Three interesting articles from the last week or so in InsideHigherEd:
- Librarians Tackle Information Illiteracy by Andy Guess is another fairly basic, apple pie and parenthood article about the modern academic library. As usual, nothing surprising for us insiders, but it's always great to see IHE bring this stuff up to where faculty can see it.
It came as no surprise to many of those attending the annual meeting of the Association of College and Research Libraries this weekend that the typical liberal arts freshman believes Time and Newsweek to be legitimate scholarly sources. Groans and laughter accompanied this and other non-surprising factoids — 100 percent of incoming liberal arts freshmen surveyed use online sources, most think it’s easy to know when to document a source but nearly half couldn’t determine when one was required — that are familiar to anyone who works at a college library.
- The Brave New World of MySpace and Facebook by Sheldon Steinbach and Lynn Deavers is about the perceived threat of putting too much information on social networking sites as well as what duties academic institutions have to monitor and police those sites. It's written by two lawyers, so it's a bit heavy on the legalese, but is nonetheless very interesting.
College students are flocking to social networking sites on the Internet in stunning numbers, often unaware of the potential dangers that can arise there. These dangers primarily arise from posting personal information online that can be viewed by criminals, potential employers, and school administrators, which can result in identity theft, loss of job opportunities, and violations of school rules. Campus administrators should inform their students about the potential dangers of using social networking Web sites — but they should be cautious not to do so in ways that could make them liable if the students engage in illegal behavior.
- Rising Up Against Rankings by Indira Samarasekera. This one's about how universities are reacting to the various ranking schemes published by commercial magazines to help students decide what school to go to. The universities have a lot of very valid concerns about where the information comes from, how it is analysed and the way the results are hyped -- and mostly the motivation for undertaking the whole exercise. On the other hand, I can symphathize with students who want better information to make their own choices, and not just rely on what the universities have to say about themselves. I don't normally get that worked up about this issue, but I thought I'd note it
hearhere because the author of the piece is president of the University of Alberta and covers the Canadian scene quite a bit, something quite rare in the more US-focused IHE. The comments for this article are really worth reading too.
It’s time to question these third-party rankings that are actually marketing driven, designed to sell particular issues of a publication with repurposing of their content into even higher sales volume special editions with year-long shelf life.
While postsecondary education always like grades and ranks — they’re the trophies in our competitive arena – presidents and other top administrators at our institutions also have an obligation to do what’s right for our institutions in terms of championing our values and investing our resources.
Currently, many American colleges and universities have new presidents — as there were here in Canada a year ago. It is the role and obligation of a new president to question the status quo, especially long-standing practices that may have started a decade or two ago and have since evolved into a much larger administrative burden with less advantage or validity than they appeared to have at their inception.
Update 2007.04.12: Tony Keller of Macleans responds with Truth, Lies and Rankings. I have to say that I mostly agree with him and that students need more than just what the universities are willing to say about themselves.