President's Teaching Scholars Program

 

Fall 2006 Retreat

Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, CO
Saturday, October 21, and Sunday, October 22, 2006

Scholars in attendance:

Denny Webster, J.J. Cohen, Rick VanDeWeghe, Jim Burkhart, Clayton Lewis, Tom Huber, Mike Cummings, Brian Argrow, Bill Briggs, Jim Symons, Mike Shull, Lee Chambers, Klaus Timmerhaus, Don Kleier, Robert Camley, Harvey Segur, Anne Costain, Alexander Cruz, Fred Coolidge, Jim Palmer, Mimi Wesson, Dennis Van Gerven, Gene Abrams, Ronald Melicher, Shelby Wolf, and Michael Eisenberg. CU President Hank Brown and Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs and Research Michel Dahlin also attended the retreat.

I. Introduction

PTSP Director Mary Ann Shea welcomed the Scholars to the retreat and explained the agenda.
Shea: The Committee decided to tackle some of the more difficult but reigning issues in higher ed and our campuses this fall. - Diversity and Race - Faculty Course Questionnaires - Athletics
All three issues are both authentic and unsolved or even resolved and yet the planning committee members are sure that the Teaching Scholars should begin these discussions.
Why? Because you have chosen to be an educator and to lead an educated life and to motivate your students to understand what an educated life will mean to them, how to value it. Because during your discussions you inform one another of your practices in the classroom and you all report that you find that very helpful at the retreats. Because you will be able to express your philosophies and thinking about each of these major components of education and thereby become more exposed to your and others' thinking in these discussions. You can articulate your ideas and think about these topics again, while you are here, whether or not you speak during a session or talk later with one another about something that has just occurred to you, something you had not thought of before. Perhaps your thinking will be further sparked by what one of our President's Teaching Scholar colleagues has said.
That, in fact, is the essence of these retreats - the communication, the humor, the 'situatedness" of the conversation, the time spent together, the asking for clarification, the challenging. It is also knowing when someone else is trying to be heard and acknowledging that. It is the new voices - of Shelby Wolf and Mike Eisenberg. It's the getting to know one another more deeply, the courage to speak that you hadn't had before or didn't know took courage to do. It's all of these elements of conversation as well as the hope that both your lived lives and your students' lives will be different by your intellectual engagement, by controlling your minds, by your growing affection for one another on these weekends. These retreats are a place where valuing an education is utterly apparent and instilled and embodied in each of you. This is community at its best and it is thrilling to be a part of it.

II. Scholars' retreat is focus of special edition of PTSP News

This year, the Special Edition of 'President's Teaching Scholar News," prepared for the President's Teaching Scholars Program, focuses on the discussions the Scholars had at their Oct. 21-22 retreat, held at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. Guild members agreed that it would be valuable to share with the rest of the University community some of the activities and conversations that occur at their retreats in the Dec. 7, 2006, issue of Silver & Gold Record.
This year, the Scholars had a discussion with President Hank Brown, heard an update from Mimi Wesson of UCB law and Dennis Van Gerven of UCB anthropology about their recent exhumation project, participated in a lesson on number theory given by Gene Abrams of UCCS mathematics, and welcomed new Scholars Shelby Wolf of UCB education and Michael Eisenberg of UCB computer science to their first fall retreat.
But the retreat was primarily centered around panel discussions regarding a few important topics facing CU today: athletics, the faculty course questionnaire and race. PTSP Director Mary Ann Shea said at the retreat that instead of bringing in guest speakers, the PTSP retreat planning committee decided that the Scholars themselves should have conversations about these three key issues. 'We will continue these conversations in other sessions, at other retreats," she said. 'These issues are authentic and unsolved, and we agreed that the Teaching Scholars should begin the discussions and continue them at subsequent retreats."

