Thursday, March 31, 2011

Wanted: Faculty Representation on Search Committees

It seems the Administration was shocked, shocked, to learn that faculty perceived there were no searches being conducted for the Vice Presidents and Deans who have been quitting, fired or need to be hired on campus.

Yes, big surprise that faculty are demoralized and cynical about the university's "search processes"--we receive messages to welcome so and so as the new such and such, but never hear about who was on the committee that picked them, or what the process was that brought them here. Since there is no longer a student newspaper on campus (paper or online) to plant information for the university community (even though students still pay a fee for it), we can only rely on info to be disseminated like peasants listening to an ecclesiastical hieararchy talk down to us at their whim. Staid old Boston has nothing on CSU. I keep recalling the quote from my New England days: "So, this is Boston, home of the baked bean and the cod, where the Lowells speak only to the Cabots, and the Cabots speak only to God."

And who can blame people for not wanting to serve on a committee that has been organized for a while but only sends out a call for faculty or staff presence one week before it will meet? Or faculty who don't want to serve on committees where their presence is mere eyewash for the accreditors, but whose "input" although claimed to be valued, is disregarded if it doesn't match what or who the Administration already wants? Of course who can forget that great trumped up search called the University Presidential Search Committee of a few years ago? No one wants to serve on a committee where you think your voice may actually make a difference, spend a lot of time in meetings, write up reports that go nowhere, just so the Administration can say they "consulted" faculty.

All this said, there are some search committees out there this spring and the Senate has been asked to look for Faculty willing to serve. I have been stung by service on some committees here at CSU and I will no longer serve on committees that have no teeth, that just spin their wheels while the real decisions are made outside. I will no longer serve on a committee where I feel my voice is not heard and I will resign from any committee if I find that my presence is just perfunctory, just as the members of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee did during that farce of a presidential search two years ago. I recommend that faculty continue to participate in the search process that we have at CSU and to offer your time and service in this regard to the university, but to hold your ground as a member of a committee. I'm giving it a chance, like Charlie Brown hoping to kick that football, and joining one of these committees. Maybe this time Lucy won't pull it away.

Yan Searcy said it very eloquently in his email to all of us this week. It is the faculty who hold institutional memory and it is our responsibility to bring that continuity to the governance of the university.

From Yan:
CSU faculty, we are at a crucial point in the history of the institution. The people who may be hired may be responsible for development of CSU or its demise. The faculty voice and perspective need to be heard. Many decisions that are being made are being made by those who have little than two years of institutional memory. The people who may be hired will have less than this.
I ask you to re-read the request below.

From the Provost:
Lastly, please share the attachment with members of the Faculty Senate. This attachment contains the names of search committee members for Pharmacy and Business deans……… I will try my best to keep the Senate informed regarding searches. Also, please note the following searches that will take place soon (before July):

1. Dean of Library (Committee not formed yet)
2.. Dean of Business (Dr. Jefferson, Committee Chairperson)
3. Director for International Programs (Committee not formed yet)
4. Dean of Students ( Dr. Osika, Search Committee Chairperson)
5. Associate Vice President, Sponsored Programs (Committee not formed yet)
6. Dean, Continuing Education (Position not posted yet)

Faculty recommendations to serve on the above searches are much appreciated.

I certainly hope they will be.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Brand U Part II

I've got some other things to add to Pancho's eloquent indictment of the university's embrace of the corporate model. If you look at what employers want, "image" is not among the skills they are looking for. Most interesting, employers list as a prospective employee's most important skill the ability to "Communicate," defined as "the ability to listen, write and speak effectively." The second most desirable skill sought by employers is the ability to analyze and research, or the "ability to assess a situation, seek multiple perspectives, gather more information if necessary, and idenfity key issues that need to be addressed." Other desirable skills include computer/technical literacy, flexibility/adaptability/managing multiple priorities, interpersonal abilities, and leadership/management skills. Perhaps most salient to this discussion, "image" is not on this list. See the following website for the full list of skills: Since "image" is absent from the list of skills an employer wants, what does our university's focus on "image" mean? Do we want our students to believe they can suceed without demonstrating any of the substantive job skills that employers want? Do we think employers are so stupid that they will not notice that a prospective employee has none of the qualifications they are seeking? Will a good stage presence or "image" overcome an applicant's lack of preparation? her/his lack or verbal or written skills? her/his inability to think critically? In addition, if an applicant lacks communication and analytical skills, how can that person come across as polished? Finally, the skills that are most desirable to employers are the very skills that the humanities and social sciences emphasize. The development of analytical and communication skills is the cornerstone of a liberal arts education. In their fealty to the corporate model, our university seems to be in the process of weakening the programs that provide our students with the knowledge and skills to succeed after college. The university's belief in the importance of "entrepreneurship" underpinned by "image" reveals either a stunning lack of understanding of the world outside Chicago State, or a deep and troubling cynicism about our student's abilities--a cynicism that can't be articulated but that can be detected in the desire of the school to sponsor programs that will essentially turn our graduates into con artists.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Brand U?

“Did you know that 85% of job success is based on people skills and only 15% based on technical skills?”

