Economic Summit getting into gear today

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It’s going be a long day today. We’re shorthanded at the office, and the Governor’s Summit on Economic Development really kicks off this morning. The focus this year is on workforce development, and Silver City is the perfect location for that type of discussion. Many of our economic development efforts during the past few years have been centered on educating and training better workers.

I don’t know that Bill Richardson will be attending the forum, but that means we’ll be treated to a visit by Lt. Gov. Diane Denish. It’s always refreshing when Diane comes to town, and I imagine we’ll be seeing more of her as the big guy really hits the campaign trail.

You can find an agenda here, if you’re interested in attending any of the meetings or forums.

I’ll likely try to live-blog some of the meetings I attend, or, at the least, will try and post some updates throughout the day. So, stay tuned if you can.

The Round Up: Part 3

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Last week, I started a series of posts on the Round Up, and issues with hiring practices there (Part 1 and Part 2).

Today’s will likely be the last post for the next few days, because some interesting developments have occurred.

This morning, the opinion and news editor positions were reposted on the campus jobs site, though I couldn’t find the posting for the news editor job. In addition, the arts and design editor positions are being “held open,” whatever that means.

In addition, George Barton, director of campus placement services, told Jacqueline Armendariz and Carlos Mariscal on Monday that they had not followed the proper appeals process when they contacted Student Placement Services.

Armendariz told me she filed a grievance on July 28. Per the Student Employment Services Handbook (Section XX, Grievance Procedures), a grievance review officer should have contacted Armendariz within five days. After conducting an investigation, the review officer should have made a recommendation to the affected parties (the employee and the employer).

According to Armendariz, she and Mariscal contacted Barton directly when nobody responded to the grievance process. Armendariz spoke with Barton on August 3, when she said she was told no further investigation would be conducted into her and Mariscal’s individual cases. Armendariz said she was under the impression this constituted a recommendation from Barton, as outlined in the grievance process in the SES Handbook. She filed a refusal of the recommendation on August 3 (as required by the handbook).

From what I understand, she (and Mariscal) followed the grievance procedure to the letter. Nonetheless, Barton told them they had not followed the proper procedure, and had to appeal “internally.” Both Armendariz and Mariscal received an e-mail message from Barton explaining his reasoning. In the letter sent to Armendariz, Barton says:

I have received your recent letter concerning your plans to pursue the grievance procedure as it pertains to hiring for Round Up positions. It is important for you to understand that you have not yet taken this process through the appropriate steps and are not yet in a position to request a hearing by this office or a Student Personnel Board. I have done nothing more than review your complaint and attempt to discuss it with Mr. Morris. I have served as an advisor only. It has been my hope that the problem could be resolved without taking it into a very messy appeal process. You seem to have been very anxious to push this process to a formal appeal even before decisions have been made and before you have received any written response from me.

Since I was unsuccessful in bringing this situation to a resolution that is satisfactory to all parties, it appears that you will need to pursue it more formally. The next step in the process is for you to appeal internally; this means that you will need to go before the Pub Board. I will not be involved at this stage, but will offer technical advice where it is requested. In the meantime, the posting for the Arts Editor position is being held open until a resolution has been reached.

Feel free to contact me if you have questions about the appeal process. I would suggest you refer to the SES Handbook. You will find that our goal is to resolve problems internally whenever possible. Your first line of appeal is the (Publications) Board.

George Barton, Ed.D.
Placement and Career Services
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, NM 88003

The wording is slightly different in the letter addressed to Mariscal, but you get the point. Armendariz (and Mariscal) appear, to me, to have not only initiated the grievance process, but they’re in the middle of it. But Barton doesn’t see things that way, and is now asking them to “appeal internally,” a process that is not defined in the SES Handbook.

So, rather than subject themselves and The Round Up to the clearly outlined grievance process, Barton wants Armendariz and Mariscal to follow an internal appeal process, the nuances of which are undefined and unclear.

No date for a Publications Board meeting has been set.

Who grades colleges?

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An intereting article over at the Washington Monthly, where Kevin Carey discusses the lack information about how school actually perform:

Imagine you’re about to put a chunk of your life savings into a mutual fund. Now imagine you peruse the various “best mutual fund” guides on the news rack, only to find they’re all missing crucial pieces of information. The guides list where the fund managers went to college, how much investment capital they’ve attracted, and what kind of “experience” investors had at the annual fund meeting. But they don’t tell you what you most want to know: What the funds’ rates of return have been–or if they’ve ever made a dime for anyone. You might still decide to invest in a mutual fund, but it would be a heck of a crapshoot. And with their scorecard hidden, fund managers wouldn’t be under much pressure to perform, let alone improve.

That imaginary mutual-fund market pretty much shows how America’s higher-education market works. Each year prospective college students and their parents pore over glossy brochures and phone-book-sized college guides in order to decide how to invest their hard-earned tuition money–not to mention four years of their lives. Some guides, like the popular rankings published by U.S. News & World Report, base ratings on factors like alumni giving, faculty salaries, and freshman SAT scores. Others identify the top “party schools,” most beautiful campuses, and most palatial dorms.

But what’s missing from all the rankings is the equivalent of a bottom line. There are no widely available measures of how much learning occurs inside the classroom, or of how much students benefit from their education.

The article, Is Our Students Learning?, appears alongside the Monthly’s annual college rankings. WaMo doesn’t rank colleges in the traditional manner — instead, the rag looks at other factors:

And so, to put The Washington Monthly College Rankings together, we started with a different assumption about what constitutes the “best” schools. We asked ourselves: What are reasonable indicators of how much a school is benefiting the country? We came up with three: how well it performs as an engine of social mobility (ideally helping the poor to get rich rather than the very rich to get very, very rich), how well it does in fostering scientific and humanistic research, and how well it promotes an ethic of service to country.

The Round Up: Part 2

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Yesterday I spoke about hiring practices at the Round Up (and other campus newspapers). One commenter (thanks Mom!) thinks I may be putting my foot in my mouth to suggest individuals with no experience can’t get the job done. I think experience is not necessary, and have not said new Round Up editor Mark Morris is unqualified for the position. But experience can make a huge difference in training time and getting an organization up and running.

Indeed, the thrust of my argument regarding campus newspapers is that experience is to be supported and encouraged. While WNMU might hire some shmuck off the street to be student editor (me), NMSU actually has a pool of not only qualified, but experienced journalists from which to choose.

Thus begins the second part of our series on the Round Up. Remember Jacqueline Armendariz, our enterprising intern at the Silver City Daily Press? This summer, she’s covered a murder investigation, wrote a breaking news story on flooding in Santa Clara, and has pursued the more mundane, day-to-day stories of a small-town daily with enthusiasm.

Will she be working at the Round Up again next semester? Apparently not. She applied for the news editor position, which she didn’t receive. She won’t be going back as a news reporter, and, after she was turned down for an arts editor job, the position was reposted because of a “lack of qualified candidates.”

Jackie is one of the brightest young reporters I’ve met — she keeps me honest here at the office, always asks tough questions, and has a keen insight into the news gathering process.

Another casualty of the hiring process is Carlos Mariscal, the design editor for the Round Up for the Spring 2006 semester. Mariscal is currently an intern (page design and layout) for the Clovis News-Journal. He applied for the same position for the Fall 06 semester, and waited 29 days from the time he was interviewed to the time Morris informed him he did not get the position. As in Armendariz’s case, the position was reposted afterward. According to the NMSU Student Employment Services Handbook (Section X, “Posting”):

Additional applicants should not be solicited until it has been determined that a sufficient number of qualified applicants is not available in the initial pool.

Why repost the position, when (as in Armendariz’s case) qualified applicants for the job were interviewed? Mariscal even held the position!

That brings us to handbook section XIX, “Termination,” which states:

Student employees may terminate for a number of reasons. However, there are five broad categories under which the student employee’s termination will fall:

A. End of Employment Period – All student employees are automatically terminated as of the job end date specified in Ventana at the time of hire. It should be noted, however, that an incumbent has the right to continue working if the position has not been dissolved.

(italics mine)

What happened to Mariscal here? He was the incumbent, and the position was not dissolved. Am I missing something here?

More thoughts after the weekend — as the saga that is the Round Up continues.

WNMU ‘Focus on the Future’ forum

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6:07 — Due to the weather, looks like the forum is going to start bit late. Be back when things get underway.

6:15 — Looks like we’re getting things started.

