27.2.14

CRISIS MANAGEMENT IS NOT EQUIVALENT TO GOVERNMENT ACTION.

Last Week, Face the Nation moderator Bob Schieffer complained about the continued dysfunction in Washington, D. C.
The thing about the news is you can never know where it's going. But lately, it's falling into an all too familiar pattern.

How many Sundays have we started this broadcast the way we did today, with some terrible story from overseas, while back home, there's an equally important story competing for attention?

The overseas stories change, but here is the worrisome part. The story here is always just more of the same old same old, yet another variation of how Washington doesn't work.

"The New York Times" columnist, Tom Friedman, remarked the other day that Silicon Valley is the place where ideas come to be launched. Washington is the place they come to die.

But it is worse than that. As we saw last week, Washington has now given up on even trying to make the old ideas work. It is only February, but the way I read it, the president's retreat from entitlement reform, coupled with the Republican retreat on immigration reform, all but makes it official -- Washington is done for the year. Expect nothing else of consequence to happen here.

As a rule, not much gets done anyway in an election year, but Washington is off to its earliest start ever.
Perhaps that's because it's a mistake to look first to Washington.
Where government power is unchecked, where political opposition is demonized, marginalized, and suppressed, where people are molested by agents and offices of the state, the fact that a government can point to a “democratic” victory to defend its actions will never preclude popular protests. And a change in government, as we saw in Egypt and elsewhere, is no guarantee that popular discontent is alleviated. Although it is grievances about specific governments, specific policies, and specific abuses of power that animate any particular protest, it is the ability of government to wield as much power as people have allowed it to that give life to protest in the first place.
Fortunately, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have been able to secure a monopoly on demonization, marginalization, or suppression, and the fanatical moochers in the Democrat base and the fanatical believers in the Republican base counteract each other in numbers sufficient to secure gridlock, which is preferable to the tyranny either of Kenyan socialism or potted theocracy.

To the likes of Mr Schieffer and the legions of wannabe Influential People that gather Sunday mornings in front of pictures of the Capitol to hold forth on the Latest (manufactured) Crisis, however, that is as garlic to vampires.  Offer public affairs programming that takes seriously the idea that Government is Big because Government Generates Rents and Rent-Seeking Creates Gridlock and the whole Pundit Industry will collapse.

'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.
The Obama administration has been the culmination of the advancement of state intrusion into our lives that began roughly a hundred years ago and has reached such a point that the originality and the intentions of our country are barely recognizable.  The results of this have been disastrous both economically and socially, most of all in terms of the personal freedom and liberty of our citizens. We have gone backwards in many ways, not the least of which is that race relations have deteriorated during the administration of the first African-American president, largely due to state meddling. We are divided as we have never been since the Civil War, and for really no good reason.

The people aren’t the problem. It’s the state.

And in a still-growing country of over 300 million the state gets bigger and bigger and bigger just by entropy, until we are all engulfed.

We need some government, obviously, but at this point in American history, in order to save our nation, we need to get the state as much as possible out of our lives, to cut its functions with a meat cleaver to release our better impulses, to have the renewal of Spring. Deep down even some modern liberals realize this. (Bill Clinton famously said the era of big government is over before running the other way as if in fear of his own honesty.)

In this coming crucial year, those of us who feel the overweening state is the problem must reach out our hands to our fellow citizens as never before.  My sense is that many of them are ready to hear our message.  (The fiasco of Obamacare has been a gift in that regard.) And if we don’t reach out our hands, there will be no American Spring. Things will only get worse.  (The horrific attempt of the FCC to monitor newsrooms is a harbinger of totalitarian things to come.)
In the absence of clear limitations on state power, specifically, government with limited and enumerated powers, it is gridlock that protects the liberties of the people.

STOP ENABLING SUB-LITERACY.

Today's lesson in faulty thinking comes from the fever swamps of the Perpetually Aggrieved.
You can rationalize away all disparate impacts of institutional racism and sexism if you shape your theories, models and measurements just so.

I have argued vehemently, albeit academically, that higher education research is one of the whitest fields of research out there these days. Somehow econometrics brought the rational choice penchant for ignoring statistical discrimination from econ and wedded it to the efficiency logics of market enthusiasm to create a perfect storm of obfuscation and rationalized oppression.
Translation: the author has no clue how econometrics works, or what statistical discrimination arguments ignore.  Here's Bryan Caplan on the possibility that statistical discrimination is an informed prior.
Judging everyone as an individual is expensive, and relying on statistical generalizations is a cheap and effective alternative.  You don't clutch your purse when you see a bunch of little old ladies approaching on a deserted street.  You don't offer a policeman a joint.  You don't hire a guy with a mohawk as a receptionist at a law firm - even if he promises to get a hair cut.  Why not?  Because on average, little old ladies don't commit violent crimes, policemen arrest people for possession of marijuana, and guys with mohawks have trouble with authority.
If you question its usefulness, as a concept, there's more at Orgtheory.

In the fever swamps, though, the author goes from possibly useless criticism of economics to a howling non sequitur.
A college readiness test would come with no State obligation. The ridiculous notion that excluding poor students who aren’t college ready from Pell would magically incentivize public education to get on the ball with preparing all students is the kind fairy dust that gives us trickle down economics.
I agree, such a rule would not by itself stop the common schools from enabling failure. But the common schools enable failure by relaxing discipline and calling it sensitivity, and by lowering standards and calling it inclusion. If you seek fairy dust, start there.  You can't have bourgeois prosperity or bourgeois civilization without the right life management skills.  Our President is beginning to catch on.
"So often, the issues facing boys and young men of color get caught up in long-running ideological arguments — about race and class and crime and poverty, the role of government, partisan politics," the president said in a packed White House East Room. "But the urgency of the situation requires us to move past some of those old arguments and focus on getting something done and focusing on what works. Doesn't mean the arguments are unimportant; it just means that they can't paralyze us."

The initiative was shaped in part by two meetings Obama had with a chapter of the Chicago-based group Becoming a Man, which left a deep impression on the president and the group's young African American men. The last time they saw the president, they presented him with a Father's Day card in the Oval Office, leaving him speechless.

Obama was introduced by Christian Champagne, an 18-year-old junior at Hyde Park Academy High School, who said he was coasting along with B's and C's when he listened to the president talk about his own struggles growing up without a father at home. Now Champagne said he earns A's and B's and plans to go to college.
Keeping the common schools' shortcomings in mind, let's pick up a debate Joanne Jacobs fount that gets to the heart of the matter.  First, Deborah Meier puts in the case for the enablers.
And I thought, yes, Robert [Pondiscio], if we can't create schools that, in your words, kids "want to attend every day, schools they are proud to associate with, and where they feel valued," then, as you argue, "something is missing."  Those are words I can join you in saying—over and over.   When have schools ever been that for low-income and black or brown Americans, I ask myself?  Even middle- and upper-class white kids have probably mostly been eager to go to school because that's where their friends were.  And perhaps that's what, in the end, drives poor black kids to do it, too, even though it's generally a place of disrespect and failure, except for the five minutes between classes, the lunchroom, recess, and maybe sports.

In part, of course, this has been the fault of teachers.  They, too, are citizens of America and carry with them the longstanding prejudices that we haven't easily ever shaken off.  We whites of European descent have hundreds of years of disrespect for the poor and for people of darker skins embedded in our literature, culture, language, and everyday experience.   Standardized testing has even been a means, a tool, for justifying racism and class prejudice.
Yes, and standardized testing is also a means to overcome racism or class prejudice by permitting less arbitrary comparisons of peoples' abilities. It became more difficult for the Ivies to defend quotas limiting Jewish enrollment, for example, with more high test scores on applications with Jewish-sounding names.

Robert Pondiscio presents the rebuttal.
There is an idea at loose in overheated corners of the edusphere, which I pray you do not share, which sees a manufactured "shock doctrine" conspiracy to drive American education onto the rocks in order to seize control and make a buck.  It's a lovely, comforting illusion, isn't it?  We are capable, wise, and all would be well if the malefactors of great wealth were not aligned against us.  That is far easier to accept than our own shortcomings, low expectations, failed notions about schooling, and stubborn refusal to adapt.  Perhaps we were as complacent about our schools as Detroit's auto execs were about their factories.

Can I be persuaded that test scores are "not a definitive measure of 'intellectual prowess?'" I'm already persuaded, but what of it? I resist the facile temptation to conflate testing with all that is wrong with American education. Testing did not destroy schooling. It revealed the rot and complacency within too many schools, especially those serving our poorest children, like Detroit's.

We adapt, we grow, or else we stagnate and decay. The factories that employed generations in Detroit stand empty.  One hundred years ago, they didn't stand at all. A generation hence, maybe two, something else will stand in their place.  But not if we pretend nothing's wrong, Deb.  Not if we choose not to run the race.
Or if we atone for years of oppression by fobbing off a simulacrum of education on the descendants of the oppressed.  Without the proper life management skills, the poor stay poor.

26.2.14

JUST HONOR THE WORK.

Bernie Reeves of Phi Beta Cons puts in the case for the Core Curriculum.
How can society function as more and more college graduates, as Randy Newman put it in his classic song Rednecks, “go into LSU dumb and they come out of LSU dumb too”? The answer is by re-instituting what was often called the General College, two years of required courses for freshmen and sophomores. Whether or not the curriculum matched a student’s major or his career, it assured parents, the public, and the students that they were literate, numerate, and possessed a sense of the sweep of history and knowledge of the calculus of politics and government. That they could hold their own in a London drinks party.
Yes, the Canon and the Core matter. Present or not, it also matters that students own their education, whatever preparation they might have brought.  Case in point: today's senior capstone paper consultations.  Genetic testing, adverse selection, and medical expenses leading to bankruptcy.  Agglomeration economies, Marshallian industrial districts, and outmigration from Peoria.  The potential for algorithmic money to keep the good features of commodity and fiat money with fewer of the bad features.  Rent-seeking, campaign contributions, and import tariff rates.  I can't let up with people taking on that mix of challenges.

22.2.14

GET TO THE ROOT CAUSE.

Caitlin Flanagan has a long essay, "The Dark Power of Fraternities," up at The Atlantic.

Spend a few minutes noodling around the internet, you'll find plenty on the pervasiveness of fraternity culture on Wall Street or in government or in the local Rotary Club.  Buried in the longish article, though, is recognition that the Greek-letter organizations are part of the lowering of higher education.
It could never attract hundreds of thousands of them each year—many of them woefully unprepared for the experience, a staggering number (some 40 percent) destined never to get a degree, more than 60 percent of them saddled with student loans that they very well may carry with them to their deathbeds—if the experience were not accurately marketed as a blast. They show up on campus lugging enormous Bed Bath & Beyond bags crammed with “essentials,” and with new laptop computers, on which they will surf Facebook and Tumblr while some coot down at the lectern bangs on about Maslow’s hierarchy and tries to make his PowerPoint slides appear right side up. Many of these consumer goods have been purchased with money from the very student loans that will haunt them for so long, but no matter: it’s college; any cost can be justified. The kids arrive eager to hurl themselves upon the pasta bars and the climbing walls, to splash into the 12-person Jacuzzis and lounge around the outdoor fire pits, all of which have been constructed in a blatant effort to woo them away from competitors.
For years, I have been of the view that the way for higher education to cope with austerity and downsizing is to raise standards and enroll fewer students.  The Greek-letter organizations are complicit in the sub-priming of higher education.
Furthermore, fraternities provide colleges with unlimited social programming of a kind that is highly attractive to legions of potential students, most of whom are not applying to ivy-covered rejection factories, but rather to vast public institutions and obscure private colleges that are desperate for students. When Mom is trying—against all better judgment—to persuade lackluster Joe Jr. to go to college, she gets a huge assist when she drives him over to State and he gets an eyeful of frat row. Joe Jr. may be slow to grasp even the most elemental concepts of math and English (his first two years of expensive college study will largely be spent in remediation of the subjects he should have learned, for free, in high school), but one look at the Fiji house and he gets the message: kids are getting laid here; kids are having fun. Maybe he ought to snuff out the joint and take a second look at that application Mom keeps pushing across the kitchen table.
Tighter standards: fewer frats, less work for student life or remediation or the disciplinary boards that remain, although the damage of the late Sixties is entrenched even there.
If something as fundamentally reactionary as fraternity membership was going to replace something as fundamentally radical as student unrest, it would need to align itself with someone whose bona fides among young, white, middle-class males were unassailable. In this newly forming culture, the drugs and personal liberation of the ’60s would be paired with the self-serving materialism of the ’80s, all of which made partying for its own sake—and not as a philosophical adjunct to solving some complicated problem in Southeast Asia—a righteous activity for the pampered young collegian. Fraternity life was reborn with a vengeance.

It was an entirely new kind of student who arrived at the doors of those great and crumbling mansions: at once deeply attracted to the ceremony and formality of fraternity life and yet utterly transformed by the social revolutions of the past decades. These new members and their countless guests brought with them hard drugs, new and ever-developing sexual attitudes, and a stunningly high tolerance for squalor (never had middle- and upper-middle-class American young people lived in such filth as did ’60s and ’70s college kids who were intent on rejecting their parents’ bourgeois ways).
What was I saying about the folly of using "bourgeois" as a pejorative?

IT TAKES A THEORY TO BEAT A THEORY.

The Old Farmers Almanac missed the DeKalb winter.
Winter will be slightly milder than normal, with near-normal precipitation and below-normal snowfall in most of the region. The coldest periods will be in mid- to late December, early and mid-January, and in early to mid-February. The snowiest periods will be in mid- and late December and in late January.
No.

The Climate Prediction Center missed it too.
“Not one of our better forecasts,” admits Mike Halpert, the Climate Prediction Center’s acting director. The center grades itself on what it calls the Heidke skill score, which ranges from 100 (perfection) to -50 (monkeys throwing darts would have done better). October’s forecast for the three-month period of November through January came in at -22. Truth be told, the September prediction for October-December was slightly worse, at -23. The main cause in both cases was the same: Underestimating the mammoth December cold wave, which brought snow to Dallas and chilled partiers in Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
The problem: three months is too long an interval for a weather forecast, but too short an interval for a climate forecast.
The limit on useful weather forecasts seems to be about one week. There are inaccuracies and missing information in the inputs, and the models are only approximations of the real physical processes. Hence, the whole process is error prone. At first these errors tend to be localized, which means the forecast for the short term (a few days) might be wrong in places, but is good enough in most of the region we’re interested in to be useful. But the longer we run the simulation for, the more these errors multiply, until they dominate the computation. At this point, running the simulation for longer is useless. 1-day forecasts are much more accurate than 3-day forecasts, which are better than 5-day forecasts, and beyond that it’s not much better than guessing.
Put simply:

wt = f(wt-1) + e,

where wt is the weather at observation t, f is the forecasting function, and e is the error, which may suffer from all the statistical contaminants.

Climate forecasts, on the other hand, are all about calibration of the model.
Climate science has the opposite problem. Using pretty much the same model as for numerical weather prediction, climate scientists will run the model for years, decades or even centuries of simulation time. After the first few days of simulation, the similarity to any actual weather conditions disappears. But over the long term, day-to-day and season-to-season variability in the weather is constrained by the overall climate. We sometimes describe climate as “average weather over a long period”, but in reality it is the other way round – the climate constrains what kinds of weather we get.

For understanding climate, we no longer need to worry about the initial values, we have to worry about the boundary values. These are the conditions that constraint the climate over the long term: the amount of energy received from the sun, the amount of energy radiated back into space from the earth, the amount of energy absorbed or emitted from oceans and land surfaces, and so on. If we get these boundary conditions right, we can simulate the earth’s climate for centuries, no matter what the initial conditions are. The weather itself is a chaotic system, but it operates within boundaries that keep the long term averages stable. Of course, a particularly weird choice of initial conditions will make the model behave strangely for a while, at the start of a simulation. But if the boundary conditions are right, eventually the simulation will settle down into a stable climate.
The researchers have ample opportunities to design boundary conditions and stability ranges consistent with their priors.
To handle this potential for initial instability, climate modellers create “spin-up” runs: pick some starting state, run the model for say 30 years of simulation, until it has settled down to a stable climate, and then use the state at the end of the spin-up run as the starting point for science experiments. In other words, the starting state for a climate model doesn’t have to match real weather conditions at all; it just has to be a plausible state within the bounds of the particular climate conditions we’re simulating.

To explore the role of these boundary values on climate, we need to know whether a particular combination of boundary conditions keep the climate stable, or tend to change it. Conditions that tend to change it are known as forcings. But the impact of these forcings can be complicated to assess because of feedbacks. Feedbacks are responses to the forcings that then tend to amplify or diminish the change. For example, increasing the input of solar energy to the earth would be a forcing. If this then led to more evaporation from the oceans, causing increased cloud cover, this could be a feedback, because clouds have a number of effects: they reflect more sunlight back into space (because they are whiter than the land and ocean surfaces they cover) and they trap more of the surface heat (because water vapour is a strong greenhouse gas). The first of these is a negative feedback (it reduces the surface warming from increased solar input) and the second is a positive feedback (it increases the surface warming by trapping heat). To determine the overall effect, we need to set the boundary conditions to match what we know from observational data (e.g. from detailed measurements of solar input, measurements of greenhouse gases, etc). Then we run the model and see what happens.

Observational data is again important, but this time for making sure we get the boundary values right, rather than the initial values. Which means we need different kinds of data too – in particular, longer term trends rather than instantaneous snapshots. But this time, errors in the data are dwarfed by errors in the model. If the algorithms are off even by a tiny amount, the simulation will drift over a long climate run, and it stops resembling the earth’s actual climate. For example, a tiny error in calculating where the mass of air leaving one grid square goes could mean we lose a tiny bit of mass on each time step.
There's still room, though, for further research.
The models also fail to get details of the past climate right. For example, most of the observed warming over land in the past century occurred at night. The same models used to predict future warming models showed day and night warming over the last century at nearly the same rates.

Past models also missed the dramatic recent warming found in observations in the Arctic. With this information as hindsight, the latest, adjusted set of climate models did manage to show more warming in the Arctic. But the tweaking resulted in too-warm predictions—disproved by real-world evidence—for the rest of the planet compared with earlier models.

Shouldn't modelers be more humble and open to saying that perhaps the Arctic warming is due to something we don't understand?
And, perhaps, these commenters suggest, to understand the value of specialization and division of labor.
The climate-change consensus is not endangering lives, but the way it imperils economic growth and warps government policy making has made the future considerably bleaker. The recent Obama administration announcement that it would not provide aid for fossil-fuel energy in developing countries, thereby consigning millions of people to energy poverty, is all too reminiscent of the Sick and Health Board denying fresh fruit to dying British sailors.

We should not have a climate-science research program that searches only for ways to confirm prevailing theories, and we should not honor government leaders, such as Secretary Kerry, who attack others for their inconvenient, fact-based views.
Indeed. Economists recognize, every day, the risk of engaging in mathematical politics, to endorse or to undermine established ways of doing things. Policy scientists in other disciplines require the same consciousness of those risks.

19.2.14

ALLOCATING RESOURCES EFFICIENTLY.

A dissident professor at Chicago State University notes what goes wrong at a dropout factory, and what ought be done about it.
Now the administration is cutting budgets on the academic side, which is leading to a spiraling downward in enrollments. Students can't get into the courses they need. They simply go somewhere else or drop out altogether. Meanwhile the giant administrative staffs are untouched.
No doubt, the faculty attempt to add students to closed classes, or suggest that the students gripe to the deans about the lack of classes, and the deans suggest that the students or their parents gripe to the legislature about the lack of state funding.  True enough, the students often get trapped in the pissing contest between university and legislature over funding.  Sometimes, though, you simply have to provide the capacity, or the university melts down.
If we faculty were to be honest with ourselves, we would admit that part of the problem is poor teaching. We have a few professors who:
- Administer multiple choice and true-false tests that are rigged so students can pass them without really learning anything.
- Never bother to learn their students' names. Treat students with contempt and disrespect.
- Don't bother to stay current in their fields.
Use Power Points that are half a decade old or are downloaded from the "instructors materials" from the textbook publisher (I've been guilty of this myself).
False productivity measures. And yes, at least make the effort to recall students' names. If you can recall it on a chance encounter a few years later, it makes some of the sting of the C minus the student earned go away.
Worst of all, the administration doesn't seem to give a damn whether teaching is any good or not. Sometimes poor teachers are rewarded with administrative positions where they are supposed to "evaluate" the rest of us. The faculty get evaluated to death, but it is mostly bean counting. And now that there is so much antagonism between faculty and administration, the lousy teachers aren't going to listen to the administration anyway. President Watson was reported to have criticized the faculty before he arrived on campus, but it was about how lazy we are and how we don't teach enough classes. He hasn't been in front of a classroom in years and has never to my knowledge taught a course at CSU, which I find unconscionable.
It's up to the Chicago State faculty to take back decision-making authority over curriculum, admissions, and teaching conditions.  That's the salutary message of the Illinois - Chicago informational strike.
Many of our problems are similar to those facing higher education as a whole, especially in our sector, which educates first generation college students. These students are being lured away by the for-profit online schools that promise an easy degree without leaving the comfort of your home.
That college-in-your-pajamas snare will consign more poor people to a life of poverty, deprivation, servitude and ignorance than the brick-and-mortar retention ponds have.  The task for faculty, whether at Chicago State, Illinois - Chicago, Northern Illinois, Illinois - Urbana, or Northwestern is to first stop enabling the high schools' continued production of Distressed Material that has to be remediated, and to second offer intellectual challenges to matriculants, whether they arrive with the life challenges of the projects, or the life challenges of Winnetka, or anywhere else.

A PROPER CIRCUS HAS PACHYDERMS AND A TRAIN.

Circus Spectacular had planned to bring its pachyderms to the Northern Illinois Convocation Center on March 4.   The presence of animal acts in circuses does not appeal to everybody, and some of the university, now including the Student Association, went on record as objecting to the circus's presence on campus.  Circus Spectacular have now cancelled the stand, citing "inclement weather and travel conditions."  I recognize that it is still winter in the Midwest, and winter gives no sign of wanting to go away.  The show, however, is making a jump from either Cincinnati or Green Bay to Milwaukee for weekend appearances, with the one-night stand in DeKalb.  The trainmaster of a traditional thirty-car show would be unimpressed with so many idle days between showings.

DOING MORE WITH LESS.

In higher education, rubrics are one of the many dumb ideas the colleges of deaducation seek to impose on professors.  (Have the deaducationists committed a venial sin by misappropriating a liturgical term?)  Fortunately, a student columnist nails an accurate thesis to the Northern Star's door.

Detailed rubrics take away from student creativity.


Indeed.

Perhaps, one element of becoming "the premier student-centered, research-focused public university in the Midwest" is to stop killing student creativity.
College is a time for students to learn while expressing themselves as individuals, but many professors are putting a stop to that, one exhaustive rubric at a time.

It’s difficult for students to complete a writing assignment without any guidance. A rubric is a way for a student to know what the professor expects of him or her, but they can become a burden for the same reason.

Many students approach a writing assignment and just look to fulfill each requirement before they turn it in; the fixation on those details prohibits the student from developing a personal style, making writing more of a chore. Providing simple guidelines allows students to relax on the requirements and focus on the purpose of the assignment.

Courtney Gallaher, assistant professor in geography and women’s studies, avoids providing rubrics in order to promote critical thinking.
Colleagues: consider giving up rubrics. For Lent to start, then for good.

18.2.14

WHAT MEANS THIS STRIKE?

The tenured and tenure-track faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago have gone on a two day strike.  Because the strike does not deprive the management or the share-holders of income, even some potential beneficiaries of the strike on the faculty are skeptical.
Anthony Pagano, an associate professor of management who is not in the faculty union, said he agrees with its overarching goals — but not with the chosen means for achieving them.

Pagano said strikes in industry can be effective bargaining tools because they affect the company directly. In university settings, however, strikes don't really affect administrators — they affect students, he said.

"Who suffers from this (strike)? Not the university," he said. "The answer is students. And the students have zero say-so in this."
A statement by two Illinois-Chicago professors of English raise the possibility of short-term pain to current students, so as to avoid greater long-term pain to current and future students.
To understand why we’re striking, it’s useful to know a bit about UIC. It is, indeed, a major research university, but “large, struggling under-funded research university” would be more accurate. We’re more like Wayne State, Temple, or Brooklyn College, say, than Berkeley or Michigan, or even the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

But mainly, we like it that way. Unlike the flagships of state universities around the country (never mind selective private colleges), we don’t think our job is mainly to educate the children of the upper middle class.

