The Arizona Desert Lamp

White Paper: University/General Policy Input

Posted in UA Transformation Plan by Evan Lisull on 19 October 2008

While not coming from a a specific college, these proposals will be the widest reaching, and are perhaps the most interesting. Six proposals:

1. Admission standards– The three-school system lives! This proposal speaks so much truth that it’s worth printing in its entirety:

Raise admission standards and student quality; improve student support and expand recruitment of out-of-state students allowing ASU and community colleges to take responsibilities for large scale education. We annually lose 20% of our freshman class of about 6700 freshman * 0.2 loss rate * 25 SCH/student  = 33500 SCHs and nearly 8% of our total SCHs (440000 SCH). Using the average faculty average load of 300 SCH’s per year, this is equivalent to nearly 100 full-time faculty or approx. $10M/year. This approach would improve the University to truly be World Class, improve our national ranking through higher selectivity, improve student quality at the lower end, and save resources.


2. Community Service Course– Essentially, a 3 hr Gen Ed for 120 hrs of community service. However, this is not a new proposal, and the Wildcat pointed out several of its problems:

Such a program would undoubtedly degrade into a pathway for students to opt out of a class and still earn an elective credit or two. The program also would force UA administrators to define what should count as community service, a difficult task, given that one man’s proselytizing is another’s community service. As valuable as moving sandbags or answering phones for a political candidate may be to the community, credits are awarded as milestones for academic achievement, not gold stars for good citizens.

3. Focus on SCHs, not just adjunct faculty: SCHs are “Student Contact Hours”, one of the chief measurements in staff-student relationships. Kevin Lansey, the author of the paper, makes some interesting observations that cast many of the complaints by faculty in a dubious light:

A clear example is that over the past 5 years, departments focusing on lower division courses have increased their adjunct faculty in large numbers but had a much lower increase in SCHs.  For example, between 2003 and 2007 Fine Arts increased adjunct faculty by 10% but SCHs decreased by 2%. Humanities increase faculty by 9.1% while SCHs increased by only 4.6%.

It’s not quite clear, though, if there’s a proposal here, or just a general “tsk tsk” toward individual college rent-seeking.

4. Class Size Limits– “Increase class size limits in Freshman English and Math courses.” This, of course, has it’s pros and its cons, but he makes an interesting point: “Given the high dropout rate, bringing in better prepared student [sic] and providing more tutoring would allow larger class sizes.” I’m not so sold on the tutoring, but the fact that increasing admission standards will result in a more self-reliant student is an important point.

5. Quantitative metrics– This is just as technical and wonkish as it sounds. Minor adjustments in the numerical metrics used to compare programs.

6. Examine Executive Administration– A real zinger that hits hard at the folks behind the transformation plan. In its entirety:

A common point of concern among faculty is the perceived high salaries and heavy administrative burden. To some degree this concern has a factual basis. UA Fact Book data (below) shows that the number of executive administrators has increased by 20% from 46 to 56 (the highest level in available data) between 2005 and 2007 with little increase in faculty and student numbers.

Of course, “examine” usually results in some sort of blue-ribbon commission which does nothing, but at least he’s using numbers to point out the absurdity of the UA’s bureaucracy.

Easily, one of the most useful white papers of the bunch.


2 Responses

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  1. […] back to the general university policy proposal, if admissions standards are increased, then there’s really no need for these sorts of […]

  2. […] again! Here we have more of the “Gen Ed volunteerism,” an idea discussed at length in this post. Yet in context of the” teaching-intensive teachers,” it makes even less sense. If […]

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