Massive Cutbacks Coming to New York State Higher Education!

Dear Commons Community,

My colleague, Jack Hammond (Hunter College),  passed along the URL for an article that appeared in Crain’s New York.  The article describes the cutbacks that have started at SUNY and CUNY.  For SUNY, it has already led to recommendations to close departments and  retrench tenured faculty.  At CUNY,  the cutbacks have resulted in a  hiring freeze and increases in tuition.  For the coming year, it is likely that the bulk of the funding shortfalls will be borne by the students via tuition increases.

Earlier this year I posted on the cutbacks to higher education in the United Kingdom   (see  https://apicciano.commons.gc.cuny.edu/2010/10/12/browne-report-on-higher-education-in-the-u-k/



In the UK, there have been protests some of which have led to violence.

Here in New York State, we are awaiting Governor-Elect Cuomo’s plan for closing the budget gap and what it means for CUNY and SUNY.  Without a doubt, it is going to be a difficult fiscal situation for public higher education for the next several years.


Give Thanks and Pray for Our Future!

Dear Commons Community,

Frank Rich and Tom Friedman  have important things to say in their columns in today’s NY Times.  Frank Rich’s piece, Still the Best Congress Money Can Buy, is a blast at our legislative leaders who cater to the rich and powerful.  His best comments refer to  “the hijacking of the political system by anonymous special interests”.

Tom Friedman’s column, Got to Get This Right, is a sober look at the mega-issues plaguing our country.  He quotes a recent Rasmussen Reports telephone poll that showed:

“ that 47 percent of America’s likely voters said the nation’s “best days are in the past,” 37 percent said they are in the future. Sixteen percent were undecided. Just before President Obama was inaugurated, 48 percent said our best days were still ahead and 35 percent said they had come and gone.”

On this Thanksgiving weekend while we give thanks for our bounty, we might also take time to pray for our future.


World Aids Day – Dim our Digital World

Dear Commons Community,

The NY Times is reporting that this coming Wednesday, December 1st, a number of celebrities will be sacrificing their digital lives in observance of World Aids Day.  They will not communicate/participate on social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook, etc. until donations to the World Aids Day fund reaches $1 million.  Maybe we should also participate by letting our CUNY Academic Commons go blank for twenty-four hours.


The NY Times article is available at:


What Technology Wants!

Dear Commons Community,

I have just finished reading What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly. Those of us interested in broader issues such as technological determinism and technological pessimism will find it interesting.  Kelly covers a lot of ground especially when establishing a relationship between technological development and biological evolution.  He uses a term “technium” to refer to a larger technological entity that has driven technological development throughout millennia.  In what is probably the most controversial aspect of Kelly’s thesis, he refers to the technium as a “living organism” that permeates the universe.

Kelly is surely a technophile who sees much of what is good in technological development.  I believe he is  on fairly firm ground when discussing the evolution of technology and  especially on how it has expanded humankind’s choices and options.  Although interesting and provocative, I don’t accept his comparison of the technium to biological evolution.  I think this is a reach that I am sure anthropologists and others can easily refute.

In sum, if technology is your thing and especially if you see the “good” in its application, you will probably enjoy this book.


Losing a New York Accent – Get Atta Here!

Dear Commons Community,

Here is a quick, interesting and fun video featuring the actress Lauren LoGuidice who goes to a voice coach every week in an effort to eliminate her Queens (New York) accent.  She tells of the need to change her voice and diction to sound more Upper Eastside in order to get the kinds of acting roles that she would like.  She also comments on how her family especially her brothers (“You Talking to Me”) ask her:  “What the hell you speaking?”   Those of us growing up in Brooklyn, East Harlem and  the South Bronx in the 1950s,   know this story well.


Young People – Wired for Distraction!

Dear Commons Community,

I previously posted twice on this blog on the issue of young people and Internet usage. (See Two Days without Texting and Use of Electronic Devices).  Today’s NY Times has a substantive article on the topic that quotes young people, parents, educators and researchers, all of whom raise concerns about the amount of time being spent on the Internet to the point that it is causing problems at school.  One study, for instance, indicates that excessive Internet usage may also be rewiring their brains such that young people are have difficulty concentrating on activities such as reading.  Referring to one otherwise bright young high school student who is doing below average school work, a principal comments:

“He’s a kid caught between two worlds — one that is virtual and one with real-life demands.”

American education at all levels is facing this issue.  There is no simple answer.  There has been a significant investment in instructional technology so it is not simply a case of educators ignoring the fact that many students are “wired” to online technology.   After all, many adults including teachers also are engaged actively on the Internet.  The problem is more whether young people are getting so “wired” to fast, multi-tasking environments that they are have difficulty concentrating deeply on an activity such as reading a substantive book.  What seems clear to me is that while educators are increasingly using technology for instruction, they are not backing down from requiring students to explore topics in depth.  Activities that require substantive reading, working out a difficult math problem, and critical thinking are significant components of the educational repertoire as well they should be.  The solution to this issue likely centers on finding the right mix or integration of high-paced technology and slower-paced problem-solving activities.  Young people as well as the older generation of educators are going to have to find the common ground.


The Shadow Scholar: The Man Who Writes your Students’ Papers Tells his Story

Dear Commons Community,

My colleague, Stuart Ewen at Hunter College, forwarded a URL of an article that appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled, The Shadow Scholar:  The Man Who Writes your Students’ Papers Tells his Story.  The article describes how Ed Dante (a pseudonym)  has a full-time job writing papers for a custom-essay company.    In the past year, he has been paid to write  “roughly 5,000 pages” of scholarly material for students.  He has written everything from admissions essays to masters theses and doctoral papers.  While all types of students use his services, he specifically mentions ESL, “hopelessly deficient” and seminary students as regular users of his services.  Perhaps the best line in the article is:

“I do a lot of work for seminary students. I like seminary students. They seem so blissfully unaware of the inherent contradiction in paying somebody to help them cheat in courses that are largely about walking in the light of God and providing an ethical model for others to follow.”

In sum, the article is humorous but also a sad commentary.


The article can be found at:


Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities Annual Conference!

Dear Commons Community,

Today is a travel day for me to Dallas to attend the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities Annual Conference.  I am part of a panel presentation entitled, For-Profit and Non-Profit Universities: Serving vs. Enrolling  Under-Served Populations.  (Monday afternoon, Reunion Ballroom C)    If any members of our community are attending this conference, please stop by.

Also take a look at Frank Rich’s column, Who will Stand Up to the Superrich?   in  today’s NY Times.  He takes “big shots” at the “big shots”.  He refers extensively to  Jacob S. Hacker (Yale) and Paul Pierson (University of California, Berkeley) book, “Winner-Take-All Politics.”    It is an indictment of the behavior of both parties in catering to the will of the superrich by maintaining grossly unfair tax policies.   The best line in the column is taken from John Raese, who recently lost in a  West Virginia senatorial bid and lime and steel magnate, who without apparent irony was quoted as saying, “I made my money the old-fashioned way — I inherited it.”  Frank Rich goes on to write that America is  heading into another Gilded Age.


The full NY Times article is available at: