The Weekly Blab 5.28
The Weekly Blab
Volume 5, Issue 28—April 11, 2011
The Tradition Continues…
The Red Sox continue their losing ways, and are now an exciting 2-7 as of the time I’m writing this. Chelsea beat Wigan 1-0 on Saturday, which was good, but Manchester United beat Fulham in a cakewalk 2-0 on Saturday as well, which makes them just about unstoppable. Chelsea meets Manchester United in a Champions League game this Tuesday. An interesting aspect to the game is that Manchester United’s top player, Wayne Rooney, is serving a two game suspension for swearing into a television camera, and will (in the words of manager Sir Alex Ferguson) take his frustration out on Chelsea. We’ll see.
Speaking of sports, my son Mark and I attended the Atlanta Braves opener Friday night at an event sponsored by the SPSU Alumni Association. We drove down to Atlanta without incident, arriving at about 5:45 PM. That’s when I made my big mistake—I didn’t remember how to go to the parking lots, and got off I-75 following the signs that said Turner Field at the Capitol exit. Still following the signs, I drove down past the Board of Regents building, and went straight. Unfortunately, the police had the way to the stadium blocked off, and I was forced back onto I-75, which I then couldn’t get off of because of the traffic. Finally reaching the next exit, I headed back to Turner Field, the roads to which were jammed solid. I figured I’d get a parking place on a side street, but everyone was hawking their driveway spaces for $20-30 and there was no parking allowed on the street. After being hit by a truck (no damage, amazingly), I finally parked at a church about five minute’s walk from the stadium for $10. We got to the picnic dinner at 6:45, and downed a couple of hot dogs (the hamburgers were gone at that point, leaving only some questionable looking veggie-burgers). Lots of folks from SPSU were there, and Mark and my seats were on the 4th level in the 2nd row—quite good really, with an excellent view of the action.
The game started badly—lots of errors in the field, and pitcher Tim Hudson proved himself incapable of bunting. The Phillies took a 3-0 lead, but the Braves came back to tie it. When Chipper Jones hit a 3-run double in the 4th inning giving the Braves a 6-3 lead (which was the final score, as it turned out), you could see that all was right in the world. Anyway, it was a nice event put on by our Alumni Office, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
Careful with that email
The political wars are heating up, and some faculty members at universities are finding themselves to be potential targets. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a free-market oriented think tank, has filed some open records requests lately, asking for any emails from labor-studies faculty on the subject of the collective bargaining battles going on in Wisconsin. These requests have been filed at the University of Michigan, Michigan State, and Wayne State University. This follows similar requests taken by the Wisconsin Republican Party against a faculty member, history professor William Cronin, at the University of Wisconsin—Madison (who had written an article in the New York Times about the collective bargaining issue). The results have been predictable—some faculty have cried “intimidation”, while others have argued that these groups have every right to file freedom of information act requests. The action was interesting enough to prompt articles in the Guardian (London). In many states, use of state university computers to advocate for a partisan political position is illegal.
The Mackinac Center itself has published a defense of its FOIA requests. It’s an interesting read, as are the blogged comments that follow—and kudos to the Mackinac Center for not censoring comments that largely disagree with its defense. The Mackinac Center argues that the Wayne State labor-studies department web site openly advocated for unions and collective bargaining, and against tea party and taxpayer groups. There would seem to be truth to this—the Chronicle reports that Wayne State has now removed much of this material from its website. You can decide for yourself by looking at the examples that the Mackinac Center linked, which were some of the things that Wayne State apparently removed. Are they examples of political bias?
The Mackinac Center denies having targeted faculty in order to “out” individuals who have broken the “no lobbying on state computers” law, pointing out that they’ve filed FOIA requests before, and have never done that with the results. In their own words: “This has always been done with a desire to increase the public’s understanding of why government adopts certain policies or spends money in certain ways. Sometimes we have also been concerned that government officials have engaged in activities contrary to their proper legal mandate. In this case and in others, we were not interested in some sort of bizarre crusade to expose any political bias of professors.”
The idea that departmental websites might be hotbeds of political activity was a new on me, so I did a little checking. I googled “labor-studies department”, and looked at the first five results associated with state universities. The results were that three were strictly non-political (they dealt only with their degree programs) and two (both in California) had elements on them that I would consider political—one sponsored an annual fair that was clearly pro-union, and the other had a number of (way outdated) sympathetic links to union protests in the news. Are these examples of political bias?
I was going to do something similar with the first five Business Administration programs, but I couldn’t figure out what I might think would constitute something political there—if they had a news item arguing that public service unions aren’t in the public interest? If they sponsored a young entrepreneurs club? Would these be evidence of political bias?
I’m at a loss here, and would like to hear from colleagues: What would constitute clear evidence of political bias on a department website? I’ll publish any interesting comments in a future BLAB.
Here’s some scattered news from around academia:
- Florida A&M’s Board of Trustees announced the elimination of 242 jobs and some two dozen programs in a restructuring, according to the Chronicle. Their website’s advice to those losing their jobs? “Try not to stress about being laid off.” Hmm…
- A Widener University School of Law professor was placed on administrative leave for making numerous hypothetical references to the Dean being shot. Philly.com reports “Connell admitted using Ammons in hypothetical scenarios in which he is a perpetrator who attempts to shoot the dean, but denied that she was shot in the examples. He called such techniques part of a teacher's academic freedom.” He is now suing the Dean for making defamatory remarks about him during administrative proceedings.
- An entrepreneurial business professor at Folsom Lake College (California) is reported to have offered to raise students’ grades if they raised money for the college’s foundation, according to the Sacramento Bee. After protests, the professor cancelled the plan.
- And right here in Georgia, as reported in its student newspaper, a professor at Valdosta State was arrested on charges of battery for closing a laptop computer on a student’s hands when he caught her surfing the web in class. The professor is now free on bail. In an interesting twist on the story, “When students returned to the same class on Monday, they were greeted, not by their teacher, but instead two VSUPD officers. The students who had not witnessed the incident were asked to leave. The remaining students were advised by the officers not to talk to anybody about the incident and that police could find out if information about this incident was put on Facebook or Twitter, Drakeford said.”
Maybe the last three professors were just stressed…
Last Week’s Trivia Contest
Last week’s contest was on the topic of the United States. The winner is Bill Prigge (our new CFO), with a not-too-shabby four correct. Question number five was the one that stumped everyone. Here are the answers:
1. What state was originally a monarchy? Hawaii
2. What four states meet at a single point? Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona
3. In what state do the Ashley and Cooper rivers combine to form the Atlantic Ocean? South Carolina (in Charleston)
4. What state is the leading producer of bauxite? Arkansas.
5. What was the first state to be formed in its entirety from a part of another state? Kentucky, which was originally a county in Virginia.
This Week’s Trivia Challenge
This week’s contest will focus on Little Orphan Annie. No looking on the web, now!
1. What was Annie’s dog’s name?
2. What was the first and last name of Annie’s “daddy”?
3. What was the name of “daddy’s” Indian assistant?
4. What product was the sponsor of the Little Orphan Annie radio show?
5. What was the name of the organization that Annie founded for kids to help win World War II?