Wednesday, February 29, 2012

WKU should use social media to improve campus community

He said it just right.

This from Sam Fordin the WKU Herald:

The Herald's coverage has shown that university officials are not of one accord about today's communication environment, nor about what the university's role should be in this new world.

I agree with Ms. Biggs that WKU has made great strides in its use of social media. And I praise President Ransdell for being personally dedicated to having a voice online. His comments that students should think about their communication online because of its permanence is right.

But suggestions are a different matter than censoring. The university can't hide behind trademark laws to remove things they don't like.

I thought Mr. Skipper's comments in Thursday's Herald was particularly on the mark. University officials should not be using social media monitoring as surveillance on students or to find excuses to censor comments they don't like. But they very well SHOULD be listening to what students say in social media.

Rather than brainstorming legal means to censor comments, university officials should use the insights they glean from listening to make WKU a better place for its students, its faculty and staff, and its extended community.

Let's hope this conversation is one that helps to unify an appropriate understanding of social media across campus offices. We in the WKU community will be listening closely in our own right.

Monday, February 27, 2012

WKU Fights Twitter Criticism

This from Newsday:
A Kentucky university is aggressively fighting parody and criticism of school officials and policies on Twitter and other social media sites, which advocates and students say is an attempt to silence any negative comments.
Western Kentucky University's president has used Facebook to lecture students about social networking etiquette, and officials persuaded Twitter to briefly shut down a parody account dripping with sarcasm and criticism with posts marked "(hash)wku." Officials deny charges of censorship, but observers say the school appears to have immersed itself in social media deeper than many others around the country.
WKU junior Autum Calloway, a psychology major from Russellville, said she will tweet about things going on around campus. But she chooses her words carefully. "I don't ever criticize the school on Twitter because I don't want an ordeal made," she said, noting friends have been scolded by officials for postings deemed poor representations of the school. To be sure, it's common for universities to monitor cyber-chatter. But WKU president Gary Ransdell has jumped into the fray himself, taking to Facebook to scold students about inappropriate posts. And officials say they're considering a new handbook policy that would be aimed at preventing online harassment.
Hanni Fakhoury, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil-liberties group based in San Francisco, sees it as an attempt by WKU to immerse itself into the flow of ideas on Twitter and Facebook. Students may wind up choosing their words more carefully -- like Calloway -- to avoid running afoul of the rules. "If you don't know whether what you're going to say is going to get you in trouble, you're better off just not saying it and not getting in trouble," he said. "And there you have it right there, speech is chilled."
Any new policy also raises the question of whether a school could limit what students post when they're off campus and not using school equipment. Many schools have anti-cyberbullying policies, but most of those apply only to school-owned servers and equipment, said Adam Goldstein, an attorney advocate with the Student Press Law Center in Arlington, Va. The school has not yet drafted any language for the handbook or set possible punishments for violators, Skipper said. The school already has vague rules against "accessible communications deemed inappropriate."
Violators of a new rule may face sensitivity training, but the idea is not to limit speech among students, said Stacey Biggs, WKU's chief marketing officer. "The point is not to tell them what they can or can't say, or what they can or can't say about WKU," she said.
Still, critics have cried foul. The campus newspaper recently wrote a lengthy article under the headline "WKU trying to pull strings on social media." And the parody account -- temporarily shut down because it wasn't clearly labeled as a parody -- recently tweeted, "Campus police department has been renamed to twitter patrol." Student criticism prompted an official response that appeared recently in the campus newspaper. Biggs wrote that the intent is not to censor students but said the university "has to offer some amount of protection to its students."
School officials have vigilantly searched for fake accounts filled with inflammatory comments, though Biggs said the school tries to have accounts taken down only if they use the university's name or logo and don't clearly state that they are parodies. In her commentary, she said such efforts are aimed at protecting the school's reputation and brand. Other schools do remind students that posts can reflect poorly on them in the eyes of a prospective employer, for instance. Some, such as the University of Kentucky in Lexington, limit that to a set of recommended "best practices."
"You don't really regulate conversations in a coffee house, for example," said UK spokesman Jay Blanton. "The same principles apply here." UK's existing campus policies applying to legal and ethical conduct extend to communications, including social media, he said.
At WKU, Ransdell weighed in on social networking in a Feb. 15 message on Facebook. He warned about the lasting consequences for irresponsible posts. "We, at WKU, have become particularly conscious lately of some who are misusing social media and using some poor judgment," Ransdell wrote. "So my message here is 'Be smart.' Use social media thoughtfully; always remember what you send is permanent and can be viewed years from now. Employers do their homework. They can and will track ways in which prospective employees have used social media. We, at WKU, track such things as well."
Normally I post Facebook updates when interesting and cool things are happening with me or with WKU. This message, however, is aimed at everyone who uses Facebook or other social media, especially students and others who are building resumes. We, at WKU, have become particularly conscious lately of some who are misusing social media and using some poor judgment. So my message here is "Be smart." Use social media thoughtfully; always remember what you send is permanent and can be viewed years from now. Employers do their homework. They can and will track ways in which prospective employees have used social media. We, at WKU, track such things as well. Be smart and remember the Golden Rule. It applies as much to the use of social media as it does to how we conduct our daily lives. Think twice before you hit the "post" button or "send" key. Be smart, Hilltoppers!
Such efforts amount to attempts to "stop students from offending the government-paid administrators," said Goldstein, the attorney advocate with the Student Press Law Center. "Any institution that invests substantial effort into shutting down obvious parody accounts richly deserves to be parodied, because any institution with a good reputation for doing the right thing most of the time isn't worried that obviously silly statements might be confused with its genuine policy," he said. Goldstein said he's never seen a college president get to personally involved in the give-and-take in social media. "I guess it's good that he's paying attention, but I wonder if this is really the best use of his time," Goldstein said.
This from the WKU Herald:
Dallas, Texas, senior Mario Nguyen was among many of the students who got fired up Tuesday when reading about the university’s policy on external communications.

