest, flirt at a bonfire party—there’s a lot to explore outside of lectures at the student union. With new locations like the bowling alley and SimBurger to visit, and new activities like juice pong and spray painting murals to enjoy, your Sims are sure to have the time of their lives!
It doesn’t get more real than this:
Protest in a realistic fashion about stuff!
Achieve Academic Excellence. Learning is more fun than ever with new major-specific objects, from broadcasting your own radio show as a Communications student to boning up on anatomy using the skeleton as a Science and Medicine major. Your Sims can also learn through class activities, lectures at the student union, and joining in social activities.
Get Ready to Party! Text books and study groups are a big part of university, but sometimes Sims just need to party! From hosting bonfires by the lake to doing juice keg stands at a dorm party, there are lots of ways to have a great time at university.
Make Connections and Network. Grow your social networking skill through texting, blogging, and streaming video. This builds your affiliation with the three social groups on campus—the nerds, the rebels, and the jocks. Building your cred with these groups offers unique advantages, from earning dream jobs to a coveted extra trait.
Actions Matter. Just like in real life, your Sims’ decisions are deeply interconnected. For example, a Fine Arts student benefits from the Avant Garde trait, develops their Street Art skill and cred with the Rebels by tagging and spray painting. Just don’t get caught by the cops!
Reap Benefits After University too! Reach the top job in your career path more easily with faster promotions and a higher entry-level job for university grads. If your Sim becomes a legend with their social group, they may even land a dream job as an art appraiser, sports agent, or video game developer!
Explore the Campus and Town. From striking out at the bowling alley to flirting with the barista at the Roasted Toasted Beans to browsing comic books at Keith’s Komics, there’s a whole new town and campus full of places to explore.
Take selfies in gowns!
All sounds even more of a real university experience than university ever did. That’s my next holiday sorted.
But this new golden age of education has rapidly lost its lustre. Earlier this month, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania reported that the online classes it offered had failed miserably. Only about half of the students who registered ever viewed a lecture and only 4 percent completed a course.
That’s prompted some soul-searching among those who have championed this brave new world of education. The questions that urgently need answering are: what’s gone wrong and how can it be fixed?
Today, Christopher Brinton at Princeton University and a few pals offer their view. These guys have studied the behaviour in online discussion forums of over 100,000 students taking massive open online courses (or MOOCs).
And they have depressing news. They say that participation falls precipitously and continuously throughout a course and that almost half of registered students never post more than twice to the forums. What’s more, the participation of a teacher doesn’t improve matters. Indeed, they say there is some evidence that a teacher’s participation in an online discussion actually increases the rate of decline.
Filtering out the small talk from discussions is identified as one way forward but whether that will improve things remains to be seen. And there will still be some way to go to raise those completion rates. But there is plenty of scope for improvement.
(with thanks to Gerry Webber for alerting me to this piece)
True Crime on Campus §33: Best of 2013 and vote for #1
It’s the time for some reviews of last year’s stuff and 2013 has been another busy year for our hard working Security staff. Here are some of my true crime on campus favourites from the year together with an opportunity to vote for the report you think is the best.
13:50 Security were called to the Trent Building as a staff member reported two parts missing from a coffee machine. Security to follow up.
0345 Security received a complaint from a Med Link Delegate in Hall complaining that they were too hot in their room. Security attended and turned the radiator down and moved the bed away from the radiator.
2140 Report of a “smelly blower “at DLRC. Security attended. The hot air curtain at the entrance to the building was thought to smelling. Officers could not detect any issue with it.
1950 Report from a member of Staff that they had dropped their keys down the lift shaft in the Sir Colin Campbell Building. Security attended and were able to recover the keys.
1641 Patrol Security Officers asked a group of people who were in the Lake at Jubilee Campus to get out and leave the Campus.
2316 Report that a Tutor had been Rugby tackled by a student outside the Hall. The Student was part of the American Football team who were having a Social event. Details of two of the group have been taken and will be passed onto the Warden.
08:51 Security received a fire alarm activation from Computer Science for a room that did not exist. The Porter has reported this problem and the Helpdesk informed. The building was checked and the alarm panel was reset.
1200 Report of a male hiding in bushes. Security attended and spoke to the male. As he had no connection to the University and had been drinking he was told to leave the Campus.
A swan? Go on!
1720 Report of a distressed swan in the Road adjacent to Melton Hall Security attended and moved the swan onto the grassed area. The swan appeared to be uninjured and was eating the grass. Officers checked later on the Swan it had left the area.
