Career Paths for Those with a Ph.D.

Dear Commons Community,

The Chronicle of Higher Education had an article yesterday describing a program, Preparing Future Faculty, that helps Ph.D. graduates find positions appropriate for their degree.  As described by the Chronicle:  The goal of the program is to introduce Ph.D. students and postdocs on campuses nationwide to the realities of being a professor. The program exposes them to what faculty life looks like at the kinds of colleges where they’re most likely to be hired. The article goes on to describe Duke University’s efforts with the program.

“Its participants, known as fellows, visit nearby institutions that are starkly different from Duke, including private liberal-arts colleges, a historically black college, a community college, a women’s college, and a sprawling land-grant institution, where they sit in on undergraduate classes and talk with faculty members, administrators, and students. Faculty mentors on those campuses talk frankly to them about the demands of academic life, and provide insider tips on conducting academic job searches, among other things.

In the end, not every fellow becomes a professor, but that outcome is not unexpected. “Ph.D.s can do many, many things with their degree,” says Hugh Crumley, the program’s director and assistant dean for academic affairs, who holds a doctorate from the University of Virginia. “And Duke has plenty of programs to help them figure out what that is.”

Chronicle analysis of 12 cohorts of the Duke program, from 2004-5 to 2015-16, reveals what became of the vast majority of the fellows. Of the pool of almost 350 people, The Chronicle was able to track down 93 percent of them, and they ended up as follows:

  • 47 percent are now academics, of whom 87 percent are tenured or on the tenure track.
  • 26 percent have a job in the private sector, in government, or at a nonprofit organization.
  • 5 percent hold nonteaching, nonresearch positions at a college or university.
  • 4 percent work as university research scientists.
  • 2.5 percent run their own businesses or work for themselves.
  • 15.5 percent, usually the most recent participants, are doing postdocs or finishing up their Ph.D.s.

The paths that the program’s fellows took reflect many things: individuals’ choices and evolution, quirks of fate, and forces outside of their control, like the flagging academic job market or the hypercompetitive environment for federal research grants.”

The article concludes with stories of four Ph.D. graduates and their current employment.

Students and colleagues here at the CUNY Graduate Center may find the Chronicle piece interesting reading.



Florida Gov. Scott Declares State of Emergency in Anticipation of Visit by White Nationalist Richard Spencer at the U. of Florida!

Dear Commons Community,

The Washington Post and other media are reporting that Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency yesterday in anticipation of a speech to be given by white nationalist Richard Spencer at the University of Florida.  As reported:

“Scott warned in an executive order that a “threat of a potential emergency is imminent” in Alachua County, where the public university is located.

The order was intended to help with law enforcement agencies’ response to rallies planned for Thursday, the governor said in a news release. University of Florida officials said Monday afternoon that the order was not made in response to any specific heightened threat.

Spencer led hundreds of torch-bearing white supremacists, white nationalists and others on a march chanting, “You will not replace us” and “Jews will not replace us” at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville in August. The group fought briefly with counter-protesters, and violence worsened the following day when a man drove a car into a crowd of people protesting a planned “Unite the Right” rally, killing a woman and injuring others.

A state of emergency was declared in Virginia after that violence. 

In the days afterward, the University of Florida told Spencer he could not hold an event he had planned on campus. After his supporters and a lawyer questioned that decision on First Amendment grounds, the school allowed Spencer to schedule his speech.  

University officials have done extensive planning for the event and said they intend to spend $500,000 on security.

The governor’s executive order will allow local law enforcement officials to work with state and other agencies. Scott is also activating the Florida National Guard to help if needed.

 “This worries me. I don’t get it,” Spencer said about Scott’s order. “I hope he’s doing this with good intentions.”

He said the order won’t change his plans. “I’m going to play ball,” Spencer said. “My people are in constant contact with security. We’re moving forward in good faith.”

Spencer said his followers won’t instigate violence. If altercations occur, he said, it will be because somebody else starts it.

