Student Course Evaluations — How Much Should We Value CourseEval?

By Ning Zeng, Atmospheric & Oceanic Science, UMCP

Course evaluations have been with us for almost 100 years, and for most of those years there has been an uneasy relationship between faculty members and administrators, and faculty members and their students. Are the ratings a valid scientific basis of determining the quality of teaching? Should they be relied upon for promotion, tenure, and salary decisions? Are the anticipation of ratings a cause of grade inflation? Prof. Zeng wades into this controversy. Other views are of course welcome.

Overemphasis on student course evaluation numbers may cause an evolution towards less competent graduates. Over the last few years, UMCP has fully implemented the student CourseEval system in which students rank the classroom teacher. This information provides useful input on faculty teaching. It is particularly attractive for administrative purpose because the numbers offer themselves as unbiased quantitative measures that can be easily used for many purposes such as ranking and decision-making. However, there are a number of potential pitfalls in using these evaluations. Here I offer a few observations.

Cartoon by Roger Lewis

Cartoon by Roger Lewis

 

The ‘quantitativeness’ may lead to over-confidence in its information content: Even though it comes as numbers, the evaluation starts from 5 subjective choices (0 for ‘strongly disagree,’ 4 for ‘strongly agree,’ etc.) that are digitized and averaged. The average student response rate is 60-70%,. The standard deviation is often high. For a typical average of 3 points (out of 4) and a standard deviation of 1, the individual evaluation can be as high as 4 (but not higher), or lower than 2. On the other hand, the campus has a policy to toss out the evaluations from courses with less than five students. This makes sense statistically, but it misses many graduate courses that do not have large enrollments, but nonetheless provide critically important advanced training – especially at  thePh. D. level.

The sense of ‘unbiased’ evaluation is not warranted: Because the evaluation is anonymous, and conducted before the final grades are given, it is considered less prone to bias compared to, e.g., solicitation during the course where unhappy students are afraid of speaking out for fear of a negative impact on their grades.

However, the situation may be significantly more complex. For example, in a ‘difficult’ class, some students may feel so challenged and unhappy so as to give a poor evaluation of the instructor, only to discover later that their grades are not bad at all because the grades are largely relative. Ironically, I know of a situation where students in the class were highly challenged by the course material from the very beginning, and several of them complained bitterly. Realizing that they would do poorly in the class, they dropped out before the deadline for class withdrawal. The remaining students liked the class and gave high evaluations.
It is well known that the response rate is influenced by a ‘motivation gap’ as disgruntled students are more motivated to do the evaluation. Another observation is that negative comments are typically much longer with many complaints, while the positive comments are typically short, like ‘I enjoyed the class.’

High impact of negative evaluations: Potential consequences of this ‘motivation gap’ can be seen in an example illustrated in Figure 1. In a hypothetical situation with 30,000 students, if only the lower 75% of the class actually do the evaluation, i.e., the 25% that would give higher marks do not participate, the average score would be 0.55 points lower (2.45 as opposed to 3.00). If only the lower 50% participate, the average would be 0.80 points lower (2.20).

When the sample size is small, this situation becomes more stochastic. A total of 60 Monte Carlo simulations were conducted for a class of 20, again drawn out of a normal distribution of mean=3, standard deviation=1, as above. The upper panels in Figure 2 show a realization similar to the large sample case above. A more interesting case is shown in the lower panels of Figure 2, where the spread is relatively large. Even though there are only three very low scores (0 and 1), their impact on the average is high because one 0 needs three 4s to balance out, and one 1 needs two 4s to balance out (there are no 5s or 6s). When considering the ‘motivation gap’ which causes the potential higher scores not to be included, this impact is even more drastic. At a response rate of 75% from the lower scores, the average is now 0.62 points lower than the already not-so-high value of 2.70. The average is 0.9 points lower for the 50% response rate.

This high impact of extremely negative values on the average has the effect of driving the instructor to try hard not to ‘alienate’ the poor-performing students. It also makes it less likely that the instructor will make great effort tailored at the better students. This is a particularly important dilemma for classes that are designed for motivated majors but also open to a broader student body.

Evolution towards a feel-good education model? Unfortunately, as the only “quantitative” measure, these numbers are being increasingly used as a key criterion in decision-making processes including merit increase and promotion. In contrast, traditional tools such as evaluation from peers, input from exiting students, and assessment by the unit are deemed not reliable because they may come from the instructor’s ‘friends’ or the happier students. They also require more effort to evaluate, and are thus being less and less used now.

Gradually, this will steer our teaching style towards getting the best student evaluation, not what is best for our students. Do the two goals coincide?

America is facing an increasingly competitive international environment. Our graduates are finding themselves not equipped with the strong technical skills demanded by a challenging information age, especially in the STEM areas. Overemphasis on CourseEval will steer our faculty members to tailor their teaching towards making the less-competitive students happy by, for example, focusing on easier and feel-good material, as opposed to challenging them and preparing them for the real world.

Screen Shot 2014-04-19 at 12.39.34 PM

Figure 1   Distributions of a hypothetical course evaluation, assuming Gaussian distribution with mean 3.00 and standard deviation 1.00. The sample size (number of students) is 30,000.  Potential biases due to a ‘motivation gap’ leads to an apparent mean lower by 0.55 if only the lower 75% students respond, and by 0.80 if only the lower 50% students respond.

Zeng Figure 2 Part1

Zeng Figure 2 Part 2

Figure 2   Two hypothetical but realistic examples. Number of students in class is 20, and each response is 1 of 5 choices (0-4, corresponding to ‘strongly disagree’ to ‘strongly agree’). The random samples are drawn from the same Gaussian distribution as in Fig.1 (mean=3, standard deviation=1). Upper 3 panels: the spread is moderate and the biases due to ‘motivation gap’ are similar to the large sample case in Fig.1. Lower 3 panels: the spread is large and the biases are heavily influenced by the few low ratings.

Is There Productive Life After Retirement?

By Tom O’Haver, Prof. Emeritus/UMCP

Retirement means going into cold storage, perhaps with tubes? Social and professional networks and the brain shrivel. Well, not for everyone! Professor Emeritus O’Haver is living the new retirement experience, that is, continued activity but without many deadlines and required meetings, and more flexibility in what one does when. Those who have retired or plan to do so soon will surely be encouraged by Tom’s post-professorial life. It should be noted that O’Haver is writing from Naples, Florida, as Maryland awaits the next snowstorm or heatwave.   –ed

When I retired from the University in 1999, after 30 years of service as a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, I looked forward to spending more time with my family, traveling, and perhaps enjoying some craft or outdoor activity. I landscaped my back woods in Maryland and my wife and I taught some adult education courses. But I also wanted to do something more related to my own training and academic interests, something that I would enjoy, that might provide some mental stimulation, and that I could do myself without a laboratory, graduate students, or post docs.

One ancillary craft that I enjoyed doing in my academic work in analytical chemistry was computer programming. I became involved with the laboratory applications of microprocessors when they came out in the 1970’s, especially their applications to laboratory data acquisition, manipulation, and processing. Computer programming, it turns out, provides many opportunities for puzzle-solving challenges, at least as much as doing crossword puzzles, and as an added benefit, the results might even be useful to other people.

So, spending 3-4 hours per day in the quiet early mornings, I expanded and developed some earlier work into an online tutorial on computer-based signal processing in Web and printed formats, and a collection of downloadable programs, scripts, spreadsheets, and working examples. Of course there are commercial programs that do this sort of thing, but they tend to be expensive, complex, and difficult to learn. My programs are free, designed to be easy to use, and are well documented. No one likes to read manuals, so I provide my programs with lots of working examples and animated demonstrations, from the simple to more complex.

With a handy laptop computer, and with Internet connections available almost everywhere, I can do this sort of work almost anytime and anywhere, so my wife and I can keep on splitting our year (between Maryland in the summer and Naples, FL, in the winter) and traveling – to 23 countries on 5 continents. And the best part is that there is no fixed time schedule; I can work when and if I want.

Over the years, my work has been viewed and downloaded by researchers, instructors and students in over 100 countries. I have received thousands of emails with encouragement, questions, suggestions, and even experimental data that helped to correct, expand, clarify, and develop my material to be more useful for the needs of various fields of investigation. By now, I have a total of 70 Mbytes of downloadable written material and programs, my web pages are viewed 1000-1500 times per day, and my programs and related materials are downloaded 1000 times per month. Most satisfyingly, my programs have been cited in over 70 publications and journal articles since 2008.

One thing that surprised me was the very wide range of research fields that have found my programs useful: industrial, environmental, medical, engineering, earth science, space, military, financial, agriculture, and even music and linguistics, based on emails, citing journal articles, and the ISPs of major web visitors. This goes far beyond my training and experience. Most interesting to me were the researchers who sent samples of experimental data from their own laboratories. This gave me the opportunity to work with types of data that I could never have encountered in my own work, and it was immensely useful in expanding the range of my programs and techniques.

 

 

We Must Do More To Improve Student Learning

By Stephen Roth, UMCP/Kinesiology*

For the past few years, higher education has come under the microscope of public scrutiny. Concerns have been raised about the affordability and quality of higher education, the need for post-secondary education, and perhaps most importantly whether students are actually learning at the university. These are important questions and even in a state that is generally quite supportive of investments in higher education, we need to be responsive to these questions and articulate the value of higher education for our many stakeholders.

Fundamentally, we need to provide evidence of student learning and growth in order to demonstrate the importance and value of higher education. University instructors have very little control over education policy or public opinion, but they do have a direct impact on student learning in and out of their classrooms. Today more than ever, instructors have an amazing suite of educational tools available to enhance the educational experience of our students. From online learning management systems (e.g., ELMS at my campus) to in-classroom response systems to video lectures to sophisticated technology-based group work, instructors are doing amazing things in the classroom. But if these technologies and innovative pedagogy’s aren’t contributing to student learning, then they only add to the concerns about the value and impact of higher education.

