David Brock’s – Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative!

Dear Commons Community,

Last month I posted on this blog a reference to an article that appeared in New York Magazine focusing on David Brock and FoxNews. As a result of that article, I decided to read Brock’s book, Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative (2003) which is an autobiographical account of his career while working as a hired “gun” for right-wing media.

He gives riveting accounts about his interactions with various conservatives including Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham ,Ted Olson, Richard Mellon Scaife, Matt Drudge and others. He also reflects on his involvement with regard to the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas affair, Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, Troopergate and Paula Jones.

If you want to an insight into the insidious right-wing conspirators – their money, power, and ideologic zealotry, this is a good read.


Maureen Dowd on Andrew Cuomo or Utopia on the Hudson!

Dear Commons Community,

Maureen Dowd has a well-deserved “thank you” column today praising Governor Andrew Cuomo for what he has achieved in his first year. The gay marriage bill, no tax increases, and a property tax cap are all major accomplishments that are good for our state and people. There is also insight into Cuomo the individual who grew up with his father who was governor, who had strong Roman Catholic roots, and who went through a well-publicized divorce. The best lines for me were:

“At Sunday’s gay pride parade in Manhattan, the guy who was once the cold insider blossomed into the cherished hero.
“I have never been in anything like that in my life, period,” he [Andrew Cuomo] said. “Not when I worked with Clinton. Not with my father. In my 30 years in government, I never felt what I felt in that parade. Just the difference we made in people’s lives, how we touched people and made them feel good about society. It was really magic.
“A father, maybe 60 years old, came up to me and said, ‘You know, I have a gay son, and I never really accepted him and I shouldn’t have needed you to tell me that it was O.K. to accept my own boy. But I did.’ ”

Good work for the city kid from Queens!


Good Financial News for New York State!

(Click to Enlarge)

Dear Commons Community,

We have had some good news for New York on the economic front in a U.S. Department of Commerce report showing that the Empire State had the second highest growth in gross domestic product (GDP) of all the states in 2010. With a growth rate of 5.1%, New York State only trailed North Dakota at 7.1%. The growth was fueled largely by the financial industries and Wall Street.

Good news and I hope this translates into jobs and tax revenue.


Sandi Cooper’s Statement to the CUNY Board of Trustees!

Dear Commons Community,

As a follow-up to my earlier post on the CUNY Board of Trustees actions at its June 27th meeting, below is a statement released by Sandi Cooper, UFS delegate to the Board.

We thank Sandi and others who give tirelessly in representing the faculty to the rest of the University.

June 27, 2011

Statement to the Board of Trustees Mon June 27 2011

Sandi E Cooper, chair

Regarding Item 5 L Policy on Integrity

The Faculty wishes to express its thanks to V C Schaffer and his staff for their careful and respectful consultation with us on the revised Integrity resolution. This is an effort to insure fair treatment both to students charged with academic malfeasance as well as faculty who are responsible for maintaining honesty and standards. Enforcing a fair
integrity policy is only right for those who do honest work. The Vice Chancellor went the extra mile to balance competing issues and improve on earlier drafts. This process was a model of collegiality.


Regarding Item 5M Resolutions on Transfers

Though I have no doubt you will endorse this proposal unanimously and that vote will be followed by noisy, even raucous, approval from its supporters – many of whom are thrilled to see the CUNY faculty spanked in public – I am obliged to point out to you that:

1) You are voting for a veritable coup in public higher education. You have moved to an administrative office in the Chancellery, not staffed by teaching faculty, the thousand year old authority of university faculty to determine curricula in higher education. This is step one towards the creation of a high school system in all but name. Were we medical doctors, I doubt if the hospital trustees would tell us what steps to take before a surgical procedure. This process in this resolution implies huge disrespect for the professionals you have hired and tenured.

2) Faculty do not object to the creation of an all CUNY Curriculum Committee. But as on our campuses where these groups are not appointed by presidents or provosts but elected by peers, the University Faculty Senate proposed similar arrangements. It has not been accepted. Asking us to recommend a dozen names and then picking a group from the central office trumps college governance charters.

3) We have had standing Discipline Councils across CUNY for years – some livelier than others. Their central role in shaping what constitutes general education should be driving this process, not a cherry picked group of students, administrators and friendly faculty.
4) Some members of this chancellery have turned this into a circus by organizing student groups to applaud policies that they think will put faculty in their place and make life easier.

Yes, there is a transfer problem – it is not to be solved by eliminating the kind of education that prepares people to cope with a world where they are likely to be fired in two to four years from the job they have trained for. Nor is the outcome of a slippery transfer policy likely to help any student who does poorly after transfer because of lack of preparation. Nor is the degree to be of any value if students in the same college have not been equally prepared – something that can ONLY come from cross campus Discipline Councils which we have urged the central administration to help us organize.

The faculty did NOT object to a centrally coordinated policy to improve transfer but it vigorously rejects a methodology that is cumbersome, unworkable and ultimately unenforceable unless we become a high school.

6) To those who think the faculty have avoided this problem, I suggest that you check the facts. The University Faculty Senate has worked on this since the mid 1990s with very little support and produced a general education statement a decade ago

(text attached.)

Sandi E. Cooper, Chair
University Faculty Senate — CUNY
535 E 80 Street
New York, N Y 10075
212 794 5538


CUNY Board of Trustees Meeting – June 27, 2011

Dear Commons Community,

Below is an email that Sandi Cooper, UFS representative to the CUNY Board of Trustees, sent on the UFS LISTSERV regarding last night’s meeting of the Trustees. The good news is that $40 million dollars in increased tuition revenue was restored to the budget by New York State. On the downside, tuition will likely increase next year and maybe each of the next five years by as much as $300. And the controversial new transfer policy was passed as expected.