“It’s these antifa groups,” Spencer said, referring to the anti-fascist movement. “They’re thugs. Nasty, nasty people.”

The governor called it an additional step to ensure that the University of Florida and Gainesville are prepared and that safety is maintained.

“We live in a country where everyone has the right to voice their opinion,” Scott said. “However, we have zero tolerance for violence, and public safety is always our number one priority.”

Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell said she had sought the declaration because of uncertainty surrounding what law enforcement will encounter.”

This was a good move by the Governor and the Alachua County Sheriff.



Charles Blow on Trump’s Obama Obsession!

Dear Commons Community,

New York Times columnist, Charles Blow, has a piece today on Donald Trump entitled, “Chieftain in Spite.”  He describes Trump’s obsession with Barack Obama as the reason why he has made such a spiteful attack on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) through an Executive Order last week.  Here is an excerpt:

“It must be cold and miserable standing in the shadow of someone greater and smarter, more loved and more admired. It must be infuriating to have risen on the wings of your derision of that person’s every decision, and even his very existence, and yet not be able to measure up — in either stratagem or efficacy — when you sit where that person once sat.

This is the existence of Donald Trump in the wake of President Barack Obama. Trump can’t hold a candle to Obama, so he’s taking a tiki torch to Obama’s legacy. Trump can’t get his bad ideas through Congress, but he can use the power of the presidency to sabotage or even sink Obama’s signature deeds.

In fact, if there is a defining feature of Trump as “president,” it is that he is in all ways the anti-Obama — not only on policy but also on matters of propriety and polish. While Obama was erudite, Trump is ignorant. Obama was civil, Trump is churlish. Obama was tactful, Trump is tacky.

There is a thing present in Obama and absent from Trump that no amount of money or power can alter: a sense of elegant intellectualism and taste.

The example Obama set makes the big man with the big mouth look smaller by the day. But I believe that this nonadjustable imbalance is part of what has always fueled

Trump’s rage against Obama. Trump, who sees character as just another malleable thing that can be marketed and made salable, chafes at the black man who operated above the coarseness of commercial interests and whose character appeared unassailable.

America — even many of the people who were staunch opponents of Obama’s policies — admired and even adored the sense of honor and decency he brought to the office.

Trump, on the other hand, is historically unpopular, and not just in America. As The Pew Research Center pointed out in June: “Trump and many of his key policies are broadly unpopular around the globe, and ratings for the U.S. have declined steeply in many nations.” Trump is reviled around the globe and America’s reputation is going down with its captain.

All of this feeds Trump’s consuming obsession with undoing everything Obama did. It is his personal crusade, but he also carries the flag for the millions of Americans — mostly all Republicans — who were reflexively repulsed by Obama and the coalition that elected him.

Trump has done nearly everything in his power to roll back Obama’s policies, but none are as tempting a target as the one named after him: Obamacare.”

Charles Blow has it right. Trump is ignorant, churlish and tacky and an embarrassment for the United States.  Obama was a beacon of hope and justice for America around the world.



Story of Steelworker, Shannon Mulcahy, Whose Job Was Being Moved to Mexico!

Shannon at a union job fair in Indianapolis with a recruiter, and a former co-worker.


Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times has a human-interest story in today’s edition about a steelworker, Shannon Mulcahy, whose job making bearings at The Rexnord Corporation’s factory in Indianapolis, was being phased out as the company moved its operations to Mexico.  Here is a brief excerpt:

“… She tried to be nice. She brought the Mexican team [she was training them to use the factory equipment] outside to look at the solar eclipse. Shannon felt the eyes of her American co-workers on her.

No one harbored illusions anymore that President Trump would save the plant. Shannon didn’t hold it against him. “Everybody’s fighting him,” she said.

She did worry when she heard on the news that he was trying to roll back a federally funded health care program that Carmella relied on.

Mr. Trump was turning into just another politician, the same way Link-Belt was turning into just another brand.