How do we know that a student has learned material; that our teaching approaches are improving student learning? How do we know that our techniques in and out of the classroom are contributing to critical thinking, intellectual growth, the ability to innovate and solve problems, and, ultimately, engaged citizens and life-long learners? Instructors need to be able to assess both their teaching effectiveness and student learning, which go hand-in-hand. Assessment at its simplest comes from student exams or projects, from which the instructor gauges “learning,” while the effectiveness of the instructor’s teaching is informed by student evaluations. But this level of assessment, both of teaching and learning, is relatively weak and provides little information from which to inform teaching and to understand student learning.

Relatively few instructors in higher education, especially research-based faculty members, have much formal training in teaching. Much of what we do in the classroom we learned through experience, effectively repeating those techniques that either worked for us as students or that we saw as effective in our classroom. We can and must to do better. We have decades of research on student learning that can inform our practices as instructors. Universities need to put forward the resources for instructors to learn and incorporate the best techniques for promoting student learning, and nearly all campuses have centers for teaching and learning to support this task. Moreover, universities must provide incentives and time for professional development in teaching; investing in stronger instruction and better learning follows. While some instructors will seek such development independently, teaching and learning centers become critical resources for those instructors who have the desire but lack the time or expertise to improve their teaching. Centers for teaching and learning can do the heavy lifting of identifying best practices, then implementing the training approaches to support faculty development that best suit their campus cultures.

One example of a resource that provides valuable information for both individual instructors and teaching and learning centers is Assessing and Improving Your Teaching, by Phyllis Blumberg (Jossey-Bass, 2013). Blumberg leads the Teaching and Learning Center at the University of the Sciences and has written extensively about faculty development in teaching. Her book provides not only a step-by-step guide to self-assessment of teaching and teacher development, but also a broad overview of the essential aspects of effective teaching, the combination of which results in a book valuable for both instructor and faculty developer alike. For example, instructors of all levels will benefit from brief discussions of the use of learning objectives and outcomes, educational technologies, feedback to students, student reflections, and assessment to promote learning. Fundamentally, Blumberg promotes the concept of “evidence-based teaching,” which argues for the use of a scholarly approach to teaching with both classroom data and literature used to inform teaching practices and enhance student learning over time. She walks through the use of assessment rubrics provided in the book to facilitate this process, and provides a clear path for instructors to become life-long learners themselves and approach instructional improvement as a guiding principle throughout their career. Especially valuable is a series of specific case studies outlining teacher assessment and growth, which provide tangible evidence of the value of the approach Blumberg advocates.

I’m not so naïve to think that instructors will line up to purchase this book, or spend quality time with any of the other classic resources in this area (e.g., Classroom Assessment Techniques by Angelo and Cross; Student Engagement Techniques by Barkley). Instead, my intention is to make instructors aware that they can and should do more to improve student learning in the classroom, and their campus has the resources to help them. Whether to improve course evaluations as part of the promotion process or contribute to an engaged citizenry, instructors have varied motivations for improving student learning and all should be valued. Ultimately, by investing a small amount of time with a teaching and learning center, instructors will reap large returns in the form of improved student learning, more efficient and effective instruction, and a more satisfying experience as a teacher.

Of course, there is no intent to have all faculty members teach in the same way. People differ, subject matter differs, and student levels differ as well. There are many ways to be a good teacher, but most if not all of us can improve our teaching.

An improved classroom experience is an improved educational experience, which addresses, in part, public opinion about the concerns of the impact and importance of higher education in the 21st century. Our ability to respond effectively to these external pressures comes from the demonstration of student learning, which is strongly facilitated by our instructors. I encourage universities to support professional development of teaching, and instructors to seek out a consultation with their teaching and learning center. A small investment of time discussing course objectives, structure, and goals will result in meaningful improvements in student learning and instructor satisfaction.

*Interim Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning

Merit Pay

By James Manley & Finn Christensen. Towson/Economics

Merit pay in academia ought to be awarded based primarily on observable metrics like teaching evaluations and publications, but our recent study of this issue indicates just nominal adherence to these norms. Instead, merit awards appear to be influenced by salary compression and other factors unrelated to productivity.

Finn Christensen

Finn Christensen

The goal of merit pay is to reward quality employees and to direct employee effort to the priorities of the institution.  In academic settings the priorities tend to be research and teaching, and for tenured faculty members in particular incentives may be important.  Merit pay is a good idea: it can motivate above average performers (Marsden French and Kubo 2001) and can even be a more effective means of improving schools than upgrading equipment or facilities (Lavy 2002). However, merit systems may skew effort towards the appearance of yearly results versus risk-taking or long-term investment (Foldesi 1996). In addition, the larger the share of compensation taken up by merit pay, the more effort may be shifted from education to currying favor with one’s evaluators (Adnett 2003).  This issue may be especially acute in academia since in many cases peers evaluate each other.  For this reason it is especially important for merit awards to be tied to observable metrics rather than subjective evaluations whenever possible.

James Manley

To learn more about how merit pay is allocated in academia, we gathered data from a large public university with over 500 faculty members. Our first set of data is an anonymous university-wide panel containing only a few variables for each observation: year, college, department, tenure status, and merit status (no merit, merit, or merit plus). We limit our sample to departments with five or more faculty members since smaller departments seem to operate under different dynamics. (See the full paper for more information.) The unit of observation in these tables is the department-year, the set of merit decisions made by a departmental committee in one year, so the average “percent tenured” is the share of tenured faculty members in the mean department-year. The last four columns (see Page 2) similarly reflect means of statistics calculated by department-year.  In each year, the highest level of merit is awarded to two-thirds of the sample and is more prevalent among tenured faculty members; three-quarters of tenured professors receive merit plus while only half of untenured professors receive the same.

Table 1: Sample Statistics for the Trimmed Full University Sample (N=100)

Award Year

# faculty in sample

# depts

Avg % tenured

Avg %

merit plus

Avg % tenured MP

Avg % untenured MP

2007

476

32

64%

64%

76%

57%

2008

503

33

60%

68%

79%

56%

2009

548

35

56%

66%

79%

54%

MP = Merit Plus. *Last column from untrimmed sample (N=117).­

If merit decisions are based on productivity, this discrepancy in merit plus awards could be due to superior performance among tenured faculty.  To evaluate this possibility, we obtained a second dataset containing anonymous information from one college from 2005 – 2009. It includes individual faculty members’ teaching evaluations, publications, and merit status.

Teaching evaluations are filled out by students on one of the last days of the semester. Students are asked to rate their “Overall perception of the instructor” on a 5 point Likert scale with 1 being “Poor” and 5 being “Excellent.”  The mean of student responses is taken, yielding a number between 1 and 5. Publications are limited to peer-reviewed journal publications, a criterion mentioned in this college’s policy document.

Summary statistics by tenure status are shown in Table 2.  T-tests, both raw and clustered at the department level, show that only the last difference is statistically significant at the 10% level.

Table 2: Micro-data on faculty-years in College A

N

Mean teaching evaluation score

Peer-reviewed journals

Merit award

Untenured Professors

34

4.27

0.85

44%

Tenured Professors

130

4.22

0.75

58%

As a first formal test of the data, we regress merit status on teaching evaluation scores and peer-reviewed journal publications. As reported in column 1 of Table 3, we find that journal publications are significant at the 5% level, while evaluation scores are significant at the 1% level. Both have the expected positive signs, showing that publications and teaching evaluations do matter. When we include a dummy variable for tenure in column 2, we find that the first two variables retain their signs and levels of significance, and that the tenure variable is positive and significant at the 10% level. If variation in merit awards is due only to variation in productivity, we would not expect to see the tenure variable significant. However, its significance is marginal, so we still cannot draw a strong conclusion.

More striking to us are the results from the last row of Table 3. While both publications and teaching evaluations are positively and significantly associated with MP status, together they explain a relatively low share of variation in MP status attribution. 164 observations are still not as many as we would like, but the fact that our set of explanatory variables is only sufficient to explain 10% of the variation in MP designation is troubling.

Table 3: Micro-data Probit Regression Results2

(1)

(2)

Peer-reviewed journal articles (PRJ) 0.11***  (0.04) 0.12*** (0.04)
Evaluation score 0.33*** (0.10) 0.34*** (0.10)
Tenured 0.18* (0.10)
Pseudo-R2 0.10 0.11

 

 

 

 

 

* Significant at 10% level; ** at 5%; *** at 1% level. N = 164 faculty years for all regressions.

If productivity differences are of limited use in explaining MP decisions, are there other variables systematically related to MP decisions?   We examine whether salary compression could be such a variable.

When junior faculty members’ salaries are close to or higher than that of more senior faculty members, this condition is called salary compression, and unsurprisingly it is frustrating to senior faculty. Tenured faculty members may have the incentive to address compression through merit pay. If the merit committee acts on this incentive, we expect to see a low share of untenured professors getting merit designations particularly where compression is apparent.

Using publicly available salary data, we generated an index of compression for each department-year in the university data, a ratio ranging from 1.10 to 2.09. We then divided the share of tenured faculty receiving MP by the share of untenured faculty receiving MP, and regressed this outcome upon an indicator for the most compression. The indicator was significant at the 10% level when it was alone, and when we included college and year effects, the size of the coefficient nearly doubles and the statistical significance improved to the 2% level. It seems that a larger degree of compression is associated with increased awarding of MP to tenured versus untenured faculty members.

