That’s Rep. Lois Kolkhorst of Texas, where the first consideration in choosing a university is the football team.

Texas has a new law that will put online a school’s attendance costs, plus published work, syllabi, cvs, and salaries of all professors at public universities in the state. It had bipartisan support.

The AAUP isn’t happy.

… The Texas Conference of the American Association of University Professors requested a repeal of the law in its June newsletter. The group said the law is an unfunded mandate that would have a chilling effect on classroom discussion of controversial subjects.

If professors are required to post detailed descriptions of class material online, those opposed to the discussion topics would be able to target specific classes and professors, the association said.

“As far as any of us can tell, this is an attempt by cultural conservatives to identify course content they might view as undesirable, and is thus clearly an attack upon academic freedom,” a previous newsletter said.

Murray Leaf, speaker of the Faculty Senate at the University of Texas at Dallas, said that despite the bill’s portrayal as a measure promoting transparency, it displays “an insulting mistrust of higher education faculty.”

“Faculty in the United States decide the curriculum,” Leaf said. “We are largely autonomous. The people behind this bill are opposed to that and are trying to undermine it.”

A law requiring professors to post their résumés online suggests that they’re not qualified to teach their classes. And the higher education system depends on peer review by other educators, which is a better method for judging professors’ qualifications than review by the general public, Leaf said.

“The law really isn’t primarily about giving students better information, but about giving people who want to attack higher education better information,” he said. “We’re not against transparency. We’re against being attacked by our enemies.”…

This isn’t a very good argument. Professors should be fine with giving attackers better information, shouldn’t they? Shouldn’t that make the attack better informed, and therefore perhaps fairer? Putting this in terms of “our enemies” makes professors sound like Richard Nixon.

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9 Responses to ““Today’s students choose colleges based on how good its football team is, its reputation and how far it is from home, Kolkhorst said. But after the law goes into effect, detailed course information could also factor into the decision.””

  1. david foster Says:

    “the higher education system depends on peer review by other educators, which is a better method for judging professors’ qualifications than review by the general public, Leaf said”

    What does peer review have to do with quality of teaching?

  2. Bill Gleason Says:

    However do schools like Brandeis and the University of Chicago attract students without a football program?

  3. Matt L Says:

    To paraphrase Kissinger, the AAUP might be paranoid, but that does not mean that the cultural conservatives of Texas aren’t out to get them. As I recall from previous work experience in Dallas, Texas is a right to work state and employers tend to use whatever leverage they can to punish and marginalize workers.

    Its fair for people to have access to this information. For example it is not unreasonable to ask people to post an updated CV, or to make past syllabi available on-line. But it is also fairly certain that detailed course information will be used to bully and harass faculty with unpopular or unorthodox opinions.

    The faculty at the University of Texas should be as transparent and accountable as say, well BP, Exonmobile or any number of other large energy conglomerates.

  4. Margaret Soltan Says:

    I take your point, Matt, but I think a fair, open fight is better than trying to lie low. Put it all out there. Carpet bomb the football fans in the legislature with your journal articles, syllabi, lecture notes. Let them feast their eyes. Let them do their worst. If you send one of them a journal article and she doesn’t respond, send it again with an accompanying email asking in all caps why she hasn’t responded yet.

  5. theprofessor Says:

    Bill, one of my colleagues has 35 years of data collected from freshmen here concerning factors that they report impacted their choice of college. Athletics was of major importance to-surprise!-athletes. For non-athletes, athletics has been in a contest with weather and local shopping as the least important factors.

    It does not matter how often this info is reported to the admin. They simply don’t want to believe it.

  6. Pete Copeland Says:

    “The faculty at the University of Texas should be as transparent and accountable as say, well BP, Exonmobile [sic] or any number of other large energy conglomerates”

    The folks at UT are state employees. The folks at ExxonMobil or any other corporation or privately-held company are not. Referring to Texas as a right to work state is also a bit of a red herring as most of the employees in the current discussion would have tenure.

    Margaret, you don’t help with your provocative introduction, “Texas, where the first consideration in choosing a university is the football team.” This seems to be stated in such a way as to apply to all (and that the problem is somehow unique to Texas). It may apply to a few but this really has nothing to do with the question of whether or not a requirement to advertise information about courses is a good idea.

    The new requirements are an unfunded mandate but other than that, I don’t see a problem in telling your students (and the people who pay your salary) your qualifications for teaching and your plan for teaching a particular course. If you are unhappy about telling the world what you are up to perhaps the problem is with you and not the world (particularly when the world is paying the bill).

    I’m not in any way trying to deny that there is an anti-intellectual component in society that can be a detriment to universities. However, this sort of HOW-DARE-YOU! response to what are pretty reasonable requirements make things worse, not better. Margaret gets this part right: fashioning your response after Nixon is not helping.

  7. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Pete: I agree that I went here for provocation rather than careful distinction-making. But Texas does have a terrible reputation in this matter, and the legislator doesn’t help matters by putting things in the way she does. I think if you asked most people what’s the most football-mad and anti-intellectual state in the nation, they’d probably say Texas.

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