Monday, March 1, 2010

Crisis of identity

So any faculty member who has spent more than five minutes on campus would probably realize that institutionally we function most of the time in crisis mode. It is either a financial crisis or a leadership crisis or an enrollment/retention/graduation crisis or some other crisis that we bring our attention to. One crisis that appears to be occurring in the background of our various and sundry crises is a crisis of identity.
So, loyal readers, you may ask "how could we be suffering from a crisis of identity?" Simply put, we don't know who we are as an institution. For all of the publicly documented failings of the past administration and Board of Trustees, one thing the previous regime did was begin to emphasize research and scholarly activity including publications as an expected part of faculty life. This shift to a more research oriented institution has been reflected in Departmental Applications of Criteria, Personnel Actions and the professional activities of many faculty. After several years of metaphorically heading west we are now turning back east as the emphasis appears to be on non-research activities. This shift can be characterized by the virtual elimination of sabbaticals, the arbitrary assignment of Research CUES and the negligible support for all but the sciences in grant funding.
As some faculty have feared it appears that we are moving away from being a university toward being a community college where the emphasis is on teaching. If this is the case, why won't the CEO or Board of Directors, sorry Trustees, explicate this clearly. State on the record that we are not really a university providing liberal arts based education any more, our mission is job training and preparation for an under-prepared student body.
I don't hold the CEO responsible for this 180 degree change. I believe the Board of Trustees is responsible because they hired a president with no substantive experience at doctoral degree granting institutions to manage a doctoral degree granting institution. I believe the CEO is doing his level best given his experience. And I have to ask did the Board of Trustees set him up to fail? If so, shame on them for their continue lack of competence and shame on Governor Quinn for not being an executive and acting to help the university through our myriad of crises.

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