University of Wisconsin

Last week The College Fix wrote about a University of Wisconsin-Whitewater professor who offered extra credit to her freshman English students for attending a rally against Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget cuts to the University of Wisconsin System.

One of Beth Lueck’s students told The Fix by email she wants to “clear a few things up” about Lueck’s portrayal and is “sick of her professor getting smeared for no reason.”

Freshman English student Jessica Hallam said Lueck’s extra-credit opportunity was relevant to students in her class because it “WILL [a]ffect them in the future.”

Costs will go up for students, in the form of tuition or fee hikes for certain services or classes that get axed, and some will have to stop attending the school if the budget cuts go through, Hallam said. She added that she wouldn’t have been aware of the proposed cuts without Lueck’s notice.

“The ONLY reason anyone even cares is because of the fact that she ran for office,” Hallam said. Lueck unsuccessfully challenged two Republican incumbents for the state house as a Democrat in 2014 and write-in candidate in 2012.

Hallam said Lueck offers “all kind[s] of extra credit assignments from rallies to lectures and talks,” including two “just the other day” for lectures to attend and summarize. One of those was related to women’s studies, Hallam said.

“All she wants is for her students to get involved,” and Lueck would “most likely” give credit to a student who asked to attend and summarize a Republican rally, Hallam said. “She has NEVER let politics get into her class.

“I Firmly believe politics was the last thing on her mind when she decided to give extra credit to go to the rally,” Hallam said. Lueck “has a heart of gold and wants nothing more than to see her students succeed.”

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IMAGE: Beth L. Lueck for Wisconsin State Assembly, District 23/Facebook

Less shallow than RateMyProfessors.com – but not necessarily legal everywhere

A University of Buffalo student wants to take on RateMyProfessors.com and other websites that help students identify which classes they want to take, by giving them a more in-depth look at the course material.

The problem: Copyright law might hamper his efforts.

Bryan Krajewski created SyllabusRate.com in December 2013 because of his own indecisiveness in college.

“I was a student who never knew which class or professor I should take,” Krajewski said in an email to The College Fix.

“Just because one student likes a professor doesn’t mean another student will as well,” said the junior business major. “So every semester I found myself adding and dropping classes the first week of school based on the syllabus that I received on the first day of classes.”

syllabusrateThe site works by enabling users – students, professors or anyone else – to upload syllabi. Users must identify their school when creating an account.

Although the site covers colleges in the United States and Canada, it has several gaps. It’s advertising for paid reps through its Twitter feed, which has 105,000 followers.

Students can search for their university’s name to rate a professor, comment on courses and upload a syllabus.

SyllabusRate.com has thousands of viewers each day “and continues to grow,” Krajewski said, though its popular Twitter feed doesn’t have much content that actually concerns SyllabusRate – many posts are either funny pictures or plugs for the site’s advertisers.

To post a syllabus, users must upload a Word or PDF document, name the section, professor and time of year the class was offered, and rate the class.

Krajewski doesn’t think much of his better-known competition.

“There’s a lot of ambiguity in sites like Rate My Professor[s], as well as immaturity and slander to professors as people,” he told The Fix. His site, by contrast, helps students “decide whether the class is a good fit for them or not.”

Krajewski told The Auburn Citizen last year that his site’s ratings system is specifically designed to rate “the class and syllabus instead of rating the professor as a person.”

RateMyProfessors.com reviews have come under fire just this month. George Mason University student Avery Powell wrote in USA Today College that students tend to view female professors more negatively than males, based on a recent analysis of 14 million RateMyProfessors reviews.

Copyrighted or not?

Technically, users are supposed to get permission from their professors before uploading syllabi to SyllabusRate – “as a formality,” as Krajewski put it.

“You further agree that Content you submit to the Service will not contain third party copyrighted material … unless you have permission from the rightful owner of the material or you are otherwise legally entitled to post the material and to grant SyllabusRate all of the license rights granted herein,” the Terms of Service state.

bryankrajewski.twitterKrajewski said he’s not happy about that language, because the idea that syllabi can be copyrighted is “a large quantity of bologna.”

Most professors “use templates to create their class syllabus and simply input their information into it, [so that] does not appear like something very creative and in no way should it be deemed intellectual property,” he said.

But “we still have to abide by the law, and technically, we have to” include that language in the terms, Krajewski added.

SyllabusRate does have the ability to block uploads “if a professor or university requested for us to do so” ahead of time, Krajewski said, but in the site’s year-plus history, no “disgruntled professors or colleges” have requested takedowns.

A mixed bag for court rulings

As SyllabusRate.com grows in popularity, it faces Krajewski’s bologna scenario – will court rulings on syllabi and copyright slowly strangle its business?

So far, only one state – Missouri – has definitively concluded that syllabi are protected by copyright, in response to efforts to obtain them under state public-records laws.

Controversy arose in the past few years when the National Council on Teacher Quality began conducting research on the quality of professors across the nation.

When the University of Missouri denied the council’s public-records request for syllabi in June 2012, the school claimed they weren’t covered by the state’s sunshine law and that turning over syllabi would violate its professors’ intellectual property rights.

The council lost its lawsuit in two courts, which affirmed syllabi were protected by federal copyright law, and the Missouri Supreme Court denied the council’s appeal.

“Our position is very clear that that’s not actually how copyright works,” Arthur McKee, managing director for the council, told The Fix in a phone interview.

McKee said that only when the council told the state it was “eager to analyze and evaluate the training of teachers” that “suddenly this argument was made, that syllabi are intellectual property and therefore can’t be disclosed by use of open-record laws .”

Various organizations rallied behind the council’s efforts to obtain syllabi because “the argument of the University of Missouri could be used by any government agency” to withhold public information and “prevent the press from serving as a necessary watchdog on government operations,” he added.

John Fougere, chief communications officer for the University of Missouri System, did not respond to a Fix request for comment on the case.

Fougere earlier told the Columbia Daily Tribune that the school has “consistently maintained that respecting the rights of the faculty members who created the syllabi was extremely important.”

Minnesota reached the opposite conclusion in 2013, with a district court and appeals court affirming that the council intended a “fair use” of the University of Minnesota syllabi, so it couldn’t be withheld under federal copyright law.

And in a more ambiguous situation, the University of Wisconsin gave up its fight to protect syllabi from public disclosure.

It settled the council’s lawsuit in December 2012, agreeing to pay $10,000 in attorney’s fees, damages and costs, while providing syllabi for “core undergraduate education” courses taught in 2012, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

As a result of that settlement, no Wisconsin court has ruled on whether syllabi are protected by copyright law in every circumstance.

College Fix reporter Courtney Such is a student at Furman University.

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IMAGES:  Christopher Dombres/Flickr, SyllabusRate.com, Bryan Krajewski/Twitter

Apparently copied from a College Democrats invitation

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget cuts to the University of Wisconsin System have drawn the scorn of education activists, administrators, union members and politicians.

The coalition against the college-dropout governor isn’t complete without freshman English students at UW-Whitewater, however.

Professor Beth Lueck offered her students extra credit to attend a Thursday night rally against the proposed 13 percent cut to the university system, according a posting on an “internal university website that posts homework assignments and class announcements,” the free-market MacIver Institute said Thursday morning.

“You may get extra credit by joining the rally or by observing it or by protesting it,” she told students in the Tuesday night post, according to the institute’s screenshot of the message.

Protest Extra Credit-thumb-618xauto-7588

Lueck appears to have copied and pasted much of her post from a Facebook event by the UWW College Democrats, which hosted the event.

“Join us for a non-partisan rally with students, faculty and community members on the UW-Whitewater campus against Governor Walker’s proposed $300 million cut to the UW System, along with speaking out against attacks on shared governance and faculty,” the Facebook post read.

The rally included a march and speeches by state representative Andy Jorgensen, a Democrat, and Whitewater councilwoman Stephanie Abbott. It was followed by a Whitewater Student Government open forum to discuss the proposed cuts, according to the UWW College Democrats page.

 

 

Democratic candidate with a ‘progressive agenda’

Lueck has taught American literature at the Whitewater campus for 20 years, according to the MacIver Institute. It said university records revealed she taught 50 students last year in her freshman English classes.

