Tenure Isn’t What Most People Think It Is

I have been guilty of playing into the hands of critics by joking about my tenure status. All tenure really means is that my position is subject to an “at will” form of employment. If it were, administrators could fire me for discussing a controversial topic or making my students uncomfortable in some way. What tenure does is ensure that the university of a place of a free exchange of ideas where faculty members can pursue their scholarship wherever it may lead.

“Tenure departs from this default rule because it requires employers to articulate reasonable grounds for firing an employee. Because grounds that are reasonable can rarely be identified instantaneously and without some due process, tenure also often effectively imposes a “notice” requirement that allows employees a chance to respond.”

Inside Higher Ed

The “Big Bucks” are not Big Enough

American dollar, money & banking

In a March 16, 2023 article in the Jambar (the Youngstown State University student newspaper) it was reported that the YSU Athletic Program brings in over $1 million every year in sponsorships. While a million dollars is a large sum of money the article failed to mention an important detail, namely, the amount of money YSU spends each year on athletics. Conservatively, an estimated subsidy of $7.4 million goes to the Athletic program each year (a number that exceeds $12M if you count the scholarships as lost revenue). 

To fully understand the impact of YSU’s spending on athletics here are a few important facts:

  1. Based on their own budget numbers YSU spends over $25,000 per student-athlete before scholarships. This money goes toward coaches, support staff, trainers, and facilities.
  2. The cost to students in 2020 was $1,079 per year regardless of whether they played a sport or attended a sporting event. Since this number was based on dividing the cost by the number of students, that number is now higher as YSU undergraduate enrollment has declined (9,305 FTE in 2020 to 8,584 FTE in 2022).
  3. As student enrollment has declined and the university has cut academic programs, the athletic budget has increased with the addition of $800,000 in new sports in the last year.

To state the obvious, the purpose of a university is education, not athletics—although some in the administration choose to equate athletic “programs” with academic programs—these are not the same. A student cannot enroll in football, softball, basketball, or soccer, and it’s hard to have a team that is “under-enrolled” when you provide a majority of athletes with scholarships. Whether the board of trustees or administration wants to admit it, athletics is a luxury that we are less and less able to afford.

What makes all of this more troubling is that we don’t have to spend this money, nor do we have to choose between academics and athletics. For example, Buffalo State a school with 6,445 students has a Division III athletic program with approximately 419 student-athletes. The total cost to run the program is $5,053,187 and it generates $5,062,029 in revenue which resulted in a profit of $8,842 dollars. This near-break-even program supports 13 sports including Men’s and Women’s Basketball, Ice Hockey, Soccer, Swimming and Diving, and Track and Field. Additionally, it supports Men’s Football and Women’s Volleyball. By moving from Division I to Division III, YSU could keep the benefits of college athletics while lowering or even eliminating the costs.

For the last three years, YSU has been “right-sizing” the university budget through cuts to faculty and staff. Perhaps it is finally time to refocus on the core academic mission of the university and give serious consideration to right-sizing our athletic budget as well.

Banning Cell Phones and Avoiding the Real Problems

[Letter to the editor of the Akron Beacon Journal]

To the Editor,

Just over two months ago, at a regular meeting of the Akron Board of Education, there was an outpouring of concern regarding the safety of our public schools. At that meeting, several parents stood up and stated that they feared for their children’s safety. Some went so far as expressing concern that their children would not make it home. Teachers were also particularly vocal about the issues they face on a daily basis—from plumes of vape in the bathrooms to fights in those same places. Several teachers noted that they and their families fear for their safety—a fear that is justified given the reported assaults against teachers. Add to this the separate instances of the discovery of a gun at Firestone High School, a loaded gun at Litchfield, and a bathroom fight that resulted in one student being stabbed. The concern over school safety and the lack of meaningful actions on the part of the administration were deemed so important that it nearly led to a strike. But two months later the logic of the response by some members of the Board of Education to this violence eludes me.