If you look at college enrollments, almost all the top public schools enroll a large proportion of students from well-off families.
Yes, and you are in the same business as Berkeley and Michigan and Urbana, and your students deserve the same intellectual challenges as their future competitors for jobs are getting.  (Otherwise, your students will simply be managed by graduates of the flagships and the Ivies.)  Fortunately, the strike organizers get it.
Only about a third of our students come from families making over $60,000, and many of our students are from immigrant families, live at home, hold full- or part-time jobs, and even have children of their own.

What this means is that we characteristically enroll students whose preparation, as reflected in their ACT scores, isn’t as good as the students at places like Urbana-Champaign. (Family income is a very good predictor of ACT scores.) And we have some real problems with retention (family income is a good predictor of retention, as well).

But the UIC faculty and the UIC administration are completely united on the fact that we don’t think that the way to solve these problems is by getting “stronger” (which is to say, richer) students. In fact, when we put together a “Strategic Thinking Report” back in 2005, we explicitly said we’re not looking to recruit “better” students; we want to do a better job of educating the students we have.
In other words, no dropout factory, no watered-down degrees just to make the completion statistics look better.  But to do a better job of educating the students who show up requires proper resources.
The UIC faculty is committed to that mission. And the whole point of the strike is to help us fulfill it.

Start with the retention problem. The biggest falling off is between the first and second years of college, so our administration is (rightly) concerned with the first year experience. What courses do first year students take? Who teaches those courses?

Every entering UIC student takes at least one writing course; most take two. Not surprisingly, our writing courses are overwhelmingly taught by lecturers (i.e. non-tenure track faculty), on year-to-year contracts and paid a standard salary of $30,000. Furthermore, although the administration carries on endlessly about the importance of merit, they’re unwilling to mandate a promotion track for non-tenure track faculty, the whole point of which would be to reward merit.

So what exactly does it mean to insist on the importance of the first year experience and then pay the people most responsible for that experience a wage that virtually requires them to work a second job? What does it mean to claim you want to reward the best and the hardest working when you not only won’t promote them, but you won’t even provide a position they could in theory be promoted to? You’re short-changing both the faculty and the students.
I repeat myself. But repeat myself I must.
How many students are taking classes from temps who have no office hours because they have no office? And what authority does such a surrogate professor have? (To repeat some pet themes of mine, one reason the military is more effective at developing troops is that the boot's introduction to the service is a senior noncom. The cub dispatcher who has tied up the railroad for the third time in a week has a conversation with a crusty general superintendent of transportation along the lines of "let's discuss a different career.")
There's a potential bargain to be struck between the administration and the union here: put the senior faculty in the same position vis-a-vis the new students that the senior noncom or the crusty general superintendent holds.

There are, however, fewer senior faculty to sit in the superintendent's chair.
On the contrary, with fewer tenure track appointments getting made, the tenure track faculty skews older; therefore, we have salary compression — the effect of years of no raises combined with the effects of inflation and no cost-of-living increases. But the Board of Trustees has been as reluctant to deal seriously with this issue as it has been with those $30,000 a year non-tenure track minimums.
Then, strip away the radical pose and note in the manifesto a call for methods of university governance that works.
These are bread and butter issues. They don’t even speak to the loss of autonomy and control that faculty are experiencing in neoliberalized workforces, to questions like what academic freedom means to people on one-year contracts or to the politics of reducing universities to nothing but supposed instruments of economic development.

Historically, the administration of the university was a function of faculty who were chosen to manage the running of departments.  The Dean was Dean of Faculty — chosen by and beholden to the people who actually teach students. But with the bureaucratization of the university and the growth of the university as corporation, deans, provosts, and their myriad vice-provosts have become management. This now-bloated segment of the university makes decisions about the welfare of faculty and students.  A recent study shows that non-faculty jobs have grown by 27 percent while faculty lines remain flat or decreasing.

The term “shared governance” is invoked to disguise this evisceration of power but what it mainly means is that faculty senates can “advise” the administration and the administration can then do whatever it wants. To call shared governance real governance is like saying your dog has an equal say in how your household is run because sometimes when he whines he gets fed.

One of our issues in this strike is to take back decision-making power over the issues that matter to us — curriculum, teaching conditions, the distribution of monies, and the like.  The administration is fighting ferociously to retain that power — since giving it up would in effect be returning it from management to workers.
Notice: take back. Not restoration.  Not "turning back the clock."  The language of thermodynamics (only entropy increases) or of cosmology (uni-directional time) is not applicable to human actions that are historically contingent, subject to review, and reversible.  And whether we're speaking of an administrative power-grab, or of a sub-priming of institutions of higher education to the demoralization of faculty and to the dis-service of striving and determined students, reviewing the consequences and reversing the mistakes is a consummation devoutly to be wished, never mind the politics of the statement.  Without students, no university.  The faculty are permanent.  Administrators come and go, and they job-hop and punch their tickets and go on to wreak havoc elsewhere.

At Chicago Circle, the havoc has been sufficient to drive the faculty to unionize, and to strike.

CAPITAL - LABOR COMPLEMENTARITY.

For years, I've enjoyed chamber music, and for years I've puzzled over how a top-notch violinist finances the acquisition of a high performance violin on a musician's salary.  Short answer: they don't.  Collectors of objets-d'art enter into trust agreements with performers (no doubt the lawyers and tax accountants get a piece of the action) to the mutual benefit of everyone, particularly because musical instruments deteriorate if they're not played.  Although some performers own instruments that provide a capital gain at retirement (much like a taxi medallion) the trust agreement is common with some of the rarest instruments, such as the Lipinski Stradivarius, recently stolen from Milwaukee Symphony concertmaster Frank Almond by low-lives with ties to Milwaukee-area Democrat politicians, fortunately recovered in playable condition after good police work by Milwaukee's police department and the FBI.  Mr Almond and the violin appeared in a recent Milwaukee Symphony Pops concert, with several members of the Milwaukee police present as the orchestra's guests.

17.2.14

THEORIZING CRAP.

To philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, "civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them."

To culture-studies types, thinking about routine is all.
Behind me was the hum and chatter of an art opening—this was at a now sadly departed radical Chicago cultural center called Mess Hall. On a table nearby were offerings of hummus and home-made brownies. Nearly everyone else was chatting and oblivious to my plight, but I could sense at least one other person impatiently waiting behind me. Then I went in, and, inside, next to a perfectly serviceable modern flush toilet seat, was a five-gallon bucket of shit. As far as I could tell—I’ll admit I kept my eyes averted—there was a layer of sandy material on the very top of the bucket, along with a note about how to use it. It was like a giant human litter box.

I was happy that they at least gave us a choice, between the loo and the litter.

Follow your shit, we were admonished in this project, and see how it’s all wrapped up in capitalism and the environment. The point was to get us to actually think of what happened to our shit once it left our body, and the ways in which we allow our shit to leave and mingle with the great waters of seas and rivers. The shit compost bucket was a way to make its materiality even clearer, in case we had forgotten.

And we have, by and large, been allowed to forget about shit. We believe that the problem of excrement is solved. In some senses it is, and a society with working waste removal is a healthy society.
Precisely, although there's a culture-studies essay of prodigious length about why that proposition is wrong.
The very idea that one should be concerned about privacy or dignity while shitting is one that hippy-radicals and academics mock. Historians of shit like to describe this urge to privacy as a bad departure for the culture. Some describe, with a smugness that sometimes floats to the surface, the fact that the ritual of going to the toilet was once upon a time a communal experience, with people laughing and chatting away and catching up on gossip as they went about their business.

Dominique Laporte’s 1978 History of Shit, for instance, interrogated shit as a reservoir of cultural anxieties and asserted that the development of modern toilets was symbolic of a larger bourgeoisification of culture.
Retired or not, I shall not rest as long as there are people who should know better using "bourgeois" and its variations as a pejorative.
Civilization, we are told, produces too much shit, and we cannot actually shit less. But there is more human and animal excrement than we can handle. Animal shit particularly has increased exponentially in countries like the U.S., where farming now means animals are herded in the millions as part of massive agribusiness corporations—and the nature of animal shit has changed as animal feed has changed.