She ran unsuccessfully for a state assembly seat as a Democrat last year, losing handily to the Republican incumbent. Her campaign Facebook page promised “a progressive agenda in education, access to health care, and the economy.” Lueck also ran a write-in campaign against a different Republican in 2012.

bethlueck.BethLLueckforWisconsinStateAssemblyDistrict23.facebookLueck told Whitefish Bay Now last year she would “improve education at the K-12 level and at technical colleges and universities to improve the state’s workforce, which in turn will strengthen its economy.”

On Thursday, she told Watchdog.org that the extra-credit opportunity was “not an assignment” and she required students to “write a response to the event or lecture that they attend,” but the “amount of credit given has nothing to do with the views they express.”

Extra credit for going to a political rally and then writing about it “is very much a part of the curriculum in an English course,” Lueck told the website.

A student in Lueck’s class, Matthew Yontz, told Watchdog.org that Lueck had not told students how much extra credit they could get. A member of the campus Republican Club, Yontz called it “out of line” for a professor to offer credit of that nature in an English class.

Lueck’s “average grade” on RateMyProfessors.com is a “C.” Several students wrote that the key to success in her classes is participation, but they differed on whether Lueck is a tough or fair grader.

Her most recent review, which ranks Lueck “poor,” said that “she basically will automatically give you a C on your paper if she did not like you and would find little errors or speculates things to argue the grade.”

Only two students have reviewed Lueck in the past year, however, and she went without a single review between December 2011 and May 2013.

Despite one student’s comment on RateMyProfessors that Lueck “responds to emails in a timely fashion,” the professor did not respond to a College Fix inquiry Thursday afternoon.

Greg Piper is an assistant editor at The College Fix. (@GregPiper)

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IMAGES: Beth L. Lueck for Wisconsin State Assembly, District 23/Facebook, MacIver Institute

Slate’s Will Saletan has a feature on a professor you’ve probably never heard of, but who is portrayed as a sort of Moses leading his people – scientists who lay claim to both Christianity and evolution – to the promised land.

Rather than massacre the Canaanites, though, the University of Wisconsin’s Jeff Hardin and his ragtag band of chosen people are going to patronize their opponents – evolution-doubting Christians – into submission.

Because this kind of article hasn’t been written hundreds of times before, Saletan (who I corresponded with a decade ago) sets it up for you:

Today, Hardin speaks for an emerging school of Christian thinkers. They call themselves evolutionary creationists. They believe that God authored the emergence of life and humankind but that evolution explains how this process unfolded. They accept what science has established: The Earth is billions of years old, and all species, including ours, have evolved from other species.

Hardin understands why many Christians recoil from evolution. But to believe in a young Earth, he says, you have to reject so much science that you can’t do research in related fields. “Intelligent design” tries to be more sophisticated, but you can’t build science around it, because it makes no testable predictions.

jeffhardinHardin, who chairs UW’s zoology department, made these points in a presentation last month at the Faith Angle Forum. It’s a shindig staged by the Ethics & Public Policy Center, whose stated purpose is “applying the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical issues of public policy.”

Which makes Hardin an odd choice as a conference speaker for the group, because he appears to be arguing for the same tired “separate but equal” approach, which also exasperates militant atheists.

And he comes off as the stereotypical enlightened scientist who loves Jesus (we had plenty of these at Seattle Pacific, my alma mater), thinking that anyone who questions modern evolutionary science simply needs a soothing lecture with a few Bible verses thrown in.

They remind me of the Gnostics.

Preempting debate with appeals to authority

Let’s all sit down, children, and hear from Dr. Hardin:

Hardin’s first message to believers is that they don’t have to choose between mechanical explanation and teleology, the idea that things work toward a goal. You can recognize the ruthless dynamics of evolution, as Hardin does, while maintaining that it follows a divine plan. “God created the world with the intention that we would be here and that we would one day be capable of interacting with him,” says Hardin. …

Second, Hardin wants evangelicals to trust God. If God made the world, they shouldn’t be afraid to see his creation as it is. Hardin approaches science with serene faith. He believes that the evidence he encounters—what Francis Bacon called the “Book of God’s Works”—will be compatible with the Bible.

Hardin recognizes, crucially, that when the two books don’t seem to match, the error might be in his own understanding of the Bible. Rather than reject what science has discovered, he asks how scripture can be understood better so that it fits the scientific evidence.

