Question in U-Va. tumult: What should premier public universities be?

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by bruno, Jun 24, 2012.

  1. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    http://www.washingtonpost.com/local...versities-be/2012/06/23/gJQA1o6qxV_story.html


    If you haven't been following the news- the sudden removal of the President of UVA by the Board of Visitors has raised quite a "kerfluffle" in Virginia with those connected to UVA. While it will be interesting to see if she gets reinstated or whether the Rector (Chairman of the Board) wins out, (The latest is that Gov McDonnell has given the board till Tuesday to resolve the issue or he will demand resignation of the entire board. The Governor traditionally has not been involved with the running of the school so this is a pretty major deal.) I think that this piece in today's Washington Post asks a more interesting question - what is the future of the public University in the US?
     
  2. Bullet

    Bullet Member

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    As A Va resident (with one child already in the State Higher Ed School system and another about to join), I'm a little discouraged about the short-sightedness from both sides in this issue. Typical politics today, however, so it should be expected.

    Idiot State legislators demanding more sciences and engineering from UVA? Uh, you may want to look a little further West of Charlottesville. Say Blacksburg, perhaps? We already have a state university focused on the this. It's called Va Tech. Nothing wrong with having a diversified state university system, where Va residents can choose a curriculum that best fits their needs and desires. Va needs teachers, and artists, and lawyers too.

    Idiot university administrators defending the faculty's 6 figure salaries and enormous state compensation benefits with the logic "if we don't, we lose the best talent". Do you sleep well at night knowing you're using the same logic as the banking industry, which you were first in line to call BS on from your Ivory Towers?

    VA trying find the middle ground on one of the major challenges facing our nation's future. I give us a snowball chance in the Devil's front yard of getting it done, or more importantly, getting it done right.
     
  3. goaliedad

    goaliedad Parent

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    Couldn't read beyond page 2 (WaPo wants my email address, which I refuse to supply), but from what I read, this is a question being asked many places including where I am.

    And unfortunately, IMHO academia has gotten caught up in the B-School mentality of measurable results being used above all else as a measurement of accomplishment. BTW before I get flamed for attacking B-Schools, my undergrad happens to come from that discipline.

    And may I say B-Schools weren't always the way they are today. Back in the day (when dinosaurs like me roamed the campuses with books (not iPads) in their hands), one of the first things taught was that figures lie and liars figure. The corollary of that is that all numbers will be manipulated to fit their expectations regardless of the underlying truth. Somehow along the way, that message was lost - I suspect with the advance of technical computer-based financial tools that can show "results" (at least until the next guy comes up with the algorithm that counters the first one).

    Somehow this whole B-School thinking crept into the higher levels of academia - most likely through the various popular ranking tools that we like to read and brag about when it comes to our children's matriculation.

    I see that where I am as the goal is "Top-25". They get everyone focusing in on various components of the measurements used to determine ranking and everyone goes off and tries to improve that measurable. One of the more popular goals (and I'm sure this is true in VA) is the 4 and 6-year graduation rates. The popular thinking is that the longer it takes someone to get their degree, the more likely they are to drop out along the way and that dropping out just short of your degree is a very bad thing (because it looks like you don't get anything out of your educational experience unless you get a sheepskin).

    One of the things they've changed here this year with the 4 and 6-year graduation rates is to change the tuition structure to make students pay the same whether they take 12 or 15 credit hours. The stated idea here is to incentivize students to take more credits, theoretically reducing the number of terms (on average) necessary to complete the degree.

    A more cynical view is that this is a way of increasing revenue in the name of obtaining a stated objective.

    Looks good on paper, but there are a lot of reason why students take only 12 credits. Class availability, financial constraints (working a lot of hours to pay those increased tuition payments), even uncertainty about what major the student will attempt is a valid reason early in an academic career to take only 12 credit hours. Now it will be hurry up and choose a major you will be stuck in while working even more hours and taking on more debt to pay the increased tuition we charged to make you make this bad decision. And BTW, we've opened up sections of the class you need to get to 15 credit hours - MWF @ 8-9 PM - to go along with your MWF 8-9 AM class and your MWF 1-2 PM class. Good luck getting a job fitting those academic hours.

    And if you really want to know WHY students don't complete their degrees in 4-6 years (beyond the impossible scheduling constraints and financial burdens - tuition going up 50% during those 6 years), the answer is that these are students with real issues beyond what happens in the classroom. They get drunk on Thursday night and sleep through the Friday exam. They've FERPA'd out their helicopter parents from micromanaging their academic careers and because TIGER MOM has left them unprepared to organize packing their own lunch much less juggling 5 classes papers and tests. They have no idea what they want to do in life because all they've seen of the world is going from school to athletic practice to violin lessons to SAT test prep class then to bed without the single experience of actually having to do something that looks like employment (I'm sorry, partying while 20 student assemble 1 pump in a 3rd world village during spring break service project doesn't count).

    Of course, the "competitive" universities have brought this upon themselves by creating "measurables" for helicopter/tiger parents to torture their kids with. They are getting exactly the student they measure for, intellectual curiosity and self-driven motivation set aside.

    Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of kids who are product of helicopter/tiger parents who do quite well in their academic careers (though you wonder when (or if) they ever cut the apron strings without their world crashing). However, there are so many manufactured kids coming into college who are not ready to manage their own affairs, have no clue as to what they want to do in life or what they would want to learn to pursue the path they don't have. Or worse yet they've been told they are going to be a doctor or bust despite the fact they struggle with higher level math - setting themselves up for failure both academic and personal when they cannot achieve "their" dream.

    What is wrong with colleges these days is not solved by pounding the misguided measurables harder, but by treating the measurables as only a clue as to what is wrong - not the answer to the problem. If Universities focus on creating intellectual curiosity and provide the opportunities to pursue that curiosity, the intellectually curious will make the most of it and produce great results in academia and beyond when they enter the private sector. Be great at what you do well and don't worry about what the other guy is doing. A lesson more of us need to focus on.
     
  4. goaliedad

    goaliedad Parent

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    Don't we have enough of them in the beltway yet? lol

    I do agree with what you said otherwise...
     
  5. Bullet

    Bullet Member

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    I agree with tpg here, this needs to be said, loudly and insistently until the point sinks in to those who have been placed in charge with addressing the issue. And in my opinion, it needs to start a whole lot earlier than when students finally reach the university level. Our public school system, with its focus on "filling squares and measuring achievements" and based on a construct that doesn't meet today's needs, is NOT preparing today's, or tomorrow's, generations for success. Match that with the realization for many that the cost of a college education is not worth the benefit, it is time for a serious look at how to best change the system.
     

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