So the composters come forth. They believe that to compost shit, to return it to the earth so that it might regenerate the world, addresses our environmental and ecological crisis.
Never mind the composters. I give you the sewer socialists of Milwaukee, who, years ago, saw the potential in selling dried activated sewage sludge as a fertilizer.  With a foot of snow (or is it the beginnings of the next glacier?) on the ground, and a layer of Milorganite under it, the potential for a lush lawn in May, if the ice cap melts, is great.

Fortunately, even culture-studies types have to recognize reality.
To reduce water and paper waste requires people to adhere to ways of life that take us backwards in time. It compels people to return to patterns of labor and leisure (or the lack thereof) which are often sexist and in fact can actually aid in the greater spread of disease.
Quite. In Whitehead's words, "The art of free society consists first in the maintenance of the symbolic code; and secondly in fearlessness of revision, to secure that the code serves those purposes which satisfy an enlightened reason. Those societies which cannot combine reverence to their symbols with freedom of revision, must ultimately decay either from anarchy, or from the slow atrophy of a life stifled by useless shadows."  Whether the culture-studies types are the anarchy or the useless shadows is left to the reader.

MAJORING IN SKIING?

College Insurrection identifies Utah's Westminster College as the institution with the most current and past students on the U.S. Olympic team.  A commenter to the post remarks on the presence of Olympians from small countries who pursue their studies in Colorado or Montana.  Makes sense.  The fiftieth-best skier on Team USA might well be the best skier for Venezuela.

The next-largest contingent, ten current and past students, is the University of Wisconsin, with nine hockey players, male and female, still in medal contention.

And, incidentally, a central campus that isn't a quad.  It's a drumlin.



Looks like one of those days in late April or early May with a hint of summer to come and a bad case of cabin fever among the students.  Now, if the Olympics had an event for cafeteria trays, the greatest training ground in college would be this Bascom Drumlin, er, Hill, in winter.

TENURED FREEWAY FLYERS.

Academic tenure means a professor cannot be fired without disciplinary proceedings of prodigious length.  It carries no presumption of salary increases, stable working conditions, or capital and personnel support.  The candidate for tenure must make substantial investments in relationship-specific human capital, which brings in its train opportunities for the employer to hold up the employee.  It's a messy problem with conflicting perspectives in the academic work.

At the Pueblo campus of Colorado State University, the hold-up takes the form of a work speedup for the proles.  Tight budgets require the administration to change on-load teaching from 3 + 3 to 4 + 4 with no change in compensation and no mention of reduced administrative duties or research expectations.

As a further productivity measure, the existing business faculty is apparently being assigned to a branch campus in greater Denver as their additional on-load course.
Business and nursing are the two programs from our university that are participating in the first stages of Colorado State University’s South Denver campus. I just talked to our Dean of Nursing. Their Nursing Completion Program there will be staffed by new hires in the South Denver area. The Business faculty, on the other hand, had to submit their CVs to Fort Collins so that they can decide which of them has to commute up north. Yes, you read that right. CSU-Pueblo business faculty will be forced to commute to Denver at least twice a week. On a good day, that’s two hours each way. On a bad day (which means you hit rush hour), it’s much worse. Don’t even start with me on what happens when it’s snowing.

Like the rest of us, the business professors (at least in theory) have to teach a 4-4 starting next year. This is going to be the “4″ for many of those professors. Has anybody decided who’s paying for their gas? No. Has anybody decided on who’s actually paying their salaries (since this is a Fort Collins controlled program)? No. Has anybody decided whether these people will be compensated for their travel time? No. I was just talking to a colleague over in business. Apparently, they were told this was coming a year ago and then told to “make it happen.” They’ve received no other guidance at all.
And the last passenger trains between Pueblo and Denver quit with the coming of Amtrak.

I note, though, that when administrators change the working conditions of tenure-track faculty in such a way as to be more like the working conditions of contingent faculty, the expected rewards to winning the tournament diminish and sensible advisors ask postulants and novices to consider their choices carefully.

The research-active faculty at Pueblo note that the productivity measures are likely to be counter-productive.
CSU-Pueblo President Lesley Di Mare said many departments are already teaching 12 credit hours per semester.

“We are asking those who are not to do so to help balance the budget,” Di Mare said.

Di Mare said staff workers also are taking on additional duties.

“We have met with those individuals whose workload will be impacted and discussed how duties from eliminated positions will be distributed,” Di Mare said.

[Physicist William] Brown said the quality of education at the university will decline with the new 4-4 workload.

Brown said the job goes way beyond working in the classroom.

“We don’t have teaching assistants here so we have to do every bit of our own grading, preparations for exams and having students in for help,” Brown said.

Brown said several professors also are involved in research projects that take time.

“If research and the efforts to get grants here at the university are diminished as a result of going on this 4-4 schedule, I think CSU-P is going to offer fewer educational opportunities.”
A more recent post at More or Less Bunk features an insightful comment.
1.) Faculty Handbook revision: Research shall be eliminated as a category of evaluation for retention, tenure, and promotion.

2.) Truth in advertising 1: In recognition of the importance of research to a university, CSU-Pueblo shall be renamed Pueblo State College.

3.) Truth in advertising 2: Ask the External Affairs office to issue a press release titled, “Working-Class and Hispanic Students Thrown Under the Bus.” Text of the release would explain the term “disparate impact” as it pertains to the education of already marginalized students.
Put another way: adding to the excess capacity in access-assessment-remediation-retention on the cheap does not provide human capital development for place-bound students who might be hungry and determined all the same.

FREE SPEECH BEGINS ON CAMPUS.

Vladimir Putin, Tsar of All The Russias, Player with Tigers, and Stacker of Snow, takes deserved stick for the infrastructure shortcomings at Sochi, on the Russian Riviera.  But Trinity College's Thomas S. Harrington directs his gaze closer to home.
Oh, what fun it is to mock Putin and his attempts to present a civilized and modern face to the world.

In the Boston Globe this week, David Filipov who is manning the paper’s "life on the street" beat in Sochi, explains with clear scorn and condescension how, in Putin's Russia, those that want to protest against the government are relegated to doing so in "protest parks" far from the cameras and the crowds.

Funny how in 2004, at the Democratic National Convention in Filipov's home town of Boston, neither he nor anyone at his famously "liberal" paper made much fuss about the "free speech zones"—chain link cages with constant video surveillance—that were set up as the sole place where protestors against the political order could say their piece during that key political event.

Indeed, the "free speech zone," a patently illegal absurdity in the context of the most elemental reading of the US constitution, has become a ubiquitous part of our life in the US, justified, of course, in the name of "security"—or as the more suave disdainers of basic constitutional rights like Obama like to put it, in the name of the "necessary balance" between security and freedom in our society.

The fact that such a liberty for security trade-off has absolutely no presence in the founding legal documents of our Republic, and indeed would have been an anathema to the authors of the Constitution, does not stop Obama and the many human parrots in the media from acting as if it were the most natural and unassailable concept of our legal system.
In Professor Harrington's world, it all comes back to twenty years of Reagan, Bush, and Bush.
Put another way, Filipov and the many others like him in our press have internalized the core presumption of the authoritarian mind: the idea that there is always a force majeure, real or imagined, that can and should trump both their individual rational faculties and our received notions of collective legality.

Where did our press learn to think this way? The answer lies in our post-Reagan political establishment, you know, the group the mainstream press loves to say it holds to account, but whose perceived power and influence it, in fact, venerates. Lusting after this claque’s parcel of power, and learning to imitate their techniques of career advancement for thirty years has finally hollowed out their souls.
There's a simpler explanation, no farther away than the gates of Trinity College.
Trinity College has been given the speech code rating Red. A red light university has at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech.
I notice, in researching this post, that the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education have removed the Speech Code Widget I invented.

But, Professor Harrington, "Oh what fun it is to mock the mainstream press for its complicity in the suppression of speech."  Yes it is.  And it's serious work.  But first, consider Trinity's own manifestations of the core presumptions of the authoritarian mind.  Free speech zones are a tool of academic administrators.

DETROIT IS WHAT DEMOCRATS DO.