Table 4: Regression Results including Compression Ratios2 

Dependent variable:

% of tenured getting MP

% of tenured getting MP

Share of tenured MP/  Share untenured MP

Share of tenured MP/  Share untenured MP

Most compressed quintile

-0.08 (0.06)

0.16** (0.07)

1.35* (0.76)

2.64** (1.09)

Year indicators

Included

Included

College indicators

Included

Included

N

100

100

87

87

R2

0.02

0.41

0.04

0.10

** = significant at 5% level; * = significant at 10% level.

 

So how can a merit policy be designed more efficiently?  This is a question for future research but we provide some initial thoughts here.  This paper identifies a few crucial considerations. First, merit policy designers should strive to make the policy as transparent as possible on paper. Second, the policy should be designed so that those who implement the policy (merit committees) have little incentive to deviate from its prescriptions. Third, for merit pay to serve its intended purpose, we must address the separate issue of salary compression.

For more of our results, see “The Allocation of Merit Pay in Academia: A Case Study,” Finn Christensen, James Manley, and Louise Laurence. Economics Bulletin 31(2): 1548-1562. 2011.

This shows the results of four separate probit regressions with merit status as the dependent variable. In each box are the marginal effects coefficients with the standard errors in parentheses. All regressions include department size, which is always negatively signed but statistically insignificant (generally significant at the 15% level). Results change very little when OLS regression is used instead, or when department size is left out. Results are also robust to the inclusion of department dummy variables, which are insignificant.

2 The mean (SD) of the first dependent variable is 0.77 (0.25), while that of the second dependent variable is 3.0 (3.0), so effects are relatively large in magnitude as well.

 

Works Cited:

Adnett, Nick. 2003. “Reforming teachers’ pay: incentive payments, collegiate ethics, and UK policy.” Cambridge Journal of Economics 27: 145-157.

Foldesi, Robert. 1996. “Higher Education Compensation Systems of the Future.” CUPA Journal  Summer 47(2): 29-32.

Lavy, Victor. 2002. “Evaluating the Effect of Teachers’ Group Performance Incentives on Pupil Achievement.” Journal of Political Economy December 110(6): 1286-1317.

Marsden, David, Stephen French, and Katsuyuki Kubo. 2001. “Does Performance Pay De-Motivate, and Does It Matter?” Center for Economic Performance/ LSE Working paper, August, 43pp.

 

 

What About Today’s University Libraries?

By Lucy Holman, U. Baltimore/Langsdale Library*

There is much debate in academe and society in general as to how the library of the future will look. Will it be bookless, filled only with technology and coffee bars? Will it even be a physical space at all? Will librarians work with researchers remotely or will they rove from location to location within the university? Unfortunately, I was neither an early investor in Google nor did I predict the rise of social media when beginning my library career in the 1990s; I cannot begin to imagine what the academic library will look like in 25 years. The last 25 have been too tumultuous to suggest that such a prediction is possible. However, looking at the near future of the next 3-5 years, I can provide a glimpse into the world of academic libraries from a director’s perspective.

Academic librarians across the country are embracing new technologies and new roles that continue to change the nature of their work and their libraries. Collection librarians spend a greater percentage of budgets on e-books, online journal subscriptions and full-text article databases. Here, the University System of Maryland and Affiliated Institutions (USMAI), which is made up of the 14 libraries of the 11 USM institutions as well as St Mary’s College of Maryland and Morgan State University, has launched a pilot e-book where usage initiates each purchase. We are withdrawing or moving less-frequently-used materials offsite and are dedicating more library space to student and faculty use, whether it be for individual and group study, computing or labs for innovative technologies such as interactive multimedia or 3-D printing.

The term “library as place” has been a recurring image in libraries for the last decade. While very few librarians still see the library as a repository for sources (although there is a national need to preserve some print copies of important works), many would strongly advocate for physical library spaces to continue to be central to the university community. I recently read an article that highlighted three themes in the future of library buildings: collaboration (facilitating group learning), creation (facilitating student-produced works), and contemplation (providing spaces that inspire students to think and create). (Carlin & Macke, 2014). In essence, we are moving from locations that house materials to spaces of activity and learning.

Information literacy continues to play a large role in the work of many librarians in our libraries. At some institutions, including my own University of Baltimore, there is an undergraduate credit-bearing course that focuses student learning on the foundation skills of articulating an information need, finding and evaluating information sources to satisfy that need, and using information effectively and ethically in developing new knowledge. At other institutions, information literacy and critical thinking skills are woven throughout the undergraduate curriculum.

Libraries today are much more involved in the assessment of student learning and the library’s role in student retention and student success. National instruments such as the National Student Survey of Engagement (NSSE) show that library use has a positive impact on student retention. Several of our campuses (Towson, UB, UMUC, and St. Mary’s) are participating in a national assessment organized by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) to identify the impact of information literacy instruction on student success.

Academic libraries are also in the forefront of campus efforts to digitize local archival materials and university records. Almost all the libraries in USM have impressive digital collections of unique material that can draw researchers from within the state or across the country. Several also have institutional repositories that curate and provide access to faculty and/or student scholarship.

A few of our campuses are also focusing their efforts on digital curation. For example, the Digital Systems and Stewardship (DSS) Department at the University of Maryland Libraries has launched a Research Data Management Service, which helps faculty members and students in developing and operating data management plans for their research datasets. According to Babak Hamidzadeh, Associate Dean, the service addresses issues of data longevity and access for datasets in various disciplines. “The service was preceded by an extensive business case analysis to identify services, the demand for each service, their costs, and sustainability models. A similar business case analysis and planning is currently underway in DSS for ePublishing. As part of this process, DSS is undertaking pilot projects in open journal publishing and hosting and in managing student publications.”

We are very fortunate to have very collaborative libraries in the system, and the USMAI consortium, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last summer, has been a long-standing vehicle for the Maryland libraries to share resources and expertise. USMAI offers the campus libraries the opportunity to leverage size for savings in library systems and subscriptions and enables increased resource sharing (both materials through intercampus borrowing and interlibrary loan and staff and faculty expertise). Acquisitions and database development performed by consortial staff allow library faculty members at each institution to focus on campus-specific priorities, whether it be mobile development, data curation or work with faculty members on curriculum development or digital scholarship.

So where will our academic libraries be in the next five years? We will continue to see a shift in focus to services and the user experience; a shift from print to digital, a shift to greater emphasis on locally-produced content, and a shift in providing spaces for knowledge creation and community. And we know there will be new disruptive technologies appearing that will change the landscape in ways we cannot today imagine!

For more information about the USMAI library consortium and its 16 member libraries, see here.

*Dr. Holman directs the Langsdale Library and is an Associate Professor in the Division of Science, Information Arts & Technologies

Carlin, J. & Macke, B. (2014, April 2). Books? Or No Books? Envisioning the Academic Library of the Future. Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jane-carlin-and-barb-macke/academic-library-of-the-future_b_5078456.html

Graduate Them!

♦ The University System of Maryland (USM) reports that it “will expand its national leadership role in transforming the post-secondary academic model with the receipt of a $200,616.00 State Systems Transformation Co-creation grant from the Gates Foundation to the USM Foundation. The USM is one of several state systems of higher education that the Gates Foundation has selected to build on existing practices to substantially improve student access and success and effect change in higher education. The grant will help the USM enhance the efforts of individual USM campuses to make college completion more attainable and affordable.”

♦ The National Conference of State Legislators is looking into the “performance” of universities. “Historically, many colleges have received state funding based on how many full-time equivalent students are enrolled at the beginning of the semester. This model provides incentives for colleges to enroll students and thus provide access to postsecondary education, but this model does not necessarily provide incentives for institutions to help students successfully complete degree programs.” Currently in 25 states there are performance requirements for a university or college to receive a portion of its state funding. The primary performance statistic is the per cent of students who complete their degree. So what should admissions officer do? Raise the entry requirements! And what should the undergraduate dean do? Make sure that students graduate somewhat independent of the quality of the work they do! Maybe there will be bribes to encourage students not to drop out. (Of course, professors cannot be bribed to give passing grades! Well, with a bit of merit money?) And of course the local data analyst can do some fancy manipulations. Maryland is not yet imposing such a requirement, but neighbors Pennsylvania and Virginia are.

The Art of Jess Cross Davis

Artemis

Artemis

My paintings tell a story beyond the standard portrait by using projections of light to add another “layer” of information. The abstract imagery invites viewers to relate to the subject on their own terms; viewers must decipher the imagery, like a Rorschach Inkblot, seeing only what their unconscious informs them to see. You no longer have a portrait at face value, and through these portraits a universal mythos of experience can be tied back together between the viewers, subject, and me.

Eclipse

Eclipse

I started the “Goddess” series after the birth of my son, while trying to figure out how to balance being an artist and a mother. While considering this, I somehow linked my experience to that of a mythological goddess. As a goddess, you have to be beautiful yet strong, and you are often a warrior as well as a mother; motherhood is not romanticized now as it was in Ancient Greece. As an artist, teacher, wife and mother, I am trying to achieve the same balance Greek goddesses attained, holding several very different roles at once.

02_davis_nike

Nike

I have found that―mother or not―we all lead many different roles in our lives. With that, I decided to portray friends of mine as goddesses that they relate to, using Greek goddess slides as the additional layer of information. In one way, portraying a goddess makes them feel very powerful and beautiful, but exposing their shoulders to me and the camera makes them appear vulnerable. Often, we will discuss how they relate to their goddess, their mythology or their personality. I take this experience with me to the canvas as I paint the subject from the series of photos taken; I think about my subject, their family, the goddess they are representing, and bring that dialogue into my artwork. The paintings created show the dichotomy between strength and vulnerability; projections can be interpreted as bruising or as war paint, and the viewer can take part in our conversation or make their own personal dialogue about what is being portrayed. The subjects, now goddesses, show the conflicting sides of the feminine role: mother, child, warrior, victim; bearer of life or harbinger of death. In the end, the viewer is left to confront their own notions of femininity, power and sexuality.