This glosses over so much it’s hard to know where to begin. For example, there’s vibrant debate in theology circles over how the violence and gore of natural selection over millions of years can fit into God’s pronouncement of a “very good” creation before the ruinous effects of sin. It goes to God’s very nature.

And that’s the point: there’s a debate. When I hear scientists like Hardin speak, I get the impression they’re looking for a metaphorical wormhole – a shortcut through the messy universe of diverging scientific views.

Minorities and academic freedom

I’ll lay my cards on the table: having worked for the Discovery Institute, among other things the academic home of the intelligent design movement, way back in the day, I was at one point pretty well versed in these issues despite being assigned to different programs.

Since I’m not a scientist, I can’t credibly critique anyone’s defense of a particular theory (remember Stephen Jay Gould’s punctuated equilibrium?).

What I can do is note that I worked with some pretty damn smart people whose own mainstream scientific studies led them away from the mainstream Darwinian paradigm – folks who have Ph.D.’s in biochemistry and molecular and cell biology and astronomy, both agnostic and Christian math geniuses, none anywhere near “creationists,” all arguing for views that make them despised minorities within the scientific community.

In contrast to today’s often ludicrous harassment codes at public universities, some of these folks have literally had their academic careers threatened because they dared to acknowledge these matters can be debated.

I don’t think that’s what Hardin wants, but he doesn’t seem to have a much higher view of the Christians he’s trying to convince.

Such folks may have trouble with the concept of a “very good” creation resulting from God as a Game of Thrones sadist. They may find the evidence for “irreducible complexity,” which Saletan finds goofy, more persuasive than “it somehow sorta happened,” or ask how Hardin accounts for the relatively sudden emergence of major phyla in the Cambrian explosion. They may be fans of Thomas Kuhn and think the neo-Darwinian framework – whose own precise internal components are hotly debated in science journals – is ripe for its own paradigm shift.

It would be great if instead of teaching science Sunday school to those backward evangelicals, Hardin would acknowledge they have valid reasons for being skeptical of his proselytizing.

Are they his brothers and sisters in Christ, or his subjects under the magisterium of materialism?

Greg Piper is an assistant editor at The College Fix. (@GregPiper)

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IMAGE: recapnow/Flickr, University of Wisconsin

Truly a must-read-to-believe story by W. Lee Hansen at The Pope Center: The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s “Framework for Diversity and Inclusive Excellence” passed through its Faculty Senate, and barely anyone noticed. Maybe that’s partly because, as Hansen notes, “much of the language is a thicket of clichés.”

Nevertheless, what is most shocking about this “framework” is what it dubs “representational equity,” especially when it comes to students’ grades (emphasis added):

It calls for “proportional participation of historically underrepresented racial-ethnic groups at all levels of an institution, including high status special programs, high-demand majors, and in the distribution of grades.”

We are not told exactly what adherence to this will entail. It appears to mean that directors of programs and departmental chairs will have to somehow ensure that they have a mix of students with just the right percentages of individuals who embody the various “differences” included in the definition of diversity. I cannot see how that is possible and even if it were, how it improves any student’s education.

Suppose there were a surge of interest in a high demand field such as computer science. Under the “equity” policy, it seems that some of those who want to study this field would be told that they’ll have to choose another major because computer science already has “enough” students from their “difference” group.

Especially shocking is the language about “equity” in the distribution of grades. Professors, instead of just awarding the grade that each student earns, would apparently have to adjust them so that academically weaker, “historically underrepresented racial/ethnic” students perform at the same level and receive the same grades as academically stronger students.

As the title of Hansen’s article says, this is, simply put, madness. The cult of diversity has actually now reached the point where Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s “Harrison Bergeron” is no longer satire.

Read the full article here.

h/t to Instapundit.

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IMAGE: YouTube screen capture

Gawker.com reports:

Nineteen-year-old Alyssa Funke, a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, bought a shotgun, drove to her family’s boat, and killed herself there on April 14. Students at her former high school had outed her as the star of a “casting couch” porn video, and her parents say the subsequent online harassment contributed to her suicide…

Read the full article here.

And yet some people say porn is harmless?

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(Image: PTR_.Flickr)