Kevin D. Williamson elaborates.
Worried that unionized public-sector workers are looting your city? Detroit is already bankrupt, unable to provide basic services expected of it — half the streetlights don’t work, transit has been reduced, neighborhoods go unpatrolled. Worried that public-sector unions are ruining your schools? Detroit’s were ruined a generation or more ago, the results of which are everywhere to be seen in the city. Worried that Obamacare is going to ruin our health-care markets? General-practice physicians are hard to find in Detroit, and those willing to accept Medicaid — which covers a great swath of Detroit’s population — are rarer still. Worried about the permissive culture? Four out of five of Detroit’s children are born out of wedlock. Worried that government is making it difficult for businesses to thrive? Many people in Detroit have to travel miles to find a grocery store. This is the endgame of welfare economics: What good is Medicaid if there are no doctors? What good are food stamps where there is no food? What good are “free” schools if you’re so afraid to send your children there that you feel it prudent to arm them first?
"In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all, By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul."

Via Newmark's Door.

12.2.14

AN EXPENSE PREFERENCE PLAYGROUND.

Paul Gomberg of CSU Faculty Voice suggests Something Deeper at work as the university's administration goes on with business as usual.
What is it telling us when someone is retained as provost after that person’s academic dishonesty has been openly exposed in meticulous detail? What is it telling us that this would not happen at another university? The action by the BOT to endorse the tenures of Angela Henderson and Wayne Watson is telling us that this is good enough for black people, who are the majority of our student body. When you offer inferior conditions to black people, when you endorse this, you are endorsing racism.
I'm of the view that a lot of the Perpetually Aggrieved require the continued existence of constituents existing in crappy conditions in order to hang onto their power.  Mr Gomberg's argument proposes an antagonism between the ward-heelers and the constituents, rather than the symbiosis I propose.
The civil rights struggles of fifty and sixty years ago shifted toward a black power perspective in the last half of the 1960s that called for black control of the black community. The succession of black-led administrations at Chicago State is one manifestation of this movement as are black police, mayors (in largely black cities), police chiefs, and politicians. At that time the party I belong to—Progressive Labor Party—opposed these demands for black cops and school principals, arguing that the same policies of racist police brutality and racist treatment of black students could and would be practiced by black cops and bosses. It has taken nearly fifty years of political experience with racist black cops and racist black officials and administrators for many of us to see that the PLP was right all those years ago.
Exploiting the constituent for political gain is more lucrative than improving the lot of the constituents.  But it keeps the establishment in power, particularly if that establishment can take advantage of the constituents' desperation to mau-mau everybody else.  And at Chicago State, there's desperation.
Our students are mistreated at every turn. Our classrooms are not maintained. The physical facilities (think about the concrete paths and staircases across campus) are deteriorated. Bathrooms are broken, but the university does not employ a plumber. The students are not allowed to select their own textbooks. The financial aid lines are unconscionably long, and students are often insulted or patronized. Students’ paperwork is frequently lost. There is no daycare, it having been eliminated when repair of Robinson University Center was begun many years ago, with no replacement being offered, a racist and sexist attack on our many students who are primarily responsible for the care of children. Any one or two of these things might happen at any school. But all have been part of the pattern of racist (and sexist) mistreatment of black students during my twenty-nine year tenure at Chicago State.
The two bookstores at Northern Illinois (more accurately, the two sports-clothing stores with some books) function like proper American stores rather than the Gosudarstvenny Universalnya Magazin, and the day-care and child development lab are at work, but the deferred maintenance and rot is everywhere.  We're in agreement on the main point. "As a special bonus, it ruins the lives of the most vulnerable students, claiming to offer second chances to all the underserved populations supposedly most in need of special care."  The sad message of Mr Gomberg's post is that the hustlers running Chicago State are likely to accuse their critics of singling out a black-run university for its incompetence, thus continuing the abuse of a predominantly black student body.

THE WINDOWS DON'T OPEN.

In Milwaukee, frugal transit riders would ask the motorman to "punch my transfer a little long as I have to go to Eleventh and Schuster's" and local lore has passengers handing unexpired transfers out the window to passengers waiting to board.  With more sophisticated ticketing machinery and gated stations, contemporary transit systems can vary the price by time of day and by distance travelled.  It's a lot more complicated than the Single Fare Area (adult fare, 25 cents) and outlying Suburban Zones 1 (one more nickel to get off) and 2 (two more nickels to get off).  Inbound passengers would pay the extra zone fares on boarding, and there was provision on the transfer for a change of routes outside the Single Fare Area.

Relatively simple, but relatively difficult to beat.  Today's more complicated ticketing systems offer arbitrage opportunities.  But the bull session suggests that the transaction costs of setting up a ride-sharing cooperative exceed the relatively small benefits to engaging in fare arbitrage.
Armed with an up-to-date fare guide, it’s simple to find out whether a particular pair of trips allows for arbitrage.

[Twitter data analyst Asif] Haque gives the example of a commuter travelling from Millbrae Station to the south of San Francisco to the downtown station, Embarcadero, a journey that costs $4.50. Another commuter travelling from Glen Park in San Francisco to Berkeley on the other side of the Bay pays $4.20. So together they have to fork out $8.70.

But if these commuters meet and swap tickets, it’s possible for them to pay $5.10 (Millbrae to Berkeley) and $1.85 (Glen Park to Embarcadero) or a total of $6.95. That’s a saving of $1.70 or 20 per cent.
A map is useful.  The day service Red Line runs Millbrae - Glen Park - Embarcadero - Berkeley enroute Richmond.  In principle, a pair of regular riders could discover this pattern and work out this trade although the lost time from their electronic shackles is probably worth more than $1.70.

And transit authorities can tweak their prices to counter such anomalies.  It does pay to be alert to them, though.  Years ago, a college friend discovered that a Paisan's mushroom pizza with sausage was cheaper than a sausage pizza with mushrooms.  They eventually figured it out.

PROPER CONDITIONS FOR SKI-JUMPING.

Did somebody say world-class ski-jumpers were in the air?

They were, but not at Sochi.  Iron Mountain is more like it.  Sixty jumpers, eleven countries, 11,000 spectators.  Good weekend for the Slovenians.
Saturday's event went off under ideal conditions and in front of a record crowd of 11,343 fans. All rows of parking were full on the Pine Mountain Resort grounds, with parked cars overflowing well onto Pine Mountain Road.

"There were more people here Saturday than any of us in the club can ever remember," Kiwanis Ski Club spokesperson Susie Fox said.
Because of the Olympics, there were more competitors in Michigan.  Sounds strange, but many of the other scheduled competitions evidently shut down.  High winds on Sunday precluded that day's events.

On the other hand, the hostelries acquitted themselves well.   No reports of mal-hung doors, yellow water (how does one say "yellow snow" in Russian?), upside-down toilet seats, or fouled up reservations.
“We enjoy watching the ski jumps and the young guys come off the hill,” said spectator, Beaver Reddinger. “It’s a big, old tailgating party and people come out and have a good time.”

The Kiwanis Ski Club said they reported a record number of spectators on Saturday, anywhere from 6,000 to 8,000 people, something they haven't seen in years. And with many people visiting and over 60 athletes and their coaches in Iron Mountain for the weekend, those in the hospitality industry say it's one of their busiest times.

“They come from all over; they draw from Green Bay, Milwaukee, the Northern U.P.,” said General Manager of EconoLodge in Iron Mountain, Paul Swanson. “They come from all over; it's a very unique event.”

The EconoLodge hosts all of the ski jumpers and their coaches every year.

“They’ve been coming here for over six years now. They start coming in on Wednesday, and we're full right on through Sunday; they typically check out on Monday morning,” Swanson said.

They said they were so full this weekend they had to keep sending people to other hotels for rooms. It was a weekend full of athletic talent, community camaraderie, and economic impact.
Make no small plans. Why not hold the Winter Olympics along the Wisconsin-Michigan border? Lake Superior snowbelt with reliable snow almost every year, lots of open country for the cross-country events, maybe extend deer season for a special kind of biathlon, and I can think of no holier place to hold the opening and closing ceremonies than Lambeau Field.  But you'd have to design a "cauldron" that works more like the World's Biggest Bratwurst Grill to get the ambience right.  And visiting Russian Mafia types could check out Al Capone's northerly lair.

