Friday, March 30, 2007

Not exactly fair and balanced, nor should it be

BYU announces Reid will speak on campus in the fall

All of Utah is in a twitter over Vice President Dick Cheney's looming visit as commencement speaker at Brigham Young University's graduation. The latest news has BYU and its owner, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, trumpeting their "fair and balanced" approach by announcing that Democratic Senator Harry Reid will be speaking on campus later this fall. BYU and the LDS Church are also responding to a recent editorial in the Salt Lake Tribune that says the church, despite its so-called "long standing policy of political neutrality", is really showing its biases with this invitation.

If you missed the latest articles here they are:
LDS Church and BYU officials stand by Cheney invitation (Daily Herald)
LDS Church fires back at criticism over Cheney (Deseret Morning News)
LDS Church responds to Tribune columnist (Salt Lake Tribune)

The LDS Church's full response can be found here

So what does this have to do with UVSC?"

We are glad you asked. As many of you recall a similar controversy gripped all of Utah nearly 3 years ago when UVSC announced that liberal filmmaker Michael Moore would speak on campus. Immediately there were petitions and protests calling to rescind the invitation and punish those who would dare suggest such a thing. If you need a reminder of how fun that whole thing got check out the first 40 or so minutes of the film This Divided State.

There is a scene in that movie when UVSC professor Alex Caldiero essentially grabs the camera by the lens, puts it right on his mug, and says, "There is no such thing as an objective viewpoint!" over and over.

Truer words were never spoken. There is no such thing as an objective viewpoint. Trying to balance one speaker with another, as UVSC tried to do by inviting Sean Hannity, is an exercise in futility. Public schools like UVSC better serve their communities by getting the best possible speakers to come to campus, and letting the audiences evaluate the messages.

But when we try and second guess the public, or appease the cries for balance (as if such a thing exists) we end up dumbing down the issues and further feeding the cult of personality.

Why balance is stupid

Look what BYU has done by announcing that Harry Reid will speak in the fall. This was a forum that had been planned for months, certainly before the Cheney invite. It was going to be a chance for BYU students to listen to a man, who just so happens to be of their same faith, discuss important political issues. Now it is nothing more then a half-assed attempt to quell the public outcry over the Cheney visit. Instead of listening to either of these important leaders and their messages, we will instead spend our time discussing the fact that they were invited in the first place. Both men and their words will be reduced to nothing more than another Red vs. Blue grudge match that will rile up everyone and solve nothing.

But balance should be the goal, right?

The short answer is no. An informed electorate should be the goal. But when entities try and frame the debate by "getting both sides" they end up only expressing their own biased tendencies. Here is a line from the LDS Church's official response that illustrates what we mean:

The invitation to the vice president of the United States is not a violation of that policy, any more than inviting the majority leader of the Senate would be. In fact, Senator Harry Reid — a Democrat from the opposite political pole to the vice president — has already accepted such an invitation for this fall.

So according to the LDS Church Harry Reid is the political antipode of Dick Cheney? Harry Reid? Just because he is a democrat? In order to come close to Cheney's polar opposite BYU would need to invite Hugo Chavez or raise Lenin from the dead.

The fact is that trying to achieve balance, even at a state school, is ridiculous. Now try doing it a conservative religious school and it goes from ridiculous to retarded.

We long for a day when the those in the media, and those in positions of authority, have enough confidence in human intelligence to let us evaluate messages and messengers without their silly and often meaningless labels.

We also hope that those engaged in trying to stop someone from speaking, no matter who it is, realize that their time is better spent coming up with a message of their own. Show your disagreement with more speech, better speech, not restricting the speech of others. The Michael Moore visit should have taught us at least that.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Students protest Cheney's visit to BYU

The big story at all three papers over the past week has been concerning vice-president Dick Cheney's impending visit to Brigham Young University. If you have missed the details you can read all about it at The Deseret Morning News.

Surprising many in the red-to-the-core Beehive State is news that some at BYU are none to happy about the Cheney visit and are speaking out. Stories at The Daily Herald and The Salt Lake Tribune tell the story of faculty, staff and students up in arms about the controversial and "deeply partisan" VP speaking to graduates.

