IU Fact Check

IU, and more specifically, IUPUI, received a grant today. Wee!

Indiana University president Michael McRobbie will visit the IUPUI campus later today to announce two grants awarded to the Global Research Network Operations Center based in Indianapolis.

According to a news release, the money will enhance international network services that encourage scientists from around the globe to work together on projects. University spokesman Larry MacIntyre said the “multi-million-dollar” grants are funded by the National Science Foundation.

How wonderful. I’m sure this’ll fix everything.

Universities are like businesses, except they’re public and shielded from all the bad things about being a business. Likewise, they’re public entities and shielded from all the bad stuff about being a public entity. They live in the best of both worlds, without any of the bad. That’s a problem.

Universities, like businesses, want and have to raise money. Unfortunately, they tend do this by charging tuition, collecting donations, generating revenue AND collecting tax revenue. They’re worse than GM!

Let’s look at my educational establishment, IUPUI.

  • Annual operating budget of $1.2 billion. The city of Indianapolis operates off of a budget just under a billion. Why does a university of 30,000 require more money to operate than an entire city of nearly a million?
  • Average ’08 Freshman SAT score: 1,064. Too bad schools routinely exclude large groups of minority and “special admit” students like athletes or foreign students with English as a second language from these scores because they have the nasty habit of bringing down the average.
  • Being an “engaged” campus and all, one would expect that more than a measly 19% of undergrads would be studying abroad or taking part in service leaning. Actually, since all freshmen are required to take service learning to boost that useless stat, it’s more like 10%.
  • The average student/faculty ratio is 19:1. Too bad that includes hundreds of faculty members who do nothing but research all day (on what no one knows) and never even see or talk to undergrads.
  • Over 90% of full-time faculty have advanced degrees, like a PhD. Probably  because you won’t let but a handful of people become full-time anyway. Leaving the grunt work of real teaching to adjunct faculty, who suffer day-in and day-out, with no way to advance. Whoops!
  • Lots of great faculty! Wee! Like this guy, who I don’t believe even teaches anything. Or at least, nothing worth, you know, mentioning in his bio.
  • All that research and yet, no way to know how effective they really are at the business of educating Hoosiers. Unless you look at this chart, which I guess shows a graduation rate of what? 35%? No one bothered to put some axis labels on it. That’s over six years, too. Wonder what the iconic four-year rate looks like.
  • IU sure is cutting back. What with them looking for $59 million in cuts to make, I don’t know how they sleep at night cutting all of 5% from an entire STATE NETWORK of schools. Even if IUPUI cut 5% of it’s $1B budget, that wouldn’t be enough to cry about. I’d tell you how much IU as a system controls in its budget, but, uh, they don’t publish that and have nothing but a broken link and password-protected pages.
  • Don’t get me started on this little gem from only a few years ago: Indiana’s public colleges and universities get an “F” for affordability. What a shame coming from a state in such a need of a more highly educated public, I guess.

All of this BS makes me hoppin’ mad. And don’t give me that, “But Justin, college grads make hundreds of thousands of dollars more in a lifetime than non-college grad” bull crap. Ever think that maybe the reason some people make more money than others is because they’re more ambitious, creative and desiring of a better lifestyle? Ambitious people tend to do ambitious things and school tends to fall into that. They’re a few others that would agree. The social aspect is bunk, too. Everyone knows at a school like IUPUI, no one socializes. Heck, even their own website says a little over a thousand students live on campus. There are more homeless people living under the overpass by campus than that.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the undergraduate degree is overrated. Especially when schools keep herding hundreds of students into programs like art and journalism, which have virtually no chances of ever being remotely profitable. If each school in the nation turned out 500 journalism grads, on average, each year, how many journalism jobs do you think there are in this country? Not enough, that’s for sure. What a bunch of liars.

Colleges and universities should report accurate statistics on who graduates from their programs, with what amount of debt and what they ultimately end up doing. That way when an art history major walks in the door, they know their chances of sweeping up shit at the zoo in 4 (or 6) years are 50/50.

This incessant need to research stuff is fine, but it had better bring results. What kind of an enterprise just gets to keep throwing money at problems that no one benefits from or had a problem to begin with anyway?

