Tag Archives: Regents

Are Credit Hours Necessary?

Untraditional students seek higher education because they hit a
wall. Once they’ve committed themselves to obtaining a degree, however, they
often hit another wall: the archaic “credit hour” rules enforced by
the U.S. Education Department that demand extended time in classrooms and
discourage self-study and flexible online offerings.

Amy Laitinen of the New America Foundation has written an
important new critique of the system. She calls credit hours “an old, maddeningly irrational system” that
condemns students to “spending large amounts of time and money in pursuit
of degrees that don’t always yield the value promised.” She proposes that
the Education Department consider alternative educational arrangements that
award degrees based on learning outcomes rather than classroom time.

She examines a number of those alternatives. One is New York‘s nationally and regionally accredited Regents College
(now Excelsior College), which awards bachelor’s
degrees on the basis of “exams designed by subject-matter experts from
across the country.” The State University of New York’s Empire State
College allows non-traditional students to earn degrees “through guided
independent study and other modes of learning, including assessing credit for
prior learning.” Especially innovative is the fully accredited Western Governors University,
an all-online institution operated by a nonpartisan consortium of governors of
nineteen western states. Western Governors offers highly individualized
learning plans, in which students are initially assessed for competencies, given
a learning plan that allows them to acquire the competencies they don’t
possess, and then allowed to master those competencies at their own speed.
“Graders unconnected to the students determine whether or not a student
has met WGU standards,” Laitinen writes. Western Governors has managed to
comply with the credit-hour rules by using faculty as mentors–with the result that
its students qualify for federal aid under current Education Department rules.

One might fault Laitinen’s report for yielding to the Education
Department. It might be more fruitful to question whether one really needs a
college degree to become a paralegal rather than make it easier to obtain an
expensive degree in paralegal studies. Wouldn’t working in a law office
suffice? Still, it is encouraging that there is a movement to bypass the
outmoded credit-hour system and to support the 86 percent of undergraduates who
lack access to the traditional college experience.

The Radicalization of the University of California

University_of_California_Seal.svg.pngAre the 234,000 students enrolled in the massive University of California system receiving an education or a re-education?

It’s the latter–or something fairly close–according to “A Crisis of Competence,” a report just released by the California Association of Scholars (CAS), the Golden State affiliate of the National Association of Scholars. The devastating 87-page report addressed to UC’s Board of Regents, concludes that leftist political indoctrination represents a significant portion of the curriculum at the nine UC campuses that admit undergraduates. Here are some major points:

— UC-Santa Cruz offers no fewer than five introductory courses devoted
exclusively to the thinking of Karl Marx. You can take a basic course on
Marx in the politics, sociology, community studies, legal studies, or
history of consciousness departments–or if, you wish, take all five
courses simultaneously in all five departments, several of which also
offer advanced courses on Marx’s works. “Adolescent Marxist nostalgia
still evidently reigns on campus and impedes a return to reality–but
where are the adults who might be pointing out that it is time to grow
up and move on to thinkers who have been able to withstand the test of
time and to remain more relevant to modern life?” the report asks.

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More Subterfuge at UCal

Although my years of service on the University of California (UC) Board of Regents were the most tumultuous years of my life, my pride in the Board and the university that it serves has, until now, never wavered. But, a recent meeting and action by the Board has caused that feeling of pride to diminish.
At several UC campuses, a variety of incidents occurred several weeks ago that were characterized as creating a “toxic” racial climate for black students. The source of the “toxicity” came in the form of an off-campus party called the “Compton Cookout” and a noose found hanging inside the library at the UCSD campus.
In a little over a three-week period, racial epithets were allegedly directed at black students at UCSD; and, at other UC campuses, a swastika was carved into a Jewish student’s door and derogatory graffiti was found at the gay and lesbian students’ center.
These alleged incidents resulted in a delegation of students, faculty members and UC staff attending a meeting of the Board of Regents in late March to complain that the Regents weren’t doing enough to create a climate that nurtures “inclusiveness,” for minorities, such as blacks and gays/lesbians. With no effort to validate the assertions, several regents gushed into a state of apologia, as is customary for university governing board members in such circumstances.

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A Tangled Web At Berkeley

In his Prologue to the Canterbury Tales Geoffrey Chaucer distills the betrayal of trust by corrupt public servants into a memorable expression: “If gold rust, what shall iron do?” This is the metaphor that his honest parson lives by, and it reflects on the venal churchmen among the pilgrims who betray the ideals of the church and set a terrible example when they should be a guiding light. This theme—one of high expectations for integrity cruelly disappointed—is timeless: it is exemplified yet again by the sorry tale of malfeasance in the Chancellor’s office at UC Berkeley that follows. Yet Chaucer’s miscreants are not cardinals and bishops, but only a lowly monk, friar and pardoner, while Chancellor Robert Birgeneau of UC Berkeley is the leader of the flagship campus of the greatest public system of higher education in the world. And while Chaucer’s folk cloak their transgressions in the mantle of devotion, Birgeneau wraps his in the mantle of diversity.
Already in late 2007 California’s deteriorating budget led to reductions in UC’s state support, and President Robert Dynes announced that his system-wide staff would be reduced. A severance pay incentive was offered to those who retired voluntarily, but when the Regents were asked by recently appointed President Mark Yudof in November 2008 to approve severance pay of $100,202 for Linda Williams, alarm bells went off: Williams had transferred from her job as Associate President in system headquarters to the position of Associate Chancellor at nearby UC Berkeley without missing a day’s employment. She sought severance pay though she had never been severed. Astonishingly, President Yudof recommended it and the Regents approved the recommendation.
It said much about the entitlement mindset at UC that top administrators were surprised by the outcry that followed. The public easily grasped that it was offensive for Williams to ask for $100K of public money as a “severance package,” but that simple point seemed lost on UC’s leadership. President Yudof hid behind the notion that the rules for UC’s buyout program were not his responsibility, having been written before he took office. That left an obvious question unanswered: why didn’t he tell Williams that what she was asking was unseemly, and that it would be an embarrassment to the university if he sought regent approval of this payment when a deepening financial crisis was forcing an increase in student fees? The culture of administrative self-serving in the President’s office that had brought down the presidency of Bob Dynes was apparently still in place—a great disappointment for those who hoped that Yudof would be a new broom.

