Wednesday, June 10, 2009

We aren't the only ones....

We aren't the only ones suffering under incompetent board leadership. This is a link to a Chronicle blog about what is happening at Florida Atlantic University. I guess this is what we can expect from a vindictive board and their applicant. The comments are very interesting.

Gov. Quinn's Hypocrisy

Many of you are no doubt following the recent admissions “scandal” at University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign, and my sense is that mostly the press coverage of this has been on par with the press coverage of the events at CSU this past semester.  However, it appears the Gov. Quinn is much more concerned about the alleged unethical practices of the Urbana-Champaign’s Board of Trustees and President than the unethical practices of CSU’s Board of Trustees.  As reported in the Tribune today, Quinn has created a panel to review the admissions process at U of I, and reading this article I found myself get increasingly angry with his response in comparison to Quinn’s complete and total inaction in response to the unanimous request by the Faculty Senate to deal with the myriad of problems with CSU’s presidential search and its Board of Trustees. 

I know, I know, there are specific reasons why Quinn would be much more concerned (or appear to be) with U of I than with CSU, starting with class and race.  And I know that we should be focusing on the leadership that the faculty, students, and staff are taking in our efforts to reclaim our university, and not be looking for help from a single person in Springfield.  But knowing those things doesn’t make me any less angry about the gross inequalities demonstrated by Quinn’s vastly different responses to the two universities. 

These inequalities are magnified by the nature of the supposed unethical practices in the cases of these two universities.  If one looks at what’s been alleged in the U of I case, is it really so surprising that elected officials might try to make use of their influence to get various friends into the university?  Why does this “admissions scandal” merit the creation of, as the Tribune puts it, a “task force aimed at changing entrenched practices in the state,” whereas the manipulation of a presidential search at CSU does not?  Not to mention that the manipulation of the presidential search followed years of other problematic actions by the CSU Board of Trustees.  Which is a bigger concern, altering the admissions of a small group of students (in comparison to the total student body) or altering the way that the entire university is run? 

Again, I know that I should be focusing on the real leadership shown by faculty, students, and staff at CSU.  And, I know that we are the ones who really matter for the future of CSU.  Still, these recent actions by Gov. Quinn further demonstrate that our actions at CSU are not isolated from the larger society of which we are a part, a society riddled with inequality that places CSU firmly on the receiving end of much of that inequality.  And that just makes me angry, which I suppose it should.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A West Side Campus??? Part Deux

[WARNING: Long Posting]

So given the truly bizarre happenings at our fair campus this year I was very surprised and confused by the report of CSU being given $40 million to open a West Side campus (WSC). Have I missed the university tidying up the $70 million of deferred maintenance on campus? Are we running such an efficient university machine both physically and fiscally that we should expand beyond our current confines? I think not dear reader and here’s why.

Academic affairs:
There are several academic affairs questions that must be asked and thoughtfully answered. First, who will teach at the WSC? Are faculty who currently teach between three and five courses per semester going to be expected to travel to location unknown and teach? If not, then faculty will need to be hired. Are adjunct faculty going to be the faculty de jure or will we hire the tenure track faculty? If so, will those faculty be part of the existing departments making them subject to supervision by existing department chairs or will there be duplicate departments at the WSC? If the faculty are all part of the same department how will they be supervised? Will the existing department chairs be expected to split time between the south and west side campuses? How will collegiality and intellectual exchange happen if the faculty is physically divided? If the faculty is separate and distinct, that will necessitate a duplicate accreditation process and the expense associated with it. Is the legislature prepared to appropriate at least 50% more to operate the WSC? What courses of study will be offered at the WSC? Lower division, upper division, graduate or all three? Will offering courses at a WSC compromise or complicate the accreditation process for any academic programs? The College of Pharmacy comes to mind. Will departments like Music, have the resources e.g. instruments, available at the WSC? If so, what sorts of cost estimates are available for that? If the WSC Music Department has brand new equipment, how will students and faculty at the main campus react after years of administrative neglect? It doesn’t seem to be the way to build morale at a university that is already poorly managed. If we offer physical or biological sciences, will there be lab facilities available or will students need to come to the main campus for lab time. If they are coming for lab time anyway, why not just come to campus all the time? Who will determine what courses are offered? As no one at the President’s Executive Council knew anything about the $40 million, will our legislators decide what is to be offered and then let us know? There might be some collective bargaining issues that need to be discussed before we tread too far down this road. And finally, will tenure track faculty at the WSC be expected to pursue an aggressive research agenda? If so, what research resources, like a library, will be available to them at this as of yet undetermined location?

Related to the academic function is the presence of the library. Is there going to be a mini-library with a mini-ROVR in it? Or will the WSC students need to come to the main campus to use the library? If so, why not come here to take classes? Maybe the university could negotiate with UIC, which already geographically serves the West Side, to use their library so as to not inconvenience our WSC students. I am sure UIC would be willing to open their library so that our students won’t have to travel to the main campus.

Academics are the core of the university and there are other elements of the university that must be considered. Is the intention here to build a CSU system much like the UI system which has UIC and UIUC. Each school has its own athletics program, with UIUC belonging to the Big 10 Conference and UIC belonging to the Horizon League. Will the WSC have its own athletics program or will its students that are interested in intercollegiate athletics need to come to the main campus. Will there even be athletic facilities at the WSC? If not, why not?

Student activities
Another vital function of the university is in the area of student activities. Will there be any student activities at the WSC? If so, will they be replicated from the main campus or will they be different? If different activities are provided what is the impact on students at both campuses? Given that student activity fees must be the same, shouldn’t the level of service be the same? Anyone who would argue differently doesn’t understand university life or care about the students’ well-being.

Students have repeatedly reported that administrative activities are the primary complaint; bursar, financial aid, bookstore being the leading vote getters. How might we fix the main campus before venturing off in some expansionist fantasy? Again the short question is will there be a replication of all the vital administrative functions at the WSC? Will there be two admissions offices? If so, how is adequate supervision maintained? Given the number of audit findings since FY 2003, how could we expect not to have more findings and further deterioration of our reputation by this unnecessary expansion? And will the legislature be willing to fund in the out years a duplicate administrative setup that is already poorly performing?

I continue to hear complaints of not enough police on the main campus. Our officers are already stretched thin. Will we need to double the size of the police department in order to safeguard a WSC? How integrated will our department be in the west side environment or neighborhood? Will they be patrolling in adjacent neighborhoods as well as providing 24 hour police service at the WSC? What sort of physical infrastructure will be necessary to support the police, e.g. telecommunications equipment, visual surveillance equipment, vehicles, etc.? I don’t believe this is an issue that should be left to the end of the conversation. And many of the questions can’t be answered until basic questions like what will be offered and what facilities are required and what location is available are answered.

Emergency management
Policing is a subset of emergency management. Response is just one phase of the emergency management cycle. We do not have an Emergency Operations Plan for the university, though there are several staff and faculty who are scheduled to receive training on preparing one. This is a major undertaking for a campus on one location. It will be double the work for a two site campus. Being unprepared is unacceptable and I would not like to be the person to explain to the world why we weren’t prepared for the lab explosion, fire, active shooter, tornado or any other hazard or threat we could experience.

Underlying so much of what we do is information technology. Our IT infrastructure is sound on the main campus. Its overall management is often suspect. Labs appear and then disappear. The Help Desk is often of no help. We don’t have policy on IT that is easily referenced. There university’s web site is in need of an extreme makeover. Banner is usable and normally not friendly. How could we extend our IT operation to a WSC? Is this an opportunity for the board’s candidate to give another $45million no bid contract to a politician’s kid? Stay tuned. Maybe we will have two separate IT operations. Again, this is something that the university must negotiate with the UPI about.

Has this Board of Trustees demonstrated the competence to manage one campus much less two? Their performance has been appalling, worthy of removal by the Governor, which is unprecedented. They clearly are the wrong group to lead any effort at expansion.

These are only questions I could think of. I am sure there are many more and knowing how inept and incompetent the Board of Trustees is, I have no confidence in their ability to manage such an enormous undertaking.

So after all of these questions, is this $40 million appropriation just a way for state legislators to pass money through a crony administration and board to their cronies during an election cycle. Maybe none of this is about education but that would not be surprising, it rarely ever is.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

West Side Campus?

Others are probably much more familiar with the idea for Chicago State to create a second campus somewhere on the West Side, but my impression was that this plan was long dead due to other needs at the university.  In today’s Chicago Tribune, however, there’s a story about the “pork” projects in the recently passed state budget.  According to the Tribune,  “The new pot of money allowed lawmakers to approve $3.1 billion in projects, which varied from $50,000 for a firetruck in Rockford to $40 million for a Chicago State University campus to be built somewhere on the city's West Side.” 

I’m certainly not completely familiar with all of the various long-term plans at the university, so can anyone enlighten us about this?  What do others think about the idea of creating a second campus?  It seems to me that the current campus has so many infrastructure needs that we should be focusing on meeeting those needs rather than looking at creating an entirely new campus.