Selene Waxing

Selene Waxing

The Faculty Voice has published – and will publish in the future – articles about gender, marginalization, and many related topics. Here we have the pleasure of presenting works of art inspired by the conflicting sides of the feminine role. –editor

Non-Tenure Track Faculty

♦ UMCP appears to have taken a positive step with regard to non-tenure-track colleagues. The initiatives stem from last year’s report of the Senate-Provost Task Force on Non-Tenure Track (NTT) Faculty. “The most significant development is that the University Senate has passed a proposal creating a unified system of NTT faculty titles.  The proposal includes promotion ladders for all NTT faculty who provide consistent high-level contributions, thereby addressing a serious problem faced by the hundreds of current NTT faculty who perform meritoriously but whose appointment provides no opportunity for advancement. The new system also lays the groundwork for campus-wide standards for evaluating and promoting NTT faculty. …”

The city of Boston is said to be “at the center of a nationwide labor-organizing effort bent on changing the lives of all adjunct faculty members, unionized or not. Rather than simply try to establish unions of adjunct faculty at individual colleges, it seeks to unionize them throughout entire metropolitan areas, to drive broader improvements in their pay, benefits, and working conditions. The approach seeks to shift labor-market dynamics, turning a buyer’s market in which colleges have broad leeway to set employment terms into a seller’s market in which adjuncts can take the highest bid for their services.”

♦ Noam Chomsky: “That’s part of the business model. It’s the same as hiring temps in industry or what they call ‘associates’ at Wal-Mart, employees that [i.e., who!!! Oh Noam!!!] aren’t owed benefits. It’s a part of a corporate business model designed to reduce labor costs and to increase labor servility. When universities become corporatized, as has been happening quite systematically over the last generation as part of the general neoliberal assault on the population, their business model means that what matters is the bottom line. The effective owners are the trustees (or the legislature, in the case of state universities), and they want to keep costs down and make sure that labor is docile and obedient. The way to do that is, essentially, temps. Just as the hiring of temps has gone way up in the neoliberal period, you’re getting the same phenomenon in the universities. The idea is to divide society into two groups. One group is sometimes called the ‘plutonomy’ (a term used by Citibank when they were advising their investors on where to invest their funds), the top sector of wealth, globally but concentrated mostly in places like the United States. The other group, the rest of the population, is a ‘precariat,’ living a precarious existence.”

This is a short segment of a long interview.

♦ Yes, there are lots of adjuncts and their equivalents teaching classes, and even Congress is looking into the matter. In January, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce issued a report on contingent faculty members. Below is the first paragraph. Do we dislike this situation? If so, can the trend be reversed?

“The post-secondary academic workforce has undergone a remarkable change over the last several decades. The tenure-track college professor with a stable salary, firmly grounded in the middle or upper-middle class, is becoming rare. Taking her place is the contingent faculty: nontenure-track teachers, such as part-time adjuncts or graduate instructors, with no job security from one semester to the next, working at a piece rate with few or no benefits across multiple workplaces, and far too often struggling to make ends meet. In 1970, adjuncts made up 20 percent of all higher education faculty. Today, they represent half. … More than one million people are now working as contingent faculty and instructors at U.S. institutions of higher education, providing a cheap labor source even while students’ tuition has skyrocketed.”

Misunderstandings

It has come to my attention that several people misunderstood a poem, “Term Papers,” that I wrote and was published in the December issue of the Faculty Voice. The intent was to make fun of – and to criticize – faculty members who when grading take into consideration some students’ non-academic factors such as sport preference or body type. But alas, several readers thought I was revealing my grading methods! Anyone who has graded term papers knows that subjective biases can on occasion be involved; it’s not right, but it’s a reality. –Bill Hanna

Notes

A Diploma for What Reason?

A New York Times editorial (3 March 2014) chimes in: “Since 2000, many college graduates have taken jobs that do not require college degrees and, in the process, have displaced less-educated lower-skilled workers. ‘In this maturity stage [says NBER Working Paper #189-1 from the National Bureau of Economic Research], having a B.A. is less about obtaining access to high paying managerial and technology jobs and more about beating out less-educated workers for the barista or clerical job.’ The findings help to explain the trajectory in wages for workers with bachelor’s degrees. From 1979 to 1995, their average pay rose modestly, by 0.46% on average annually, while wages declined for the non-college-educated who make up the vast majority of workers. From 1995 to 2000, wages grew for all educational groups, but since 2002 pay for the less educated has declined while pay for the college educated has largely stagnated.”

The State of English

Most of us know that the English words “who” and “whom” are less and less used by speakers and writers. “The teacher that….” Ugh. The Faculty Voice deplores that! Knowledge that “data” is a plural noun seems to be disappearing from American brains. More deploring. “All those data is….” Ugh. The problem is of course much deeper and/or broader. What happened to Rome when Latin was abused? Check out this article at the Huffington Post to know more of the full truth.

Income-Based Repayment

Lots of former students are still deeply in debt thanks to the loans they took out to complete their higher education. And with young graduates struggling to find good jobs, the situation becomes dangerous. That’s why “pay as you earn” is getting more attention and has been woven into some federal programs. Among other organizations, the Gates Foundation is funding studies to find out what might work best. Lifetime debt is clearly not the answer.

Brainpower Declines After 24!

In case you missed the PLOS/one article (9 April 2014), two doctoral students at Simon Fraser U found that “persistent age-related cognitive-motor decline in reaction times in an ecologically valid video game task begins in early adulthood”―at age 24 to be specific. Thank goodness all of life isn’t a video game.

UMUC Downsizes

The news about UMUC released in late March was certainly troubling: there’s a multi-million budget shortfall, and enrollment (the main source of funds) is declining. So seventy employees are being laid off, only 20 of the 92 adjuncts promised full-time positions will get them, and enrollments are down.  Why? Among the forces: the mature online education market and increased competition, the university has served our military overseas and in-country but the military is declining because of the downsizing. How will UMUC change to meet its new circumstances?

UMUC is working to improve student recruitment, success and retention; and improving  the outreach to veterans and to the market within Maryland. The university also launched the UMUC Completion Scholarship at the end of 2013 (which reduces the cost of four-year degree to $20,000 for Maryland community college graduates) and is moving forward with open educational resources and competency-based education initiatives.

Admissions Game

What a game is played at some of the top universities. At Stanford during the current application season, there were 42,167 applicants and 2,138 acceptance letters. Other tough-to-get-in universities include Harvard, Cooper Union, Yale, Juilliard and more. That’s 5%. UCLA’s percentage was 7%. From the UCLA newsroom: “With nearly 100,000 undergraduate applicants seeking admission for fall 2013, UCLA remains the most applied-to university in the country and one of the most sought-after colleges by exceptionally talented students from California and around the world. UCLA received 80,472 freshman applications and 19,087 transfer-student applications for fall 2013 admission, for a total of 99,559 undergraduate applications.” So the admit rate was 6%.

In Maryland, here are some 2012 admission rates:

Bowie, 48%
Coppin, 35%
Frostburg, 59%
Morgan, 58%
Salisbury, 53%
St. Mary’s MD, 72%
Towson, 52%
U Baltimore, 64%
UMBC, 60%
UMCP, 47%
UMES, 58%
UMUC, 99.97%
Johns Hopkins U, 18%

Permit a FV editor’s comment: I received all of my degrees from UCLA, and almost certainly I would have been on the outside if the ancient acceptance practice were the same as the current one. Ah, the good old days!

A Four-Star Hotel

The old UMCP “East Campus” plan for a mixed-use development is no more. Now there’s a 300-room luxury hotel and conference center in the future of UMCP. The location is across Route 1 from the main campus area. Campus president Wallace Loh thinks the building will spark more development in and around College Park. Washington Post Reporter Luz Lazo (16 April 2014) quotes Loh: “I already know that when Ohio State comes here, there will be about 30,000 fans. They are going to make a big weekend out of it. They will go to see the sights of Baltimore and Washington, D.C. But where will 30,000 people stay? Even our hotel is not going to be large enough to accommodate them.” Did campus officials envision the big hotel when they agreed to join the Big Ten Twelve?

Dead-End Degrees Hot Degrees
Information Systems Nursing
Architecture Elementary Education
Anthropology Finance
Film, Video, Photography Marketing
Political Science Business Administration

Dead-End Degrees

Yahoo Education has entered the game of naming (guestimating?) good and bad majors in higher education, and we suppose they have some validity based upon employment data. The so-called dead-end majors and alternatives suggested by the Great Wise Yahoo are in the accompanying table.

However, our loving recommendation is that if a student is passionate about a future that requires a particular major, she or he should probably pursue that passion.

Community College Faculty Members

A report by the UT Austin’s Center for Community College Student Engagement finds that faculty members are often treated as temp workers with little preparation time, rarely an office, and little support and guidance. Maybe that doesn’t apply to some of the community colleges in Maryland (we hope!), but it is a scary situation for students beginning higher education. And a nightmare: the same is happening at universities.

Stand Up!

Now that most of us have comfortable chairs while we stare at our computer monitors or attend endless academic meetings, there’s a push for standing up while working. From the Smithsonian Magazine (14 March 2014): “There was a time when standing desks were a curiosity—used by eccentrics like Hemingway, Dickens and Kierkegaard, but seldom seen inside a regular office setting. That’s changed, in large part due to research showing that the cumulative impact of sitting all day for years is associated with a range of health problems from obesity to diabetes to cancer.” Will our campus officials supply us with desks for those who want to stand?

What About the Future?

