Making referee reports more transparent

From the very interesting new blog,   New APPS: Art, Politics, Philosophy, Science

Here’s a simple proposal (due to Alva Noe, as far as I can tell): accepted, refereed papers and books should be accompanied with the name of the referees and, ideally, their reports, if only, in the online edition. (Note rejections can still be done anonymously.)

The author, Eric Schliesser, sees a number of benefits, including the improvement in referee diligence and the transparency of connections between editors, ingroups, etc.

Read the full post here.

Import of the Browne recommendations

Essentially, Browne is contending that we should no longer think of higher education as the provision of a public good, articulated through educational judgment and largely financed by public funds (in recent years supplemented by a relatively small fee element). Instead, we should think of it as a lightly regulated market in which consumer demand, in the form of student choice, is sovereign in determining what is offered by service providers (i.e. universities). The single most radical recommendation in the report, by quite a long way, is the almost complete withdrawal of the present annual block grant that government makes to universities to underwrite their teaching, currently around £3.9 billion. This is more than simply a ‘cut’, even a draconian one: it signals a redefinition of higher education and the retreat of the state from financial responsibility for it.

For more, go here.

Sidewalk behaviour exercise

There’s been a fascinating discussion on WMST-L about gendered differences in sidewalk behaviour– the expectation that women will get out of men’s way, and the expectation that men won’t do this for women. Jessica Nathanson reports the following:

I’ve assigned students the task of walking down the sidewalk and not getting out of men’s way and then reporting what happens. Several women have reported being bumped into. What was particularly interesting was hearing about this as learned gender behavior when one male student who was also trans talked about learning that he had to walk down the middle of the sidewalk, through crowded spaces such as clubs, etc., with his head up, eyes directly ahead, without saying excuse me or worrying about bumping into people. What my students and I learned from this exercise is that walking down the middle of the sidewalk is a male entitlement, as is expecting others to get out of one’s way in other crowded spaces. And – not only is it an entitlement, but it is also a way of performing maleness, so that NOT doing these things marks one as less than manly.

I’m definitely going to try assigning this one to students. (Although I suspect the norms will be different in the UK– people say “sorry” a lot more in general– I also suspect that some form of the this difference will exist.)

Why For-Profit Higher Ed is lobbying for its life

A recent Inside Higher Ed story indicates a drastic rise in the money for-profit higher education corporations are spending on lobbying.  So I was interested to see that Newsweek now reports the first good news in a long time for the would-be students of for-profit higher education corporations:  Two of the largest are instituting reforms.  Gee, I wonder why?

Possibly it’s because

on Nov. 1 the Department of Education will announce a set of new rules that for-profit schools must follow, including an industrywide prohibition against incentives to admissions officers for recruiting more students and a revision to policies that have allowed schools to tweak the way they count credit hours in order to let students borrow more federal cash.

It’s been a tough year for for-profit education corporations, hasn’t it?  Ever since those reports about the massive debt and poor completion rates or job placement of for-profit students, such as the nice summary in “For-Profit Higher Education by the Numbers,” came out in January (link launches a pdf). 

It could make a feminist philosopher wonder about the possibility of exploitation to read that “For-profit colleges top the list of postsecondary institutions that received the most money in 2008–2009 from federal Pell Grants, which are awarded to needy students.”  That’s “24% of all Pell Grant funding, about double the proportion from ten years ago.”

Of course, they are serving needy students, which sounds great, except when one reads the section on “The Costs for Students.”

Students at for-profits are more likely to borrow and borrow more than students at any other type of college. Yet, they are also among the least likely to complete school. College completion rates are low in all sectors. Only about half of all freshman entering baccalaureate programs earn degrees within 6 years. Given the cost, low completion rates are particularly burdensome for students at for-profit schools. For example, only 8.9% of University of Phoenix students without prior college experience complete a degree in six years, including 5% of those who attend classes online compared to a national graduation rate of about 56.1% for four year schools and 30.9% for two year schools. 

