Driving Blind: Long Lost Books and University Crooks

A segment at NPR outlines the fight in Texas to transform the state university system. Governor Perry and private sector elites want to make higher education in the state more affordable and efficient, while a coalition of alumni associations, state legislators, and faculty resist.

It might be dead in the Senate, but I find the legislation to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 and allow workers to swap overtime pay for up to four weeks of paid time off per year particularly pernicious. Republicans argue that the bill provides worker flexibility, and that it forbids employer coercion—but I’m still unconvinced that if these changes were to take place workers would have MORE power rather than less.

Ryan Grim reports on how university endowments benefit from investments in Sallie Mae. Why don’t universities just cut out the middleman and start offering their own financing options (rhetorical question: I know a handful of reasons why not).

The Oxford English Dictionary wants help because, well, Alison Flood explains,

“Meanderings of Memory, by one “Nightlark”, is dated to 1852 by the OED, and appears in 51 entries for the dictionary, including “couchward”, “extemporize” and “fringy”. Veronica Hurst, the OED’s principal bibliographer, said its shadowy existence was discovered when a member of staff was working on the entry for “revirginize”, for which Meanderings of Memory is the earliest citation. The quotation taken from the book for the OED is: “Where that cosmetic … Shall e’er revirginize that brow’s abuse.” But Meanderings of Memory could not be traced in any library catalogue or database, so Hurst was contacted; she expected to track the book down within 10 minutes.”

Lawrence Rosen reviews On the Muslim Question by Ann Norton. The verdict? Norton criticizes the clash of civilizations thesis but offers no alternative, “we may avoid the “clash”, but it may come at the cost of an arrangement neither community should be eager to call “civilisation.”

Tim Cushing notes the chilling of relations between EA, one of the largest video game publishers, and gun manufacturers. EA, a company with several military shooter franchises, still plans on using famous guns in its games, but will not longer pay licensing fees.

And finally, Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby opens this weekend. Delayed for a year, and now critically and popularly panned, I’m curious to see just what has everyone so jaded. Perhaps it takes the refined sense of irresponsible indulgence only us millennial can muster to truly appreciate Luhrmann’s anachronistic spectacle. Jesse Fox at Vulture has a great rundown of everything everybody’s saying. My favorite,

“Luhrmann doesn’t just gild the lily, he spray-paints it with glow-in-the-dark sparkles.”

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27 thoughts on “Driving Blind: Long Lost Books and University Crooks

  1. A segment at NPR outlines the fight in Texas to transform the state university system. Governor Perry and private sector elites want to make higher education in the state more affordable and efficient, while a coalition of alumni associations, state legislators, and faculty resist.

    ….uhhhh.

    What?

    No, what Perry and co. are trying to do is basically gut the ability of state research universities (which UT-Austin is one) from functioning and turn them into diploma mills. Now maybe that’s considered “more efficient” in some strange world, but in terms of the overall value of the system? Not on your life.

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/plugged-in/2013/05/09/move-over-nc-texas-gov-wants-to-scrap-research-at-universities/

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    • Freddie recently had a post about Purdue University’s $100 Million gym upgrade.

      Perhaps Purdue is not, in fact, representative of anything at all but, if it is?

      There’s fat in the budget to cut. Given that these costs are eventually borne by students, I think it’s a good idea to provide them an option with a cheaper university experience. There’s a lot of Liberal Arts that don’t require much more than a handful of books and an impassioned professor with tenure in charge of a handful of TAs to teach about them. That’s something that is a lot less expensive, over the long run, than $100 million dollar rec rooms.

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      • Whenever I spend time at a university, I’m amazed at how expensive everything looks.

        a.) Grounds like a golf course
        b.) New and renovated (if often ugly) buildings
        c.) So much computer equipment and TV’s and projectors
        d.) Student centers and gyms and food courts that are nice
        e.) Admin buildings filled with people who look like (and drive cars like) they make 6 figure money

        Sadly, building’s classrooms (in many schools) seem fairly empty much of the day. Library too.

        Future universities could save so much money by just doing the following:

        This univeristy will have one, simple building (it will be a smallish univeristy). The building will likely become a bit old and dingy over time. Deal with it. (Nicer than what Plato had.)
        This university will not have food courts, gyms, Olympic swimming pools, sports teams. etc. and it won’t have a grounds at all. Students can bring their own lunch. We will try to attract private food trucks.
        This university will not pay any administrator more than 80,000, (inflation adjusted), unless they are special professions needed (lawyer, CPA). Low level administrators will make modest salaries.
        The university will team with other universities to share as much administrative cost as possible.
        This university will have professors share office space in most cases.
        This university will not have its own police force.
        All professors (except emeritus profs teaching a class or two) will teach a 3/4 schedule with no exceptions, even for sabbaticals, unless they bring in outside funding, or unless they are doing serious administrative work, like being chair.
        The university will not have its own psych services or free career counselling.
        This university will not pay for marketing
        This university won’t have computer labs.
        This university won’t have a physical laboratory space or library space. Students will be asked to use existing public libraries for many courses.

        The university will attract students by offering top level professors, but charging less for tution than lots of other schools.

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        • I went to a school like this. I managed to pay for it as I went, by having a job at the same time. Now, yes, I was lucky (privileged!) enough to live at home at the time, but, still, I got a good degree (well, a philosophy degree anyway) from a good state school that cost me only about 6 grand a year (3 grand a semester).

          Taking inflation into account, I don’t know why they couldn’t do this same thing for 8 grand a year.

