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This year’s winner of the Appalachian AAUP Award for Academic Freedom and Faculty Governance goes to Dr. Andy Koch, a professor in the Department of Government and Justice Studies.  The award recognizes a member of the university community whose outstanding service has enriched the university by defending, supporting, and working to advance academic freedom and faculty governance across the campus. 

The chapter found that Koch has counted academic freedom and faculty governance among his highest priorities during his tenure as Faculty Senate chair, a position he’s now been elected to serve in for a third term.  One nomination letter noted that Koch “played a major role in keeping academic concerns and the importance of faculty involvement in campus decisions at the forefront during the spring semester search for our new chancellor and through that process forged a number of important relationships with members of Appalachian’s Board of Trustees that will benefit the university for many years.” It further noted that Koch has “used his position as the leader of the Appalachian delegation to the University of North Carolina Faculty Assembly to convey Appalachian faculty concerns to President Tom Ross and members of the UNC Board of Governors.”

The chapter also determined that, in the words of one nominator, Koch’s “direct but diplomatic style in dealing with sensitive issues at an unsettled time at this university has served us well for the last several years” and that his “influence (is certain to be) felt well into future.”

Koch joined the Appalachian faculty in 1995. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He is the author of numerous articles and books in the field of political philosophy. Koch has also served as the advisor of the university chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

We are grateful for Dr. Koch’s work to advance academic freedom and shared governance on the Appalachian State campus and in the UNC System.  

(Note: some of the above content comes from a press release by ASU News.)

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As ASU’s University Planning and Priorities Council (UPPC) begins to write a new strategic plan for 2013-2018, it is perhaps worth asking an obvious question that often does not get raised: Why exactly do we have strategic plans? Interesting insight into this question is offered by Benjamin Ginsberg, a political science professor at Johns Hopkins University, in his recent book The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why it Matters

Ginsberg reminds us that strategic planning at universities is a relatively recent phenomenon. Strategic plans can often be the way that a new administrator can assert his or her vision. They can be driven by trustees, who hail from the business world, where corporate plans are the norm, as well as by accrediting and government agencies. But the length of these documents and the resources they require to be composed are predicated on large numbers of administrators. Ginsberg writes: “Their growing administrative and staff resources have given schools the capacity to devote the thousands of person-hours generally required to develop and formulate strategic plans. Before 1955, only ten of the very largest universities could afford to allocate staff time to institutional research and planning, but by the late 1960s, several hundred schools possessed adequate staff resources for this purpose” (p. 48). According to documents available on the UPPC website, ASU’s first Board-of-Governors-approved Mission Statement dates from 1987.

Ginsberg further maintains that one of the primary reasons for strategic plans is that they serve “several important purposes for administrators” (p. 48). First, he argues, these plans make clear who is in charge. He writes: “The plan is an assertion of leadership and a claim to control university resources and priorities” (p. 49).
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Who says faculty are just whiners and naysayers? Let’s offer our serious suggestions for major improvements that could be made to our campus.  Let’s not talk about the little obvious things like pay the faculty more money or provide us with designated parking spots or at least free coffee in faculty lounges. Let’s talk about steps that would make for broad institutional-level changes that would improve faculty productivity and morale, improve student learning, and make App State a better public university.

Some things that have been suggested here and there include:

— develop a plan for partner hires

–have App State join the Tuition Exchange so that talented college-bound children of faculty and staff can attend any of the 600+ colleges in the consortium for free

–allow students to attend school year-round, and allow faculty members to choose which of three semesters they want to work (fall, spring, or summer)

PLEASE OFFER YOUR BRILLIANT IDEAS (NO RANTS, PLEASE!) IN THE COMMENTS SECTION!

As MOOCs continue to dominate the current discussion about college and university teaching online, it’s important to remember that the technology companies that are driving much of the MOOC model are interested in making money–they are for profit companies, not non-profit educational institutions.  This does not make them inherently “bad,” of course, but it is a distinction that should never be far from out minds.  I think the most cogent critique of MOOC “gee-whizery” that I’ve yet seen is by Georgia Tech’s Ian Bogost (doubly interesting, given how into MOOCS Georgia Tech apparently is).  You can find his comment as the last entry in this online debate in the LA Review of Books:  http://lareviewofbooks.org/article.php?id=1757.  Part II of the same debate is here: http://lareviewofbooks.org/article.php?id=1761.

What I really like about both of Bogost’s comments above is how it reveals the way the intellectual property of faculty is likely to be “monitized” by these big companies, via MOOCs, in ways many faculty probably don’t yet even sense. And, yet, it’s hard to imagine that the technology companies haven’t already thought it through: after all–that’s their business.  Think about the way Facebook has monitized all your social relationships online, and it becomes easier to see….

In all the recent hubbub over MOOCS (Massive Open Online Courses–just in case), a debate that covers prospectives ranging from “they will save higher ed.” to “they will be the end of higher ed.,” we’ve heard relatively little about how they are upsetting the traditional relationship between faculty and the intellectual property in the courses they design and teach. However, faculty are beginning to wake up to the issue.  For instance, just last week former president of the AAUP and University of Illinois English professor Cary Nelson devoted his keynote address at the national AAUP meeting to this very subject.  He thinks it’s a major issue, among the most important of all in relation to MOOCS and other forms of online teaching, and I’m certainly inclined to agree.  You can find coverage of his talk, as well of the plans by the national AAUP to better address faculty intellectual property rights in their courses, in this (freely available) article from the Chronicle of Higher Ed: http://chronicle.com/article/AAUP-Sees-MOOCs-as-Spawning/139743/.

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Appalachian AAUP News

A blog about academic freedom and shared governance at Appalachian, professional values and standards for higher education, and higher education's contribution to the common good.