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Due Process Fades In Wisconsin

The Board of Regents and officials of the University of Wisconsin system have recently proposed two sweeping changes to the system’s student misconduct codes. The first change is a new code covering student misconduct outside of university property (UWS 18). The second involves some major changes in the present Student Nonacademic Disciplinary Code, UWS 17.
There is nothing inherently wrong with periodic revisions of codes, for institutions need to adapt their rules to deal with changes in their environment. And no one argues that universities must abide by the same rigorous procedural standards as the criminal justice system. As the Supreme Court has consistently maintained over the years, the extent of due process depends upon the institutional setting.
That said, critics have raised some points that merit serious attention, especially about UWS 17. These concerns address both specific provisions in the reforms as well as broader questions about the state of universities today. Let me address just three of the specific concerns first.

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Regents Asleep At The Switch

By Anne Neal

Question: What happens when you take a world-class public university, let political correctness run amok, and give it regents who are asleep at the switch?

Answer: You get the University of California.

Over the last week, UC faculty, administrators and regents have illustrated, in gory and public detail, a principle one would think is common sense: When universities focus on ideology, not excellence, everybody loses.

It’s no secret that UC Irvine’s new law school offered its deanship to Duke professor Erwin Chemerinsky and then retracted it – amidst signs of political interference. Then, to make matters worse, the UC Regents rescinded an invitation to former Harvard president Lawrence Summers after faculty objected to his views.

Now, after a national outcry, UC has apparently re-hired Chemerinsky – but it has not restored its invitation to Summers.
Which of course begs another question: Why would either man even want to come to a place that is run this way? Yet, the events of the past week – however disturbing – are totally predictable in light of UC’s history.

In the 1960s, UC Regents handed vast academic and financial authority over to faculty and staff. The results of this terrific abdication are now on full display. UC boasts what Regents chairman Richard Blum recently called a “dysfunctional” bureaucracy – a bloated administrative system with runaway salaries and perks. It also hosts a faculty senate that voted to eliminate a historic prohibition against “propaganda” in the classroom – on the grounds that it is outdated.

In that kind of environment, is it any wonder that deans and speakers are picked based on whose views are popular?

Likewise, we should not be surprised when a 2004 poll conducted by the University of Connecticut of students at UCLA, Berkeley and other institutions finds a substantial number who complain that book lists and panel discussions are “totally one-sided.” Or when “conservative” students are affirmatively discouraged from taking a course on Palestinian poetics, as they were at Berkeley in 2003.

Given this environment, it’s no surprise that decisions like those involving Chemerinsky and Summers are made. Instead of simply expressing outrage when such violations of fair procedure occur, we should recognize them as the logical outcome of decades of poor oversight and spineless accommodation of special interests.

And we should agree that enough is enough. That’s what the American Council of Trustees and Alumni told the Regents last Friday. In a letter addressed to Chairman Blum, we urged the Regents to put a stop to the degrading, damaging nonsense once and for all.
The Regents can do that by initiating a thorough review to ensure that political and ideological concerns don’t trump free inquiry on UC’s campuses – that personnel decisions are made on the basis of merit, not ideological congeniality, and that the classroom is home to healthy, rounded inquiry rather than proselytizing.

Regents are responsible for the academic and financial well-being of their institutions – and it’s time for UC’s board members to prove they’re up to the task. They must ensure that their university is actually a university – that it is open to multiple viewpoints, and that it fosters the free exchange of ideas. Doing that is not rocket science, and the nation is watching to see whether they get it right.

Ward Churchill And The Diversity Agenda

This week, as expected, the University of Colorado regents dismissed Professor Ward Churchill from his tenured position in the Ethnic Studies Department. (A university committee had found that Churchill committed plagiarism and misused sources.) And, as expected, Churchill has filed suit, alleging First Amendment violations.

The move against Churchill – who first attracted attention after describing those who perished (except for the terrorists) in the World Trade Center attack as “Little Eichmanns” – came over the opposition of the ACLU, which charged that the “poisoned atmosphere” of the inquiry into Churchill’s scholarship rendered meaningless the committee’s findings. ACTA president Anne Neal, on the other hand, welcomed the dismissal as “a very positive message that higher education is cleaning up its own.”

The viewpoints of both organizations raise additional questions. The ACLU’s position, if established as a precedent, would invite academics who (like Churchill) had engaged in research misconduct to issue inflammatory public statements, in the hopes that a public outcry (preferably from “right-wingers”) could then provide a First Amendment shield for their academic misdeeds.

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