Nguyen was in class in Mass Media and Technology Hall — home of the School of Journalism and Broadcasting — where the First Amendment is posted on the walls and podiums.

“For me, being in that school was really funny when I read the article, thinking about how ridiculous that (policy) was,” Nguyen said.

Instead of tweeting his thoughts using the #WKU hashtag, Nguyen created his own, #Bigredcommunism, which he coupled with an image of Big Red surrounded by communist symbols. (Shown above)

Under Big Red, the text reads:
“Join the Revolution! As social media constituents, we are the strongest form of marketing WKU has. By Unfriending/Unfollowing, you are helping limit WKU where they want to limit us.”

“I figured if I could make this go viral with the very medium they are trying to limit us with against them, I figured we would win out,” Nguyen said. “Or at least show them a thing or two.”

Nguyen said he is going to create images and political cartoons to get the word out for his campaign. He said he’s working to gain awareness of students.

“So far, it’s really just getting it out there,” he said. “I'm still in that phase — it’s only been one day.”
Nguyen said he’s going to budget his time to continue his campaign.

“As long as they keep that policy in place and they try to do this — I’m going to try, in addition to all of my schoolwork, to do this,” he said.

SGA Senator Keyana Boka said her organization is working on a campaign of its own — a social media awareness campaign.

Boka said the goal of the social media awareness campaign would help students take care of their own accounts, not telling them what they should or shouldn’t post.

“The social media awareness campaign is kind of a different aspect completely,” Boka said. “This is more just a friendly kind of reminder about safety. It’s kind of the other side.”

Boka said SGA talked about the policy at her campus improvements committee meeting. No one seemed to agree with the administration.

“(The committee is) more on the side of ‘Everyone should be able to say what they want,’” she said.
Boka said that while she personally could understand where the administration is coming from with the policy, she also thinks students should have their rights protected.

“We pay to go here, so we should be able to say what we think,” she said.

“Inappropriate” varies in meaning, she said.

“It’s just a very open word. Saying that something’s inappropriate is basically saying they don’t like it,” she said.
A resolution that supports the removal of the section in the handbook that includes the policy was scheduled to receive its second read at Tuesday’s SGA meeting.

Its author, senator Christopher Costa, pushed it back four weeks in order to do additional research.
Oakland junior Londa Stockton said she thinks the policy needs to clarify what would be considered harassment.

“Right now it’s too broad — it could be anything,” Stockton said.

Stockton said there are a lot of personal opinions on what would be considered inappropriate.

“To actually define what is inappropriate and what is offensive to use on the Web, especially when it comes to Twitter or against the school — that’s going to be a blurry line.”

Stockton said she looked at the WKU hashtag after Tuesday’s article about the policy was published. She said the reaction was enormous.

“It was kind of like once you tell someone not to do something, they do it,” Stockton said. “That’s exactly what the student body did.

“Once they were like, ‘Oh, we’re going to watch the hashtag,’ it was like everybody who had a Twitter that went to Western used it.”

Stockton herself tweeted using #WKU, “All I’m going to say is that this #Wku thing, is overrated. Students have opinions. One can’t keep the student body silent. Nice try though.”

Stockton works as a babysitter, and her Twitter account is public. She said she has her own rules regarding what she tweets.

“If I really wanted to put something out there that would be really shameful against whatever, I wouldn’t do it publicly,” she said.

“There are something you shouldn’t say, and everyone knows what they are.”

