Your daily dose of news, notes and links from around Kansas University.
• I was definitely pleased with yesterday’s experiment of sorts, in which I posted the shell of an upcoming story and solicited feedback on degree programs with low numbers of undergraduates.
Several of you responded, both in the comments and in my e-mail inbox.
I heard from professors, students and many others, too.
Here are a few comments and questions I found particularly interesting:
Many readers mentioned the point that it’s not quite right to judge the effectiveness of a field of study based solely on the number of bachelor’s degrees churned out — master’s and doctoral degrees also come into play, along with a host of other factors, including valuable research dollars brought to the community and knowledge that makes our world better.
Housed in the petroleum engineering department, for example, is the Tertiary Oil Recovery Program that benefits the state’s economy, as I’ve written about before.
And the associate chairman of chemical and petroleum engineering wrote to me, and said that, while, yes, petroleum engineering has struggled with low enrollments in the past, resulting in a five-year average of 4.4 undergraduate degrees per year, they’re building up momentum.
He said they’re on track to graduate 13 students this year, and 15 to 18 in the next three years.
“I believe we have graduated out of the ‘small program’ group,” he wrote.
Even with all that, he added, KU offers the only petroleum engineering degree in the state, and graduates can earn $90,000 per year.
A former dean of a community college wrote to point out (as did others) that it’s probably not as simple as it sounds to just shut down a department anyway. Particularly when tenure enters the equation.
“At my old college, the teacher's union was very strong, so the collective bargaining agreement provided for faculty of eliminated programs to be retrained at college expense,” she wrote. “This meant that some programs hung on past their usefulness because it was easier and cheaper to keep them to retrain the faculty for something else in the college.”
An e-mailer who identified himself as a “lowly graduate student” offered this:
“The three most expensive things in this world are birthing, raising and training people, and two of these things have zero-to-negative returns in strict dollar terms (emotions and social norms set aside). The last does have long-term returns that are hard to quantify but everyone admits their enormous aggregate benefits for a society,” he wrote. “Americans would never be okay with doing the first two on-the-cheap but the latter is left ambiguously, if not ambivalently, because of any number of political influences in the state funding the educational institutions.”
I greatly appreciated the civil nature of most of the discussions, and was able to get a great basis for writing a future story. I think the experiment turned out really well, and I appreciate everyone’s comments, questions and even a few concerns about the direction the story may go.
I really did get a lot of great feedback, and just because I didn’t repeat what you said here doesn’t mean it wasn’t useful to me.
Now, I’ve just got to go out and report the story and write…
• Watch out where you’re getting that copy of “The Hangover.”
The Motion Picture Association of America has sent a letter to thousands of universities across the country discussing the fight against illegal file sharing on campus, according to a blog post from the Chronicle of Higher Education.
The MPAA will begin notifying campuses when it detects illegal file sharing on campus. Many movie and television studios have already taken that step, the Chronicle says.
• The University Daily Kansan reports that a long-delayed lighted pathway in the Oread Neighborhood has received $100,000 from Student Senate’s Campus Safety Advisory Board.
The money is contingent on a commitment of funds from the city, the article said.
The student newspaper reports construction has already begun on the main pathway, running down the sidewalks on the north side of 12th Street between Vermont Street and Jayhawk Boulevard and across South Park to its northeast corner.
• Tips for Heard on the Hill light my path every day. Send more of them to firstname.lastname@example.org.