III. President Brown asks Teaching Scholars to talk about intellectual diversity

The President's Teaching Scholars welcomed CU President Hank Brown to their annual fall retreat, held Oct. 21-22 at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. In an informal discussion, Brown said he is being asked by people around the state to describe situations where the University fosters intellectual diversity and where students are challenged to shape their own opinions and argue their own points of view.
At the urging of his fellow Teaching Scholars, Jim Burkhart of UCCS physics recounted an experience he had while teaching an introductory physics course a few years ago. One of the students in the class was blind, and Burkhart said that as a former faculty member at Gallaudet University, such situations were not unusual for him. "I thought I knew a lot about teaching blind students," he said. However, one class demonstration involved a bowling ball suspended from the ceiling as a way to illustrate conservation of energy. The pendulum would be released from one side of the room, and it would swing out and come back. Burkhart said he would ask a student volunteer to show his or her confidence in physics by standing in place as the bowling ball came swinging back.
"The blind student volunteered, but I said, "That won't do. It won't be as much fun with you because you won't see the ball coming back." And I asked for another volunteer," Burkhart said. The demonstration worked as he had planned with a sighted student, who jumped out of the way to the amusement of the other students, he said, but the blind student asked again. 'He stood right where he was told, and as the ball came back, he did exactly as the sighted student: he jumped out of the way." The student explained that he could feel the wind made by the ball as it swung back in his direction, and he moved to avoid it.
"The point of the story," Burkhart told Brown, " is that I thought I was a damn good teacher - yet I almost blew one of the best demonstrations I ever had at CU. I was not wise enough to see all that was going on in the classroom. I got a putdown, as I should have. Never underestimate the ability of our students."
Don Kleier of UCDHSC dentistry said the story reminded him of an issue that arose when he had been dealing with a class that included international students. 'On the final exam, the students had done very well, and I told them if they had any questions to send me an e-mail," Kleier said. "A woman student said she had missed question number 6, and I said it seemed straightforward." But the woman asked, "What is this word 'linger?' In my home country 'lingering' means ladies lingerie. I missed the question because I didn't know the word." Kleier said he talked with the woman and saw that she understood the material being tested in the exam. 'The lexicon of what we do is in addition to the language of what we do," he said.
Lee Chambers of UCB history said she had a profound experience when one of the male students in her Gender, Women and War class approached her in the parking lot and asked Chambers to talk to his mother. "His mother was raising three children and struggling to keep her oldest son in the university," Chambers said. "Her dream had been to get her B.A. but she was afraid she would stand out as a woman in her 50s. I told the student to have his mother call me and he came back later and said she would like to talk with me in person." Chambers said she met with the woman, but informally, as if they had just happened to encounter each other in the University Memorial Center. 'It was interesting to me how important it was to her son to get his mother into the university," she said.
Alexander Cruz of UCB ecology and evolutionary biology said he saw the value of undergraduate research opportunities recently when a former student informed him that she had won the prestigious Frank Cook Scholarship to attend Oxford University to work on her Ph.D. 'She published a paper with me as an undergraduate," Cruz said. "But she also studied international affairs, is active in women's issues and has a black belt in karate. She is not just focused on research."
Clayton Lewis of UCB computer science called himself "a real wimp" when it comes to intellectual diversity because computer science is such 'a non-ideological subject." But one year when he was teaching a freshman introductory engineering course, he saw that one student had a large, conspicuous tattoo with Chinese characters, and he asked the student what it meant. "I was working on a fundamental cultural interpretation of what kids wear today, and it's not what we think," Lewis said. "Guess what it was - it was a statement of support for political prisoners around the world." Another student overheard the conversation and questioned the student with the tattoo. "With a little bit of effort, I was able to start an argument between these students," Lewis said. 'I am not comfortable doing that myself, but I am very comfortable encouraging students to deal with their own differences. As it turns out, the students got to know each other and developed a friendship."

Standing up for one's political beliefs
Mike Cummings of UCDHSC political science said he tells students in his political theory class that they will never be graded on their political beliefs. The students do an exercise in the course that requires them to take another person's point of view into account and to make the strongest possible argument for the opposing view. Cummings presents the students with several political statements, and the students are asked to literally "take a stand" for their opinion by walking to a corner of the room designated "strongly agree," "agree," "disagree" or "strongly disagree" with each statement. "They have to walk to the position where their own view is visible," Cummings said. After the exercise is completed for several statements, such as "Capitalism is superior to socialism," Cummings takes the statement that produced the strongest distribution of opinions among the class and forms small groups with the maximum diversity of viewpoints.
"They then have to come up with some consensus on that issue," he said. "Intellectual diversity is the single most important diversity in my classroom."
Brown said he was intrigued by the classroom exercise. "When you sit in your own seat, you can be pretty comfortable," he said. "But when you are up and moving, you see others -- you must be more engaged." He said that a few years ago legislation was circulated to ensure that political diversity was present in the higher ed classroom and to penalize faculty who did not demonstrate that. He said former President Betsy Hoffman signed a memorandum of understanding with other higher ed leaders to state that institutions would take the issue seriously and monitor it. "I have trouble identifying exactly what we would do to protect students in this area," Brown told the Scholars.
Cummings responded that one of the things that he has seen help is to encourage students to talk to him in a conference about their experiences. "Some say they are afraid to express their point of view in class, and I say, 'Put it out there. I'll protect you if you need protection,'" Cummings explained.
Burkhart commented that whether a faculty member has a right bias or a left bias, "the one who makes it hard for others is simply a bad teacher." Brown said that is why Hoffman signed the MOU. "If you put in writing what a faculty member can and cannot do, that doesn't solve the problem," he said. "It just opens loopholes. We need to deal with general goals and philosophy."
Anne Costain of UCB political science said her graduate seminar on the politics of social movements had a number of foreign students from a wide range of countries, as well as students from diverse disciplines. "It turned out to be a seminar with enormous curiosity from and discussion among the students," she said. The class was meeting right after President George W. Bush said the United States would go into Iraq, Costain said, and she had been talking about how political scientists frame questions. A German student in the class asked how the United States could frame such an action globally. "Without thinking, I said, 'War is the frame.' There was total silence for maybe five minutes as people took in all the issues that would be subsumed by war," Costain said. Fred Coolidge of UCCS psychology asked Costain if she shocked herself with her statement. "I did," Costain said. "Now we know that the war has lasted long enough that other frames are being used. At the time it was about would we win or not."