An Ipsos Mori Social Research Institute survey (reported in the Guardian, 15 April 2014) finds that young adults in wealthy, western countries are less optimistic about the future than their counterparts in developing countries. Maybe the so-called rich countries’ young adults are still facing the economic drag of the recession with a job market not to their liking. And in the USA there are the challenges of housing affordability, debt from college, and other negatives. Also, a fair number of young Americans foresee decline in the country’s future may make a decline more likely. Do discussions in the classroom impact youths’ views of the future?

Our Elections

Charles Blow in the New York Times (19 April 2014): “Our elections have been severely altered by a corporatist Supreme Court, maleficent voter ID laws and gerrymandering run amok.” If so, what should members of the university professorate do?

College Newspapers

“As daunting financial pressures force newspapers around the country to shut down or severely trim staff and budgets, a new model has emerged in many communities in which college journalism students increasingly make up for the lack of in-depth coverage by local papers.” The quote is from a New York Times article (13 April 2014) in which student newspapers in U. Michigan, Arizona State U., and elsewhere are reported to have taken the lead – filled the gap – as regular jurisdictional commercial newspapers are downsized or closed. Of course, Maryland universities have student papers, and they break some important stories. Here’s a list of public university newspapers in Maryland, daily or weekly, listed at msa.maryland.gov: Frostburg State: Bottom Line; Morgan State: Spokesman; Towson: Towerlight; UMBC: Retriever Weekly; and UMCP: Diamondback.

What Education Should We Offer?

Hunter R. Rawlings III, former Iowa and Cornell president and since 2011 head of the Association of American Universities: “We’re a lot less sentimental about college than we used to be. Much more than before, society tends to look at a college education as primarily a steppingstone to a job and prosperity, and there are things going on in the economy that have fueled this view. … It makes a certain amount of sense for those families, especially, to think about return on investment, but I would hope that they would see other values, as well. … Let’s face it, it’s really part of American culture, because we evaluate practically everything monetarily.” What an interesting perspective from someone who has, for instance, taught “Advanced Readings in Greek” and whose publications include The Structure of Thucydides’ History (Princeton, 1984). Source of quotes is the New York Times.

 

Campus Athletics

By Bill Hanna, UMCP/Urban Planning

The large photograph on the front page of the Washington Post’s (5 April 2014) Metro section says a lot. There stands the UMCP President, Wallace D. Loh, with a broad beaming smile standing next to several campus women’s basketball players in a celebratory mood thanks to the victory propelling the team into the “Final Four” round of the national championship. Did he smile so broadly when a physicist won a national award? (Maybe.)

Here are two short Loh quotes from the Post article:

“These laurels matter for U-Md. beyond its basketball fan base. Every college is looking for a way to stick out in a crowded higher education market. George Mason University enjoyed a boost when its men’s team made a surprise run to the Final Four in 2006. Butler University in Indianapolis capitalized on its men’s success in 2010 and 2011.”

“Students choose schools for many reasons, but one of them is the excitement of big-time athletics. … That’s the reality.”

So we recruit athletes to promote the school, especially to lure late-teens to our campuses not to learn but to get turned on by victorious sports teams. And victorious teams provide excuses to party?

I’m starting to connect some dots! For better or worse, Playboy has declared UMCP the 10th best party school in the country. And the Princeton Review ranks UMCP high among “Schools that Study the Least.” Does that lead to pride or shame? (Coming in first in the party competition is one of our neighbors, West Virginia U. Oh yes, WVU also ranked high with the “Study the Least” list.) We share this with the Faculty Voice readers so that they know how prominent Maryland has become.

I must note that my degrees are from UCLA some decades ago, but I still check on that university’s sports and feel good about victories. I even check on the Dodgers and Lakers – although their late night finishes thanks to the time zone differences are hard on my days-after. I’d say I was a sports fan.

Let’s look further into this university sports topic.

Employees!

Are the male football and basketball players special? After all, many of the so-called student athletes are constrained: “Work for three years for no pay and no say in the NCAA. Watch coaches, administrators, networks and sponsors make millions while you’re prevented from making anything. Suffer limited transfer abilities, live under the thumb of coaches and administrators who can eliminate your scholarship at will. Have no influence over the medical care you receive. And suffer a final indignity when your labor subsidizes scholarships for athletes in sports generating no revenue.” (Donald Yee in the Washington Post, 6 April 2014)

The big university athletics news of late is the ruling by a National Labor Relations Board official, Peter Sung Ohr, that Northwestern University’s players are employees and therefore can vote to establish a union and, of course, if the vote is positive to do the establishing and beyond. Ohr’s argument: “That the scholarships are a transfer of economic value is evident from the fact that the Employer pays for the players’ tuition, fees, room, board, and books for up to five years,” he wrote. “While it is true that the players do not receive a paycheck in the traditional sense, they nevertheless receive a substantial economic benefit for playing football.” And: “During [the season], the players devote 40 to 50 hours per week to football-related activities, including travel to and from their scheduled games.” A full-time job. If to these hours are added 12 hours in the classroom and 12×3=36 hours of study and preparation that gets close to 80 hours a week! That is presumably why some athletes at some universities are directed to courses with minimal work and maximal grades. More from the report:

“The players on a scholarship typically receive grant-in-aid totaling $61,000 each academic year. The grant-in-aid for the players’ tuition, fees and books is not provided directly to them in the form of a stipend as is sometimes done with room and board. Because the Employer’s football team has a rule requiring its players to live on campus during their first two years, these players live in a dorm room and are provided a meal card, which allows them to buy food at the school cafeteria. In contrast, the players who are upperclassmen can elect to live off campus, and scholarship players are provided a monthly stipend totaling between $1,200 and $1,600 to cover their living expenses. Under current NCAA regulations, the Employer is prohibited from offering its players additional compensation for playing football at its institution with one exception. The Employer is permitted to provide its players with additional funds out of a “Student Assistance Fund” to cover certain expenses such as health insurance, dress clothes required to be worn by the team while traveling to games, the cost of traveling home for a family member’s funeral, and fees for graduate school admittance tests and tutoring.

That the scholarships are a transfer of economic value is evident from the fact that the Employer pays for the players’ tuition, fees, room, board, and books for up to five years. Indeed, the monetary value of these scholarships totals as much as $76,000 per calendar year and results in each player receiving total compensation in excess of one quarter of a million dollars throughout the four or five years they perform football duties for the Employer.

In sum, based on the entire record in this case, I find that the Employer’s football players who receive scholarships fall squarely within the Act’s broad definition of “employee” when one considers the common law definition of “employee.”

The ruling is for a private university – and presumably private universities in the future, but one can imagine that it could spread to the publics some years hence. The spread might lead athletes at some institutions to unionize but others not to. (Would the unionized athletes demand less practice time? Perks of intimacy?) There are also lawsuits about restrained competition, the use of likenesses in video games, and the handling of head injuries. What complexity!

The issue led to a poll conducted by Washington Post/ABC News; the right to unionize was fifty-fifty, and by two-to-one respondents opposed pay. It is interesting that with both items, Euro-Americans opposed the change and non-Euros strongly supported it. That is, white folks want their entertainers to perform in the future as they do today. (Source: washingtonpost.com/polls.)

If the Northwestern ruling holds up, that “The Employer’s Grant-in-Aid Scholarship Football Players are not ‘Primarily Students,’” revenue sports at universities may look very different in a few years. Maybe the players will constitute symbolically attached-to-a-campus semi-professionals. But the university and NCAA can and surely will appeal, and the decision can wind its way upward for reviews. The NCAA and its conferences quickly have opposed the ruling. After all, television rights alone, for men’s football and basketball, bring in the tidy sum of $18 billion – yes B, eleven digits, thus there are big vested interests. Will the courts analogize the student athlete situation with the baseball professionals who overturned the “you belong to me” reserve clause? So (as the wise Yogi Berra once said), it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.

The full ruling can be found at www.nlrb.gov.

Is UNC Typical?

Are student-athletes in revenue sports students or athletes? Learning specialist Mary Willingham at the University of North Carolina, whose job it is or was to help athletes who had trouble with their classwork, has terrible tails to tell, both based on her interactions with athletes and the response to her reporting on the academic shortcomings of many athletes. The case is especially interesting because it points to the importance—or perhaps overimportance—of revenue sports embedded within university campuses.

She remembers a basketball player who came into her office for classwork help. She soon discovered that he could not read or write! “And I kind of panicked. What do you do with that?” she said, recalling the meeting. She then studied athletes’ academic abilities more thoroughly, reportedly discovering that deficiencies were widespread. For instance, she reports that 60% of the school’s athletes read at a fourth- to eighth-grade level. The university has challenged Willingham’s report. Might the UNC situation be unique? Doubtful. And I refuse to write about what some tutors in confidence have told me.
But at UNC and surely other campuses, keeping good athletes as eligible students is important, and so money and tutoring and perhaps other benefits are offered. In the ACC, the average academic spending per student per year is $15,893; for athletes, it is $96,948!!! In the Big Ten (well, more than ten), the figures are $18,881 and (hold your breath) $125,018. So per athlete with the switch of conferences and the commitment to keep up, UMCP may have to find about $30k more per athlete. Do we have the right values?

CNN collected SAT and ACT scores of athletes in the two revenue sports. The finding: “most schools have between 7% and 18% of revenue sport athletes who are reading at an elementary school level.” (7 January 2014)

From the Chronicle of Higher Education (10 February 2014): “The NCAA has increased its core-course requirements for entering first-year students and toughened academic expectations for two-year transfers. But coaches continue to find loopholes for talented players. Meanwhile, the academic gap between high-profile athletes and the rest of the student body continues to grow.”

Some of the campus excuses can be found here.

College Sports Integral?

