Saturday, May 10, 2014

Bill Powers Corrupt, Ineffective, and Vindictive "Leadership"


"For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,"
2 Timothy 3:2

Some courageous U.T. Professor has penned an essay chronicling how the University of Texas has moved backwards under Bill Powers' 'leadership':
COURSE CORRECTION: IT’S TIME FOR UT-AUSTIN’S PRESIDENT TO STEP DOWN

I call on University of Texas at Austin president Bill Powers to step down. He has served the university for over eight years, and while successful in some areas, including fundraising, his leadership has failed in ten critical ways.

UT is less affordable than ever; graduation rates are low and stagnant; core requirements are frivolous; controversial views are stigmatized; the university is over-invested in physical plant; it is underinvested in emerging technologies; administrative costs have skyrocketed; the balance of tenure-track and adjunct faculty is out of whack; the curriculum is fragmented; intellectual diversity on campus has withered; academic standards are mediocre; transparency has been forfeited; and the appearance of integrity has been compromised.

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At UT-Austin, tuition went up 22% in the first five years of Powers' presidency (from 2006 to 2011). Average net cost to UT students (taking into account financial aid) went up 33% from 2005 to 2009 (when the UT System stopped reporting this figure).

At the University of Texas, state aid per student has remained fairly constant over the last ten years, lagging slightly behind tuition. State aid as a percentage of total spending has declined, but only because real spending has been growing exponentially. Other public universities have done much better. At the University of Maryland, tuition increased only 0.9% in the last five years, and there have been very modest increases in tuition at Florida State and University of Florida, despite sharp drops (over 50%) in state aid, thanks to increased efficiency.

Administrative efficiency has not been a hallmark of the Powers administration. In the first five years of the Powers era, spending on administrative salaries at UT went up 86% at the university level, 55% in the College of Liberal Arts, and 45% in the College of Business, to take two typical colleges. Powers created an entirely new vice presidential position (in 'diversity and community engagement'), and administrative salaries soared into the mid-six-figures, even for many associate deans. Spending on faculty salaries went up 21% in the same period (15% above inflation), with no increase in student learning, as measured by the Collegiate Learning Assessment (in which UT ranks in the 23rd percentile for its peer group).

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UT’s four-year graduation rate has remained, dismally, below 50%, and even the six-year rate has never topped 80%. Instead of addressing this problem, Powers chose to spend the early years of his presidency “reforming” the core curriculum through the creation of the Commission of 125, which resulted in adding a new, complex, and cumbersome set of requirements (six “flags”) on top of the state-mandated 42-hour core requirements. These flags were used, not to expedite completion, but to reward political constituencies, including flags in “multiculturalism” and “global [i.e., non-Western] cultures.” The two writing flags have become meaningless diversions, requiring no more than 16 pages of writing per semester.

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When UT sociology professor Mark Regnerus published a peer-reviewed article challenging the conventional wisdom on the impact of same-sex marriage on children, UT's administration responded to a groundless charge of 'scientific misconduct' by a blogger in New York by launching a full-scale inquisition of Regnerus's research. In the end, to the credit of Provost Stephen Leslie, Regnerus was completely exonerated of any wrongdoing. (In fact, a recent study of Canadian census data in the Review of the Economics of Households by Douglas W. Allen supports Regnerus's tentative conclusions). There can be no doubt that if Regnerus had reached the politically correct conclusion of 'no difference' between biological and gay parenting, he would never have been subjected in the absence of any prima facie of error to such an exacting investigation. (For more details, read this open letter by a group of sociologists critical of UT's treatment of Regnerus.) Despite the Leslie report's vindication of Regnerus, UT's College of Liberal Arts has posted an unprecedented 'disclaimer' about Regnerus on its web site, clearly signaling to the world that dissident voices are not welcome at UT.

More evidence of the UT administration's bias against conservative viewpoints can be seen in the ongoing persecution of the only conservative student organization on campus, the Young Conservatives of Texas. In September of 2013, the Young Conservatives of Texas held an "affirmative action bake sale," in which identical cupcakes were sold at a variety of prices, lower prices being offered only to minority students. This was an effective and clear statement of conservative principles: it's wrong to treat people differently on the basis of their skin color or ethnicity. However, UT's vice president for "diversity" Gregory Vincent implausibly claimed that the Young Conservatives "create an environment of exclusion and disrespect among our students, faculty and staff." Vincent charged the students with violating the honor code; if this charge had been true, it would have been grounds for expulsion. This pattern of intolerance on the part of UT was repeated in November 2013, when Vincent (once again), joined by President Powers and the Faculty Senate, warned YCT that they were breaking UT's honor code by protesting the non-enforcement of immigration laws by the Obama administration.

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The future of higher education will involve new ways of delivering content to students, through online lectures and video-conferenced seminars. The age of the ‘brick and mortar’ university is coming to an end. The Powers administration, however, has pursued a massive construction program, adding another 5 million square feet to the campus, a nearly 30% increase. While older building are allowed to deteriorate, the new construction places added burdens of maintenance, utilities, and repair on an already over-stressed fiscal structure. The administration has paid little attention to making more efficient and intensive use of existing facilities, through early morning, evening, and weekend classes, for example.

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In the six years before Powers became president, UT earned eleven national championships in intercollegiate athletics, while earning only four in the eight years of the Powers administration. All this was despite a 32% increase in spending on athletics. The fall-off in athletic excellence under President Powers indicates a growing arteriosclerosis, a tendency for administrators to focus more on their own interests than on those of the campus.

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20% of UT tenure-track faculty teach few students (2% of total semester hours), bring in no outside grants, and publish no original research. At the same time, reliance on temporary and adjunct instructors has grown exponentially, with over 50% of the undergraduate student-semester-hours (and over 30% of graduate semester-hours) being taught by non-tenure-track faculty

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The years of the Powers administration have witnessed an acceleration of this trend, with the addition of a host of hyphenated gender and ethnic studies programs: Women’s and Gender Studies, African-American Studies, Mexican-American Studies, and Asian-American Studies.

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A recent study of American history courses at UT by the National Association of Scholars revealed that 90% of junior faculty members in the history department have a primary research focus on race and gender issues, while none concentrate on military or intellectual history.

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In a 2011 book Academically Adrift, Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa found that 36% of the students it surveyed show little or no increase in their ability for critical thinking, complex reasoning, and clear writing after four years of college, as measured by the Collegiate Learning Assessment test. UT-Austin, in particular, has earned embarrassingly poor results on the Collegiate Learning Assessment test, standing in the 23rd percentile among peer institutions. Average scores for UT-Austin students went from 1263 (freshmen) to 1303 (seniors), a barely measurable improvement after four years of college (as reported by the Washington Post, March 14, 2012). Falling standards have begun to affect even pre-professional programs, with the rate of passing professional exams falling in both nursing (96% to 95%) and engineering (90% to 89%) from 2004 to 2008.

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Regent Wallace Hall has been widely criticized for making excessive use of Freedom of Information Act requests for information from the UT-Administration, but these criticisms overlook a more fundamental question: Why was Hall required to use the FOIA in order to conduct an investigation of influence-peddling at a university over which he has been appointed a regent? It is a fundamental responsibility of every CEO to cooperate freely and willingly with his or her own board.

Amen, read the whole thing here.

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