People who are teaching had better be damned passionate about what they teach and happen to enjoy teaching, to boot. No more grad students teaching intro courses. No more faculty members who like to study the mating habits of African dung beetles and nothing else forced to teach basic Bio 101. Competent adults, a desire to teach. Period. And lighten up on your lectures. Everyone knows people only retain about 10-20% of what they hear. You just keep talking because it’s darn cheap to yap at a room full of glazed eyeballs all day.

Stop raising tuition rates when you’re hiding behind millions, sometimes billions, in endowment money. If your amount of savings exceeds 10% of your annual operating budget each year, you have too much saved up for a public institution. Either spend it on a building project and pay for all of it in cash (no more tax and cost-spreading bonds) or immediately lower tuition rates. You’re a public entity — you don’t get to have profits beyond 10% of your budget.

Maybe then, and only then, can we start talking about real educational success in this country.

IU Saves Money & the Peasants Rejoice

Cool!

Indiana University officials confirmed today that the university has eliminated 100 jobs through a hiring slow-down in order to cut $59 million out of its budget – cuts that were ordered by Gov. Mitch Daniels earlier this year.

Also today, the IU Board of Trustees approved three new construction projects totaling about $71 million – $44 million for a new studio building for the Jacobs School of Music at the Bloomington campus; $25 million for the first phase of a new science and engineering building at IUPUI in Indianapolis; and $2 million for a new roof on Assembly Hall in Bloomington.

No one got laid off, the campuses keep up with new facilities and life goes on with no negative impact on students. It didn’t even expend tax dollars out the wazoo.

See. Not hard at all, is it?

People Re-Write IUPUI’s History

The Star has a story today about IUPUI’s history around its founding. They’re really only two trains of thought on it: either IUPUI pushed a bunch of black people out of the way for no good reason to sit up shop for the white man, or, IUPUI pushed a crappy part of the middle of town out of the way to make way for an integral piece of Indianapolis’ future. In which case, a bunch of black people got pushed out of the way:

Beginning in the mid-1950s and lasting well into the 1970s, hundreds of [African American] families were uprooted and relocated — their homes either purchased outright or condemned by the city and then purchased. This was done not just for the new university but as part of a larger redevelopment of an area that many considered a classic example of urban blight.

Local human rights activists at the time, including a Jewish rabbi and a Protestant minister, pleaded with city officials to stop the process because fearful residents were being bullied into selling. Some in the black community began to refer to the effort as a “black removal” plan.

“IUPUI, the city . . . they became the Ku Klux Klan,” said an angry John Lands, an area resident who once ran the neighborhood YMCA before it was demolished. “They took the black folks’ land. I think it’s a shame.”

The article is a little lengthy, but this part stuck out at me:

Kenneth B. Durgans, the assistant chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at IUPUI, said that although he is sensitive to history, he hopes people also take into account the good things the college has done for the city’s minority population.

Why am I paying for an Assistant Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion? Please tell me she’s an assistant to the university chancellor and that there isn’t also a head chancellor just for diversity, equity and inclusion.

Extreme Web Makeover: 48 Hours, 3 Websites, 1 Great Cause

Extreme web makeover
Forty-eight hours. Three websites. One great cause.

INDIANAPOLIS – JANUARY 11, 2010 – The Indiana University School of Informatics at IUPUI and RefreshIndy, a local organization of web designers, developers and graphic artists, are bringing together the best professional and student talent in Indianapolis to develop three websites for three local non-profit organizations within 48 hours. This non-stop event begins at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, January 15 at the Informatics and Communication Technology Complex on the IUPUI campus. The date coincides with the University’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service encouraging students, faculty and staff to give back to the greater Indianapolis community.

Indianapolis web professionals will lead teams of student volunteers from the School’s informatics and media arts and science programs throughout this unique service learning opportunity. “This is a fun and challenging way for our students to learn from some of the top professionals in the city while also giving their time and energy to a greater cause,” said Mark McCreary, Assistant Dean for Student Services at the IU School of Informatics at IUPUI. Professionals donating their services to the cause include creative talent from Justify Studios, Squish Design, Web Easy Media and Cassis Design.