Shannon, who’d derived her self-worth from the quality of the bearings she made, felt unsure about who she’d become.

In two weeks’ time, her job would end. Her trip to Mexico would be canceled at the last minute, along with the $5,000 bonus she had been counting on. Training costs had gone over budget and needed to be reined in.

More than 17 years on the factory floor came down to this: the Tocco, disconnected from water and electricity, waiting to be cut into pieces. Ricardo stood at a table nearby, swaddling the last of its coils in Bubble Wrap.

Shannon didn’t offer to help.

She walked outside to smoke. She didn’t want Ricardo to see her cry.”

This scenario continues to play out in factories across the country.  People who had well-paying manufacturing jobs seeing the rugs pulled out from under them. Most do not have college-degrees and their employability at a decent wage severely limited.


Maine Senator Susan Collins Decides Not to Run for Governor and Remain in the Senate:  Bless Her!

Dear Commons Community,

Maine Senator Susan Collins announced yesterday that she will not run for governor of her home state and instead will remain in the U.S. Senate.  This is exceptionally good news because as a moderate Republican she has bucked President Trump as well as her party’s ultra-conservative wing.  As reported by the New York Times:

“After months of open deliberation about her future, Senator Susan Collins of Maine announced Friday that she would not run for governor and would remain in the Senate.

Her decision leaves in place a moderate Republican who is a swing vote; she has stood against President Trump’s agenda more than any other Republican senator and is likely to maintain a role as his foil.

In Maine, her decision, which had been a matter of much public debate here in recent weeks, could open the floodgates for additional candidates to enter an already crowded field in the 2018 election for governor — a race in which Ms. Collins was seen as a heavy favorite though was not assured of winning the primary. Her decision also brings relief to Democrats in this state, who saw Ms. Collins as a popular candidate who appealed to independents and would have made it hard for them to win a governor’s seat that has been in the hands of Republicans since 2011.

“I want to continue to play a key role in advancing policies that strengthen our economy, help our hard-working families, improve our health care system, and bring peace and stability to a violent and troubled world,” Ms. Collins told a packed breakfast meeting here. “And I have concluded that the best way that I can contribute to these priorities is to remain a member of the United States Senate.”

Her decision to stay runs counter to that of a number of other congressional Republicans who, frustrated by Washington’s dysfunction, have announced their retirements. Calling herself an optimist, Ms. Collins declared: “I continue to believe that Congress can, and will, be more productive.” She faces re-election in 2020 if she seeks a fifth Senate term.

Ms. Collins, 64, who was first elected to the Senate in 1996, has become a thorn in the side of Mr. Trump, for whom she did not vote. Most famously, she played a crucial role this summer in dooming his goal of repealing the Affordable Care Act.

“This will be bad news for Donald Trump,” said Stuart Rothenberg, a veteran political analyst for Inside Elections  Inside Elections  With Nathan L. Gonzales, a nonpartisan newsletter that analyzes campaigns. But, he said, it was good news for those on Capitol Hill “who are looking for dispassionate, pragmatic leadership and for members willing to cross party lines on important votes.”

Thank you Senator Collins.  The country needs you in the Senate.


Wisconsin Still Working Out Details of Its Ambitious Merger Plan!

Dear Commons Community,

Officials at the University of Wisconsin System announced earlier this week a proposed restructuring that would merge all of the state’s public two- and four-year campuses.  The details of Wisconsin’s plan will be closely watched by higher education policy makers throughout the country.  As reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education:

“The list of pressures facing public higher education in Wisconsin would be familiar to policy makers in many states: an aging population, declining enrollment, scarce public dollars, and growing demands from employers and lawmakers to meet work-force needs.

The solution that the University of Wisconsin system is considering is, however, ambitious. The changes are meant to combat the broad demographic challenges that are affecting higher education across the Midwest and northeastern United States. While mergers are being planned or carried out in several other states, the proposal in Wisconsin is, on its face, one of the most sweeping.