“At many of the nation’s most prominent institutions of higher education,” write our Chancellor William E. “Brit” Kirwan with SMU President R. Gerald Turner, “sports are far more than just extracurricular activities or even campus spectacles. Contests in football, basketball, and often other sports unite colleges and universities with their students, fans, friends, and alumni, both in person and across the globe. Big-time college sports are integral to the identity of many institutions, including our own. However, rising expenses—and the pursuit of more revenue to support college sports—have become a destabilizing force for many institutions, regardless of athletic mission or program size….”*

“For many individuals, collegiate athletics is the most visible face of higher education. Men’s football and basketball attract widespread television coverage, endorsement deals, and multimillion dollar coaching contracts. [Three football coaches make over $5,000,000, and many others are close behind.] … Success in college athletics often improves name recognition and institutional prominence, and many believe that enrollments and donations increase as a result. Possible benefits aside, comparisons of spending on athletics and academics raise questions about institutional priorities and whether rising athletic subsidies are appropriate, particularly in the current budgetary environment.” (Delta Cost Project) Is this the right emphasis? If so, what about the pressures towards corruption? If so much rides on athletic team success, those pressures must be enormous.

*From Changing the Game: Athletics Spending in an Academic Context, September-October 2010. Kirwan and Turner were co-chairmen of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.

What Is To Be Done?

The Kirwan-Turner report suggests these actions in an effort to “reshape” university athletics:

• Greater transparency: Yes, which they suggest includes spending on what from what sources, and they might have added the qualifications of athletes compared with the general student body.

• Strengthened oversight: But is there a conflict of interest between athletic successes (wins and losses) and the academic work of the so-called student athletes? That might include revealing which instructors give unearned high grades to athletes.

• Enhanced support of academic values: “Teams not on track to graduate at least half their athletes should not be eligible for championships.” But those not on track can be mixed with not-so-good athletes who are on track to achieve the required number.

• Heightened focus on amateurism: “Athletics programs should be organized to treat athletes as students first, not as professionals.” Not professionals, but maybe low-wage physical laborers? What about the proposals to reshape the revenue sports into professional minor leagues but allow the athletes to take courses?

Many athletes come to universities with little or no interest in academics, and some might not qualify except for their athletic skills. Writer Tim Tripp (www.sapp.com): “This past fall, a backup Ohio St. QB tweeted out, ‘Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain’t come to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS.’ The grammar speaks for itself and that sentiment is probably shared by many athletes.” The sentiment is not limited to backup quarterbacks in Ohio.

Can you hear the cheers for the Maryland Pros, the team co-sponsored by a campus and the NFL? Go Pros, Go Pros! But will the campus put up the additional money? Worry not; NBA head Adam Silver apparently has offered to help with funding! From ESPN: “NBA commissioner Adam Silver is so intent on keeping basketball players in college for another year that he said the NBA might consider subsidizing athletes to make them feel better about staying.” Subsidizing the so-called student-athletes, or maybe as development-league semi-pros with college uniforms.

Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA team in Dallas: “Major college [officials have] to pretend that they’re treating them like a student-athlete. It’s a big lie and we all know it’s a big lie. [A Development League] can do all kinds of things that the NCAA doesn’t allow schools to do that would really put the individual first. … We can get rid of all the hypocrisy and improve the education. If the whole plan is just to go to college for one year maybe or just the first semester, that’s not a student-athlete. That’s ridiculous.”

Perhaps it’s appropriate to look to college presidents who are ultimately responsible for what happens on their campuses. As Oklahoma professor Gerald Gurney puts it, “College presidents have put in jeopardy the academic credibility of their universities just so we can have this entertainment industry.” It’s up to them to end the farce.

Back to President Loh

If the hypocrisy ends and the revenue sports become symbolically and otherwise attached to universities but without academic demands on the athletes, will President Loh no longer express the joy of victory? I doubt that. After all, there are many enthusiastic supporters of professional teams in every major world city. Check out Manchester United, the Tokyo Giants, or even the local Washington Professional Football Team (avoiding the racist name). And I’ll cheer on the Maryland (and UCLA) semi-pro teams too.

NOTE: For what are perhaps the most incisive comments on “student athletes,” check out Jon Stewart’s recent segments here and here.

UPDATE:

Mary Willingham, the learning specialist at UNC, is resigning. She surely was pressured to do so given the UNC officials who challenged her findings. Recently, the university prevented her from continuing the research. However, there are other voices that suggest widespread corruption of the academics. For instance, a former UNC football player who was kicked off the team in 2010 after a tutor did his term papers, called the academic environment for athletes a “scam.” And the former chairman of UNC’s African and Afro-American studies department was paid for a summer course he didn’t teach; all 19 enrollees were football players. We guess their grades were high. (Drawn from a Yahoo.sports release.)

Dining Around

By Bill Hanna

Tiffin SmallerOnce upon a time, there were two corporately-linked Indian restaurants in the southeast quadrant of University Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue in Takoma Park. Their names: Tiffin and the vegetarian Udupi Palace. Then the big bad (?) Walgreens decided to purchase the strip-mall where Udupi was located, and shortly thereafter the space was replaced by, no surprise, a Walgreens drugstore. The restaurant owners fought back by declaring that both restaurants were now located in the Tiffin space. So the two are one and, I think, doing nicely at 1341 University Boulevard, telephone 301 434-9200.

There are quite a few good restaurants in the Takoma Park – Langley Park – College Park area near both UMCP and UMUC, and that’s my excuse for not eating regularly at Tiffin. But a few weeks ago, I returned and am glad that I did. My companion and I ordered Chicken Tikka (generous chunks with interesting seasoning) and Baigan Bharta (roasted eggplant pieces in a sauce of herbs and spices). The chicken was good, the eggplant dish marvelous. A week later, I had it again – and took a photo. A small warning: the prices at Tiffin have risen; the two main dishes are $16 and $14. I will return soon!

NB: Do you have a favorite restaurant? If so, let us know what it is and why you like it.

Some special places

At Frostburg

The Appalachian Center for Ethnobotanical Studies (ACES) is situated at Frostburg State University in the Appalachian Mountains of Maryland.  ACES is a partnership among Frostburg State, West Virginia U., the U of Maryland’s Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research, and the Tai Sophia Institute.  The focus is the multidisciplinary study and conservation of native plants of Appalachia.  A primary focus of ACES is to foster economic growth in the region through promoting networking opportunities for growers, retailers, and consumers in the area.  ACES works with existing businesses and seeks to facilitate the development of new local enterprises to explore the use of regional plants for health-related purposes and to inform landowners about the sustainable cultivation and harvest of non-timber forest products. ACES also is interested in the cultural heritage of Appalachia, and one focus is documenting and preserving Appalachian culture as it relates to wild plant harvesting, artisan materials, non-timber forest products, and herbal medicine through community outreach and educational programs.

At Eastern Shore

The Paul S. Sarbanes Coastal Ecology Center (PSSCEC) at UMES is a teaching, research and public outreach facility that houses initiatives related to the restoration, conservation and understanding of the water quality, surrounding natural environments, and living resources that characterize the coastal bays. The Center was established with strong goals for partnerships among University System of Maryland institutions, the National and State Park Service, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the MD Coastal Bays Foundation and other local and non-governmental organizations. The center serves as an undergraduate and graduate research and teaching facility in addition to an educational and interpretive center for public outreach which includes programs for teachers and students at the K-12 levels. PSSCEC is located on an 8-acre tract of land located immediately adjacent to Assateague Island National Seashore Headquarters. The PSSCEC can be reserved by submitting a Facility Request Form to Hermetta Hudson or Dominique Wilcox, the Acting Coordinators.

At UMCP

The Teaching and Learning Transformation Center (TLTC) is being established, and Professor Benjamin B. Bederson is the founding Executive Director of the new center.  The TLTC will be the hub on campus bringing together support, incentives, infrastructure, assessment, and innovation for the University’s educational mission.  It will provide leadership around teaching and learning, including the use of technology to transform the students’ and instructors’ experiences, both in the classroom and in an online environment.  The TLTC will integrate the two current units, the Center for Teaching Excellence from the Office of Undergraduate Studies and the Learning Technologies and Environments group from Division of IT.  It will also add a campus-wide resource in assessment and learning analytics.  Together, this critical mass will further promote innovation and excellence in education at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Dr. Bederson is a Professor of Computer Science and prior director of the Human-Computer Interaction Lab at the Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS) and iSchool.

 

Senryu

By Robert Deluty, Psychology/UMBC

 

a college freshman

assuming the thesaurus

is now extinct

 

pre-interview . . .

the TA asking his profs

to pray for him

 

telling bored students

if they want entertainment,

visit Vegas

telling barred students,

they’re too late for today’s class,

too soon for next week’s

 

the prof explaining

why polka dots, plaids, and stripes

do go together

 

New Year’s Eve . . .

a college grad resolving

not to look for work

alone on Christmas,

the old scholar surrounded

by papers he wrote

 

the prof informing

a math grad student it’s not

pronounced Des-kar-tez

the dean informing

a young physics prof it’s not

pronounced noo-kyu-lur
a college coach

noting he deeply regrets

biting his fullback
ESL student

asking if it’s all right

to say I amn’t

ESL student

inquiring which is better:

You is or You’s

 

two Rice profs welling

with tears as they discuss

Charlotte’s Web

three Yale profs roaring

with laughter as they discuss

Foghorn Leghorn

 

Psych of Humor class . . .

seventeen students sitting

stone-faced, unamused

 

college lecturer

brooding that his undergrads

drive much nicer cars

 

an A student

wishing her exam’s proctor

would stop snoring

a D student

wishing his exam’s proctor

would keep snoring

pondering why

their prof said Good morning

at 6:00 p.m.
first day of grad school . . .

her assigned adviser states

I do not give praise

explaining

to his student it’s not

egotesticle

 

A Great Teacher

By Bill Hanna

 

Pete Seeger taught us

To say no to power

When it turns evil,

Whether by a Senator

From Wisconsin

Or today’s NSA

Looking for prey.