Subjects that raise controversy
Chambers said history is subject to great controversy but that in 30 years in the department, she has seen only three incidents of political controversy. One involved a military wife who was sensitive about all aspects of the military. Another concerned a young faculty member who was new to teaching a course on the Islamic world and some senior citizens who were auditing the class felt he was teaching religion, not history, and they complained. And there was an offhand comment made by a faculty member, Chambers said. "If that's all we get in my discipline that is so political, that is good," she said. "Political concerns come up in a certain time and policies wash across campus. I don't think it is anything that needs a great deal of policing or structure." Brown added, "If you are debating topics and don't offend somebody, you are not doing your job. The last thing I'd want is an atmosphere where people have to agree. Part of a university is that out of disagreements comes life. You can't avoid hurting feelings."
Chambers noted that some of the problem has been that students get upset and say their feelings are hurt, and then their parents' feelings get hurt. "If we have to dumb down and make our demeanor so polite as to be meaningless, that is only hurting the University," she said.
Mimi Wesson of UCB law commented that she agrees there's not a real problem regarding intellectual diversity, "but we seem to have a PR problem. ... If a student has an issue related to how he or she is treated, I am not sure that promising a procedure to address the problem would be so bad. Maybe this is something that needs to be known, that we have a process." Wesson said she doesn't hold much with the example of the student who says he cannot speak up because others won't agree with him. "That's the nature of the university," she said. "But if the example is of a faculty member who retaliated against a student with a different viewpoint, that's different."
"My sense is that some legislators don't feel represented at the university, but that it's not a major problem," Brown said. "I've done a lot of work recently to connect with families of color in Colorado. The problem isn't someone in admissions refusing admission to students based on their color. But I do think we have a big problem in connecting with those communities and making them feel welcome at CU. That's different from political philosophy. It is important because we have missed something in not making them a part of the University."