A Blog was recently created that allows folks to sign a petition asking BYU to schedule another commencement speaker.

For those embroiled in this mess, The Pipeline suggests looking at the UVSC/Michael Moore uproar from 2004 for pointers on how not to act in this kind of situation. May cooler heads prevail.

UVSC shares the strategic direction for next year

An e-mail went out to employees today inviting all to a few upcoming Strategic Directions forums next week. Attached with the e-mail was a rough draft of next year's strategies, which we include here:

Strategic directions are annually refined to guide the institution through its planning and budgeting processes. The first three strategic
directions outline the dominant focus for the upcoming fiscal year. The final three strategic directions address other operational needs.

Strategic Direction One: Transition to Utah Valley University and establish long-term university goals
-Define and promote the role of a regional state university and the mission and brand of UVU
-Develop and implement master’s degrees in education, nursing, and business
-Establish academic/scholarly initiatives for collaboration with peer institutions
-Establish governmental/private sector partnerships for developing the region
-Encourage alumni participation by strengthening the unique identity of UVU
-Review and align academic policies with peer institutions

Strategic Direction Two: Provide a distinctive educational opportunity centered on students, scholarship, and regional

-Expand resources to support professional, global, ethical, and scholarly engagement among students, faculty, and staff
-Develop and maintain programs and services that demonstrate and enhance the importance of teaching, learning, and scholarship
-Solicit feedback on faculty and staff student-centeredness and effectiveness in regional outreach
-Identify, build and promote centers of excellence to encourage engaged scholarship
-Develop and utilize distance education, off-campus programs, and satellite campuses more fully

Strategic Direction Three: Provide programs and services to attract, recruit, and retain students with differing backgrounds,
interests, and preparedness levels

-Promote campus-wide initiatives that foster student success and retention
-Understand the interest in and perception of the learning experience at UVSC (UVU) among high school students
-Improve recruitment and retention of women, under-represented groups, and other non-traditional students
-Develop and market programs to attract and retain high-achieving students
-Define and promote the “opportunity mission” of UVSC (UVU)

Strategic Direction Four: Manage and expand resources to support UVSC’s (UVU’s) mission and future growth
-Continue to nurture the expanding role of community and private support
-Motivate community and alumni to provide resources to support excellence among students, faculty, and staff
-Pursue the implementation of the campus facilities and information technology master plans
-Assess student, staff, and faculty satisfaction with campus facilities and their learning/working conditions

Strategic Direction Five: Attract, retain, and develop exceptional student-centered faculty and staff consistent with UVSC’s
(UVU’s) focus on students, scholarship and regional engagement

-Continue to implement a competitive market compensation plan
-Increase staff in proportion to faculty increases to provide adequate support
-Support and encourage professional development and scholarly work
-Fortify and promote endowed chairs and other magnet scholar programs
-Enhance training programs for faculty and staff

Strategic Direction Six: Foster a culture of professionalism, collaboration, communication, and transparency
-Emphasize a commitment to professionalism, respect, and civil discourse appropriate to a public university
-Refine the PBA process to foster inter-disciplinary collaboration and improve measures of accountability and involvement
-Increase transparency in campus processes to improve understanding of decision making
-Improve external communications regarding UVSC’s (UVU’s) quality of student, faculty, staff, and systems
-Improve communication processes and systems on campus

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Huntsman makes it official, college to become a university

In a longer than necessary ceremony Utah governor Jon Huntsman signed SB 70 that will give UVSC an extra $8 million in continuing funds that will transform the state college into a level II university come July of 2008.

The Pipeline won't bore you with all the pomp and circumstance, will let The Herald, Des News, and Salt Lake Trib take care of that, but we did want to share some observations that perhaps might shed some light on this very interesting time at UVSC.