Facing these serious safety issues, what measures did the board take? Did they propose increasing the number of security personnel monitoring bathrooms and hallways during and between classes? Did they consider hiring more counselors or intervention specialists to address the root cause of the violence? Did they examine the possibility of implementing ID badges that also allow the school to track the location of students? No, they didn’t. Instead, they are proposing removing the one lifeline parents have to make sure their child is safe, namely, a student’s cell phone.

How is banning cell phones going to make my child safer? It won’t stop fights from happening. And it doesn’t come close to addressing the underlying causes of the reported violence in the schools. What it will do is remove the one means parents have to ascertain whether their child is safe in the event of a lockdown. It also removes the psychological comfort students may have knowing a parent or guardian is just a text away.1

Cell phones have been in schools for over 10 years. Policies are already in place that hold students accountable if they are misused. What seems to be lacking is the will to consistently and fairly enforce those policies (and to support the teachers that do so). Banning cell phones is not the answer to the safety issues in schools. It simply adds to parental stress and anxiety by removing one very direct way to check on our child’s well-being. Given the real problems facing teachers and the majority of students who are behaving responsibly, and considering we live in a world where school shootings are far too common, focusing on cell phones is at best misguided, and at worst irresponsible.

Indoctrination Runs Amuck in Ohio Schools

There is so much going on in this article that I don’t even know where to start. The people interviewed employed all the necessary conservative buzzwords (minus pedophilia and grooming). Critical Race Theory, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, comprehensive sex educations, pornography in school and transgender counseling—it’s all there.

Also, it appears that conservatism has risen to the level of a religion. As one person interviewed noted that "She would not confirm if she is involved with Protect Ohio Children “because of the personal attacks that are reserved for practicing conservatives.” This coming from a person who lives in a state with a majority Republican State House and Senate alone with a Republican governor.

Akron Beacon Journal Article Image
(Click on image to read the article)

US Covid death toll reaches 1 million, and a new subvariant is spreading fast

“There are times when we are 50 states, and there are times when we are one country and have national needs” — President Bartlett (West Wing

In our current fight against COVID, we have forgotten this. We like to pretend that people from New York don’t travel to Pennsylvania, and that people from Ohio don’t take a road trip to the Ikea in Pittsburgh. It seems we have forgotten what it is to be one nation fighting a common enemy.

One million people are already dead, and it looks like things may be getting bad again—at a time when everyone seems to have decided we can make this thing go away through some kind of magical thinking:

US Covid death toll reaches 1 million, and a new subvariant is spreading fast:

Mandates may not increase hesitancy.

“In the four studies, compared to free choice, requirements strengthened vaccination intentions across racial and ethnic groups, across studies, and across levels of trait psychological reactance. The results consistently suggest that fears of a backlash against vaccine mandates may be unfounded and that requirements will promote COVID-19 vaccine uptake in the United States.”


Harvard Doesn’t Need Your Money (but others do)

Dear Millionaires and Billionaires,

How about putting your money in places where it can have a major impact on the lives of socio-economically disadvantaged students, rather than those—the majority of whom—have been privileged their entire lives. At my public university it is not uncommon to have students working 30 to 40 hours a week while taking a full load of classes. Many of these same students also have children of their own, and are attempting to balance work, family, and school.
So I’m asking you to imagine a public university so well funded that it could offer these students smaller class sizes with greater individual attention, taught by full time faculty, all while paying lower tuition.

Faculty too would benefit with smaller teaching loads and additional time for research. Faculty should not have to struggle to find time to stay current in their field—the same research and scholarship that benefits student in the classroom as well as the faculty member performing it.

Why am I mentioning this? Recently, the Harvard Magazine wrote that Harvard’s endowment had risen $11.3 billion to $53.2 billion over the last year. Additionally, even while in the midst of a pandemic, it ran a $283 million surplus. Its surplus alone could fund the entire operation of my public university for almost two years.

So, if you really want to do the most good, perhaps you should consider donating to a university where your contribution will literally change the life and life prospects of its students—rather than supporting schools that have more money than they know what to do with.