University of Illinois Professor Emeritus Cary Nelson
(Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media
September 24, 2014

Academic Freedom Expert Doubts Salaita's Tenure Status

Was Steven Salaita's University of Illinois faculty appointment protected when he posted controversial Twitter posts criticizing Israel? Cary Nelson says yes, but only if Salaita was already protected by tenure.

The  Professor Emeritus in the University of Illinois' Program in Jewish Culture and Society believes Salaita was not protected by tenure, because his tenured faculty appointment had not been finalized by the university board of trustees.

In an interview with Illinois Public Media’s Jim Meadows, Nelson says if trustee approval had been granted, Salaita would have been shielded from university sanctions for his remarks, because they are in the area of his field of study as a long-time scholar of Mideast affairs, and they do not indicate professional incompetence on his part.

“We only can raise those questions for a tenured professor, if the remarks he makes suggest or demonstrate he’s incompetent, but not if they’re outrageous” said Nelson. “If they’re racist, if they’re anti-Semitic, as a tenured professor he can say those things and he’s fully protected”.

Salaita has announced intentions to fight for reinstatement at the U of I in court. But Nelson believes a court is unlikely to rule in his favor, and that Salaita’s controversial tweets would not go over well with a jury. However, Nelson believes the university has “not a legal but a moral responsibility” to reach a “serious” financial settlement with Salaita, in exchange for withdrawing his appointment at the last minute.

As for the University of Illinois’ practice of delaying final board approval of appointments until after faculty members start their work, Nelson says the practice is “completely unacceptable”, and that trustees should act on appointments several months before they’re scheduled to begin.

Nelson believes that if such a practice had been in place for Steven Salaita, his controversial tweets over the summer would have been protected by the rules of tenure.

Nelson is a past president of the American Association of University Professors, and the author of a book on academic freedom, “No University Is An Island: Saving Academic Freedom”, published by New York University Press in 2011.

Columbia University Law Professor Katherine Franke has a different view on the Steven Salaita case, available on our website here.


July 26, 2014

Donahue Named New ISU Board Chairman

Illinois State University's trustees have elected a veteran board member as their new chairman.  

Trustees voted Friday to make Rocky Donahue the new chairman. He replaces Michael McCuskey, who retired this month.  

According to The Pantagraph in Bloomington ( ), Donahue said the board had long functioned as a team under McCuskey. He said he hopes to continue that kind of partnership.  

Donahue is a 1982 graduate of Illinois State. He has been a member of the board for three years.  

Donahue lives in Orland Park and is deputy executive director of external relations at the regional transit agency Pace Suburban Bus.  

Illinois State's eight-seat board has two vacant positions. University leaders say they hope Gov. Pat Quinn appoints replacements soon.

Lisa Madigan
(Seth Perlman/AP)
July 14, 2014

AG Files Lawsuits Alleging Student Loan Debt Scams

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has filed lawsuits against two companies for allegedly scamming people who are repaying student loan debt.  

The lawsuits filed in Champaign and Cook counties allege deceptive practices for charging upfront fees for phony services or for services that are already free.

Madigan told reporters Monday that her office received dozens of complaints. She says there are more companies that do the same thing and she'll be aggressive about targeting them.
The lawsuits name Chicago-based First American Tax Defense LLC and Frisco, Texas-based Broadsword Student Advantage LLC.  Messages left at the companies weren't immediately returned.
The companies allegedly charged people up to $1,200 up front for sham services.

Madigan's tips for avoiding such scams include never paying for information about how to pay back student loans.

Harvard's Hasty Pudding Theatricals. According to a recent Gallup poll, only 2 percent of college graduates with $20,000 to $40,000 in undergraduate loans said they were "thriving."
May 06, 2014

Poll: Prestigious Colleges Won't Make You Happier In Life Or Work

There's plenty of anxiety in the U.S. over getting into a top college. But a new Gallup poll suggests that, later in life, it doesn't matter nearly as much as we think.

In fact, when you ask college graduates whether they're "engaged" with their work or "thriving" in all aspects of their lives, their responses don't vary one bit whether they went to a prestigious college or not.

The surprising findings come in a survey of 29,650 college graduates of all ages by Gallup pollsters working with researchers at Purdue University. The poll asked graduates a range of questions designed to measure how well they are doing in life across factors such as income and "engagement" in their jobs and careers.