 

He taught us to question

What we’re told

By teachers

Or preachers

In too many schools:

That officials are right

Cause right’s based on might.

 

He taught us about

The horrors of war

In mud or desert,

And the fruits of victory,

So contradictory,

Are the scattered flowers

On dead soldiers’ graves.

 

He taught us to love

All of our neighbors

On freedom’s highway,

Black and white,

Rich and poor,

Because this America

Is mine and it’s yours.

 

He sang of equality

For those with crumbs

From a wealthy table

As food stamps vanish

Because some officials,

Those self-beneficials,

Only see self-reflections.

 

And he taught more:

How to dream

A rainbow quest,

Yet he knew reality.

When will we ever learn?

Oh when will we learn?

I miss Pete Seeger so.

Overview Faculty Voice articles March 2014 edition

Changing the Academy, Changing Society

By Nelly P. Stromquist, College of Education, UMCP

Institutions reflect their surrounding social environment and, at the same time, create their own. Periodically, both need drastic change for human conditions to approach that optimum point on their ever-evolving continua. One element of our academic environment that now cries out for such a change—one that affects more than most imagine—is the underrepresentation of women as faculty members, especially in scientific and technological (STEM) fields. This condition persists despite the growth in the number of women gaining Ph.D. degrees in all fields. Is this purely the consequence of women’s own individual choices? Does gender socialization pressure women into avoiding certain careers? Do institutions of higher education exacerbate the problem through diverse forms of discriminatory practices?

Read more below

I Knew You Before I Met You. How Social Media Has Changed the Way We Communicate

By Jennifer Brannock Cox, Communication Arts, Salisbury

Love it or hate it, social media has become the next “big thing,” revolutionizing how humans communicate in new, exciting, and sometimes dangerous ways. Social media has given us the power to break geographic boundaries, establish worldwide conversations, and transform virtual revolutions into real, physical change. That’s the good news.

Read more below

Medical Education

By E. Albert Reese, Dean Medicine, UMB

In December last year, The Chronicle of Higher Education published a commentary written by Richard B. Gunderman, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Radiology, Pediatrics, Medical Education, Philosophy, Liberal Arts, and Philanthropy at Indiana University, about the shortcomings of current medical education. In his article, Gunderman argues that, due to cost-cutting and a reliance on new technologies to teach students, medical school faculty members have been reduced to “content deliverers,” not teachers or role models, who only focus on the “competency” of students, rather than training excellent future physicians, through a “mass production” of graduates, and not highly-skilled trainees. He cites a recent Annals of Surgery study, which surveyed surgery fellowship program directors who felt that 56% of their fellows could not suture, 21% were unprepared for the operating room, and the majority of fellows could not design or conduct academic research projects. Gunderman points to this study as evidence for an “ailing” medical education system that no longer holds excellence and patient care in the highest of regards. He posits that re-establishing a diverse culture of superior quality in medical education, which holds human relationships at its core, can “cure” the system.

Read more below


Journalism Today

By DeWayne Wickham, Journalism & Communication, Morgan State U

In truth, the current crisis in journalism has more to do with how we do our work than how we deliver the news. Still, too many people see the troubled state of print and television news and ask the question: “Is journalism dying.” My answer is that it is alive and doing exceedingly well. People who think otherwise confuse news delivery systems with the news those platforms deliver.

Read more below


Morgan State University’s Center for the Built Environment & Infrastructure Studies

B y James E. Whitney II, Engineering, Morgan State U

The Morgan State University Center for the Built Environment (CBEIS) building is one of the newest buildings constructed on the Morgan State University (MSU) campus. Ground-breaking for building construction was on April 2, 2010. The building opened on September 20, 2012 with an official opening ceremony including Maryland State Governor Martin O’Malley, past and current MSU Presidents Earl S. Richardson and David Wilson, respectively, Dean of the Engineering School, Dr. Eugene Deloatch, and Dean of the School of Architecture and Planning, Dr. Mary Anne Akers and several other dignitaries. The CBEIS building houses the School of Architecture and Planning, Urban Infrastructures Studies, Transportation Studies, National Transportation Center, and Civil Engineering programs.

Read more below.


The Plight of America’s Bird

By Teena Ruark Gorrow*

The bald eagle is America’s national bird and symbol. Found only in North America, it is often called the American eagle and is known by its scientific name, Haliaeetus leucocephalus. Bald eagles have a way of evoking emotion deep within those of us who know and appreciate their remarkable success story. There is a delicate balance for survival in our changing environment, and this resilient creature’s struggle is undeniably noteworthy.

Read more below
The Art of Nora Sturges

Nora Sturges has exhibited her work widely in solo shows at the Second Street Gallery in Charlottesville, Virginia, Spaces in Cleveland, School 33 in Baltimore, the 1708 Gallery in Richmond, the Lancaster (PA) Museum of Art, the Bachelier-Cardonsky Gallery in Connecticut, Miami University of Ohio, and Ventura College, among others.

Read more and see her art below


Dining in Salisbury

By Vonceila S. Brown, Nursing, Salisbury

Read more below


Barriers to Implementation of Interprofessional Education

Poem by Richard Dalby

Read more below


Nineteen Years Later

Poem by Robert Deluty

Read more below


Academic Notes

Read more below

I Knew You Before I Met You: How Social Media Has Changed the Way We Communicate

By Jennifer Brannock Cox, Salisbury

Love it or hate it, social media has become the next “big thing,” revolutionizing how humans communicate in new, exciting, and sometimes dangerous ways. Social media has given us the power to break geographic boundaries, establish worldwide conversations, and transform virtual revolutions into real, physical change. That’s the good news.

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 10.56.05 AMSocial media also has its pitfalls – weakened personal and national security, fragmentation of relationships, and shortened attention spans, just to name a few. But I’ll get to those in a minute. First, it is vital to understand the global scope of this phenomenon, just to give you a sense of its reach and potential for power.

According to the U.S. Census[1], there are about 7.1 billion people on the planet right now. Of those billions, more than 1 billion have Facebook accounts, including 67% of people in the U.S.[2]

Still not sure just how far-reaching social media is? Here are some more statistics:

  • YouTube – 1 billion unique visitors each month; 6 billion hours of video watched each month[3]
  • Twitter – 500 million users; 1 billion message every 2.5 days[4]
  • LinkedIn – 225 million users[5]
  • Tumbr – 170 million blogs; 76 billion posts[6]
  • Instagram – 150 million users; 16 billion photos shared[7]

The bottom line – social media is “in,” and although the technologies and preferred platforms change almost daily, virtual networking is not going anywhere anytime soon. So, what does it all mean? In a word – change. Social media is changing the way we interact with each other in the world, creating both opportunities and liabilities never encountered before.

The most noticeable change for many social media users is to their interpersonal relationships. Traditionally, we have been constrained by geography, meeting and mingling with those in close proximity to us. We meet at work, in class, at bars or other local venues and form relationships that are often largely reliant on convenience. Whether those relationships last after physical closeness is no longer possible is often said to be the true test.

With the advent of social media, users now have the ability to connect based on shared interests rather than proximity. These interactions can lead to meaningful in-person encounters, as well. People with shared interests in everything, from quilting to baseball to astrophysics, can form online communities and use social media to arrange meetings to grow their relationships.

Case in point, more than 41 million Americans have tried online dating sites, such as Match.com and eHarmony, to find mates who share their interests, and 17% of all marriages last year were the result of first encounters on sites like those[8]. That being said, online friends and lovers have greater opportunities to misrepresent themselves or omit details regarding their physical characteristics and background, which can lead to disappointment, embarrassment, and even danger during face-to-face encounters.

Social media can also lead to community engagement, connecting people for a common cause. The most striking example of this type of engagement last year was the story of “Batkid.” In November, five-year-old cancer survivor Miles Scott wanted nothing more than to ride with the Caped Crusader, Batman. Thanks to a Make-A-Wish social media campaign that went viral, approximately 12,000 people gathered to transform San Francisco into Gotham City for a day, helping make Miles’ wish come true.

Not only did social media play a role in the organization of Batkid’s dream day; it garnered unprecedented recognition for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which could assist in making many more dreams come true. Batkid’s day of fighting crime was shared across all forms of social media in 117 countries[9]. The result: more than 400,000 tweets in one day, more than 21,000 Instagram and Twitter photos, and a 1,400% increase in traffic on the Make-A-Wish website during the day.

Some social scientists have argued social media has actually lead to a decrease in community engagement, with more people staying online rather than meeting to participate[10]. While that might be true of some, social media has the potential to unite neighbors for a common goal faster than any meeting or petition ever could.

Social media has also changed the construction and dissemination of popular culture. Traditionally, decisions about what was to be popular were made by mass media executives based on their perceptions about what the general public might like. With the rise of YouTube, blogs, and other platforms for displaying talents, opinions, and ideas, the consumer has become the producer, gaining fame and popularity based on their actual mass appeal rather than the prediction of it.

As captivating as 6 billion hours of YouTube can be, it can also be very distracting. Millions of Americans regularly visit social media sites during working hours, leading to decreases in productivity[11]. Additionally, a recent study found constant connectivity online has lead to increases in depression among college-age students, as students find it difficult to look away from the computer and focus on other productive endeavors[12].

Going beyond entertainment and personal use, social networking sites have been responsible for revolutions on national and international scales. In his attempts to organize the “Occupy Wall Street” protests, Change.org founder Ben Rattray relied heavily on social media sites to rally participants. Rattray told the Huffington Post, “The best way to get people away from their computer is through the computer; you can’t organize thousands of people in New York City [the way Occupy Wall Street has] without the web.[13]

Social media was also credited for the political revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya in early 2011, known as the “Arab Spring.” When dissidents’ opposition to leadership regimes were silenced in public, they took to sites like Twitter and Facebook to spread their messages and organize protests that eventually toppled the governments in those countries. Meanwhile, the rest of the world marveled, following issues they didn’t know existed and watching these revolutions in real time from the perspectives of those fighting. However, as these countries remain in turmoil, the real meaning and impact of those communications has yet to be determined.