DRAIN THOSE RETENTION PONDS.

Richard Vedder comments on a recent analysis from his Center for College Affordability and Productivity of the costs of access in college.  By all means read the paper, and the comments, and draw your own conclusions.  I like this. "All in all, however, our efforts to provide "college for all" have been accompanied by high levels of resource waste, academic failure, and student disillusionment accompanying financial pressures (high student loan debt). This must change." Indeed.

5.2.14

GIVE US YOUR HUDDLED MASSES YEARNING TO LAMBEAU LEAP.

Coca-Cola bought two advertisements during the Super Bowl.  During the second quarter, viewers saw what this roundup of all the adverts characterized as "the solemn spot."


Because the advertisement featured lines of America the Beautiful in multiple languages, it set off some of the Perpetually Aggrieved.  Time TV critic James Poniewozik suggests the aggrieved back off.
We come to America, in other words, and we become American–but we don’t erase everything else that we were before, we don’t forget our cultures and languages as if they never existed, and we don’t hide them as if they’re shameful or less than patriotic. We bring them out and share them, and they make this country better and stronger. America isn’t weakened because people don’t submit to a monoculture; it’s strong because it can absorb the peoples and aspirations and talents of the rest of the world without erasing their cultures.
Yes, America is still the shining city on a hill. And, wherever you or your ancestors came from, whether arriving by boat or plane or on foot, you have America's Team.  That's the message of the advert Coke presented in the fourth quarter.


The commercial had to have been recorded before a similar situation arose in the game at Chicago that put the Packers into the playoffs.

In a "behind the scenes" video, production team members suggest the connection between a community and a football team could not plausibly be depicted in this way anywhere other than where Ashwaubenon abuts Lambeau Field.  Local people made cameo roles.


Seattle may be custodians of the Lombardi Trophy. It's on loan from Green Bay. Coca-Cola gets it.

WASHED AWAY.

A severe storm in the Southwest of England has washed away tracks of the Great Western Main Line at Dawlish station.
Ballast and sub-soil has been washed from under the tracks and part of the adjacent road, Riviera Terrace, has collapsed, cutting off access to four properties.Residents were evacuated at 23.00 last night.

Earlier this week, debris on the line from the storms had led to a suspension of services between Exeter and Newton Abbot, and the cancellation of the FGW sleeper service between Penzance and Paddington.

However, there was been a worsening of conditions overnight with the hole appearing in the sea wall near the station and First Great Western decided today to suspend all services between Exeter and Penzance.

Down by Dawlish station, fencing and railings have been uprooted and the station platform has been damaged too.

Driving conditions on the road are equally challenging due to flooding, and there is no replacement road transport. In Dawlish, a number of houses have been evacuated.
The one cheerful part of this story is the "down by" locution. The waves have been powerful enough to have destroyed seaside houses in Dawlish, displacing people.  A BBC News Magazine Monitor article refers to the segment as "the UK's most celebrated stretch of railway."
Dawlish station overlooks the beach, while Teignmouth's station is only a short walk from the sea. Millions of holidaymakers will have been enthralled at the sight, as the twin-track railway swings past Langstone Rock (west of Dawlish Warren station), and hugs the shore at Dawlish, with the English Channel stretching out as far as the eye can see.
The Great Western Railway received Parliamentary authority late in the 1930s to build an inland line. World War II got in the way, and the nationalised railway didn't have the money.  The plans may still be shovel-ready.  That means the last piece of my a-building layout representing a railroad line as-is could become yet another tribute to what once was.


That's the two through lines and two platform lines at Dawlish Warren, the small goods yard (yes, with provision for the camping coaches), and you're looking up toward Cockwood Harbour and Starcross.  Behind will be Langstone Rock and some of the cliffs.
On the footpath that also forms part of the wall, people will merrily wave as the trains pass. Below, many will be basking in the sun, within feet of a fast-moving train. Brunel claimed the stretch of line would cost no more to maintain than anywhere else in the UK. But back in 2009, Network Rail told me: "Mile for mile it is the most expensive piece of railway in the UK." There are five tunnels on the section, which sees trains run along the wall until they reach Teignmouth, where the line then sweeps inland along the banks of the River Teign.

And there is more to the line than the sea. The iconic red sandstone cliffs that tower over the line, the picturesque seaside town of Dawlish and the lush greenery above the tunnels all add to the magic of this stretch.
I'm working on modifying the traditional model railroad fascia board to include that footpath integral to the sea wall.

A TRENCHANT OBSERVATION FOR OUR TIMES.

Laura McKenna, at 11-D.
Sometimes it is difficult to be a feminist and a mom of boys. I have to cheer at the success that girls are finding in schools and college, but I do worry how the school system treats boys. I worry that boys, who lag behind girls developmentally, are traumatized by a school system that prizes perfectionism over other character traits.
All the better the post for its lack of "war on boys" rhetoric.

3.2.14

FISH OR CUT BAIT.

The tenured faculty are the stewards of the university.

They're catching on at Chicago State.
Every member of the faculty must and presumably does take the debacle seriously and with grave concern. We do not agree on every particular of the critique, but we all recognize that our university is in peril. We have known for far too long that our students, and their families and neighborhoods, are denied the quality of education that they need and want and that this regime has refused to provide as it plays petty political games and treats this university as a patronage pit.

So we recognize that, as documented repeatedly in this faculty blog and various investigations by the Faculty Senate, the current regime has failed. It has demonstrated a woeful lack of basic understanding of what a university is and how it should function. It has acted with hostility toward faculty, deals dismissively with staff, shows indifference to students, and disrespects the community.

Unless the current regime takes on the monumental task of transforming itself, with all that that involves, it must end. It must end for the good of the university and all whom it serves.

We must replace it with an effective and informed administration that acts in good faith and works with all in a spirit of good will. How can we get there? Recognizing that we can control only our own actions, faculty nevertheless must take the lead. Previously the Faculty Senate and the faculty union cast overwhelming votes of no-confidence. We need to reinforce that message and to make clear that it represents a strong consensus of CSU faculty.

Hence, coming days will bring more votes of no-confidence. We must use them to inform and mobilize, and to send the clear message of massive denunciation by this faculty of this regime.

Complementing the votes, a petition shall soon circulate. It seeks the public statement by tenured faculty of their condemnation of this regime and their urgent request that those with the authority to replace it do so. To make the message clear and powerful, we need dozens of tenured professors to step forward and identify themselves in their principled opposition to the regime.

We understand and appreciate that this entails some considerable risk, given the record of the executive administration and its avowed intention to stonewall. We can expect veiled threats and individual blandishments. Yet, if tenured faculty will not take this step, what hope do we have of convincing others to take the actions that they should take?
Indeed. Do the working conditions and the academic environment have to deteriorate to the low estate of Chicago State before the faculty push back?

Or is Marc Bousquet correct?
I once shocked a colleague by responding to one of those newspaper stories about a prof "caught" mowing his lawn on a Wednesday afternoon by saying that many tenured faculty were morally entitled to think of their salaries after tenure as something similar to a pension. After all, in some fields, many folks will not receive tenure until they've been working for low wages for twenty years or more: a dozen years to get the degree, another three to four years serving contingently—and then, finally, a "probationary" appointment lasting seven years at wages commonly lower than those of a similarly-experienced bartender.
To screen for tenure, though, a faculty member has to demonstrate a commitment to the work.
All of the reasonable studies of faculty work suggest that this person will put in between 50 and 55 hours a week for most of those years, more or less voluntarily. There are plenty of enforcement mechanisms to make sure that most faculty will teach, serve, and do scholarship in some rough proportion to their abilities and inclination, but after a quarter-century of strict selection and socialization, it is rarely necessary to invoke them to get the faculty to do their jobs.
Professor Bousquet even approves of the rebel, or perhaps, the faculty member who goes Galt.
It's hard to make a case that the rather unusual instances of lifetime associate profs who skate by on twenty- or thirty-hour work weeks are gaming the system. Instead, they are the unusual few who have refused to allow the system to game them. Whatever one thinks of these rare birds, one has to acknowledge the strength of character it takes to refuse the overwhelming appeal of the administration, the ideology of the profession, and the continuous hailing of their students and colleagues to give so much more than the standard set by other workers in the public service.
While the strivers in the department, or the deanlets and deanlings, seek to extract more free labor?
Contemporary management innovation in and out of the academy revolves around creating workplace conditions that they hope will induce workers to freely discount their wage. In the administration of higher education, this means a delicate balancing act, in which management continuously tries to seize control of institutional mission without killing the academic goose laying its golden eggs. The history of workplace change in higher education over the past forty years is a slow, grinding war of position or culture-struggle, with administration continuously pushing to see just how partial or inauthentic it can make the autonomy, integrity, and dignity of academic endeavor without inducing the faculty to fall out of love with their work.