This line from a flyer advertizing the first lecture in a series titled “Brand U: Professional Development Series” caught my attention. I read the flyer and large posters spread throughout the CRSU and learned that the College of Business along with Kraft Foods was sponsoring this series. The kickoff event took place on Thursday, March 24, 2011 in the Library Auditorium. It featured image communication specialist, Kali Raoul, of Image Studios delivering a lecture and powerpoint presentation titled, “Image Impact: Your Professional Presence.” I fell victim to the advertising and showed up 30 minutes early to the event.

Ms. Raoul and her presentation were introduced by a faculty member of the College of Business who informed the audience that “it is very important to brand yourself.” “Hum,” I thought. “I can’t wait to see what is next.” I, then, spent the next hour and a half listening to the quite polished and professional Ms. Raoul speak about the centrality of image in seeking success in the business world. Ms. Raoul showed us a number of slides meant to help the audience think about their image or how we would brand ourselves. Memorable nuggets of advice include the following: 1) a slide showing the “Success P.I.E.” chart. P.I.E. stands for performance, image and exposure. Citing some source or other she informed us that performance counts for 10% of success, image, 60% and exposure, 30%; 2) “Once you’re in the door, performance does not earn success.”; 3) “Define your brand!”; 4) Wardrobe is more important than grooming, though you must be well-groomed; 5) Women, always wear makeup.

Now, I realize that this is Ms. Raoul’s business. She is an image consultant and has extensive experience in the corporate world including working for Kraft. In addition, though this was unstated, her husband’s business also lives and dies on image. He is former City College employee, current state Senator Kwame Raoul from Chicago. What would politics be without image? The series continues throughout April. On the 8th, our students will learn how to dress. Their teacher will be an employee of the Image Studios. Apparently, they need to learn how to eat as well. On April 15th, they will learn that the bread plate is on the right and beverage on the left (or vice versa. I was never good at that kind of thing). Modet, Inc. will teach our students “the rules and nuances of proper business behavior.”

I’m not a hater. I know a woman’s gotta make a living. Moreover, Ms. Raoul is probably genuinely concerned about the people she consults with. She wants them to do well. So, it is not so much Ms. Raoul’s anti-intellectual, anti-substance message that bothered me but that our university is promoting this to our students.

At the same time that the President and Provost’s office is attempting to eliminate the Economics major on campus, they are promoting branding oneself. This is corporate speak and corporate think at its most crass. Without an intellectual and critical foundation in economics and other social sciences and humanities, students are at the mercy of the business world where they will be told how to speak, think, dress, shave, and talk by people who will make enormous profits off of their labor. The anti-intellectual climate being fostered by the current powers that be on campus is alarming and offensive. It is an affront to the very ideals of higher education. THIS IS NOT A BUSINESS!! Moreover, why do we want to make it one? Why do we want to instill in our students capitalist and business ethics that continue to undermine the livelihoods of humanity and the environment worldwide and specifically the lives of the people in the very communities from which the vast majority of our students come?

Do the powers that be need to be reminded that it was the branding of Black people that kicked off capitalist transformation in this country? Maybe the College of Business needs to be reminded that theft, violence and rape of native people and Mexicanos cleared the West for business expansion. It is for these exact reasons that we need to expand the centrality of social sciences and the humanities to the overall mission of the university. Perhaps it is due to an inadequate history, economics and social science education that they are asking our BLACK students to brand themselves. Throughout the first centuries of the existence of the United States of America, masters burned the flesh of Black people as a means to accumulate wealth and establish their dominance. Today, this Black-run institution encourages a new branding through clothes, makeup, facial hair and manners that will further the misery of most people on the planet and increase the profits of the children of slaveowners.

This is an affront to our university and especially our students. Any effort to encourage dumbing down and increasing focus on image should be resisted by all of us. All efforts toward anti-intellectualism, attacks on critical thinking and the corporatization of our campus should be resisted. It is imperative in this day and age that we teach students critical thinking and creativity and develop their agency. We need leaders who can change the course of history not acquiesce to the very values and behaviors that have brought us to this moment in history when we now have the greatest wealth gap known. It is because of capitalist and business values that our Black and Brown children lack health care, lack adequate education, are overrepresented in prisons, live in food deserts, and struggle to define themselves. Why are we encouraging this? As thoughtful and concerned faculty we are obligated to fulfill our mission of educating people. We must not fall victim to the marketing of the business model as the direction in which our university needs to go. We must become more vigilant in the defense of our educational principles and mission. We must hold ourselves and our students to higher standards. These standards must go beyond selling ourselves to the highest bidder.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

If only they'd consult the professors first...

From the Chronicle of Higher Education, March 13, 2011

iPads Could Hinder Teaching, Professors Say
Rival tablet PC's foster more interactivity, studies suggest. But students' craving for the Apple devices could matter more.

Interesting article if you get a chance to read it.

Do we know if CSU's CIO has instituted a survey of faculty responses to the use of the iPads that the Board of Trustees asked for at its meeting in December?

Imagine what $750,000 (for the ipads) + $140,000 (for the seemingly defunct flatscreen tvs--lipstick on a pig in those brokendown old classrooms of ours)would have bought in the way of upgrading our so-called "smart" classrooms, not to mention benefitting more students at the university.

And, hasn't the new iPad just come out this week?

Friday, March 11, 2011

More mental meanderings...

So the university is under fire again. This time a writer from the Chronicle of Higher Education put several disparate "facts" together and concluded that the State should close down CSU because it costs too much to educate undergraduates. Comparing CSU to Northwestern University the blogger surmised that it is too expensive to operate CSU. Part of the reason, that it costs more to educate our students is that many of them are unprepared for university level work. Their reading/writing and math skills are not at a level where they would be successful without significant remedial instruction. Instead of raising admissions standards for the first time full time freshman student, the university has continued on its path of de facto open admissions seeing the size of its University college increase. There are several solutions to improving the various measures of success. The university could lobby the Department of Education to change the calculus used to assess graduation. Of course, a casual observer might note that the Secretary of Education is the former head of the Chicago Public Schools. That same casual observer might also note that the President who appointed him was a friend of CSU when he served as a state legislator. The casual observer may also note that last year at this time CSU hosted an event that was harshly critical of the President. This event, attended by "public intellectuals" and "community leaders", might very well have soured the Obama administration on providing any assistance to the university. Seeking to ingratiate one's self with "community leaders" may have come at the cost of alienating the first potentially friendly President in the university's history. On a related note there are some seeking to invite the First Lady to present the commencement address in May of 2012. I would imagine that her political advisers will counsel her to decline the invitation so as not to damage the reputation of the Administration. Being associated, even tangentially, with an institution that continues to conduct itself as it has for the past two decades of my employ would not be in the political interests of this White House. And I am sure that counsel would not ever consider the harsh remarks in declining the invitation.
All of these thoughts beg the question for me; as an institution of higher learning, has the institution lost its ability to learn, to adapt, to change? Can the university improve, not marginally or incrementally, but substantively? The regime has rearranged the deck chairs and it is still the Titanic, speeding toward the inevitable collision with the iceberg. I am sure your humble narrator will be cast as disgruntled by the regime, yet I would ask why would I keep providing solutions, as yet unheeded, to the long standing problems of the institution? Is it because that after nearly 20 years, I have seen first hand many of the challenges and given thought to how to address them?
As with each of the past two administrations, this one will not substantively change the culture of the institution, solve the major problems of retention and graduation or elevate the status of the university from one of glorified community college to one of doctoral degree granting university.
What it is likely to do is provide justification for transforming this institution into something else. Might private investors convince the IBHE or the state legislature that under new (private) management the university would be more successful? The investors could argue that the assets of the university, its faculty and facilities, could better serve the educational environment of the state. under private (corporate) leadership. Standards could be raised, graduation rates improved, and costs to the state decreased. It could usher in a new era of public private partnership in education. It could eliminate the faculty union, which is obviously the cause of of the university's distress over the past twenty years. And the investors could profit on the acquisition of a valuable asset to the city and state.
I have meandered enough for now. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mental meanderings...

So aside from the fact that faculty is now in its sixth month without a collectively bargained agreement, commonly known as a contract, not much is happening at the workers' paradise, save for the remodeling of the Administration Building. Thankfully, those old wooden doors have been replaced with new wooden doors. We couldn't possibly function without aesthetic enhancements in our Administration Building. I imagine that was done to cover the rumors of program elimination in the colleges of Education and Arts & Sciences. The regime has been very vocal about its desire for entrepreneurship yet wants to eliminate the undergraduate degree in Economics which is counter-intuitive but must be based on some superior administrative knowledge about the academy and pedagogy. Another rumor has more than three academic programs in the College of Education being targeted for termination. This is a strange turn of events given that there is a contractual obligation for such programs to go to the Program Elimination Review Committee for faculty input and no such request has been made. Of course this is all just speculation since the regime, like past regimes over the last twenty years, has profound difficulty in clear, transparent communication. Rumors would be squashed quickly if administrators communicated effectively. The use of oral missives that avoid creating a paper trail is at best bad practice and at worst emblematic of a level of incompetence that threatens the academic integrity of the university.
And it is refreshing to see ongoing construction at the university. The glaziers are busy at work in the Education building and the elevator installers are toiling away in Harold Washington Hall. The sounds of heavy equipment, drilling, and pounding are only slightly disconcerting during a class period. What is more disconcerting is trying to teach in classrooms that have no clocks, chalk boards or white boards. It appears as if form (new doors) is privileged over substance (teaching materials). I would hope that more attention could be paid to core functions, like instruction, and maybe schedule the important support functions when the fewest people are impacted.
Finally, word has not trickled down to my level about whether the missing I-Pad has been recovered. I thought such sophisticated technology would have the computer equivalent of a L0-Jack installed to ease recovery in case of loss or theft. Wouldn't the Chief Information Officer or their designee have routinely installed such a recovery tool to support loss prevention activities?
Next time, I will ask more pressing questions about the West Side Campus, (the gift that keeps on giving) and the future of the Robinson University Center. Questions have arisen about each and I will search for answers.