          I’m not saying *ALL* schools need to do this. Purdue can be Purdue. But there should be a state school option that offers bare bones liberal arts educations for rates that won’t break your back when you graduate with a degree in the liberal arts, of all things.

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            • Texas has a fair number of non-research public universities. These range from the regional schools of the “University of Texas” to independent public universities like Stephen F. Austin State University.

              In-state tuition in most of these institutions is in the area of 4-5000/semester, which are quite reasonable.

              There’s simply no need to gut the research focus and tier 1 status of UT-Austin to add “affordability” to the Texas public university system.

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              • Interestingly, I did some looking up of tuition rates at Texas schools and undergraduate at UT-Austin itself is actually under $5000 a semester, according to Collegeboard. $9,792 per year.

                Which is actually comparatively quite inexpensive. The non-research schools are a little cheaper, but the difference is not great. The least expensive school I found in Texas was UTEP ($7k or so), which actually is a research school.

                Texas (as a state) appeared to be below-average, cost-wise, which is a little bit like talking about the highest building in Fargo. It’s all remarkably expensive.

                As I said below, I think it’s a mistake to tinker with Texas’s flagships (UT and A&M in particular), though I still like the idea of an inexpensive alternative like WGU-Texas, or expanding community colleges to four years with it made explicit that the primary goal is to remain affordable and not try to compete with the more traditional universities.

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      • As someone who had a TAship eliminated as part of Governor Perry’s attempts to make UT more ‘affordable’….well I have a long long rant that is probably not up to our policies on frontpagers.

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    • I’m not sure is there’s an actual case of ‘private sector elites’ who want to make education more efficient. Skim the cash, yes – efficient, no. And ‘affordability’ means ‘we get the money’.

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  2. On Gatsby, the reviews I have seen were more mixed with some critics I respect saying it was worth to go and others saying do not go. It seems to be firmly in the hot mess category.

    Everyone seems to love DiCaprio but thinks Daisy was changed beyond recognition and not in a great way.

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  3. “It might be dead in the Senate, but I find the legislation to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 and allow workers to swap overtime pay for up to four weeks of paid time off per year particularly pernicious. Republicans argue that the bill provides worker flexibility, and that it forbids employer coercion—but I’m still unconvinced that if these changes were to take place workers would have MORE power rather than less.”

    From what I had hear, the *workers* don’t get to swap anything; the *employer* gets to swap things, at their convenience. And it’s not like we’ve never heard of employees not being able to take all of their paid vacation, is it?

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  4. I am of the mind that Perry should leave flagship schools like Texas and A&M alone, but beyond that I support his endeavor. His embrace is WGU is quite encouraging. Providing a low-cost, parallel opportunity system strikes me as a great idea.

    Leave Very High Research institutions alone (UT, A&M, Texas Tech, Houston), and maybe High Research (North Texas, UTEP, etc.), but focus a lot of the other schools on innovating ways to save money. That’s Texas, though most states have a corresponding range of schools (even Idaho UI vs. Idaho State, and Idaho only has four universities).

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    • There is this at the NPR link:

      “He argues that professors concentrate too much on research and writing books, and the reformist solution is to essentially turn Texas’s universities into the kind of super star community colleges where many professors would not be tenured or necessarily even full-time. They’d be experts working in their industries and they’d be paid for how much money they brought into the university and how many students they taught.”

      That sounds pretty scary. I mean, the devil is in the details. Maybe the actual policy won’t be so bad. But it sounds to me like a way to destroy a lot of academic research and teaching.

      If X teaches the students in a crappier way that spends less time with each student, X can easily teach more students. So there is an economic incentive to teach crappily.

      And if Y has to be a researcher who also works in industry, the research that is produced will be thoroughly corrupted. The value of universities (outside of teaching) is that the research (and art and literature) that they produce is not determined by what the market or what people want. This frees researchers up to be more creative and do what they think is best instead of what some business or group of folks (who know less than the researcher) want to be researched.

      And I think you are underestimating the value of research done at a lot of mid-level state schools. Even my proposal on this thread endangers a lot of valuable research by taking away lab time and sabattical space. My proposal would need to be ameliorated in that effect by being contemporaneous with large new amounts of federal gov’t spending on NIH, NSF, NEH, etc grants for academics and new federally funded laboratories.

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      • To the extent that the research needs to be done, it might be worthwhile to roll those up into other universities and make a clearer distinction between “research university” (with more research for those) and “not research university” rather than the seeming desire of so many universities to be research universities. As with athletics and facilities, it seems to me that this is a part of the rat race.

        But my opinions on the research end aren’t actually all that strong. I’d just like to there to be more universities that focus on teaching and keeping teaching affordable rather than (to stick with Texas) Midwestern State wanting to become Texas State State wanting to become North Texas wanting to become the University of Houston wanting to become UT.

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        • Yeah, we mostly agree, I think.

          Certainly we can’t bankroll so much of the costs of research on the backs of tuition payers. That ain’t quite right.

          And kill the fancy bells and whistles of colleges as much as possible. And gut the admin salaries and bloat. Do all that and college is pretty affordable again.

          You don’t need to do what Perry is planning and fundamentally rework how academia works.

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          • In terms of tier 1 universities UT offers enormous value for its tuition rate. That value is steadily being diminished by constant budget cuts impacting ourability to retain and recruit top talent and the constant cry by the regents (Perry appointees) to make the students shell out more cash.

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  5. A headline like “GOP Governor wants to improve access to college” is like “Liberal wants to make banks more profitable”.

    Possible, just not something to accept at face value.

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