I’ve voiced concerns before about the UK moving toward anything like the model we have here in the USA, which left me with over $50k in debt, but it could be worse — I could’ve been a for-profit student!  96% of for-profit students end up in debt.  You read that right, 96%.  Yep, they’re serving the needy, all right. 

Percent of Graduating Class with Student Loans and Average Debt for Those with Loans: 2008

Sector Average Debt Percent with Debt

Public four-year $20,200 62%

Private nonprofit four-year $27,650 72%

Private for-profit four-year $33,050 96%

Source: The Project on Student Debt, “Student Debt and the Class of 2008” (Dec. 2009). Based on calculations by the Project on Student Debt using data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Survey 2008.

Now, not all debt is “bad debt,” right?  I want to be reasonable about this.  For instance, my consolidated federal student loans are not generally held against me in credit checks, I have lots of methods of repayment with a helpful Dept. of Education, and I write off some of the interest on my taxes every year.  I’ve been told by every financial consultant that it’s the private lending that’ll kill you.

Sadly, that’s where for-profit edu-corporations’ students often turn.

In 2007-08, students attending for-profit schools composed about 9% of all undergraduates, but 27% of those with private loans. 42% of all proprietary school students had private loans in 2007-08, up from 12% in 2003-04.

I’m pretty sure it’s the next part that makes me queasiest:

Many schools have also begun offering their own credit products. For example, in 2009, Corinthian Colleges planned to make about $100 million in loans, ITT Technical Institutes about $75 million and Career Education Corporation (CEC) about $50 million.

 Man, you know you’ve got a bit of a problem when homeless shelters are complaining about the targeting of homeless people for recruitment to for-profit education and debt!

If it makes the students with the largest share of student-loan debt feel better, though, you are helping the for-profits with those mighty high lobbying expenses.

Feminist Epistemologies, Methodologies, Metaphysics and Science Studies (FEMMSS) wants your submissions

Paper proposals are invited for the fourth conference of the Association for Feminist Epistemologies, Methodologies, Metaphysics and Science Studies (FEMMSS) to be held at The Pennsylvania State University, May 10-12, 2012. For more information about FEMMSS and our past conferences see

We welcome new participants and perspectives from across the academy and outside it that provide feminist discussion on any topic in epistemologies, methodologies, metaphysics, or science studies. Note the following broad themes of recent and ongoing interest:

* Practicing & teaching science as a feminist
* Gender, justice & climate change
* Liberatory approaches to science policy
* Feminist perspectives on cognition, logic, argumentation & rhetoric
* Liberatory methodologies
* Knowledges of resistance
* Experience, authority & ignorance
* Science, technology & the state
* Public philosophy

Proposals of 250-300 words, plus bibliography, and a CV of no more than 3 pages should be combined in a single Word (or Rich Text Format) file. Submissions by e-mail attachment are due by August 1, 2011 to Please note “FEMMSS4 submission” in the subject line.

Dr. Catherine Hundleby
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Cross-appointed to Women’s Studies
Fellow, Centre for Research in Reasoning, Argumentation and Rhetoric

Department of Philosophy
University of Windsor
401 Sunset Avenue
Windsor, Ontario
Canada N9B 3P4

PHONE: 253-3000, ext. 3947

Straight couple demands right to civil partnership

in the UK:

It is part of a legal bid spearheaded by the activist Peter Tatchell called the Equal Love campaign, which aims to redress the imbalance between heterosexual and homosexual partnership rights.

Katherine and Tom will be one of four straight couples who will apply for civil partnerships. As part of the same process, four sets of same-sex couples will attempt to sign up for marriages.

Working on the assumption that all eight will have their bids rejected – an earlier attempt by Katherine and Tom to register for a partnership failed in 2009 – Equal Love plans to launch a legal challenge on the basis of human rights legislation.

Thanks, CR!