Likewise, the history of corporate management's effort to imitate the success of higher education workplaces can be expressed as, "How can we adjust our corporate culture to resemble campus culture, so that our workforce will fall in love with their work too?" That is, the managers desperately want to know, how can we emulate higher education in moving from simple exploitation to the vast harvest of bounty represented by super-exploitation?
Somewhere, though, the positional competition collides with the labor-leisure tradeoff.
So far the most common examples for the average worker involve the donation of additional time represented by the ideology of professionalism. Workers not previously considered professional and not compensated like professionals now routinely donate countless hours to their employers: doing one's email at 6 am, taking phone calls in the evening, writing reports on weekends, traveling and attending employer events on personal time, and so forth.
Or, as Maryland mathematician Ron Lipsman notes, the work is no longer fun.
I yearned for the academic life. I wanted the freedom to choose my own lines of professional inquiry; to be independent; to have the opportunity to interact with the best minds (around the globe) in my field; to do something worthwhile - whether it led to a marketable product or not. Were I faced with the same choice today, I'm not sure that I would make the same decision.
Access-assessment-remediation-retention does that to a professor.  Throw in deferred maintenance and course management software such that each professor is doing the clerical work and handling referrals to student support, and it's enough to say Enough.

NOT QUITE THE BIG RED SUBWAY.

During World War II, The Pennsylvania Railroad could move the masses.


New York Pennsylvania Station, July 1944

Sgt. Karlson was stationed at Camp Kilmer during 1944 and he told tales of the station being jammed from the arcade to the West Gates, and yet people kept moving through the station, and ultimately, everybody got to where they were going.

The record for moving passengers through The Pennsylvania Station is something like 400,000 tickets lifted in a 24 hour period, during World War II.  Destination: Freedom reported something like an expected 400,000 people in New York City and environs for the Super Bowl, many of whom would be vendors or reporters or hangers-on, not necessarily spectators.
New Jersey Transit (NJT) promoted the game with a special section of its web site, www.njtransit.com, including a countdown clock on the site’s home page, set for the kickoff time of 6:25 pm. There were special trains to the game and the events surrounding it, and NJT spent $2,500,000 (approved last February) to expand the lower-level platforms at Secaucus Station to accommodate ten-car trains of multi-level coaches. Most trains that normally use those platforms consist of six cars or less, plus one locomotive. NJT said Friday that it expected 12,000 to 15,000 fans to go to the game on their trains, so the cost of that project would exceed $208 for each rider, if 12,000 took the train to the stadium. If rail ridership for the event reached 25,000, that would have reduced the cost allocation to $100 per rider.
Yes, but The Pennsylvania Railroad never handed off passengers to the Lackawanna at Secaucus, and the ability of transit authorities to respond to larger-than-expected crowds isn't what it used to be.
Newark resident Gary Johnson, who advocates for better transit, as well as for improved bicycle and pedestrian mobility, added up the numbers of people who could get to the stadium by different transportation modes. The 63 “Fan Express” buses could carry about 5000 riders, with standees. The special trains into and out of the stadium station (30 to the stadium and 26 leaving it) could carry as many as 30,000 people, if those thousands of fans arrived at the time when the trains ran. Still, NJT estimated that only 12,000 to 15,000 fans would arrive by train. That makes 17,000 to 20,000 on transit. Using NJT’s number, that leaves 60,000 people or more, with only 12,000 parking spaces available. That would require a vehicle occupancy rate of five people per vehicle, which is impossible. “I don’t see how everybody could get to the stadium. The numbers just don’t add up” said Johnson.
The carrier anticipated about 15,000 passengers.  Twice that many showed up.
NJ Transit officials said the agency transported about three times as many fans out the Meadowland after the Super Bowl as it typically does during a Giants game.

"We've moved more people than we've ever moved in and out of this place," said Jim Weinstein, executive director of NJ Transit, who was standing on the platform with some of the last passengers to leave the Meadowlands.

For many fans, it had been a harrowing day on the rails. More than 28,000 people bought train tickets to the Meadowlands station, shattering a record set more than four years ago, NJ Transit said. It was far more people than officials had expected to ride the trains, and it proved too much for the transit system to handle at times.

By early this morning, NJ Transit had transported 32,900 people back from the MetLife Stadium, said John Durso Jr., an agency spokesman.

NJ Transit brought in 20 charter buses, which had been stationed at the Vince Lombardi Service Area as part of a contingency plan, Durso said. The buses took 1,112 customers out of the lines for the trains at MetLife Stadium and dropped them off at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, significantly cutting down the lines.

"This was all expected and all went according to plan," Durso said.
At least New Jersey has a turnpike service plaza with a suitable name.

But when four shuttle trains show up simultaneously at Secaucus, where the pre-game security screening took place, the relatively small station is overwhelmed.


Associated Press photograph courtesy London Daily Mail.

"Success" isn't what it used to be.
A New Jersey Transit official said that 25,000 people had been moved only to Secaucus Junction by midnight, two hours after confetti started raining down on the field, and called the operation a 'tremendous success.'

It is not known how long it took to clear the transit hub of passengers.

'This is a joke,' said Seattle native Jeff Chapman, an engineer. 'We're not even from here and we could've told you this would've happened.'

'What do you expect when you don't give people any other option to get home,' added friend Willie Whitmore, a project manager. 'It's ridiculous.'

Scoreboard announcements inside the stadium begged people to stay inside the gates to ease congestion and the New Jersey State Police bizarrely advised fans via Twitter to 'enjoy the stadium atmosphere until congestion dissipates.'

This is terrible,'said Dan Steidl, of Green Bay. 'I'm ready to get out of here but I don't know when that'll happen.'

It appears that neither did officials, despite having hours to react to the disaster that was the ride in.
In 1926, the North Shore Line built a much larger temporary station, and borrowed rolling stock from the Chicago Rapid Transit Company, for a one-day International Eucharistic Congress at Mundelein.  A rainstorm provoked an early departure for many pilgrims, and the railroad handled it.  These days, though, the transfer stations resemble checkpoints.


Associated Press photograph courtesy London Daily Mail.

It's not 1944 at Penn Station, either.


Bryan Pace for New York Daily News.

The rail professionals are weighing in.  Here's the National Association of Railroad Passengers.
It’s hard to know exactly who is to blame in this situation. While it would be easy to point fingers at NJ Transit, it may simply be the case that the infrastructure was insufficient to the loads placed on it.

To compare, Long Island Rail Road’s Belmont Racetrack station was designed to accommodate huge, simultaneous influxes of passengers. With an overhead ramp to provide center access to multiple platforms, passengers can feed down to any of the three platforms serving four tracks from either direction. This is not the case with NJT’s Meadowland’s Sports Complex station. However, if the Meadowland’s is only going to make transit a top priority for a single day, is it really worth the cost to upgrade? The MetLife stadium is much more car-centric, with space given over to roughly 28,000 parking spots. Because of increased media and security for the big game, organizers decided to make only 11,000-13,000 of those available. In retrospect, it’s clear not enough thought was given to how people would get to the game, or whether the transportation infrastructure was capable for this sudden juxtaposition of priorities.

It is a question often posed to NARP, in one form or another: how can officials quickly fix this infrastructure problem that was created through decades of poor planning and underinvestment? Unfortunately, there is no magic switch we can flip. It’ll take many years of hard work to create a balanced transportation system. All the more reason to start today.
There's a railroad station right at the stadium gate, and similar passenger loads have shown up for concerts (in addition to hosting a Giant or Jet game each weekend of the football season, Meadowlands is a good place for a summer concert). I wonder if the Belmont station doesn't date back to when the Long Island Railroad belonged to The Pennsylvania Railroad.

There's much more at The Lackawanna Coalition.