All lot of folks have made a big deal about who attended Monday's celebration, but it was some notable absences that got our attention; namely faculty members. Make no mistake, this was a packed event with all the chairs full, and plenty of folks standing on the sides of the Grande Ballroom. But we didn't see a lot of faculty members. Perhaps it was because it was right in the middle of Monday classes, but it seemed strange that there were more faculty at last month's Ira Fulton celebration then at this one.

With Mormon leader Thomas Monson on hand there was plenty of references to the LDS church and its role at of the strangest came from UVSC president Bill Sederburg. While announcing some dignitaries he said "We have Linda Walton here and she is....what is she again? (looking to his right-hand man Cameron Martin for help with Walton's title) Oh yes, she is the campus chaplain. We also have Reverend Jackson here we have balance with the LDS influence here." It was a tiny awkward moment that seemed to speak volumes about how Sederburg is always walking the fine line of the LDS community issue.

Of course no one is more awkward then "UVSC's Biggest Fan" and lone voice on the Board of Regents Marlon "No High School Diploma" Snow who at one point reduced the program to a Friar's Club Roast with a series of lame jokes, back slaps, and a demeanor that said that this whole transition was "Good Ol' Boy" approved.

Which makes one wonder how much UVSC had to give away to get so much so fast from the state legislature. One of the first speakers on the program was Rep. Dave Clark from St. George, you was one of the most vocal proponents of the bill in the House. Why on earth would a Washington County guy speak up for UVSC, when Utah County has such a tight hold on legislative leadership? Perhaps Clark sees the day when he will need to call in a favor on behalf of Dixie. Or maybe he is just a nice guy.

The Pipeline spoke to a reporter who worked on the hill during the recent legislative session, and he got the impression that UVSC had made assurances to key conservative leaders that it would not follow the liberal path of the University of Utah. It is still much too early to tell if UVSC's promotion to university status will be paid for with increased scrutiny from Utah County's powerful conservative caucus. But higher ed usually finds a way to get people like Sen. Margaret Dayton in a huff. It is only a matter of time.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

UVSC adds three new bachelor degrees

Utah's Board of Regents recently approved three new degrees for UVSC's fall 2007 semester. Here is the press release that College Marketing put out:

UVSC adds Three New Bachelor Degrees
Beginning fall semester 2007, Utah Valley State College will offer three new bachelor degrees, two in the Foreign Languages Department and one in the Computer and Networking Sciences Department. The new four-year degrees include a Bachelor of Arts in American Sign Language and Deaf Education, a Bachelor of Arts in Deaf Studies and a Bachelor of Science in Software Engineering. With the addition of these new degrees, UVSC now offers 54 bachelor degrees.

The American Sign Language and deaf education degree is a secondary education teaching program that will prepare graduates to teach in middle schools and high schools as well as prepare them to serve the deaf community. The deaf studies degree aims at serving the students and community and will offer an emphasis in general deaf studies and an emphasis in interpreting.

“There is a huge new surge in the market for signers because of Sorenson Communications in Salt Lake City, a service that helps the deaf use the telephone. We are responding to the need,” said Karl Worthington, interim vice president for academic affairs. “Deaf studies is a unique major and this degree proposal has been well received by other institutions and the deaf community. Many students, hearing and non hearing, will be involved in learning how to sign as well as teach.”

In addition to these two new degrees, software engineering is making the transition from an emphasis to a stand alone degree. “This will greatly assist students in the job market,” said Worthington. “Employers are specifically looking for those who have received a higher education in software engineering.”

Sunday, March 11, 2007

UVSC's maturation ruffles some feathers around the state

When Gov. Jon Huntsman signs SB 70 next week and makes Utah Valley University a reality there will be a big celebration in the school's Grande Ballroom. But in other parts of the state residents won't exactly be dancing in the streets.

A recent editorial in the Ogden Standard-Examiner had some thoughts on how UVSC's progression might harm Weber State University and Utah State University:

We're also nervous about what granting "university status" to Utah Valley State College -- soon to become Utah Valley State University -- might do to funding at Utah State and Weber State universities. That initial $8 million bump to get the UVSU ball rolling has to come from somewhere, as will further allocations in future years. We can't help but suspect the Top of Utah's universities are being harmed by legislative leadership's Utah County mafia. We expect a building and development frenzy at UVSC/UVSU now, possibly at the expense of Weber and Utah State.

