Have we gone too far with freedom of information in higher education?

Justice Louis Brandeis famously said, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” This mantra has led to many states and the federal government instituting freedom of information and sunshine laws to open up government and public institutions.  Recent controversies have brought this subject to the forefront of public conversation from Hillary Clinton’s personal email server to University of Texas Regent Wallace Hall‘s requests to University of Illinois officials using private email addresses for public business.  I do believe there is a larger question that we should be considering here. Should the public have access to all information from public university administrators and faculty? Should there be complete transparency regarding decisions and correspondence conducted by public university employees? Ultimately, have we gone too far with freedom of information in higher education?

Photo credit: Dawn Ellner

Clearly, public officials including public university administrators and faculty should not be trying to intentionally circumvent freedom of information laws.  I suspect many do this and it is wrong.

The problem with honors colleges

In Sunday’s New York Times, op-ed columnist Frank Bruni highlights the story of Ronald Nelson who spurned the Ivy League in favor of the University of Alabama’s Honors College. The title of Bruni’s piece, A Prudent College Path, sums up his argument that students and parents should consider the more cost effective and still high quality path of Nelson. While pursuing public university honors programs may make sense for individual students, the problem with honors colleges is the impact of the trend on our higher education system more generally.

Photo credit: University of Alabama

I taught two classes in the Honors College during my time on the faculty at UA. I found the students quite capable and I appreciated the small class size (class sections were limited to 15 students). 

What Jon Stewart’s run on the Daily Show can teach us about teaching

Jon Stewart is signing off as the host of the Daily Show after an impressive 16 year run. The fake news show has become a cultural marker and gave voice to many concerned about media, politics, and the future of the country. Having watched the show for much of Stewart’s tenure, it has been fun to look back at some of the old clips of the show’s early days. It doesn’t get much better than Stewart, Colbert, and Carrell doing a comedy bit. What struck me most in looking at old clips was the evolution of the show and Stewart. I think Stewart’s transition can be instructive in thinking about teaching and how we develop our instructional personas in the classroom.

It is so funny to see how Jon Stewart looked and acted in the early days of the Daily Show.  His suits didn’t quite fit right.  He was clearly not very comfortable.  Even the jokes didn’t flow very easily.

Congress is at it again: Attacking Social Science Research

In what is quickly becoming an annual Congressional tradition, Representative Lamar Smith of Texas introduced legislation designed to force the NSF to fund projects that support the national interest (see InsideHigherEd’s coverage for more details). Last year, Senator Coburn pushed a proposal to restrict the funding of NSF’s political science program despite the obvious need for political science research. Previous efforts to restrict what the NSF funds have often relied on the underpinning of stopping the waste of taxpayer funds. Smith mentions this concern too, but reveals the true intention behind his proposal: an ideological litmus test for grants.

Photo credit: Sarah Price

The National Science Foundation is one of the premier research granting agencies in the world. Each grant proposal goes through extensive review by leading experts on the subject of the grant proposal.