IV. Faculty course questionnaire is helpful tool if results are used wisely, Scholars agree

During an Oct. 21 panel discussion on the faculty course questionnaire (FCQ), the President's Teaching Scholars learned about recent changes to the evaluation form at CU-Boulder and exchanged views on whether the student opinions have an effect on teaching and learning.
Mike Cummings of UCDHSC political science, Tom Huber of UCCS geography and environmental studies and Jim Symons of UCB theatre and dance kicked off the conversation by sharing their own views of the FCQ. Cummings said faculty often say that "you can't really count on the FCQ," but "that's often code for, 'I'm not a very good teacher and my students know it." He said faculty should take FCQs seriously, and that as department chair, he went over the results, including the written comments, with his faculty colleagues to identify strengths and weaknesses.
"As department chair, I would go over each sentence in detail, especially the written comments," Cummings said. "I would ask, 'Are there areas of concern? Do you want to talk about those?' Rarely were the FCQs so bad that I wouldn't hire that person again."
"If a majority of students say it, it's probably right," Cummings said. Even a single, isolated comment can ring true, he added, citing an instance in his own career when a student accurately observed that Cummings didn't seem to have passion for a particular topic. In some cases, he said, faculty can improve poor FCQ scores simply by livening up their presentations to enhance engagement or changing textbooks to make the course more down-to-earth.
Huber commented that the FCQ serves two purposes, "and it's not designed for either one." He said it is used in the calculation of annual pay raises and in setting remediation when faculty performance suffers. Huber added that while there has been recent talk of grade inflation by the faculty, if there is any grade inflation, "it's the grade inflation of students grading us," because "students give us really good grades most of the time." He said it is difficult to tell the difference between a good teacher and great teacher using FCQs alone, but they are helpful in identifying poor performance. Huber said the evaluations can provide helpful comments that give faculty "aha moments, where you say, 'Yeah, I do that and it's stupid that I do that."
Symons outlined the changes to the FCQ form that UCB produces, such as using a numerical rating system instead of letter grades, providing optional screening of written feedback to weed out hateful comments, and asking students how many hours they spend on coursework outside of class. He stressed the importance of recognizing that several factors affect FCQ results, including field of study, class size and whether the course is upper-division or lower-division. Another variable, Symons said, is to what degree students are aware of what grade they are going to get in the course. Some faculty try to withhold such information because they don't want it to affect the rating they receive on the FCQ, he said. Michael Shull of UCB astrophysical and planetary sciences added that some instructors, especially nontenured faculty, may be inclined to boost their FCQs by lowering their standards, which can lead to grade inflation.
Jim Burkhart of UCCS physics added that the response rate should be considered as a factor affecting FCQs as well. He cited as an example a recent case in which a faculty member had a course with six students and only one filled out an FCQ. Jim Palmer of UCB film studies agreed, describing another instance where a faculty member received evaluations from only 20 of the 42 students in the class. Huber added that whether a course is a requirement also plays a role in FCQ results, as required courses "are notoriously rated badly." Symons replied that one question on the new form asks students to rate their interest in the subject prior to the course, in an effort to assess the students' motivation for taking the class, which could provide context to the scores that the students give faculty. For example, Mimi Wesson of UCB law said, it would be particularly impressive if a faculty member got a high rating from a student who said he was not interested in the topic at all beforehand. Huber commented that it would be nice if the FCQ asked students specifically whether the course is required and whether it is part of their major or an elective.
Robert Camley of UCCS physics noted that there are often outliers in FCQ results, and he asked whether any thought had been given to throwing out the highest score and the lowest score. Symons said it is important to be aware of such variables when reviewing FCQ scores, but Camley said administrators may be too busy to look at anything but the score itself. Fred Coolidge of UCCS psychology said that rather than throwing out scores, faculty could look at the mode to get an accurate average score -- not the mean. "The mean is skewed by a few people who are going to get you back for having to take that class," he said.
Palmer said he finds FCQs useless for the most part, so he designs his own evaluation forms for his courses, asking students about things like which readings or films they liked best and least. "It is enormously informative for me, and has considerable impact on how I revise my course," he said. Shelby Wolf of UCB education said she also develops her own evaluation forms, and then discusses the students' feedback with them.
Don Kleier of UCDHSC dentistry said his students now complete their evaluations by computer and they give mostly high ratings, so he supplements those numerical scores with a focus group, "which is very enlightening." J.J. Cohen of UCDHSC immunology agreed that the computer-based evaluations provide limited information, especially when students give the same rating in every category -- even those that don't apply to the course. Cohen added that the quality of the written feedback that he receives also has declined since the computer approach was adopted. Symons said UCB had graduate students submit FCQ ratings online as part of a pilot program last year, and the response rate "nosedived."

