Wednesday, May 11, 2011

New ideas???

So it would probably be hyperbolic to describe the university’s inexorable march toward becoming a junior college as the educational equivalent of the Bataan Death March of World War II. During that event more than 11,000 Filipino and American military personnel lost their lives. But, the current period in the university’s history seems similar in that the university is being driven in a direction of inevitable failure by leadership that does not grasp the significance of the collateral damage it is inflicting by its continued mismanagement. The latest torture the university endures is two-fold.

First, CSU will become a drop-in center for students from Moraine Valley Community College with our or their students taking classes at CSU taught by MVCC faculty. The reasoning for this escapes me. If it is designed to circumvent some first-time, full-time freshman designation for students admitted to CSU who are “under-prepared,” it probably should have been managed a bit more opaquely so as not to attract attention to the fact the regime is trying to circumvent the rules established by the US Department of Education. Also, given that faculty are routinely told that there is limited classroom space, especially for night classes, when would these classes be scheduled and what CSU faculty would be displaced? This professionally unhealthy connection to junior colleges is disturbing. The more we act like a juco, the harder it will be to be taken seriously as a doctoral degree granting institution.

The second scheme is much more disingenuous. In it, students enrolled for more than twelve semesters who are not graduating are to be contacted and encouraged to change majors to an Individualized Curriculum in order to graduate, and the university will foot the bill for them to come back and complete the last semester in the original degree program to which they had enrolled. I must say that if this is the way the regime plans to fulfill the promises of the testimony given by the CEO on March 17th to the Illinois House Appropriations Higher Education committee, then I am extremely dubious. This type of academic shenanigan is more likely to create an accreditation stir than the march toward becoming a junior college. It also does not consider the reasons for the student not having completed a degree in 12 semesters. The impact on students has not been considered. What message does it send to students to tell them to accommodate the university when the university may not have accommodated them? Given the reported difficulties of ‘under-prepared’, working students, I would have thought the efforts would have been directed to assisting students not finding ways to cheat the system.

I believe this scheme compromises the greatest asset of the university, its academic reputation. Of all of the negative publicity CSU has received in the past 15 years, its academic performance and reputation have not been directly threatened. Students and alumni continue to speak favorably of the academic experience they received. This scheme is a direct assault on the faculty of this institution. Matters that affect the academic integrity of the institution must be discussed and decided upon by the faculty. Most universities have language on the diploma that states faculty grant the degree, not administrators with their inane ideas for gaming the system. And with the reputation of the institution remaining in tatters under management, indistinguishable from the Daniel Administration, this appears to be another series of self-inflicted wounds that will no doubt be blamed on “the white media” who will not give a poorly managed institution a pass on its worse than mediocre administrative performance.

Here’s a suggestion. Raise admission standards, eliminate all remedial courses, do not offer special programs during the summer to compensate for sub-standard K-12 education, and recruit high quality students from outside of the city of Chicago and State of Illinois. CSU will not be recognized as a high quality doctoral degree granting university until it has leadership that understands it is not the local high school.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

OD Experts Anyone???

So I was talking to one of my colleagues about the state of the university and posed a question about the efficacy having psychologists with expertise in organizational behavior conduct an assessment of the institution, much like a therapist assesses a patient. I remember from graduate school my Organization Theory professor telling us that organizations are just people writ large. I also recall commenting to a past president that if she wanted to leave a real legacy at the university, she would need to change the corporate culture of the institution, essentially do something to modify its behavior. It appears that presidents come to CSU with expectations of constructing new buildings with little regard for changes to the core of the university. What might a year-long observation and analysis by OD experts of Chicago State University reveal? Would the experts observe that communication is poor? Might they discover there is no culture of accountability? Might they observe that leadership has been negligible? Might they find there is no morale problem with rank and file employees because there is no morale? Might they find a faculty that believes it has been neglected, ignored and overlooked in matters that are central to the sound operation of a university? Might they observe a culture of administrative paternalism that routinely contributes to low retention and graduation rates? Might the high turnover of administrative personnel catch the attention of observers? And if only a fraction of these observations were true, what would they recommend the university do to address them? I don’t think we would need a team of experts to assess the university AND at this point in its downward spiral, could that hurt? Since incoming administrations have a peculiar predilection of not listening to faculty, outside experts might be the only hope of rescuing a drowning university.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The under message

So I realize that human communications is a complicated phenomenon. There are the words that are spoken, the words that are unspoken, the gestures made and withheld and the messages over and under the words. I am curious why over the past three days, I received 50 emails about the Drug and Alcohol Policy at the university. I understand this is the response to an audit finding that the university was not in compliance with Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 (41 U.S.C., Section 701, et.seq.) and the Drug-Free Schools Act of 1989 (34 C.F.R. 86, et seq.). I also understand that creating the paper trail may have required sending an email and a written memo to all faculty and staff but 50 emails. It gives me pause to ask why the massive over-reaction to a fairly straightforward requirement. Does the university get bonus points on the next audit for sending out 50 emails? Probably not. And the message under this response is the regime will generate a great deal of activity with little accomplishment. Discerning observers never mistake activity for accomplishment and I consider myself a discerning observer.