January 23, 2024

Open and Closed Universities Redux

Here we complement the previous posting with a study of the 10 worst performing Non-Russell Group Universities.

Again, we give total number of complaints to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), as well as complaints per 1000 staff (using publicly available estimates of the total number of employees). These statistics are a proxy for the openness of the University. Fewer complaints to the ICO indicate greater propensity to disclose data, as well as better staff-management relations.

We recollect that the worst performing Russell Group university was Oxford with 99 complaints. When normalised to total employees, this is ~ 6.7 complaints per 1000 staff.

The Non-Russell Group has produced six universities worse than Oxford. The performance by St Mary’s University, Twickenham is extraordinary with 70 complaints amongst barely 1100 employees. When normalised by head count, this is by some way the worst performance of any university in the UK. The 21 Group would be interested to hear of any explanation.

The next five universities — London Metropolitan, East London, Birkbeck College, Brunel and Northampton — all generate more complaints to the ICO per 1000 staff than Oxford. This suggest a closed culture, desultory management and poor employee engagement.

We recollect that the ICO is the last resort for Freedom of Information or data protection complaints. Consensual and open universities should not be generating such large numbers of complaints.

So far, we have merely looked at total number of complaints (whether or not the complaints were upheld). In the next posting, we will look at which Universities are failing to comply with the recommendations of the ICO in the case of upheld complaints.


January 10, 2024

Inside Claudine Gay’s resignation and the hyper scrutiny haunting Black women in higher ed


On Jan. 2, former Harvard University president Claudine Gay resigned from her position. She was the second woman and first person of color to serve as president in the university’s 386-year history. People called for her resignation due to accusations of plagiarism and anti-semitism.

Some individuals like conservative activist Christopher F. Rufocelebrated Gay’s resignation online. “This is the beginning of the end for DEI in America’s institutions. We will expose you. We will outmaneuver you. And we will not stop fighting until we have restored colorblind equality in our great nation,” Rufo said in a Jan. 2 tweet.

However, Black women in higher education like racial, social and gender justice educator Ericka Hart, who was previously firedfrom Columbia University in 2020 for raising concerns about a student’s comments, are calling out the discrimination and racism behind the pressures Gay had to endure.

“We (Black and non Black people of color) have to really sit with how these institutions do not give two s**** about us and will see us out expeditiously if we do not follow their white supremacist agenda,” Hart said in a Jan. 4 Instagram postOther Black female administrators and professors in higher education as well are now posting and speaking about the extreme pressures they have also faced in these positions compared to their white counterparts.

For Cal Poly Pomona professor and former provost Dr. Jennifer Brown, Gay’s resignation made them deeply saddened about the struggles she knows she has gone through. “I really have no words to describe how it feels to get to a certain point in your career and to have it be so short lived, due to circumstances outside of your control. I could just say that I know firsthand when you are targeted for something the impact it has on your mental health or on your physical health,” Dr. Brown said.

These struggles and racial disparities in higher education can also be seen when looking at the statistics of tenure. A 2021 data setfrom The U.S. Department of Education found that tenured Black women only made up 2.8% of tenured faculty at U.S. universities.

“Black women experience institutional barriers at every stage of the academic process, starting with admission into graduate programs, yielding a small pool of credentialed graduates available for tenure-track faculty positions. Then the tenure process further culls the herd,” Boston University Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Malika Jeffries-ELsaid in a 2021 BU Today article...