V. Panel focuses on role of athletics at the University

From praising the beauty of sport through poetry to suggesting that CU divert resources from the football team to academics, the President's Teaching Scholars offered a variety of perspectives on athletics during a panel discussion at their Oct. 21-22 retreat in Estes Park.
Jim Palmer of UCB film studies kicked off the conversation by displaying a photo of himself in a football uniform as a young man and by talking about how he played six different sports in school, in part because he lived in a small, rural Minnesota town of about 4,000 people and "it wasn't that hard to make the team." He said the ritual of sport plays an important role in society, one that involves the pleasures of both playing and spectating. Palmer quoted from books and poems about the aesthetics of sport and living the life of an athlete vicariously, then said his favorite athletic moment is the fast break in basketball, which he uses as an analogy in his own writing process.
Michael Eisenberg of UCB computer science said his role on the panel was to serve as the anti-football voice, and that he advocates for the "shifting of resources at CU away from the football program." Citing a recent article in Newsweek titled "25 New Ivies" that discusses up-and-coming higher ed institutions and well-kept secrets, he said about half of those profiled were small liberal arts colleges, but of the remaining 13, six have Division III football teams, one has no football team and only two of those with Division I teams are ranked in the top 25 nationally. Eisenberg said he was not suggesting that CU give up its Division I status, but that Rice, Vanderbilt and New York universities are examples of institutions that have successfully de-emphasized football to the benefit of academics. "What could we do if we put those resources into something else?" he asked, noting that people could fill more of their free time with non-athletic activities at the University involving areas like theater, music and museum exhibits.
Michael Shull of UCB astrophysical and planetary sciences reflected on why football is such a big part of the college experience. He said it can serve as entertainment, a student recruitment tool and a community-building experience. Shull said college football programs can be both a drain financially and a valuable fundraising tool. He said faculty should try to make individual connections with student-athletes, and even their tutors, and show that they appreciate those students' extra workloads by making reasonable allowances for them to occasionally miss class for athletic events.
Klaus Timmerhaus of UCB chemical engineering observed that some football players don't really want to be at college, but "it's the only route to the National Football League," so they often take lightweight, sports-related courses. Palmer said he served on a committee 10 years ago that examined the athletics department, including allegations that football players were having their grade-point averages manipulated to retain their eligibility to play. A follow-up review was to have been done three years later, but never was, according to Palmer.
Regarding the spring 2004 football controversy, Shelby Wolf of UCB education said she was troubled by the question of "who knew, and why didn't they do anything to stop it? That's the part of football that really troubles me." Eisenberg said a colleague explained the 2004 football scandal by saying that "this kind of thing happens every 10 or 15 years," which Eisenberg said didn't exactly make him feel better. "How do you put a cost to the University for something like that happening to us?" he asked, adding that other universities are reminders that scandals are not endemic to the football culture and can be prevented. "But it takes far more will to prevent them than we seem to have," he said. He added that having a winning team isn't crucial; Columbia University hadn't had a winning season in years when he was there as an undergraduate, but the games were still well-attended.
"Winning is everything for the alumni, and the alumni generate a whole lot of suasion and control over what happens," Palmer replied. Brian Argrow of UCB aerospace engineering sciences said he was raised in a small town in Oklahoma, and despite the fact that he was a National Merit Scholar, "people were just real interested in where I was going to play football." If he didn't talk about football, he said, "there would be nothing to start a conversation." If nothing else, he said, UCB football is an opportunity for him to talk about the University with someone, and then guide that conversation to academics and his faculty work.
Fred Coolidge of UCCS psychology said the administration should be held responsible for poor graduation rates in certain sports and should be less concerned about which PR firm to hire and more concerned about whether the athletic director is truly committed to CU's academic mission. "It didn't affect our campus that much," Coolidge said of the 2004 controversy, "but I was embarrassed for the CU system."
Bill Briggs of UCDHSC mathematics said he grew up idolizing CU football and basketball players, and that as a CU student, he immersed himself in the party scene on days that the Buffs had a home game. But after graduation, he said, he began taking part in athletics more, and said an alternative is for CU to expand its intramural sports, so that "instead of having 50,000 spectators, we encourage people to do it themselves."
Mike Cummings of UCDHSC political science suggested that CU increase emphasis on the scholarship of sports, such as the politics or economics of athletics, shifting the focus away from winning. "I agree that you can study sports," Briggs replied, "but none of that addresses whether sports should reside on university campuses."

