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.

1 comment:

  1. Today's Tribune Article,0,4377199.story?page=2&obref=obinsite