I have had a number of e-mail exchanges about the cut session, including several with Chicago State administrators in the past two days. In sum, these e-mails offer a compelling portrait of a process that simply does not work. As near as I can figure out, this is the way these cut sessions now unfold:
The administration has established an arbitrary standard of 50 percent enrollment to keep a course, apparently any course. Of course, Professor Steve’s recent post demonstrates the chaotic results of that process. I suppose we should feel fortunate that even more courses were not cut. For "under enrolled" classes, advisors are required to submit justifications which may or may not be considered. Then, our administrators take their axes to the course schedule and create panic and confusion among faculty and especially among the student victims of this farce. In their effort to assure me that their intentions were benign, a number of the e-mails adopt a defensive posture. Unfortunately, they do nothing to clarify the reasons behind the multiple difficulties created by the cuts.
There are a number of problems with the statements being made by administrators. I will explain.
A few days before the cut session, at least one administrative person claimed that course cancellations were not about the cost of running classes. This position seems undermined by an e-mail sent by Angela Henderson to the Deans on January 5. The pertinent portion is here:
“I am reviewing the class size report for today. We need classes very close to 20 and 25. We are dealing with budget issues that will not allow us to run very small classes.”
So what is it? Are these cuts because of financial issues? According to at least one official, no. If they are not cut because of fiscal constraints, then why are they cut? As usual, we are not getting anything resembling a viable explanation.
In other e-mails, administrators make claims that are simply not accurate. Here’s one example:
“it is counter-productive to cancel courses in which graduating seniors are enrolled or classes that are required for majors or student teaching. . . Courses identified as being a methods course or needed so that a student could complete fieldwork or student teaching were not cut.”
Comparing that rhetoric with the facts, here’s what we find: In our discipline, a course which certainly qualifies as a “methods” class, which is required for all majors and which contained two graduating seniors, was cut for the second time this school year. In addition, not one, but two classes required for students doing Secondary Education were cancelled: CAS 2630 and ED 4500/5500. For one student, this creates the possibility that unless the course is resurrected in the Special Session, his program completion will be delayed until Fall 2015. How does cutting that class serve our student’s educational needs?
Another inaccurate statement is this one: “Where justifications, as mentioned above were provided, those classes were not cut.”
In fact, the advisors in our discipline did submit a justification for the methods class I discussed above. The justification clearly indicated the presence of two graduating seniors in a class required for all majors. Contrary to the assertion in the e-mail, this class was indeed cut. I received an e-mail from one of the unfortunate graduating seniors asking what can be done to finish the program’s graduation requirements. The only option at this point seems to be an independent study. I’ll try to arrange one before they get cut, as they were last semester.
At this point, I do not care whether the people responsible for this fiasco had good intentions or not. I only care about fixing the myriad problems this ridiculous exercise has generated so our students can finish their programs and realize their educational goals. The patent idiocy of this reliance on “metrics” or simple mathematical formulas should be obvious by now. How the hell do we insure that this does not happen again?