VI. Profs believe they have determined identity of Kansas corpse: Features in photos align, Van Gerven tells Scholars

It occurred to him one night last week as he was lying in bed, looking at the television remote in his hand. The distance between the buttons appeared the same, whether the remote was face up or sideways.
So Dennis Van Gerven of CU-Boulder anthropology began playing with Adobe Photoshop on the computer the next morning, comparing photos of the dead man's profile to the portraits of the coffin's two possible occupants. But he didn't tell his research partner, Mimi Wesson of UCB law, what he had found for days, making her wait until he announced his conclusions at the President's Teaching Scholars retreat in Estes Park last weekend. She let out an exuberant holler when he told his audience that the person in the coffin appears to be just who she had hoped: John Hillmon.
In 1879, Hillmon left his wife, Sallie, to venture west from Lawrence, Kan., with companion John Brown, in search of land suitable for a cattle ranch. However, Brown returned, saying that he had accidentally shot and killed Hillmon while unloading a rifle from a wagon. The body was buried in Lawrence, but when Sallie Hillmon attempted to claim the $25,000 in life insurance that had been taken out in her husband's name, the insurance companies balked. Insurance fraud was common in those days, and questions began to swirl about whether the deceased was in fact Hillmon, or someone else killed by Hillmon and Brown and dressed in Hillmon's clothes, in an effort to collect the insurance money. The coffin was dug up and the corpse photographed 10 days after it had been buried, but there was still dispute about the identity of its occupant.
The insurance companies then claimed that another traveler, Frederick Adolph Walters, had disappeared in the area at the same time, and they produced what they said was his last letter to his fiancée, describing his intention to travel west to start a ranch with a man named Hillmon, a name that he spelled correctly in his letter. That letter, along with other evidence, was used by the insurance companies to successfully argue that Walters, not Hillmon, was buried in that unmarked grave. The case went to trial six times, twice reaching the U.S. Supreme Court and from those trials grew a new exception to the hearsay rule. The court said Walters' letter, stating his intention of traveling with Hillmon, was admissible evidence of what he ended up doing.
Wesson has long questioned that rule, since it is common for people to not carry out all of their stated intentions, such as going on a diet. She also has collected evidence over the years indicating that it is Hillmon, not Walters, buried in the grave, including employment records showing that Walters worked at a cigar factory in Texas months after his purported death.
Van Gerven and Wesson attempted to solve the mystery of the grave's occupant on May 19, when they took a team to Lawrence to dig up the body. They were accompanied by one of Van Gerven's graduate students, Paul Sandberg, and a film crew led by Ernesto Acevedo-Munoz of UCB film studies, who is making a documentary about the project. All four attended the Scholars retreat on Oct. 21 and gave a presentation about their efforts. Wesson recounted the 19th century mystery, while Acevedo and Van Gerven showed pictures of the dig and the few bones and teeth that they found. They said that as they dug, they discovered that an underwater spring flowed through the site, and the grave kept filling with water -- not an ideal environment for preserving remains. "At one point, I felt the edges of a broken skull," Van Gerven said, "and when I went for it, it dissolved." The dig was called off when he suddenly had difficulty breathing and almost passed out because of fumes coming from the water in the grave, possibly from arsenic, which was formerly used as an embalming fluid
After measuring and documenting the bones and teeth at a University of Kansas lab, the team returned most of the remains to the grave within 48 hours, but came back to Boulder with the biggest bone they had. Over the past several months, Ken Krauter of molecular, cellular and developmental biology has been conducting DNA tests on that bone, so that the DNA could be compared to samples obtained from descendants of Walters and Hillmon. But Van Gerven said those tests have only uncovered bacterial DNA, "the kind that eat human DNA," and while Krauter is consulting other experts for alternate testing methods, chances seem slim that the bone will yield human DNA. "I asked Ken if the baby was dead, and he said, 'No, but don't start a college fund,' " Van Gerven said.
Then came the television remote control epiphany while he was lying in bed. It occurred to him that he could use Photoshop to line up photos of each man next to the profile of the corpse in the coffin and see how the features of the face match up. First, he showed the Scholars photos of Walters and the corpse, side by side. Only two of six prominent bone structures in the face were aligned. Then Van Gerven showed photos of Hillmon and the corpse, and all six matched. Wesson stood up, raised her hands, and shouted, "Yes!"
Van Gerven said, "I'd bet my tenure, I'd bet my job, that this is a positive identification," he said. "I think we can pick out his tombstone now Mimi, I really do." Van Gerven added that while the photo alignment technique is only one form of identification, and it would be better if there was DNA evidence as well, he is willing to argue in court that the corpse is Hillmon's. Van Gerven's fellow Scholars advised him to make the measurements from all possible angles, to rule out the possibility that a slight head tilt is affecting the alignment. Van Gerven agreed, but insisted that it is "stunningly improbable" that all six points would match up if the two photos were not of the same man. By the same token, he said, Walters is ruled out by the fact that only two of the six features align. "I would bet my reputation on the fact that I got those skulls in the correct anatomical position," he said.
Wesson said her hypothesis is that agents from the insurance company contacted Walters after Hillmon's death and convinced him to write the letter, then paid him to disappear. She said the members of the Supreme Court were convinced by the letter and didn't want Sallie Hillmon to get away with fraud, so they invented the exception to the hearsay rule and created the new precedent.
Asked whether the identification of the body as Hillmon's would lead to a change in the legal rule, Wesson said she intends to continue writing articles and a book about the case, in an attempt to "first convince the community of scholars" that her hypothesis is correct. The next step, she said, would be to change the federal rules of evidence, which can only be done by a committee appointed by the Supreme Court and with the acquiescence of Congress
Van Gerven and Wesson planned to describe their findings and present the photo comparisons at Van Gerven's teach-a-thon fundraiser at 11 a.m. on Nov. 8 in Old Main Chapel.

