Sunday, May 16, 2010

And these notes from the last Board meeting

So I thought I would give you loyal readers an update on the recent Board of Trustees meeting. Unlike the last twelve hour marathon event, this session of committee meetings and full board meeting was more reasonably managed. During the Academic and Student Affairs Committee meeting, five faculty were recommended for tenure and subsequently awarded tenure by the full BOT later in the day. Congratulations to Professors Gaytan, Kimble, Mardis, Nkansah, and Green on their achievement. There were also some concerns voiced about the dual enrollment scheme being pursued with Kennedy-King College and Chicago State University.
During the Finance Committee meeting several interesting items were discussed. First, the bookstore contract is being negotiated. Unfortunately no faculty or students were involved in the contract negotiation. I see this as problematic because as the primary users of the service, we would be the ones with the most knowledge about how the bookstore contract should be structured. It is another example of the lip service given by the administration to the practice of shared governance. Second, the much maligned Ghana Book Project has been resurrected under new leadership. A Certified Public Accountant has been hired to provide financial oversight and hopefully protect the university from negative publicity. Third, the Chief Information Officer reported that the university will be upgrading all of its servers, (email, web, Banner etc.) and replacing the network switches campus wide. After years of us being told we can’t lease equipment, the university will be leasing equipment so that we are not saddled with equipment at the end of its life. I was assured by the CIO that faculty will be informed of changes as they progress so that we can all attend the necessary training that will accompany these upgrades. And finally, good news from the Audit front. The final audit report for FY 2009 has been posted to the Auditor General’s website. We had seven fewer audit findings in FY 09 than FY 08. As the BOT chair remarked last year, the credit for this improvement goes to our former Interim President Frank Pogue, who even though was prevented by the aforementioned BOT chairman, from hiring a Vice President for Finance did manage to oversee a 35% decline in audit findings.
The Facilities Committee meeting was equally enlightening. The Director of Physical Plant informed the committee that the master clock controller can no longer be repaired and must be replaced. When I suggested that maybe it would be cheaper to place battery operated clocks in the classrooms I was told that $10 clocks with replaceable batteries would be impossible. Go figure. Finally, the committee was told that a contract was given to a vendor to conduct a feasibility study for the construction of a new 1,000 bed dormitory. The value of the contract would probably have only saved one or two jobs of recently fired employees. At least the university has its priorities in order.
At the full BOT meeting the date for the annual gala was announced. I imagined that since this was the only mention of university fund raising that there will be none until September. The Board was also informed of the glaring absence of emergency planning, specifically the absence of a Continuity of Operations Plan. (COOP) Every office, division or department should have a COOP so that if they are unable to conduct business as usual every individual knows where to go and what to do to continue functioning close to normal. I would hope that the administration would be aware enough of the current situation to know that the institution is no where near to being prepared for any emergency.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

More on shared governance

So if you are like me when I receive multiple messages about book orders, I quickly delete or destroy the message because I choose not to employ the university book store and do not appreciate the hard sell approach employed by the administration. Of course I would expect some criticism from those who do not use the book store or teach those who do. We call them administrators. And the administration is at it again. The university is currently negotiating the bookstore contract and to my knowledge no faculty or students have been involved in the negotiations of this contract. It is troubling that the new regime still hasn't demonstrated any understanding of or inclination to practice shared governance. Those of us on the faculty who understand shared governance know that it isn't making decisions for administration. Rather it is being invited to provide a much broader and deeper knowledge of events, activities and history of the institution. This is done to empower decision makers to make more informed and ostensibly better decisions. Without a viable practice, not discussion, of shared governance the university will continue to limp along being sub-par and subject to the criticism we seem to have grown accustomed to. Until administrators acknowledge that faculty, the people who spend the most amount of time with the students, probably know better what our students need than they do, we will not have an environment where our students are served in the best way possible. Is the new regime learned anything since they have been here or is this the old CSU with a new face???

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

As the Semester Winds Down

So the Faculty Senate met yesterday for its last full meeting of the academic year. The body was visited by two new members of the Board of Trustees. I am hopeful that the new trustees will invigorate the Board by establishing relationships with more constituents than university administrators. Their willingness to attend a Senate meeting characterizes the spirit of service that I expect of a Board member. This is the first time in my 12 years in the Senate that any Board member has attended a meeting. To Trustees Samuels and Rozier, thank you.
During the course of the meeting Devi Potluri, our body’s re-elected Vice President invited the Trustees to consider putting CSU in the running to host the Barack Obama Presidential Library. The University of Chicago has apparently already hired a lobbying firm to assist them in securing the right to host the Presidential Library after his term of service ends. For all of the issues that Devi and I agree on, this is an issue that I could not support him on. Unfortunately, our university does not have a good history as far as libraries are concerned.
Let’s travel back in time a bit. In the bad old days, whenever budgets needed to be cut, those cuts often came at the expense of the book acquisition budget. This would often happen when there was either no Library Dean or an interim dean. Later during the period when the university was discussing the impending construction of our library, one of the complaints from academic faculty and library faculty was the number of non-library activities in the library and in Douglas Hall. Fast forward to our last accreditation visit from the North Central Association and some of you will recall the university was told that our library was problematic because it wasn’t a single use facility. There were many programs, projects, centers and offices located in the Douglas Library. The HLC was assured that the new library then under construction would be a single use facility that would be the focal point of the university. The goal was to focus the academic attention in the new building while providing more space for the other various and sundry programs elsewhere on campus. Slowly but surely, non-library creep set in. The Black Legislators exhibit and office space was just the beginning of what is becoming a flood of non-academic uses of the still unnamed Academic Library. And what are the future non-academic uses of the library going to be. Apparently the plans are either in the works or already approved to cut up the Academic Library like the Douglas Library was cut up years ago. That history is repeating itself isn’t surprising. What is disturbing is that faculty were not consulted in a decision that ultimately affects us in our scholarly activities. This wouldn’t be an issue if scholarly activities were being downgraded in importance. I only say this because there has been a change in the way research CUEs, and sabbaticals are awarded. The current library dean is on sabbatical and I would be interested in what he thinks of the new regime’s plan to reconstitute the library space. Is the new regime going to continue to ignore the body that retains the corporate memory of the institution or will they begin to engage in actual shared governance and not just mouth the words?