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Reading: More outsourcing troubles | academeblog.org

From More outsourcing troubles | academeblog.org

Eden Moglen quoted in Hank Reichman nails Zoom and the university administrators who have been pushing it in one go:

Here too the existing policies and practices are improvisations, based implicitly on the incorrect belief that there is no preferable technological alternative. Even if video-conferencing were a good way to teach law school, Zoom would be the worst possible technological choice.

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Reading: Blame Pollyanna Presidents When Covid-19 Plans Fail – The Chronicle

From Blame Pollyanna Presidents When Covid-19 Plans Fail – The Chronicle

Look closely at how universities are handling the pandemic: as a marketing point. There is no plan.

As we see more and more outbreaks on campuses, university presidents and trustees will run for cover, and these kinds of rationalizations for what they did and did not do are going to come in a torrent. They’ll blame students first and foremost for breaking campus codes of conduct, and bring the hammer down on them. For example, here’s what Donde Plowman, chancellor of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, said in mid-August: “We will hold you responsible, and it’s possible that you could be expelled from school, and I will not hesitate to do that if our students are irresponsible.”

But who is being irresponsible here? Many are going to blame the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as it hasn’t provided anything like real guidance to universities and colleges, let alone elementary and secondary schools, to manage risk. We’ve been abandoned by our political leaders as we head into a dangerous period of the pandemic with Covid-19 potentially colliding with seasonal influenza this fall. If we had a real national commitment to testing, many more colleges and universities would be able to test their students, staff, and faculty members with cheaper, faster antigen-based screening tests, and rely on federal support to help them tackle all the rest of what is needed now to keep us all safe.

Even so, if a college’s plan to manage the coronavirus hangs on the behavior of 18- to 22-year-olds, it isn’t much of a plan at all; it’s a house of cards ready to collapse at a moment’s notice. This isn’t to infantilize our students, but to say that a comprehensive response is more than a signature on a campus compact. In states with still-substantial epidemics, there is not much universities can do to prevent outbreaks. There is too much virus, too many people, and too many opportunities for transmission. Furthermore, without testing frequently, outbreaks in this setting will quickly grow out of control — epidemics follow a pattern of exponential growth, and containing them early is key. It’s hard to make the case that reopening for face-to-face instruction can be done in this situation.

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Reading: A Case of Academic “Both Sides-ism?

From A Case of Academic “Both Sides-ism?

This is a call to co-operate, not co-opt. Power is so unbalanced that moving ahead requires restoring some symmetry first.

while I am sympathetic with its argument, I find Gavazzi’s article inadequate. In the first place, it is a textbook example of “both sides-ism.” Indeed, I was tempted at one point to tweet back that the essay reminded me of calls to both Democrats and Republicans to put the country’s interest before that of their own party, as if both parties were equally guilty of failing to do so. I would argue that — if only because of their greater power — far more responsibility for the gulf between administration and faculty lies on the administrative side.

insofar as boards of this sort appoint campus presidents and their administrations remain beholden to their boards, Gavazzi’s call for mutual understanding and cooperation, however noble, valid, and urgent, will be insufficient to repair our governance structures in the context of the enormous challenges higher education will now face in the wake of the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and Donald Trump. However much one might endorse and applaud calls for cooperation like the one Gavazzi has issued, the harsh reality is that this is a matter of political power. And that power is not by any measure at present appropriately distributed.