VII. 'Teaching Scholars Teaching' UCCS's Abrams takes page from number theory textbook

The President's Teaching Scholars spent a portion of their Oct. 21-22 retreat playing student, during their "Teaching Scholars Teaching" session. They continued their tradition of having one guild member deliver a course lecture as if he or she were in the classroom, followed by feedback and discussion from the group.
Gene Abrams of UCCS mathematics took a page from his junior-level course on number theory, making the Scholars crunch integers and exercise long-division skills that some hadn't used in decades. He said he has amended his classroom approach over the years, in response to the common student perception of math being simply an imposing series of problems. Abrams explained that he has been trying to emphasize "the big picture" in his courses more, to put the problems into the larger context of their history or application, for example. He said that approach seems to facilitate student understanding of the material, reduce the tedium level in class and motivate some students to learn more about the subject.
In his Oct. 21 number-theory lesson, Abrams gave the Scholars a bit of history about math pioneer Pierre de Fermat, an amateur mathematician who lived in the 17th century and practiced law as his "day job." Dividing the group into teams of four, he asked each team to fill out worksheets showing the remainders that are calculated when one variable and its exponents are divided by another variable. Lining up the rows of results, Abrams asked the Scholars to look for patterns, and he gently amended their hypotheses until he was able to demonstrate what is known as "Fermat's little theorem."
Students often ask him about the point of such exercises, he acknowledged, because they don't see what the problems are good for, especially when the formulas are not being used to solve tangible dilemmas like the speed of falling bodies or rates of change. Abrams said one context for Fermat's little theorem is that, centuries after it was written, the theorem has been used by credit-card companies to encrypt account numbers so third parties cannot detect them. He told the Scholars that, as in the case of Fermat's little theorem, a lot of math is originally done as basic science -- to discover patterns in the numbers -- and then it sits on the shelf until an application is found, "sometimes hundreds of years down the road."
Brian Argrow of UCB aerospace engineering sciences asked Abrams if he treats such coursework like a reading assignment that should be completed by students prior to class, or whether he leads them through it for the suspense, as he did with the Scholars. Abrams said it depends on the situation, and that sometimes, having that "aha" moment occur in class is the goal. Argrow asked Abrams what he does to verify periodically that all of the students actually understand the material, and Jim Palmer of UCB film studies suggested using an electronic "clicker" system. But Abrams said he tried clickers for two semesters and dislikes them. He told the group that he uses exams, homework, five-minute quizzes and recitations at the beginning of class to gauge student learning.
Clayton Lewis of UCB computer science said many adults have some degree of "mathphobia," in part due to their learning experiences in that discipline, and he asked Abrams if his teaching approach is becoming more prevalent. If so, Lewis added, are there fewer students afraid of math than there used to be? Abrams said certain math skills seem to have improved over the years, as more learning is done in small groups, as the computer has become prevalent and as students have been required to write more about their answers. But at the same time, he explained, some schools have chosen to focus heavily on math topics that will help their students score high on state achievement tests, possibly at the cost of sufficient instruction in other areas.
Shelby Wolf of UCB education added that in a recent education assessment project, she learned of a model in which one state achievement test asked students to explain why their solution to each math problem worked, and to show any alternative methods of solving each one as well.