0905 Report that Conference Delegates in Hall had items stolen from their rooms. Security attended – it was discovered that the Delegates were on the wrong floor of the Hall. All items were safe in their rooms.
1332 Report of a dog running loose on the grassed area adjacent to DHL. Security attended and an Officer caught the dog but the Council were unable to collect the Dog until Monday. The Officer who caught the Dog decided to take the animal home until it could be collected by the Council.
Very dangerous indeed
1225 Report of a person with a suspected broken ankle on the Downs. Security attended. While dealing with the injured person another person fell injuring their ankle. Both Students were taken to Hospital by Ambulance. Both Students were injured while playing Quidditch.
1950 Request from resident regarding birds in his chimney. Security attended and the bird – a Jackdaw – was apprehended by Officers. The Jackdaw was released by Officers after being removed from the House. At the request of the occupant Contractors were called out to board up the fireplace.
0115 Report of two residents with painful ankles following dancing in the Mooch bar. The residents asked if Security could take them back to the Hall in a Security vehicle – both residents taken back to the Hall.
1750 Report of children swimming in the fountain adjacent to the Humanities Building Security attended and asked the children to get out of the water and not to swim in there.
1415 Report of a male urinating onto the rear of DHL Building. Security attended and spoke to the male. He stated that he needed he needed to urinate and the toilets in DHL were too dirty to use. The male was given advice and told not to do it again.
1220 Patrol Security observed a small child on a tricycle fall into the Lake at Jubilee Campus. The child’s Grandfather got the child out and the Officer was able to get the child’s cycle out of the water. The child was unhurt, just wet. They were taken home by the Grand parent.
2354 Intruder alarm Hallward Library. Cause of activation due to a bat having flown into the area. Security attended. Officers were able to get the bat to leave the Building.
20:50 Security provided access for a student who was locked in the Hallward Library as the Library staff had gone home.
1235 Report of a person trapped in the lift in Tower Building. Security attended. The person trapped was the lift engineer who had attended to repair the lift. A second engineer was able to rectify the fault.
1340 Report of a male strangling Ducks at the Jubilee Campus. Officers attended and spoke to the male who denied it. There was no evidence to confirm the report. The male was told to leave Campus.
Update:‘Report of Theft of £1000 by a Student from his room in Hall on 28/09/13’. A Security Officer from the Covert Team visited the student in his room to conduct further enquires. The student informed him that he had left the money in a top drawer in a bag. The Officer pulled the drawers out and found the money at the back of the drawers. To say the student was elated would be an understatement and he gave the Officer a big hug. Police and Hall Management updated.
0020 Patrol Security Officer observed a male attempting to break into a house. The Officer spoke to the male who stated that this is where all the drugs are. The male then ran from the area and was detained by other Officers who attended. The male was found to be a student from Derby University who was staying with a friend in Hall. This was confirmed by our student. Wardens to be informed. The student from Derby University was extremely drunk.
2145 Report that a student had his hand stuck in a vending machine in Sir Clive Grainger Building. Security attended the Fire Service were called out. The Student managed to free his hand and went to the QMC to be checked due to pain in his wrist.
2120 Report that people were giving out free cider to students in the car park. Security attended. Those who were handing out the cider stated that they had been given permission to do so but had no proof of this so were told to leave Campus. Security are to follow up.
2230 Report that a student thinks they may have Flu in Hall. Security attended.
1130 Report that a mobile phone had been stolen from the Chemistry Building and the owner was tracking the phone. Security attended the Science Site and with the owner concentrated on the area where the phone was tracked too. As Officers closed in on the area the signal from the phone was lost. While making enquires in the area Officers discovered that the owner had in fact purchased lunch in the Coates Cafe and left his phone at the till. The cafe staff had waited for a short period to see if the owner returned when they did not they placed the phone in their safe which was when the signal to it was lost. The phone was retrieved and returned to the owner.
2150 Residents of a Flat contacted the Control room asking for help as their baby would not stop crying. Officers gave the contact number for NHS Direct and attended the flat.
1310 Report that there was a dog in Highfield Lake in distress. Security attended and on arrival Officers observed a male with the dog. The male was spoken to and confirmed he was the owner and he had jumped into the lake to save his dog.
Never a dull moment on campus.
So which is your favourite? I’ve got a selection of the special ones for you to vote on below for no real purpose. Or you could suggest your own. You can choose three.