While there are different opportunities and challenges for communication on social media, the takeaway is this: social media connects strangers. On an interpersonal level, we connect with people who share our interests. As a community, we connect with neighbors who might otherwise be strangers. In pop culture, social media creates common ground for strangers to share and reflect. And globally, social media prompts strangers to unite when there is seemingly no other way.

When we connect as strangers, we have unprecedented opportunities for positive change and union. However, we also open the door for reckless behavior that can put our identities, and even our lives, in danger.

Social media sites offer us the opportunity to express ourselves in new ways, but they also create potential for us to harm ourselves. In a fit of anger, you might post something offensive on social media, or to be funny, a friend might post an embarrassing video of you. Inappropriate postings have cost people their friends, loved ones, and even careers. Even if you are not on social media, information posted about you could also have potentially damaging consequences that are beyond your control.

More frightening is the ability to track people on social media. Many sites have geographic tags that allow others to see where users are when they post. Entertainer Jack Vale recently spooked social media users during an experiment by searching for people who had tagged themselves in his vicinity[14]. He looked on their profiles, gathered some basic facts and personal information about them, and confronted them in public. Although the result was humorous, the implications were not lost on his startled victims, who did not realize how easily they could be found and how much information they were letting strangers know about themselves.

With all its potential and pitfalls, social media makes for a fascinating study in human communication. As even more people adopt social media as an important, if not primary, tool for communicating, study of its possibilities and impact will likely continue to take center stage as researchers grapple for a snapshot of these sites during their coming of age.

Whether social media is for you is up to you, but one thing is for sure – it cannot be ignored. As educators, it is vital that we recognize its permeation among students. Even if professors chose not to integrate social media into their classes, we have to acknowledge the prospects and problems social media creates for our students and ourselves. You never know when a video of you might appear on YouTube or what your students are tweeting about during class….

 

[1] U.S. Census. “U.S. and World Population Clock.” <http://www.census.gov/popclock/> (Feb. 11, 2014).

[2] Cooper Smith, “7 Statistics About Facebook Users That Reveal Why It’s Such a Powerful Marketing Tool,” Business Insider, Nov. 16, 2013, <http://www.businessinsider.com/a-primer-on-facebook-demographics-2013-10> (Dec. 3, 2013).

[3] YouTube, “Statistics.” < http://www.youtube.com/yt/press/statistics.html> (Feb. 11, 2014).

[4] Brandon Griggs and Heather Kelly, “With Twitter Going Public: 23 Key Moments from Twitter History,” CNN, Sept. 19, 2013, < http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/13/tech/social-media/twitter-key-moments/> (Dec. 3, 2013).

[5] Salvador Rodriguez, “LinkedIn reaches 225 million users as it marks its 10th birthday,” L.A. Times, May 6, 2013. < http://articles.latimes.com/2013/may/06/business/la-fi-tn-linkedin-turns-10-20130506> (Dec. 3, 2013)

[6] Tumblr. “About Us.” < http://www.tumblr.com/about> (Feb. 11, 2014).

[7] Instagram, “Press News.” < http://instagram.com/press/#> (Feb. 11, 2014).

[8] Statistic Brain, “Online Dating Statistics.” <http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/face-it/201302/connecting-through-online-dating> (Feb. 11, 2014).

[9] Chris Taylor, “How Batkid Conquered the World, By the Numbers,” Mashable, Nov. 18, 2013. < http://mashable.com/2013/11/18/batkid-numbers/> (Dec. 3, 2013).

[10] Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000), 65-78.

[11] Cheryl Conner, “Employees Really Do Waste Time at Work, Part II,” Forbes, Nov. 15, 2012. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/cherylsnappconner/2012/11/15/employees-really-do-waste-time-at-work-part-ii/> (Feb. 11, 2014).

[12] Conner, “Employees Really Do Waste Time at Work, Part II.”

[13] Craig Kanalley, “Occupy Wall Street: Social Media’s Role in Social Change,” Huffington Post, Oct. 6, 2011. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/06/occupy-wall-street-social-media_n_999178.html> (Dec. 3, 2013).

[14] Jillian D’Onfro, “This Guy Stalks Strangers on Social Media and Confronts Them in the Street With Everything He Knows About Them,” Business Insider, Nov. 19, 2013. < http://www.businessinsider.com/jack-vale-social-media-experiment-2013-11> (Dec. 3, 2013).

 

Editor’s note: Having taken Latin in secondary school, I sometimes cringe when data, media, and other plural Latin words are followed by a singular verb. But the FV has decided that a strong author’s preference for the “wrong” singular verb should be honored – or at least accepted. Next thing they’ll ban cursive!

Journalism Today

By DeWayne Wickham, Morgan/Journalism & Communication*

In truth, the current crisis in journalism has more to do with how we do our work than how we deliver the news. Still, too many people see the troubled state of print and television news and ask the question: “Is journalism dying.” My answer is that it is alive and doing exceedingly well. People who think otherwise confuse news delivery systems with the news those platforms deliver.

This may not be so apparent in the midst of a noisy chorus of too-close-to-the-forest-to-see-the-trees assessments of the changes that have befallen the journalism profession. Declining newspaper circulation numbers, falloffs in news magazine readership, and the near annihilation of local radio news broadcasts have led a lot of people to conclude that journalism is on its deathbed.

Even some journalists have worried aloud about their craft’s life span. Last year, for example, Matthew Hartvigsen, the content director for DeseretNews.com, wrote that the “future of journalism is yet to be determined.” The proof he offered of journalism’s endangered state was a Pew Research Center report (The State of the News Media 2013) that looked at how the financial problems of news organizations are whittling away at their audiences.

But to link journalism inextricably to the declining health of newspapers, television and radio news operations is to take Marshall McLuhan’s contention that “the medium is the message” to a maddening extreme. While the journalism professional is undergoing some seismic changes that are shrinking demand for newspapers and contracting audiences for television and radio newscasts, Americans have an insatiable appetite for news. This is due in no small part to the great change that has occurred in how people get news and information. According to a 2013 Pew Research Internet Project, 55% of Americans have smartphones and 60% of them use this highly portable technology to access the Internet.

Another 2013 report, this one by the Pew Research Center and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, concluded that 45% of people who get their news from Twitter are 18-29 years old, and 34% of the people who turn to Facebook for news are in the same age range.

While technological advances have altered the news audience and how people receive their news, what worries me is the quality of the news content they get. Determining what is news, and what is not, is the real existentialist crisis that faces journalism today. And it is a fire that is fueled largely by the unmet need to reconsider how we define news, and rethink what it means to be a journalist.

“News,” I used to tell my students when I was in the classroom, “is what those who get to decide, say it is.” But for much of my professional career this subjectivity has been held in check by the hierarchy of “deciders” who oversee the newsgathering process of traditional news organizations. This began to change as technology has given an ever-growing number of people the ability to be reporter, editor, copy editor, and publisher, all rolled up into one, on a social media site.

But in too many cases, these people are news aggregators, not news reporters. They cross-dress as journalists but rarely subject their news decisionmaking or copy to the common protocols of mainstream journalism. Still, they are able to use blogs and other social media platforms to rapidly distribute the unprocessed information they generate—often with greater speed than traditional journalists.

The challenge that faces the journalism profession—and journalism education—is not so much to fight this new generation of mass communicators as it is to help train them. To (as best we can) heavily arm them with a respect for ethical standards, a proficiency in the use of journalism’s new tools, and a knowledge of the global village they’ll have to cover. This emphasis on ethical and knowledge-based journalism should be the new normal in journalism education.

Most of what people know, they learn from media. But to the extent that the information people get is warped by the flawed reporting of journalists who bring little knowledge to the coverage of a story, invalidated by factual errors, unacknowledged conflicts of interests, or poor communication skills, it will injure their ability to make good decisions. The ripple effects of this damage could plunge us into an information wilderness in which truth and accuracy are hard to distinguish from untruths and inaccuracy.

This challenge is proof enough that journalism—far from dying—is a dynamic profession in the throes of change. And journalism educators must be the first responders in the fight to keep the work of journalists relevant—and informed. We have to find ways to train as many would-be journalists as possible to subject their reporting and writing to acceptable standards that ensure newsworthiness. We can do this through the retooling of traditional courses in degree programs. But we must also fashion certificate programs that will draw bloggers into the family of professional journalists, perhaps via Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) that might also make journalism education attractive to people in marginalized communities and developing countries.

If we do these things well, the future of journalism will be bright. If not, it will surely become a profession that is filled with as many beguiling imitators as a WWE wrestling ring.

*Professor Wickham is Dean of the School of Global Journalism and Communication at Morgan State. He writes a weekly column for USA Today and has worked for US News & World Report, The Baltimore Sun, and others. The author of four books, Wickham is a founding member and former president of the National Association of Black Journalists. His dean’s web page begins, “Welcome to the future.”

For further reading

http://stateofthemedia.org/2013/special-reports-landing-page/citing-reduced-quality-many-americans-abandon-news-outlets/

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/more-teens-using-smartphones-to-surf-the-web/

http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheets/mobile-technology-fact-sheet/

http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/business-news/the-biz-blog/240669/even-as-digital-grows-more-than-half-of-reported-newspaper-audience-is-print-only/

http://www.journalism.org/2013/11/04/twitter-news-consumers-young-mobile-and-educated/

http://www.journalism.org/2012/12/11/demographics-mobile-news/