“Some of the other Arts faculty students joke that we’re paying £3000 a year for a library card and a reading list…”

UD began to sense the dimensions of the contact hours controversy in the UK when La Kid came back from visiting a friend in school in Scotland. “She never sees a professor! She doesn’t have classes!”

This had to be an exaggeration; but it wasn’t that far off.

Students studying subjects such as languages, history and philosophy have access to less than nine hours a week “contact time” with lecturers or tutors, research reveals today.

The study by the National Union of Students and HSBC shows huge differences in the student experience. Those doing medicine and dentistry have an average of 22.6 contact hours a week, compared with 14.8 for biological sciences, 12.2 for law and 8.7 for languages, the study found.

Those at the most prestigious universities receive significantly more time with academics through lectures, individual tutorials and drop-in sessions than those at other institutions, despite the vast majority of universities charging students up to the maximum fee level of £3,225 per year – whatever their subject.

The issue of contact hours has becoming increasingly contentious since fees were raised in 2006 and will be further scrutinised tomorrow when the government announces the details of a review. Some university vice-chancellors want to see the cap raised to £7,000 a year.

“Given that there has been no demonstrable improvement in the number of contact hours since fees went up in 2006, I don’t believe there can be any justification for an increase now,” said Aaron Porter, vice-president of the NUS…

UD‘s reminded of University of Toledo President Lloyd Jacobs, whose revolutionary, cost-cutting approach to higher education has the same unbeatable feature we see in the UK — gather income from students, but avoid expenditure on actually educating them in classrooms with teachers. Computers and podcasts cost far less than faculty.

The downloadable university degree takes its cue from generations of diploma mills that got there before.

In the UK, though, I don’t think they’ve even got the technology with which to fob off students. I think they’re still making due with lies.

As Shakespeare Aptly Observed…

this is one shitty letter to the editor.

I mean, yes.  Do damage control.  Do damage control until the cows come home.  SOS has no trouble with damage control.

But don’t do damage control so badly you end up doing more damage.

Here’s the problem:  The University of Toledo currently has the most corrupt sports program in the country, with all the national news coverage that implies.

A faculty member seeks to control damage.  Let us see how she does it.

Let us first notice the very end of her letter, when she provides some identification for herself:

Alice Skeens

Associate professor
University of Toledo

Fine, a concerned Associate professor…

And now let’s look at an editorial note below her name, provided by the newspaper that published her letter:

Editor’s note: The writer is UT faculty athletic representative to the NCAA.

Oh whoops yeah forgot to mention I’m faculty athletic representative to the NCAA!  (It’s possible the writer provided this information to the paper, which chose to present things this way.  If so, a mistake.)


March 29, 2007, was a difficult day for the University of Toledo. That was the day federal investigators filed a criminal complaint against a former football player alleging that he had been a part of a point-shaving scheme.

This dark cloud follows UT athletics to this day, yet the investigation has always focused on the past.  [Dark cloud ushers us into a world of clichés.  It’s hard to get a whole world of clichés into a letter to the editor, but this writer has done it.]  [The investigation focuses on the past because the crime, like all past crimes now under investigation, occurred in the past.  If you catch my drift.  There are two reasons its darkness insists on pursuing UT:  One, it involved organized crime and betting on university games, which is REALLY REALLY dirty stuff, even by the dirty standards of bigtime university sports.  Two, the president of UT refuses to deal with it in an honest and forthright way.   Like this writer, he’s trying to, er, sweep this event under the scrapheap of history.]
Indictments filed last week appear to be the beginning of the end, focusing on a 13-month period from Nov. 19, 2005, to Dec. 19, 2006.  [The past, the beginning of the end… Like UT’s president, to whom this writer toadies, the idea is to convince you that something profoundly, lastingly, corrupt is ancient history.]

I have spent a majority of [Pompous, wordy.  Say most.] my 47-year career working with UT’s student athletes and I couldn’t agree more with [President Lloyd] Jacobs’ assessment that this period is truly behind us.  [Toady.] [And a very nice example of what SOS has said many times on this blog about the desperate use of intensifiers to make what you want to be true the truth.  It’s truly truly behind us, I tell you…]

In a June, 2007, editorial, The Blade described intercollegiate athletics as “a monster – like the mythical multiheaded serpent Hydra – that is nearly impossible to subdue.” It then went on to applaud President Jacobs for being “determined to try.” Accolades were earned by “implementing aggressive new procedures to tighten up athletics administration.”  [Passive voice — were earned by.]

Shakespeare aptly observed, “What’s past is prologue,” as history sets the stage for future actions.  [Well done, Bill! Shakespeare certainly gets an A in this professor’s class… To quote Shakespeare at all in this tawdry context is laughable, and to use the tight-ass aptly observed is … oh well.  I suppose the writer attempts to lend some tragic gravitas to this unfortunate, long-forgotten incident.  She accomplishes exactly the opposite.]  Responding to the events two years ago, the university implemented its new procedures, including “a comprehensive educational program for all student-athletes in areas such as gambling …” as reported in the Blade on June 14, 2007.

One can argue that the success of these programs is evidenced by the continued retrospective nature of the probe.  [Deadly writing:  One can argue.  Is evidenced by.  As SOS noted above, the retrospective nature of the probe — again, note the pomposity — has to do with the retrospective nature of the events.  To be more precise, they already happened.]

On May 10, The Blade called upon the administration to successfully address the situation, noting, “To countenance cheating creates a culture of corruption that not only hurts [the athletes] as players, teammates, and representatives of the university but also damages UT’s reputation and that of its sports programs.”

I could not agree more.  [Repeats this phrase; she said it a few paragraphs above.  A stiff inhuman writing style coupled with robotic repetitions of phrases – it just ain’t gonna get you there, honey.  Now, what you should have done is start like this:  I’m the faculty athletics representative, and I’ve always… And then whatever.  Say whatever the hell you want to say.  Tell a story.  Tell it from the heart.  But make it honest and human.  Don’t make it a press release from the president’s office.] That is why swift actions were taken two years ago and the university can say it has truly turned the page.   [The intensifier truly again.  Writing by machine.]  Our best years are yet to come.  [Ends with a flourish — her biggest cliché  yet.]

SOS thanks a reader for sending her this.

There’s a certain kind of man — a bull-headed fool convinced he’s right about everything.

This human type can be played for tragedy (Lear) or comedy (Homer Simpson). It’s either horrific or hilarious to watch him destroy himself and others through stupidity and arrogance.

Lloyd Jacobs, president of the University of Toledo, is one of these, very much in the comic mode with his Babbitty emails about the revolutionary for-profit approach he’s bringing to the school.

Along with Babbitt, the fictional prototype for Jacobs is Charles Bovary, Emma’s dullard husband, who, convinced he’s found a new way to fix a club foot, ends up crippling a patient for life.

Faculty and students have mobilized quite impressively against Lloyd, and have so far managed to keep him from realizing his dreams. Here’s their latest blocking action.

Still. The man is president. “I will do such things…”

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