Some days the events write the posts for you…

Can’t resist commenting on some of today’s more obscure news stories. There’s a good chance you missed them, too.

images3.jpgCronyism in West Virginia? Pshaw! No one knows for sure if Gov. Joe Manchin’s daughter actually attended classes en route to her executive MBA at WVU. But plenty of students enrolled with Heather Bresch say she was a phantom student.

I’ve been following this scandal since last fall, when an investigation by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette concluded that Bresch completed fewer than half of her required courses. WVU is calling it a recordkeeping snafu. Today the New York Times is on the case, which means the university’s PR problem just got bigger.

The backstory here is complicated but really juicy. In addition to being the governor’s daughter, 38-year-old Bresch is an executive with pharmaceutical giant Mylan, Inc., whose chairman, Mylan Pushar, donated $20 million to WVU back in 2003. But that’s not all. Seems that WVU Prez Mike Garrison, hired in 2006, is a high-school chum of Bresch’s and friend of the Manchin family. Some say the search process was rigged in favor of Garrison.

Of course, none of this would matter if the No. 2 Mountaineers had beaten Pittsburgh in the last game of the regular season. I suspect a trip to the BCS championship game would have healed a lot of wounds in and around Morgantown. Let’s all hum a few bars, OK … “Almost heaven…”

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Bunions in the News. This story from McClatchy Newspapers explains “five things you didn’t know about bunions.” As I said last Friday, it’s getting easier to bamboozle the MSM into covering just about anything these days. OK, it’s not a trivial story if you have bunions. But surely there’s a website dedicated to such a critical topic — maybe even a Bunion Hotline. Come on!

Near as I can tell, this bunion-busting story comes to us courtesy of the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society.

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One man’s teepee is another man’s wigwam. Beacon Journal columnist Bob Dyer tells readers about a new school building in Akron, Ohio — one that’ll feature a teepee-shaped atrium.

Dyer writes:

Architect Mark Salopek told officials the teepee was chosen to honor the local Indians who once used the same ground to portage their canoes from the Cuyahoga River…

Unfortunately, using a teepee to honor our local Indians is a bit like sculpting a canalboat to honor the Pilgrims. Teepees and Indians simply didn’t go together here.images-12.jpg

Seems that native Americans in Northeast Ohio lived in wigwams, not teepees. But let’s not quibble over details. And my students complain because we make ’em take U.S. history. Sheesh!

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images-2.jpgDo part-time professors cheat their students? A joint commission of New York’s CUNY and SUNY university systems says too many college classes are taught by part-time and adjunct professors. The report calls for hiring of 2,000 full-time faculty across the systems’ 87 campuses.

It didn’t take AP education writer Justin Pope long to find another story hidden in that report.

Seems the same commission that’s concerned over the glut of part-time professors is also asking that 4,000 new doctoral students be added to the rolls of New York’s state-supported universities.

Pope adds this to his analysis:

In many fields, there are already too many Ph.Ds awarded for the full-time academic posts available, creating a surplus of likely jobseekers. That pool becomes adjuncts, who command wages and benefits so low that universities find them irresistible hires.

I’m not taking sides on this one. Some of my best friends have PhDs in obscure disciplines, and some of the best teachers where I work are part-timers. But I tip my cap to a reporter who actually took the time to read and analyze what had to be tome of a document.

He could have just based his story on the news release.

7 Responses to Some days the events write the posts for you…

  1. Kathy Boone says:

    I think I just might be one of those PhD best friends Bill has in mind. OK, English isn’t exactly “obscure” but it’s definitely one of the surest tickets you can find to permanent adjunct land, if you insist on teaching, that is. (I didn’t and I’m reasonably happy being an ass dean, as Bill likes to call us.) I tip my hat to Justin Pope too for seeing through this one. The continued overproduction of PhDs in many disciplines is an educational, and moral, scandal. In the case of English, it is also obvious that the situation won’t change so long as universities still need enough grad students to teach all those sections of Comp 101 that the “real” faculty won’t deign to teach.

  2. Tim Roberts says:

    Bill-

    Three stories that pose public relations challenges, in varying degrees.

    The WVU story appears to be a disaster for the university. This is a crisis and calls for quick and decisive action. If this turns out to be true, the degree should be revoked. Whoever is responsible should be held accountable.

    The university must put its credibility first – as this strikes to the very core of any university’s ethical code. They owe it to the students, faculty and alumni to come clean and put policies in place to make sure this never happens again. I hope the WVU board of trustees see it this way. Yes, there’ll be plenty of bad press, but trying to cover up or somehow minimize this will only worsen perceptions.

    As for the teepee/wigwam, this is one of those best intentions deals that leads to embarrassment. What can you do but acknowledge the error and move on.

    The New York story is of great interest. Back when I was a reporter (when dinosaurs roamed the earth), I knew I could always find a good story hidden in a budget or some obscure report. I agree the reporter should be commended for his enterprise and coming up with a provocative story that I’m sure is water-cooler talk in New York academic circles.

  3. Bill Sledzik says:

    Thank you, Kathy and Tim. It’s funny how one post can pull in 40 comments and the next only two. I mean, don’t people care about trust and integrity in West Virginia? About the glut of PhDs and part-time professors? About the difference between a teepee and a wigwam?

    And does anyone think it odd that the CEO of a major drug company is named Pushar?

    Tim — wise PR analysis, as always. And Kath, you were one of those I was referring to, and you’re right, there is nothing “obscure” about a doctorate in English. But good luck finding a tenure-track line, eh? But you know, thanks to Web 2.0, your book still ranks among the top five items when I type the title into a Google search. You have digital immortality. Praise the Lord!

  4. Kathy Boone says:

    Hey, thanks for the PR, Bill: this blog not only preaches, it practices!

  5. Bill Sledzik says:

    You know, if you put “The Bible Tells Them So” in quotes (as I did there, eh?), you have Google juice galore, which is very cool when you consider the book was published 18 years ago, pre-Web. It’s also cool to see how many authorities have quoted your work.

    Click on and you learn there is one copy of this little treasure available on EBay for just $35 — a steal when you consider the hardbacks are on Amazon start at $95.

    Hmmm. Wonder what I could get for my signed copy!

  6. Stacy Wessels says:

    Ten years before I began teaching at Kent State (1999) you would never have convinced me I would have been a good teacher. My students from 1999-2002 will tell you differently. I am working on my master’s degree right now, in an effort to get back into the classroom. I can’t wait to, once again, be the teacher students fret about on the first day of class and praise on the last day of class. Yes, I was one of those part-time adjuncts who made a difference in students’ lives.

  7. Bill Sledzik says:

    A strength of our program, I think, is our ability (and willingness) to complement full-time faculty talents with part-timers who bring loads of experience AND teaching ability to the classroom. I wouldn’t have it any other way, but I do wish we could pay our adjuncts a decent wage. You, and others, do it for love, not for money.

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