Dear Colleagues

The Board of Trustees held it final meeting of the semester

The Chancellor and Board chair celebrated the Governor and Legislature for the tuition increase. The chancellor’s office will need about two weeks to determine how the new sources of income will be distributed. In addition to the new tuition increase, CUNY was able to keep the $40 million from this year which is not going to the State …

The major document — the transfer policy — passed, of course, with the expected contingent of students cheering on the trustees who spoke in its favor and roaring their approval of Executive Vice Chancellor Alexandra Logue who, in her speech, effusively thanked them for their support and help. She also thanks her staff, the chancellor and a variety of college administrators. Faculty — apart from those few who apparently have written private memos to her and the trustees — were ignored.

A statement which I read into the record will be posted tomorrow.

The trustees were unmoved by the entire collection of faculty proposals, protests, letters, statements and commentary posted on the UFS website.


David Bloomfield on Data-Driven Education Reforms – NRC and NCEE Reports!!

Dear Commons Community,

Our colleague, David Bloomfield from Brooklyn College, had the featured posting in the Huffington Post Blog yesterday on education. Referring to two national reports by the National Academies’ National Research Council (NRC) and the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), David summarizes their conclusions as follows.

National Academies NRC
“Test-based incentive programs, as designed and implemented in the programs that have been carefully studied, have not increased student achievement enough to bring the United States close to the levels of the highest achieving countries and
The evidence we have reviewed suggests that high school exit exam programs, as currently implemented in the United States, decrease the rate of high school graduation without increasing achievement.”

“much of the current reform agenda in this country is irrelevant, a detour from the route we must follow if we are to match the performance of the best [countries]”

David concludes that:

“No one would argue from these reports that all standardized testing is bad or that school personnel and students shouldn’t be held accountable for their work. Nor would it be possible or even wise to undo the array of choices students have in terms of public, private, magnet, and other school options. But the centrality of testing, test-based decision-making, and charters/vouchers to the current reform agenda is squarely challenged by these compelling, diligent undertakings.”

Important data but I am not sure if the key policy makers are listening.


Teacher Layoffs Averted and Firehouses in NYC Will Not Be Closed!

Dear Commons Community,

We have been following the issue of teacher layoffs and the closing of firehouses in New York City for the past several months. I am happy to see (albeit a touch late) that last week the City and its labor unions have reached an agreement that averts these drastic budget cuts. It appears that there are still 1,000 health care worker positions at stake.


Regulating the Internet!

Dear Commons Community,

The NY Times has a brief article today on an incredibly complicated issue that is who/what regulates the Internet. While the Internet was developed in the United States, right now it is essentially a free and open resource without an overseer of its functions other than the assignment of domain names which is done by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. Government agencies have questioned its openness particularly with regard to “copyright piracy, child pornography and other lawlessness that thrives on the digital frontier”. In the past, governments have sought to restrict its use with mixed success. Right now the Internet remains fairly open but discussions among various inter government-affiliated organizations such as the Group of 8 industrialized nations and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development are raising questions as to whether there is a need for greater regulation and if so, who does the regulating. For a good review of the history of this issue and one important judicial case, I would recommend Who Controls the Internet?: Illusions of a Borderless World by Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu (2006). The authors, both professors of law, argue national governments will continue to maintain their sovereignty in the age of the Internet, largely because of economics and that Internet corporate giants such as Yahoo, Google and eBay need governmental support in order to function. It reviews the case of Yahoo, an American company, which was tried in French court for facilitating the auctioning of Nazi paraphernalia in violation of French law, the company was eventually forced to comply with local laws or risk losing the ability to operate in France.


Benefits of a College Degree!

Dear Commons Community,

We have seen many articles and studies on the benefits of a college degree. David Leonhardt provides a new spin on this issue in his column in today’s NY Times. In response to recent popular notions that high school graduates should consider carefully whether they will be better off going to college, Leonhardt referring to data from the Center for on Education and the Work Force at Georgetown University and from The Hamilton Project, a research group affiliated with the Brookings Institution, makes the case that college not only pays off but that it is a better investment than many other alternatives (see graphs). It was surprising especially to see that an associate’s degree is one of the best investments that an individual can make, however, the point is made by Leonhardt that tuition for most community colleges tends to be rather low and hence a high return on investment. Another interesting finding is that a bachelor’s degree pays off even for jobs that don’t require one such cashiers, hairdressers, and dental hygienists. One of the insightful quotes is from David Autor, an M.I.T. economist who states:

“Sending more young Americans to college is not a panacea….Not sending them would be a disaster”


(Click to Enlarge) Center on Education and the Workforce, Georgetown University

(Click to Enlarge) The Hamilton Project

Gay Marriage Bill Approved by New York Legislature and Signed by Governor Cuomo!

Dear Commons Community,

The crowd at Sheridan Square outside The Stonewall Inn celebrated when the news that New York State lawmakers voted last night to legalize same-sex marriage making New York the largest state where gay and lesbian couples will be able to wed.

The New York Times reported that the marriage bill, whose fate was uncertain until moments before the vote, was approved 33 to 29 in the Senate. Four members of the Republican majority joined all but one Democrat in the Senate in supporting the measure after an intense and emotional campaign aimed at the handful of lawmakers wrestling with a decision that divided their friends, their constituents and sometimes their own homes.

Senate approval was the final hurdle for the same-sex marriage legislation, which was approved last week by the Assembly. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the measure at 11:55 p.m., and the law will go into effect in 30 days, meaning that same-sex couples could begin marrying in New York by late July.

Well-Done New York!