6:19 — Dr. Counts: two purposes of the meeting tonight: information on the university, and what the school was doing, and to plan for the future.

6:22 — Counts: interesting the ways in which change has occured throughout the world since I took over in 1993, in terms of economy, information technology, etc.

6:23 — Moving on to the transition to a university and a community college. Focus remains on education, but Counts said WNMU is the only school in New Mexico that serves as a community college and university.

6:26 — Counts says there’s been a shift, as the school has expanded througout the state. Focus on Gallup, T or C, Deming, and the associated programs there.

6:29 — Counts: Now we have distance learning in Silver City, linked with Quemado, Reserve, Magdaleno, Lordsburg, and soon in Socorro. Also have connections with T or C and with Deming. 861 students took classes online last year, a 20 percent increase year over year.

6:33 — “In the history of teacher education in New Mexico, nobody’s ever done better than we’ve done.”

6:38 — Average age of a full-time incoming freshman is 23; average age of underclass is 27; for graduate students, 39.

6:41 — Counts: We’re measured by the number of faculty who have the appropriate terminal degree, and at Western 90.8 % and 92% have the appropriate terminal degree.

6:46 — $40 million in capital improvements in the last 10 to 12 years.

6:50 — Counts: “Here we have the largest collection of Mimbres pottery in the world. We have the possibility of getting some additional collections, but the museum is going to need to be renovated.”

6:54 — Counts: “I think the longer I’m here, the more it occurs to me how vital this university is to economic development.”

6:59 — Getting into enrollment – impact for next budget year, will be slightly more than $300,000, or two-percent smaller.

7:04 — “The most important thing for success of children in schools is the quality of the teacher. We need more teachers, and there is an incredible shortage of teachers in this country, particularly in rural areas.”

7:10 — “Compensation: people aren’t paid enough. That’s our number one priority at the next legislative session.”

7:12 — Question and answer session.

7:14 — Discussion of the impacts of the economy on enrolment at schools acros the country and New Mexico. Counts says that new Mexico Junior College and Clovis Community College are facing enrollment issues worse than WNMU.

7:26 — Lot’s of discussion on the role of the school of education, and the programs being created there. In addition, talk of the ways in which WNMU can help to improve education across the board in the state.

7:30 — Shorter Faye Vowell, VP of academic affairs: “Women are more likely to pass math classes than males at WNMU.”

7:38 — Judy Ward: we need more training for service workers in the town to improve the tourism base in Grant County.

7:46 — Chris Farren, VP of student affairs, talking about the ways in which the school is recruiting younger students. Talk of making sure graduates and students are proficient in computers.

7:55 — Sunny McFarren, Gila Regional Medical Center: “We’re handicapped by a lack of classroom space, and we’d like to partner with WNMU for certain classes to help support the hospital.”

8:01 — Randy Jones, VP of business affairs, talking about the ways in which the university and the town can work on projects cooperatively. Also, discussion on increasing visibility of the university throughout the town.

8:04 — We’re done! More tomorrow.

The Round Up: Part 1

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Looks like it’s going to be a higher education day here on Live from Silver City. Right now, we’re going to head southeast to Las Cruces, for part one in a series of posts on a topic close to my heart: campus newspapers.

As many of the Daily Press readers know, Jacqueline Armendariz has been serving as our intern the past two months. She’s a journalism major at NMSU, and, as a freshman there, began working for the campus newspaper, the Round Up. Positions at that paper are were highly competitive, so trust that she’s a bright young reporter.

Our post today is focused on the Round Up. To understand the problem I’m going to discuss, we need to look at the process by which many student editors are selected across the country, including at NMSU and WNMU. The school establishes a “student publications board,” comprised of students, faculty and staff, which evaluates applications for the editor position.

This year, the board hired Mark Morris. Unfortunately, from what I understand, Morris has no background in journalism. Now, the Round Up is not tied to the journalism department, and operates as an independent organization. Nonetheless, campus newspapers are the hands-on classrooms for student journalists.

At WNMU, where I was hired as editor, its harder to find somebody with a background in journalism; WNMU has no journalism program. But NMSU is quite different, in that the j-school there is top-notch. The Round Up has an excellent reputation as a student publication, and that’s a direct reflection on the training these students receive.

So, why hire an editor who has no experience? That’s one of the questions we’ll be looking into during the next few days.