In particular, the proposal seeks to reverse the declining enrollment at the two-year colleges and enhance the system’s relevance in a state with an aging population and a migration of residents from rural to urban areas, said the president of the system, Raymond W. Cross.

“From a political perspective, one of the things we want to do is maintain a university community in areas of the state that are shrinking,” Mr. Cross said during an interview with The Chronicle.

The system is also responding to the realities of a state where lawmakers have made steep cuts to higher-education budgets in recent years while demanding better outcomes, said Thomas L. Harnisch, director of state relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

But planning and arranging all of the details of the proposed mergers will present a challenge in Wisconsin, given an already strained relationship between the system leadership and university faculty. Last year, faculty at the flagship campus in Madison voted no confidence in Mr. Cross and the system’s Board of Regents, following changes to the policy on tenure.

Anja Wanner, chair of the University Committee and a professor of English at Madison, said the system will have to do a much better job of informing and engaging faculty and staff members to carry out the proposal.

“We are very much aware of the demographic developments that have led to the restructuring plan, of course,” Ms. Wanner said in an email, “but, as far as I can tell, nobody was informed of the plan itself until it was a done deal, which I find troubling.”

The development at Wisconsin is likely to be among the number one stories for many higher education policy makers for the next several years.  They will see Wisconsin as a blueprint for changing and streamlining public higher education.



SUNY’s Board of Trustees Approves Charter Schools Certifying Their Own Teachers!

Dear Commons Community,

The State University of New York took a step yesterday that will make it easier for some charter schools to hire teachers.  The charter schools committee of SUNY’s Board of Trustees voted to approve regulations that will allow some schools to design their own teacher-training programs and certify their own teachers.  As reported by the New York Times:

“The proposal had been criticized by opponents of charter schools, including teachers’ unions, and others. But proponents of the regulations said that they were needed to allow the schools to broaden the pool of candidates.

“In the midst of a widely recognized teacher shortage, SUNY’s vote today ensures that kids of color will have access to great teachers and exceptional educational outcomes,” Eva S. Moskowitz, the founder and chief executive of Success Academy Charter Schools, wrote in a statement on Wednesday.

SUNY is one of two entities in the state that can grant charters, and the charter schools it oversees include the state’s highest-performing ones. This year, 88 percent of SUNY-authorized charter schools outperformed their districts on the state math tests, and 83 percent outperformed their districts on the state reading tests. Students at Success Academy, which is authorized by SUNY, outperformed not only students in New York City’s traditional public schools but those in every other district in the state.

Ms. Moskowitz, whose network is expanding rapidly and faces difficulty in recruiting enough teachers, was seen as having a hand in the political deal that led to the new regulations. In 2016, in exchange for granting Mayor Bill de Blasio an extension of mayoral control over schools, the Republicans in the State Senate, to whom Ms. Moskowitz has close ties, inserted broad language in the legislation giving SUNY the power to promulgate regulations for the schools it oversees.

In recent days, SUNY increased the number of hours of classroom instruction that teacher candidates must receive under the proposed plan, from 30 to 160 hours, and decreased the number of hours of teaching practice they must complete, from 100 to 40 hours. The changes seemed partly designed to address the criticism of the state education commissioner, MaryEllen Elia, who said of the original proposal, “I could go into a fast-food restaurant and get more training than that.”

In the wake of the vote, Ms. Elia and Betty A. Rosa, the chancellor of the Board of Regents, released a statement saying, “This change lowers standards and will allow inexperienced and unqualified individuals to teach those children that are most in need” and called the change “an insult to the teaching profession.” 

This change will indeed lower standards.  It would seem that the NYS Board of Regents may still have a say on this.



Wisconsin to Merge its Community Colleges with Senior Colleges!

Dear Commons Community,

University of Wisconsin System officials are pursuing a plan to merge the state’s two-year UW Colleges with its four-year institutions, turning the 13 small schools into branch campuses of the larger universities.  As reported by the Wisconsin State Journal:

“The wide-ranging restructuring plan System President Ray Cross announced yesterday would also bring UW Extension programs under new administration.

