Monday, October 31, 2011

Is Harrisburg University's President Making Stuff Up?

On Oct 20th 2011, Jeff Selingo published an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Where Will Innovation Begin?  In the article Mel Schiavelli, Harrisburg University's President, makes some interesting comments. First Selingo writes "Of the 115 students who have graduated from the university since its founding, 106 of them are employed in central Pennsylvania." this is not directly attributed to Schiavelli in the article, but we've heard the figure from HUST before, so we can assume it came from  Schiavelli or his office (correct me if I'm wrong.) Anyhow, that statement is meant to support the idea that HUST students are graduating and getting good jobs in their field right here in Harrisburg. Instead the statement just implies that the students are all working in their field locally. That of course is just silly, HUST students aren't magical, they have the same problems finding good jobs just like every other new college graduate.

According to the article, Schiavelli put the following "innovations" in place:

No departments. "Academic departments are silos built by faculty members to further their research and careers..." Schiavelli said. The truth is, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology does not support scientific research and to my knowledge there has never been a faculty member that published in a peer-reviewed journal while at HUST. Let me say that again: HUST DOES NOT SUPPORT SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH of any kind. There was one paper published by an adjunct recently, but again, his research was not supported by HUST.

According to HUST's 2009 990 financial statement, there are three directors that are listed under the section of highest paid employees. It's pretty obvious that Schiavelli's only "innovation" in this case is to call the the departments "programs". There are indeed departments at HUST.

No tenure. “We couldn't afford it,” Schiavelli said. The truth of the matter is that Schiavelli has long promised faculty multi-year contracts, but has refused to honor his word. HUST uses the threat of job loss each year to keep faculty in line. As Schiavelli pointed out, many of the faculty have stuck with HUST in hopes of making it a better place. There is no logical reason to deny these faculty members the contracts they were promised.   Schiavelli could easily keep his word if he chose to do so. Instead, HUST spends their money on big bonuses for Schiavelli, the Provost, the CFO, Director's salaries, recruitment and marketing.

"All those hired had tenure or were on the tenure track elsewhere." Schiavelli said.  Guess what? This simply isn't true either. The exact opposite is true. Only one faculty member had tenure at another university, every other faculty hire was either denied tenure at their previous institution, was an adjunct or was hired right out of graduate school. The idea that tenured faculty clamored to get jobs at HUST is laughable. Ask the professors if you want the truth.

Corporate involvement.  "At Harrisburg the corporate committees are much more involved, voting on curricula, and, in some cases, members serve on the faculty. " Yep. As a matter of fact, at HUST "corporate faculty" make up about 75% of the faculty members at the university (in academia they are known as "adjuncts".) HUST couldn't survive without the adjuncts, overall they do excellent work and we are proud to have them be part of the HUST community. However, a STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) school needs to have actual scientist (not business people) as a primary source of science education.

Student amenities. "There is no campus. The university operates from a single building in downtown. There are no sports teams or dormitories."  Schiavelli has been spinning this for awhile and I let it go since it's such a fucking stupid statement. Amenities by definition are desirable and useful.  That fact that HUST can't even offer free parking is not an innovation. Oh and HUST opened a dorm in May of 2011.

Schiavelli seems to have difficulty with facts.

[Update: 11/2: Schiavelli is at it again. "Of the original dozen full-time instructors whom Dr. Schiavelli hired, all left tenured positions to take untenured ones at HU. Only two have exited, by their choice, not Dr. Schiavelli’s." - Hope and Change in Harrisburg.]


  1. Just wanted to touch on your tenure topic. I have friends at other university's that i visit all the time and noticed that the teacher who do have tenure dont really do much or dont care at all for the students. There getting a check regardless of students interest in learning. Why fight for a lazy system??? Administrations can kick anyone out if there not doing there jobs, and the teachers knew that before they decided to join the school. I feel not having tenure will self motivate the teachers to help students and want to do more for the students. Your getting paid to produce good students, if your pay is crap then produce better students so that you can ask for more money......

  2. lolol this needs to be approved........... dont tell me your going to start cherry picking like you did last year....if this is still the same person just know your doing good when you speak the full truth, adding the extra to spin it your way is killing your message.

  3. Faculty at HU are not asking for tenure, they are just asking for multi-year contracts like they were promised. There is a lot more to being a faculty member than just showing up and teaching, they spend years developing new courses and programs, they develop relationships with outside funding sources and organizations, they research and apply for grants, they serve on various committees and they advise students. There is little motivation to do all that extra work if they might not be there next year. Right now, if a faculty member stands up to administration, they get fired. That would change if they had contracts.

  4. The School needs to stand on its own 2 feet before addressing other issues. We can’t start to address other issues when the survival of the school is on the line. Your right, enrolment has been slow but other factors like the economy and people not having money for school play a bigger role then the school just simply doing a bad job. When the school becomes self-sustainable then other issues will be addressed like "long term contracts".

  5. "dont tell me your going to start cherry picking like you did last year"

    I have to moderate comments to filter out spam and libel. There was also that bat shiat crazy guy that kept posting about Star Trek.

    The idea behind the blog is to get people talking and asking questions, so no legitimate comments are moderated in any way, whether I agree with them or not.