Wildcat MKG's High School to Close

St. Pats closing 
but the memories would never go away, 
My old teammates are now so called brothers 
& always will be
--Michale Kidd Gilchrist via Twitter

With Enrollment Plunging, a New Jersey Powerhouse Will Close

This from the New York Times
The oldest parochial school in New Jersey, St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth, which earned a reputation as a basketball powerhouse, will shutter at the end of the school year, the Archdiocese of Newark said.

Despite a shrinking student body, St. Patrick became well known in recent years for producing a disproportionate number of Division I college players, several of whom went on to play in the N.B.A., including Samuel Dalembert of the Houston Rockets, Al Harrington of the Denver Nuggets and Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“It’s a great school that did a lot of great things for a lot of kids,” said the longtime coach Kevin Boyle, who led the team to a 26-1 record last season before leaving for Montverde Academy in Florida.
He added, “It’s very unfortunate, but what are you going to do?”
Enrollment at the school, a stocky, red-brick building hunkered in the seat of Union County’s troubled First Ward, plunged precipitously in recent years, said James Goodness, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Newark. In the last five years, it fell by more than 100, to 151 students. Only 20 freshmen were signed up for the fall of 2012, he added. To compensate, the archdiocese had given the school $100,000 subsidies each of the last four years....

In Teacher Ratings, Good Test Scores Are Sometimes Not Good Enough

This from the New York Times:
At Public School 234 in TriBeCa, where children routinely alight for school from luxury cars, roughly one-third of the teachers’ ratings were above average, one-third average and one-third below average. 

At Public School 87 on the Upper West Side, where waiting lists for kindergarten spots stretch to stomach-turning lengths, just over half the ratings were above average. The other half were average or below average on measure, based on student test scores. 

And at Public School 29 in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, where many young parents move to send their children, four of the teachers’ ratings were above average, seven were average and five were below. 

The New York City Education Department on Friday released the ratings of some 18,000 teachers in elementary and middle schools based on how much they helped their students succeed on standardized tests. The ratings have high margins of error, are now nearly two years out of date and are based on tests that the state has acknowledged became too predictable and easy to pass over time...
In one extreme case, the formula assigned an eighth-grade math teacher at the prestigious Anderson School on the Upper West Side the lowest possible rating, a zero, even though her students posted test scores 1.22 standard deviations above the mean — normally good enough to rank in the 89th percentile. Her problem? The formula expected her high-achieving students to be 1.84 standard deviations higher than the average — roughly the 97th percentile.

Slow on Pikeville

Bill Bryant hosted a great interview with UPike President Paul Patton and Morehead President Wayne Andrews on WKYT's Kentucky Newsmakers this weekend. Both men acquitted themselves well.

In part 1, Bryant took some time at the beginning to separate Patton and Andrews from the rancor surrounding the issue.

In Part 2, Bill raises the issues surrounding Speaker Greg Stumbo's punitive open records request. But for some reason I can't get Vimeo to display both videos in the same post (which hasn't happened before) so find it here.

This from The Courier-Journal:
The proposal to bring the University of Pikeville into the state system of higher education merits respectful debate. But its potential educational and financial impact is far too great to justify putting the idea on a fast track in the current legislative session.
The notion that the merger proposal — contained in House Bill 260 — could be carefully studied, weighed and enacted by lawmakers by the end of next month is absurd. Consideration of a measure of such far-reaching and potentially harmful effect should be measured in months and perhaps years, not weeks.
The imperative of moving cautiously is made all the greater by the initial impression that the proposal poses many more problems and concerns than obvious advantages.

First off, advocates put the cart before the horse. They begin by insisting that a state university be placed in Pikeville to serve students in the “Eastern Kentucky coalfield,” instead of first demonstrating the need for a new full-fledged state campus and then showing that Pikeville would be the best site.
The idea of a ninth public four-year university carries grave financial and enrollment implications for existing schools, especially those that already serve the mountains, and must not be blithely sidestepped. Moreover, Pikeville is not a central Eastern Kentucky location — it’s at the eastern edge of one of the region’s three coalfields — and seems as well situated to draw from West Virginia as from Kentucky.
Moreover, the financial ramifications of a merger cannot be adequately addressed during this session of the General Assembly. Supporters propose transferring Pikeville’s buildings to state ownership and budgeting the new university with coal severance-tax revenue. Even if that money can be wrested from regional officials’ hands — and there would be stout resistance — the funds at best will cover operating costs. What about the capital financing to upgrade Pikeville’s aging facilities?
And what is the economic impact on universities, especially Morehead State, that would lose students and state funding. And down the road, “Pikeville State” surely would insist on every program and amenity that other regional universities have. How will that be paid for? And why does Pikeville expect a bailout that other private colleges in Eastern Kentucky won’t get?
The strongest case for the merger is the need to offer more students in an economically depressed area an affordable college education. But Morehead State and Eastern Kentucky universities already provide financial assistance to thousands of students. Couldn’t further aid be made available — at much less cost than a merger — by diverting some of the severance-tax proceeds to financial aid to coalfields students to be used at any Kentucky public or private college?
Meanwhile, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a key backer of the Pikeville plan, is out of line to condemn Morehead State’s board for its opposition. The situation calls for facts and reason, not name-calling.