Cross described the plan, which he will bring to UW’s governing Board of Regents for approval in November, as a way to address declining enrollment in the UW Colleges — where the number of full-time equivalent students has dropped by 32 percent between 2010 and this fall — without closing any campuses. Enrollment at UW-Madison is up slightly over that period but down at some other four-year campuses.

He acknowledged, though, that it would result in job cuts as some positions are made redundant when administrative functions at the colleges are brought under four-year universities on July 1, 2018.

The statewide office that manages UW Colleges and Extension, now led by Chancellor Cathy Sandeen, would eventually be eliminated entirely, Cross said.

Still, he said, the mergers could create new educational opportunities at the two-year schools, make it easier for students to transfer to four-year programs and better position UW institutions as Wisconsin’s population ages.

“Our goal here is to leverage our resources to avoid closures, focus them in areas and respond effectively to these demographics,” Cross told the Wisconsin State Journal on Wednesday.

The proposal — to take effect next summer — would bring each UW Colleges campus under one of seven four-year public universities:

  • The Rock County college would join UW-Whitewater.
  • The Baraboo/Sauk County and Richland colleges would join UW-Platteville.
  • The Barron County college would join UW-Eau Claire.
  • The Manitowoc, Marinette and Sheboygan colleges would join UW-Green Bay.
  • The Washington County and Waukesha colleges would join UW-Milwaukee.
  • The Marathon County and Marshfield/Wood County colleges would join UW-Stevens Point.
  • The Fond du Lac and Fox Valley colleges would join UW-Oshkosh.

UW-Madison would not oversee a college under Cross’ plan, but would take on the UW Extension’s Cooperative Extension program and the management of its conference centers.

The Extension’s Broadcasting and Media Innovations division — which includes Wisconsin Public Television and Wisconsin Public Radio — would be brought under UW System Administration, as would the Business and Entrepreneurship Division, continuing education, outreach and UW Flexible Option programs.

Once the merger is complete, UW Colleges faculty and staff would be considered employees of their campus’ partner four-year school.

The same goes for students — those attending what is now UW-Rock County would be considered students of UW-Whitewater’s Rock County branch. They would still be charged the two-year schools’ lower tuition rates.

Merging the institutions will bring the resources of the four-year universities to the smaller colleges, Cross said. Universities could, for instance, offer new programs that would allow students to earn bachelor’s degrees at the branch campuses, where previously they could only receive associates’ degrees, he said.

Services such as financial aid and advising — which UW Colleges moved into regional hubs under another restructuring plan in 2015 that followed state budget cuts — would be managed by the college’s partner university.

Cross said some administrative positions would be eliminated, though he declined to estimate how many could be affected, saying many of those decisions will be worked out by the two- and four-year schools as the merger takes effect. It will likely take much longer than the July 2018 effective date for the merger to be fully implemented, he said.

A UW Colleges and Extension spokeswoman said Wednesday afternoon that her organization also did not know how many jobs could be affected.

“Those are questions that will be answered during the implementation process,” spokeswoman Katy Kaiser said. “We have very few answers on any of that right now — we just don’t know.”

Noel Radomski, managing director of the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education, said Cross’ proposal is not unprecedented — the state’s two-year schools once operated as branch campuses of larger universities, until changes in the 1960s divorced them.

He said the merger would likely give students at what are now the UW Colleges an easier path in transferring to four-year schools. Transfer students are often told that some credits they earned at two-year campuses don’t count at their new university. Radomski said bringing the UW Colleges under the four-year schools could ensure those institutions accept more of the two-year schools’ credits.

Still, he was skeptical that the mergers would address the demographic shifts UW blames for declining enrollment at the Colleges and some four-year campuses. The System also needs to do more to attract minority students and non-traditional students, such as unemployed or underemployed adults, Radomski said.