A Cedar City blogger expressed much of the same frustrations, as she feels then when the higher education pie gets split up the pieces will be smaller now that UVSC is at the table.

Of course people around the state said the same thing when Southern Utah State College made the jump to university not so long ago. And small players like Weber and SUU will always feel overshadowed by the bigger, more visible schools.

The thing UVSC must remember as it transforms to UVU is to be a good neighbor, especially to smaller schools like Weber and SUU. While the University of Utah and Utah State University get the lion's share of the funding (and as the state's research universities, they deserve it) UVSC often competes for scraps with SUU, Weber State. But fostering an adversarial relationship with these schools is counterproductive.

While SUU and Weber may whine about UVSC's big move now, eventually they will get over it, and it behooves all three schools to work together to show the legislature that Type II schools get the job done. UVSC could also use the support of the Regents from the Ogden and Southern Utah areas, especially when it comes time to grant new degree programs.

And that is a big issue. There is no doubt that constituents loyal to SUU and Weber were let down that UVSC's move came with virtually no opposition from the house or the senate. When it comes time to approve new degrees (especially those pesky new master's programs) it is easy to envision Regents from both areas giving the new guy some trouble. And you can count on departments and deans at both schools scrutinizing UVSC's new degree proposals with a fine-tooth comb.

If Big Bill doesn't mend some fences soon you can count on hassles down the road. UVU would also be smart to avoid overlap in master's programs currently offered at SUU and Weber. That being said there should be some wiggle room when it comes to market driven degrees like nursing, education, and business.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

UVSC graduates to university status

It isn't quite official just yet but Utah Valley State College has been given the greenlight to become a university. Utah governor John Huntsman will be on the campus Monday March 19 to sign the bill that will make UVSC a level II institution effective July 1, 2008.

Along with the name change comes a commitment of $8 million more in ongoing funding, money that will be used to hire more full-time faculty (about 60) and to develop the school's first graduate programs.

UVSC president Bill Sederburg said he hopes the hires will decrease the school's dependence on adjunct faculty, increase the number of professors with terminal degrees, and reduce the average teaching load of existing profs on campus.

College administrators have made it quite clear that the first master's degree programs will be in nursing, education, and business administration. Sederburg said recently that he does not want to be flooded with degree proposals. He seems more interested in shoring up existing programs and rounding out the catalog to include a more comprehensive list of undergraduate offerings.

That $8 million is a bit short of the $10 million that the school was hoping for, and Sederburg has already told the local press that he'll be back on the hill next year to lobby for the remaining $2 million. In the meantime he will put new Vice President of Academic Affairs Liz Hitch to work when she gets to town just one year before the school switches over.

Along with overseeing all the new faculty hires (which is usually handled at the dean and department level), Hitch will need to hire a new Dean of Technology and Trades, a school that will probably feel the growing pains more than any other. Tom McFarland's replacement will have to deal with the problems associated with integrating an entrenched, and often stubburn trades program into a new university setting. And with Sederburg wanting new grad degrees that meet market needs don't be surprised if Technology isn't first in line with a new master's program (after a few years of course).

Don't be surprised either if in a few years the all-powerful school of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences doesn't come begging at the postgrad door. HASS is the biggest school on campus, and they will soon be itching to prove themselves.

Of course it is easy to get lost in all of this university hoopla and forget that there are many other things happening at UVSC. Ira Fulton has raised $10 million in the last two months (kicking in $5 million of his own). The new library is inching out of the ground and steel work will begin this month.

And while ther are many good things it also worth noting that UVSC has its share of problems. The faculty is underfunded when compared to professors at other colleges. Athletics is running out of time on their provisional NCAA Division I status, and seems no closer to finding a conference. Utah's warm economy is keeping many students in the workforce. Infrastructure woes like registration and advising still cause a lot of student frustration.

Sederburg still has a lot of work to do before UVSC can become UVU.