Non-profit organizations were identified by the IUPUI Solution Center and chosen based on a demonstrated need for a new or enhanced website, as well as their future ability to maintain that website. “It’s important that these websites be easily sustainable given non-profit’s often limited resources,” explained Justin Harter of RefreshIndy. “Our goal is to simply help strengthen these organizations’ online identities so they can better serve our community.”

Non-profits selected to receive redesigned websites include the following local organizations: Talbot House, a residential care facility for adult male recovering from alcoholism and substance abuse; Progress House, a recovery center for alcohol and/or drug dependent men; and My Sister’s Place, a service providing transitional support and resources for formerly incarcerated and at-risk women and their families.

“The impact of this is huge,” said Carol Wellman, Director of My Sister’s Place. “I developed our website myself using a book, so receiving this type of expert assistance is invaluable. It helps us increase visibility and communication with the women, families and organizations who need our services.”

To learn more about this event, please visit www.refreshindy.com/48hours.html.

About IU School of Informatics at IUPUI:

The Indiana University School of Informatics was established in 2000 as one of the first schools in the nation dedicated to education and research in informatics. Informatics is the study and application of information technology to the arts and sciences, and the resulting impact on organizations, individuals and society as a whole. The School offers an array of B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. programs. The IU School of Informatics is located on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. For additional information, please visit www.informatics.iupui.edu.

Contact:

Stephen McKinney,

Communications Manager                                 

(317) 278–9208

smmckinn@iupui.edu

Justin Harter,

RefreshIndy

(317) 225-8169

refreshindy@gmail.com

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About College Course Descriptions

I just spent the last hour registering for courses at IUPUI for the spring semester. It was worse than doing my taxes. It’s the most awful experience ever created. I’d rather shove rusty wooden spoons into my eyes than deal with finding course descriptions, figuring out when classes are offered, who teaches the courses and what I’ll actually be doing. It’s really, really bad. Really, god awful, bad.

The process starts when I reach for my course schedule to figure out how many credits are left (too many) and what classes I still need to take. For me, as an Informatics student, I’m given a lot of different computer-related options.

So, I decide to lookup up this 400-level class called “Multimedia Project Development”. The course description reads:

This course will focus on total project design and development of interactive multimedia applications. Topics to be covered include system design and development, selection of appropriate hardware and software platforms, use of productivity tools, project management, dynamics of team-based project development, cost analysis, prototyping, pilot testing, and other evaluation/usability techniques to ensure product quality. Students will work in teams to develop large-scale projects.

Luckily, I worked for the government for nearly four years and I can cut past the bullshit. Allow me to translate (follow along with the above passage for even more fun):

This course will focus on a website. We’ll talk about  our server, the Dell you will be using, Windows and we’ll make the website in Adobe Dreamweaver using HTML 4. We’ll also figure out what our plan is as we go, whether or not we can afford it (and since this isn’t real, you know it is, otherwise it would be a really long semester) and you’ll be forced to work with nutjob whackos who can’t shave, dress themselves or turn on a washing machine. You’ll end up doing all the work, so it’ll be sorta like a regular HTML class.

I couldn’t figure out when the class was offered, or if it ever even was, so I gave up and looked up this gem called “Research in Design Methods”. Its description reads:

This course is designed to give students an understanding of the advanced concepts of theoretical topics, simulation modeling, and analysis concepts. Students will investigate applications of simulation in systems characterized by probabilistic behavior.

Translation: Read this, then write a paper.

Since I’m not really interested in wasting time writing what will end up being an historical reference piece after 3 weeks of sitting on my hard drive, I moved on. Plus, I’m more interested in being grounded in reality than theory.Then, I found this humdinger, “Online Document Development II” (I don’t see a part I):

Advanced creation, publication, and management of interactive publications for online distribution with the inclusion of emerging technologies for a media-rich experience. Topics include interactive Web site development, animations for the Web, online interactive design, document conversion, file exchanges, and digital media development for online usage

Gee, why don’t you say what you really think. I have no idea what that is supposed to mean, what I’d be doing or why. That sounds like an orgy of everything ever published on the web all merged into a giant, unruly PDF document.

So, to every college and university in the country, I demand you simplify your course descriptions. For some of the supposedly smartest institutions in the nation, you people write course descriptions like you were mentally handicapped in some sort of nuclear reactor tragedy.