“Just because you have a branch campus doesn’t mean you’re going to increase enrollment,” he said.”



Record 111,562 Homeless Students in New York City Public Schools!

Dear Commons Community,

A record 111,562 homeless students attended New York City public schools in the 2016-17 year, up from 105,445 in the 2015-16 school year, according to data supplied by the New York State Technical and Education Assistance Center for Homeless Students.  This number represents approximately 10% of the total public school population of 1.1 million students.  As reported by the New York Daily News:

“The city has taken some considerable steps to assist students living in shelters, but these numbers show that further action is needed,” said Randi Levine, policy coordinator for Advocates for Children.

“The city should ensure that there is high-level leadership on this issue,” she said.

The city schools’ new total includes kids in charter schools and is more than double the prerecession homeless student population of 50,926 for the 2007-08 school year.

The figure includes kids living in shelters, those living doubled up with family members and those in other temporary housing arrangements.

Statistics show students who experience homelessness at some point in their lives are more likely to transfer schools and miss class. They are also less likely to graduate from high school on time and meet grade-level standards for reading and math.

Liz Cohen, chief of staff for the nonprofit Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness, said homeless students face a number of difficulties in school.

“Across the board, the outcomes are much more challenging than for students who are not experiencing homelessness,” Cohen said. “Simply the act of losing your home is a trauma that these kids are experiencing.”

A 2017 study the institute published found domestic violence and evictions were frequently cited as factors contributing to homelessness by people in shelters.

A spokeswoman for Mayor de Blasio said the city departments of Homeless Services and Education are working together to better support homeless students.

The two departments “remain focused on addressing the unique needs of students in temporary housing, which is why we’ve worked together to expand dedicated staffing and programming,” spokeswoman Jaclyn Rothenberg said.”

This is a sad and staggering situation and as the data indicate, getting worse!


College Websites:  Subject of Eight Lawsuits by Disabled Student in New York!

Dear Commons Community,

Eight  lawsuits have been filed in federal court in Manhattan over the past two weeks, most recently against Hofstra University on Long Island on Oct. 4. In each case, lawyers for Emanuel Delacruz, who is blind, charged that the college’s website is inaccessible to their plaintiff and therefore in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act.  As reported by the New York Times:

“The filings are part of a growing number of actions involving accessibility and the internet. The federal law requires that public accommodations be accessible to those with disabilities, and legal battles have long revolved around physical spaces and therefore physical solutions, such as elevators or wheelchair ramps. Now, advocates and lawyers argue, websites are also public spaces and need to be accessible, with things like captions or audio descriptions.

Since January 2015, at least 751 lawsuits have been filed over the issue. The vast majority have focused on retailers and restaurants, according to a legal blog that tracks such suits. Only seven of the suits have been directed at academic websites. Mr. Delacruz’s suits alone doubled that count. And another website, which includes not only lawsuits but also government investigations into web or technological accessibility, lists 37 schools that have been accused of noncompliance with disability law.

Advocates for the deaf sued Harvard and M.I.T. in 2015 for failing to caption online lectures, courses and other educational materials. In 2016, after a complaint by two deaf people, the Department of Justice’s civil rights division found the University of California, Berkeley, had violated disability law by not providing the appropriate accommodations for its own free video lectures and podcasts.

 “As more and more students are aware of their rights, and as websites have become so much of what universities now focus on, in their marketing materials for example, it’s not surprising to me that there will be an increase in these types of lawsuits,” said Arlene Kanter, director of the Disability Law and Policy Program at Syracuse University’s law school.

Whether the plaintiffs will prevail is unclear. The Americans With Disabilities Act, written in 1990, makes no mention of the Internet. The Department of Justice, which enforces the act, has issued guidelines about web accessibility but no formal regulations on how to achieve it — and they seem unlikely to materialize soon, after the federal government in July placed web regulations on its list of “inactive” agenda items.”

If the plaintiff prevails in these cases, colleges will have to do a lot of retooling on all of their web activities.