Sunday, June 27, 2010

Notes from the June BOT meeting

So what better way to spend a Friday morning and afternoon than at the BOT meeting. I thought I would bring you, our loyal readers, up to date on the goings on at the highest levels. First, I would like to extend my congratulations to Professor Victor Sorrell on being named Professor Emeritus. His long and distinguished service has been noted by the university in awarding him this status. Thank you Victor for you wisdom, perseverance and willingness to be of service to the highest ideals of the Academy and this university.
I did get some phone calls on another matter facing the university, namely the fallout from Professor Madhubuti leaving the university recently. The questions were about the future of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center, the Black Writer’s Conference and the acquisition of Ms Brooks’ papers. For those who don’t know, the Gwendolyn Brooks Center was approved by the Board of Governors in 1992. This center is the repository of the works of the Illinois Poet Laureate and focuses on advancing the study of black literature and poetry. I thought it only appropriate to broach the subject during the Academic Affairs Committee meeting to wit the following was made public by Dr. Rachel Lindsey, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. First the Center will remain open under the direction of Professor Quraysh A. Lansana. The Center will continue to host the Black Writer’s Conference, with the next one scheduled for April 2011. Unfortunately, we were informed that the university would not be receiving Ms Brooks’ papers, though a contract and earnest money was paid. Upon questioning by the BOT Chairman, it was discovered that the university president demanded an appraisal of the work be done before the contract was executed. There was no language in the contract calling for an appraisal and the agreement fell through.
I did take a moment to remind the full Board later in the day about good news of the Center remaining at CSU and the disappointing news that once again, the university loses a valuable asset. First, CSU eliminated the Hospitality Management Program and three years later DePaul University opened a new Hospitality Management Program. Second, Professor Haki Madhubuti leaves the university under circumstances that are less than cordial and then is hired by DePaul University. I would fully expect DePaul University to become the repository for the papers of the Illinois Poet Laureate within a few months. Is there no way to compete with DePaul University? Yes, I believe there is; by valuing the assets we have here and not casting them off out of hubris.
I also took some time to speak about that subject near and dear to most faculty, shared governance. Apparently, some $4 million was released by the State to the university to begin work on the West Side Campus (WSC). The money is contingent on having a plan on how to use the funds. I implored the BOT not to waste one second of time on this idea until the campus has addressed its $75 million of deferred maintenance amongst other things. Rumor has it though, the CEO and BOT Chair were out scouting for sites on the West Side, an activity your humble narrator finds curious as the faculty haven’t even been asked what we will do at this new campus. I would think that we would want to have some vision of what we are doing before we go looking for where we will do it. I reminded all in attendance that whether it is something as expansive as the next Strategic Plan or as specific as the WSC, faculty need to be involved in the discussions.
And on another facilities note, the elevator in the Cook Administration building will be the first to be repaired in the elevator upgrades. Timing on the other buildings will follow. I am glad our senior administrators will not be forced to use the stairs any longer than necessary.
I have heard from more than one new administrator that the university doesn’t function like corporate organizations to which I replied because it isn’t. The inherent presumption of the superiority of the corporate model relative to all others is misplaced and incorrect. If that were the case, the self correcting market would have prevented the financial crisis we are in, the environmental disaster in the Gulf and the unprecedented concentration of wealth in this society. So the corporate model is not superior or inferior. It is what it is. The academic model is the same. Respect for the difference is typically what educated people practice. I appreciate the struggle of those who have never been in Academe AND there may be some professional Darwinism here. Adapt or die. No single person is able to change a system. Presidents have come and gone and the system remains in place. So the complaints about the dysfunction or inefficiency of the Academy vis-a-vis the private sector are noted. And as scientists have long accepted adaptation to surroundings has proven to be the best survival strategy in history.

1 comment:

  1. I guess Phillip isn't concerned about the students who must access the second floor of the Cook building for cashier and financial aid services, and that all new students must access the second floor for the admissions office. Since the elevator has been out, student parents have been forced to leave strollers unattended on the first floor and to carry their babies up the stairs, sometimes while holding the hands of unsteady toddlers and balancing book bags, diaper bags, and paperwork at the same time. Those students with trouble breathing, or who are overweight also have problems with the stairs. The issue is not about administrators who don’t want to climb stairs; it’s about taking care of students who have business in offices that are not located on the first floor who need to use the elevators.