VIII. Teaching Scholars take on sensitive topic of race during fall retreat discussion

On the second and final day of the President's Teaching Scholars retreat in October, members of the guild took on the emotional subject of race, sharing personal anecdotes and raising questions about the meaning of diversity.
"Every day, we work in a demographic that is badly skewed," began Clayton Lewis of UCB computer science, who moderated the panel discussion. "But I never say a word in my classes about race."
Lee Chambers of UCB history said that in one of her recent courses on gender and modern America, the students were having a lively discussion about the roles that hair and hair styles play in defining one's role in society -- until Chambers raised the issue of race, "and silence fell like a brick," she said. "You could see it, they physically reared back. It was one of the most excruciating experiences I've had in a classroom in a long time."
Chambers shared another story about a women's studies course she taught on women of color, a class in which students were asked to respond to assigned readings in a journal. She said that while the students spoke reservedly and academically in class, their journals were filled with emotion, memories of what they had learned from their families, admissions of fear and guilt, impressions of living in predominantly white Boulder and reactions to recent bias-motivated incidents. The lines of students waiting outside her office door were longer than they'd been since the 1960s, Chambers said, and they were filled with students who wanted to open up to her privately but were too afraid to talk in class.
Brian Argrow of UCB aerospace engineering sciences said he does not address race overtly in class, but the topic occasionally comes up during the open discussion times he sets aside for students. As an African American, Argrow said, he has told his graduate students that he is perplexed by the term "diversity. I have no idea what that means. Everyone's running around saying, 'We don't have enough of these' or 'We don't have enough of those.' One student told me, 'We'll have diversity when we don't have to talk about it.' But I'm completely confused. I have no idea what we should do regarding diversity."
Argrow added that he has "never felt out of place at the University of Colorado. ... I've never felt that students thought less of me because I'm an African American." He observed that UCB seems to have a "hair trigger" when it comes to racial incidents, because when one student out of 30,000 says something offensive, it causes a frenzy. "It's like a bomb went off," Argrow commented. "It's a self-licking ice cream cone. The more we talk about it, the more we talk about it." He said part of the problem is a "climate of fear" among administrators, who have to demonstrate publicly that they are taking enough action to address diversity, even if those actions go nowhere. Harvey Segur of UCB applied mathematics agreed that there is a lot of "window dressing" in the name of diversity at CU, and money is invested in special programs to say to the public, "We're addressing the issue, see?"
Tom Huber of UCCS geography and environmental studies said he had extremely limited interaction with African Americans, and little experience with racism, growing up in Minnesota, until he went to the Air Force Academy and became friends with an African American when the two were sent to officer school in Alabama. Huber said he too does very little to address race in his classes. "I don't know what to do, or whether I should be doing something," he said.
Jim Palmer of UCB film studies said he approaches race with humor in one of his courses, where students can laugh and scoff at how different ethnicities and nationalities are stereotyped in film. "It was all there, and they were free to talk about it," he said. "Humor helps. They had a context in which they could make fun of how stereotyping is so stupid."
Argrow said the African American com-munity is divided, and sometimes "it's not a good thing to be smart -- you're acting white." He said it would be nice to shine light on "what baggage students come to the University with," since that can affect their academic success. He acknowledged that he sometimes wonders "whether I'm good at something, or whether I've been propelled forward because I'm black."
Jim Symons of UCB theatre and dance said that a few years ago his department did a production of the play Fences by August Wilson, a production that required the hiring of an all-black cast but was led by a white director. Symons said a black UCB faculty member complained that a white director could not adequately lead the production because he could not relate to the subject matter, the life of a black family. Symons said organizers had discussed bringing in a black director, but they decided that doing so would be "treating it like the 'other,' as if this is not 'us'."
Michael Eisenberg of UCB computer science said a public university like CU should strive to make its demographics reflect those of the state it serves, and he said diversity within disciplines is desirable, just as differing points of view are valuable and different styles of literature are valuable. Don Warrick of UCCS business said he had seen discrimination while playing team sports in college with African Americans -- not discrimination within the team, but from outsiders. "There were places we couldn't stay" when the team had games on the road, he said. In class, Warrick told the group, he makes a conscious effort to be inclusive in the examples he gives of successful business people, for instance, mentioning women and minorities as role models.
Don Kleier of UCDHSC dentistry said it is common for deans to maintain charts on the number of minority students and faculty in their school or college, which in some cases seems to be an attempt to "right past wrongs." For example, the School of Dentistry rarely has a male student in its dental hygiene program, "but no one ever says, 'That damn dental school, why don't they ever get males into dental hygiene?'"Kleier said. "Culturally, it's not very cool in the male community to be a dental hygienist." There are few African Americans in the dental field, he added, and "we're always looking over our shoulders to make sure that there is no perception that black people aren't welcome in dentistry." Shelby Wolf of UCB education said diversity plays a major role in her courses as she teaches children's literature. She said she talks to her students about the small percentage of children's books written from the perspective of people of color, the importance of making those representations authentic and the sensitive issue of who has the "right" to pen those descriptions.
Chambers asked whether faculty at a public university, who have traditionally played the role of ensuring that the electorate is educated, have "a particular responsibility to deal with social issues and social concerns," a task for which she said she feels unprepared. Regarding Argrow's comment about CU going into "crisis mode" whenever racial incidents occur, she said, "I'm not sure that we talk about it too much; it's that we talk about it only when it happens." She said it is clear from her students that there is a lot of anxiety about the issue bubbling below the surface, and they want to ask questions like, "How should I act, and how should I speak?" She added, "I don't feel I'm helping them with that conversation."

IX. Adjournment

The retreat was adjourned Sunday morning. The spring 2007 retreat is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 16, in the Nighthorse Campbell Native Health Building at the Anschutz Medical Campus.