The survey set a high bar. It found that 39 percent of college grads overall say they're "engaged" at work (which is 10 points higher than the population at large). And, while almost 5 in 6 self-report doing great in at least one sphere — whether sense of purpose, financial security, physical health, close relationships or community pride — only 11 percent are "thriving" in all five areas of well-being.

And here's the kicker.

Those percentages did not vary based on whether the grads went to a fancy name-brand school or a regional state college, one of the top 100 in the U.S. News & World Report rankings or one of the bottom 100. A slight edge did go to those who attended campuses with more than 10,000 students, while for-profit college graduates saw worse outcomes.

No opinion poll can fully capture the impact — or allure — of attending a world-famous institution. But this isn't the first time studies have documented no edge for highly selective schools. Previous studies have shown no link between expensive private colleges and later salary for graduates. Income is much more closely tied to a person's choice of a major, which is a finding the Gallup survey also supported.

High-end colleges often boast that their long-term results should be judged not by looking at paychecks, but at whether their graduates live lives of meaning and deep satisfaction. "A college degree should be ... a passport to a lifetime of citizenship, opportunity, growth and change," wrote Harvard's president, Drew Gilpin Faust, in a letter to The New York Times last year.

Well, this survey asked about all that qualitative stuff — purpose, motivation to achieve goals, opportunity to learn and grow — and it didn't find any broad influence whatsoever, whether a person's diploma cost $25,000 or $250,000.

For Gallup, "well-being" and "engagement" aren't squishy. They have very specific meanings. In surveys of 25 million people over a number of years, the researchers have asked similar questions and correlated the responses across populations with income, health, employee turnover, company revenue and other "hard" indexes.

The graduate survey released Tuesday suggests the factors that should be guiding college decisions are not selectivity or prestige, but cost of attendance, great teaching and deep learning, in that order.

That's because graduates who said they had a "mentor who encouraged my hopes and dreams," "professors who cared about me" and at least one prof who "made me excited about learning" are three times more likely to be thriving and twice as likely to be engaged at work. In a similar vein, grads who did long-term projects and internships and were heavily into extracurriculars are twice as likely to be engaged in their careers today.

College debt also has a big impact, on the negative side. Only 2 percent of those with $20,000 to $40,000 in undergraduate loans reported they were "thriving." That's pretty troubling, since $29,400 is the national average for the 7 in 10 students who borrow. ­

Gallup and Purdue hope to use these and future surveys to help colleges better focus on outcomes, and to identify "outlier" colleges that are doing a great job delivering quality experiences for an affordable price.

In the meantime, the take-home message for students is clear, says Brandon Busteed, who leads Gallup's education work: "If you can go to Podunk U debt free vs. Harvard for $100,000, go to Podunk. And concentrate on what you do when you get there."

March 26, 2014

DAAC Trustees Approve Tuition, Fee Hikes

Trustees at Danville Area Community College voted unanimously Tuesday night to raise tuition by 2 dollars per credit hour, and the college’s universal fee by three dollars.

DAAC President Alice Jacobs says that starting this summer, the new per-credit-hour tuition rate at DACC will be $110 for in-district students, while their fee will be at $15. Fees at the Danville college are being raised for the first time since 2010, while the new  $2 tuition increase compares to a $10 tuition increase last year. Combined, Jacobs says the $5 in tuition and fee hikes will raise approximately $200,000.

One major reason for the increases is due to expected cuts in state funding, due to the scheduled rollback next year of the three-year-old state income tax.

But Jacobs says that even with the tuition and fee increases, Danville Area Community College would find it “very challenging” to absorb state funding decreases of 10 to 20 percent.

“We may have to look at eliminating some positions”, said Jacobs. “We certainly would not want to do that. But we would have to review our budget situation very carefully.”

Jacobs says a cut in state funding would make it difficult for DAAC to continue its recent progress in improving student success outcomes.

Governor Pat Quinn is expected to propose making Illinois’ temporary income tax increase permanent in his budget address Wednesday in Springfield.

Jacobs says if that results in state funding levels staying where they are for higher education, it would certainly make conditions “less challenging” for Danville Area Community College’s budget.

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