Obama’s education secretary dominates NBA All-Star celebrity game

This from the LA Times:
Gov. Jerry Brown met with Education Secretary Arne Duncan this week, hoping for some leeway for state schools facing pending federal sanctions. By Brown’s own account, the meeting was not as productive as he had hoped, describing his relationship with the secretary as a “work in progress.”

The California governor has clashed with Duncan over the use of standardized testing to evaluate students and determine teacher pay and performance.

Photo: United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (26) dribbles the ball downcourt past musician Ne-Yo (24) during the NBA All-Star celebrity basketball game on Friday in Orlando, Fla. Credit: Lynne Sladky / Associated Press
Within hours of his meeting with the California governor, Duncan headed to Orlando, Fla., to participate in the NBA’s celebrity All-Star game.

Comedian Kevin Hart was named the game's MVP, but Duncan, who played for Harvard where he was named a first-team Academic All-American and played professionally in Australia, had the best stat line of the night. He scored 17 points to go along with eight rebounds and five steals.

But for Brown, at least, Duncan provided no assists.

Amid a Federal Education Inquiry, an Unsettling Sight

This from the New York Times:
What was Arne Duncan doing sharing the stage with Michelle Rhee at a recent education conference? 
Duncan is the education secretary. 

Ms. Rhee was the chancellor of schools in Washington from 2007 to 2010. 

Since last summer, the Office of the Inspector General in Mr. Duncan’s department has been investigating whether Washington school officials cheated to raise test scores during Ms. Rhee’s tenure. 

You would think Mr. Duncan would want to keep Ms. Rhee at arm’s length during the investigation. And yet there they were, sitting side by side last month, two of four featured panelists at a conference in Washington about the use of education data.
(A spokesman for Education Secretary Arne Duncan, cautioned against the presumption of guilt in an investigation of Washington schools under the direction of Michelle Rhee.)
“This is an amazing panel, so I’m thrilled to be part of it,” Mr. Duncan said in his opening comment.
If there is any hope of getting to the bottom of what went on in the Washington schools — whether Ms. Rhee is as amazing as Mr. Duncan said, or whether test scores were inflated by cheating — it is through the inquiry by the inspector general. (Catherine Grant, a spokeswoman for the office, confirmed that an investigation was under way, but would not give details.) 

Ms. Rhee’s reputation as a national leader of the education reform movement has rested on those test scores, which soared while she was chancellor. Then, last March, USA Today published the results of a yearlong investigation of the Washington schools that found a high rate of erasures on tests as well as suspiciously large gains at 41 schools — one-third of the elementary and middle schools in the district. 

Since then, Ms. Rhee has refused to talk to the reporters who know the story best, although she has been talking to many other people...

Regulations Would Link Teacher-Prep Quality, Aid Eligibility

This from Teacher Beat: 
A set of draft federal regulations under discussion this week proposes requiring states to classify their teacher-preparation programs into four categories, from low- to high-performing, based in part on outcomes indicators such as surveys of graduates, school districts, and student-achievement results.

The draft would also restrict states to permitting only those programs scoring at the highest level to offer federal TEACH grants, which subsidize training for candidates who agree to serve in high-needs fields.

Though still preliminary, the draft gives the clearest sense to date of how the U.S. Department of Education envisions refashioning the reporting and accountability requirements for teacher education housed in the Higher Education Act—one of the pieces of a comprehensive policy proposal for teacher education unveiled last fall.
The draft is a product of the negotiated-rulemaking process. Under this process, negotiators selected by the Education Department can alter the draft, but by the end of the rulemaking process—which continues through March—they must all agree on its format. If they don't, the department can issue its own rules. (See prior EdWeek coverage of this rulemaking here, here, and here.) ...

" The same trends that are corrupting K-12 education 
in this country, and the teaching profession, 
are rapidly advancing into Higher education."
-- Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch Addresses NAICU 2012 Annual Meeting from NAICU on Vimeo.

"In that state of the union address [President Obama] 
threatened to reduce the federal aide to colleges and universities 
unless they reduced their tuition. 
That's not the job of the president of the United States. 
It perhaps could be the job of Congress, but that's not going to happen."
--Rep Hal Rogers

At the same conference, Hall Rogers (introduced by Paul Patton) addresses NAICU:
Rep. Hal Rogers Addresses NAICU 2012 Annual Meeting from NAICU on Vimeo.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

From the Nation's Cartoonists

This from Signe Wilkinson in Slate:

This from Walt Handlesman:

 This from Clement:

 This from Dana Summers:

 This from Matt Davies: