Saturday, January 30, 2010

"Darling you've got to let me know..."

...will we stay or will we go?...

Apologies to the Clash.

Late this week Dr. Watson announced a "town hall" meeting for faculty on Thursday, February 4th. During the reign of Elnora Daniel these became fossilized performances --think the Sun King at Versailles--that revealed very little significant information but were very high on "look-how-great-I'm-doing" with courtiers making their own perfunctory obeisance. Dr. Watson needs to address the rumors and dribs and drabs of information that no one on campus can (or will) clarify. A "town hall" meeting stuffed with inconsequential powerpoint statistics just won't cut it.

Here are some of the things I want to know about at the Town Hall:

  1. Is it true CSU is cutting 125 staff and Administrative jobs by March? How will these be determined?
  2. Is it true that the President's office is using flimsy excuses (e.g. ignoring various colleges' DACs) to deny untenured faculty retention as a way to get rid of faculty jobs? Or, is this a way to hire some City College cronies?
  3. What is happening with the accreditation visit scheduled for March? What happened to all those accreditation preparation committees that faculty & staff signed up for in November? And I really really want to know, what are you going to tell the accreditation committee about campus governance and faculty's role in it?
  4. What is the status of CSU's College of Education merger with Daley College (formerly under Dr Watson's jurisdiction)? This news came out late last semester with the promise of a public announcement in January, so please explain how this merger is supposed to work. And when will it be applied to the rest of CSU? And, explain again how this is supposed to be to our advantage? And while you're at it, does the IBHE know about this plan? Does Senator Maloney?

  5. What is the great overhaul of the university college system that we are hearing about? Collapsing departments, closing departments, doing away with CUEs for chairs? Is this going to be the typical top-down directive or will you and the administration take seriously faculty input on this situation? The notion that faculty are simply "advisory" has become very old and very tedious. Quote us all you want about the "corporate model" --it does-not-work for academia. See the most recent discussions on this in the Chronicle and other places. Please, put it to rest already. The corporate model that has been allowed to flourish at CSU has put us into this terrible situation. "Management", not the worker bees, dropped the ball at CSU.
  6. Since all sabbaticals were cancelled outright this year in an effort at saving money explain why those who applied for full-year sabbaticals were denied. Don't these actually save the university some money because professors take half-salary? Are PAI raises also cancelled? Why cancel one and not the other? These are contractural issues, aren't they?

  7. And if we have no money for sabbaticals, let alone student scholarships, let alone money for upgrading the disgusting toilet facilities in most of the buildings on campus, where did we get $145,000 to put flat screen tvs all over our broken down classroom buildings? What exactly is the purpose of these? I've heard that they are supposed to broadcast security messages (can't those obscenely loud fire alarms to do that for now?) What I do know is that some of these tvs turned on so loud that they disturb lectures and classroom activities and faculty who are trying to teach have already been complaining about them. Really, were these things a necessity? What "discretionary" moneys were used for this frivolity?
  8. One of my fears last year about hiring an ex-community college president to head our university was that we would be turned into a community college that grants doctoral degrees. I'm now beginning to wonder how much more the President's Office is going to treat faculty like we are at a high school? So please comment on whether the President's Office is going to continue to take seriously anonymous (unsigned) student complaints against individual faculty members? What kind of Court of Star Chamber is going to be instituted on campus? Faculty have a right to know who their accusers are and the administration (those people who determine our retentions, promotions, and tenure) has a responsibility to act with integrity and stand up for faculty on this matter, not believe anonymous letters at face value. Other forms of faculty harrassment by the administration have been happening as well in these past few weeks, no doubt other faculty could list some of that here. CSU is still not a community college, not a high school, officially, at least.
So, Dr. Watson, you gotta let us know...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Efficacy of a Corporate Model in Academe

So like many professions, academia is prone to following the latest fads. For example, several years ago 'paradigm shift' became the new catchphrase and everybody had to experience a paradigm shift. Around the time of our last accreditation visit, assessment was the latest in intellectual haute couture. A third that seems to have persisted like a bad case of the flu is the 'corporate model.' I have heard current and past administrators use this as something like a wonder drug that will cure all of our institutional ills if we would just follow it.
I have given some thought to this model and find that its use in academe is limited, misapplied and usually inappropriate for this environment and here's why.
As many long serving and long suffering faculty know, we have and have had for many years a customer service problem according to our students. Presidents have come and gone repeating the mantra of "We will improve our customer service" and very little comes of it. Part of the problem of improving customer service is that those administrators, ostensibly managing the university, have misidentified the customer. In this model of production, our customer is every business, institution or organization that hires, retains or promotes our graduates. What level of customer service do we give them? None, because we don't see them as our customer.
Faculty should be very clear that in this model we are labor. We take some raw material, finish it through some alchemical process and send it to our customers. We can then deduce that our students are the raw materials and nowhere in a corporate model do raw materials get customer service. Management, in this case university administration, has once again dropped the ball by getting seduced by the latest catchphrase instead of bringing incisive inquiry to the problems facing the university.
I should be surprised and yet I'm not. With your indulgence I will share a story with you. Several years ago, I asked the then Provost why do we cut courses at the beginning of the semester. I was told to save money because of the low enrollment. This economic efficiency is the primary goal of a corporate model. I then asked how much money do we save. I was told "we don't know." I then asked what model or calculus would we use to determine how much money we saved if we actually were interested in knowing. I was told we didn't have a model or such decision calculus. I then asked my original question again and was told we cut classes because we have always done it this way. No discussion was ever given to the impact of cutting courses on retention, graduation or faculty morale. It appears to me that administrators pick and choose what parts to use of a rational choice model and leave out the inconvenient bits. That strikes me as very odd given this is a university (at least for now) and I would think critical inquiry would be the best tool we have institutionally to address our challenges.
My invitation to our administration is this. If you are going to use a model, make sure you understand it, apply it correctly and don't use it because it's the latest fashion. That way, maybe some of our institutional problems actually get addressed.

Friday, January 22, 2010

And what does 2010 hold for us???

So many of you readers have joined your humble narrator in condemning the incompetence of the university's Board of Trustees, not just in a flawed presidential search but also in a pattern of malfeasance and misconduct stretching over several years. Now today's Chicago Sun Times puts us back in the news with a report from Fran Spielman that our very own BOT Chairman is a "slumlord." Can it be that a hand picked member of the Chicago Plan Commission is actually been derelict in providing livable housing to low income residents? Methinks yes and so do several of those residents who have planned a downtown rally to ask for the removal of the Reverend Doctor Finney from yet another public body. At least we can rely on consistency from our Board Chairman. He spreads his inability to manage more broadly than just Chicago State University. Recall, that while a member of the Plan Commission, he was part of the body that oversaw a $110 million cost overrun on the construction of Kennedy King College. When questioned about the overrun, neither he nor any City College administrators could find documentation supporting or explaining the overrun. Our new trustees, however, had such confidence in Chairman Finney that they re-elected him to serve a second one year term as Board Chair. Given the identified deficiencies of leadership and governance at the university, will Trustee Finney survive the site visit of the Higher Learning Commission or be purged as part of the systemic failure of the university. Only the trustees know.

I eagerly await the next chapter of this tragic saga.