Sunday, August 26, 2012

Get Back DAC and Do It Again...

“F*** this f***ing school. Chicago State is so f***ed-up. I hate this f***ing place.”

These were the first words I heard from the mouth of a CSU student who was talking to her two friends as I passed them in the parking lot behind the Student Union Building. It was my first day back on campus last week to begin another school year.

While I cannot say that more than a week later I am ready to second that student’s emotions, I can say that there seems to be a fair amount of anger, fear, and confusion among faculty I have been meeting regarding events that have been going on since last June: hirings and firings and departures—so much to say on these and more crony hires (we seem to be bordering on breaches of not just shared governance but equal opportunity laws too). Another question on some folks’ minds—why is it that the tentacles of Enrollment Management seem to reach into so many areas now? How is it that a non-Academic unit like Enrollment Management has jurisdiction over an academic unit like Counseling? Can we finally establish and get a stable university organizational chart? Can we get an updated course catalogue? It’s not just students who are frustrated with their inability to get straight answers from administrative departments but so many people have been fired, retired, or just plain got fed up and left the university that it seems as if administrative departments have to keep inventing and reinventing the wheel over and over again. Is the leadership pattern here truly that of creating chaos and then exploiting it—as a City College employee once noted of our CEO’s management style? If you look around it does seem as if a sledgehammer has hit this place.

The greatest concern to faculty is the continuing saga of the DAC process. At the Faculty Senate meeting on Tuesday and at the UPI meeting on Wednesday, faculty members reported that various chairs and deans have been pressuring, intimidating, and pushing faculty in various ways to accede to the Administration’s directives regarding what should go into the DACs. Those of us involved in curriculum matters at the undergrad and grad levels saw the way the upper Admin wheedled and cajoled and harassed department members at curriculum meetings when the President’s Office mandated that senior and M.A. theses be put in place for all programs. If anyone dared voice an objection or demand a thoughtful appraisal of what this one-size fits all approach to curriculum revision entailed they were ridiculed as being anti-intellectual and obstructionist to Dr Watson’s desire for more “rigor” at CSU. (Isn’t curriculum revision the purview of the faculty? Isn’t the President supposed to be out raising money for the university and leaving this sort of stuff to the Provost?)

So, Deans and Chairs, who are well aware that there is no place for them in the process of the creation of the DACs and who know very well that their predecessors NEVER interfered to the extent they have this year, are alternately wheedling, cajoling, harassing, and threatening their faculty to follow what the President and the upper administration cooked up in their meetings in June and July. The main goal of these meetings, if you remember, was to boil down the DACs to a one-size fits all type TO MAKE IT EASIER FOR ADMINISTRATORS. In other words faculty must serve administrative needs, not the other way around. The tail has been wagging the dog for a long time at CSU and this is another example of it.

Here is some information for Faculty who were unable to attend the UPI & the Senate Meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday regarding the DAC PROCESS:
  • the UNION CHAPTER GRIEVANCE FILED AGAINST CSU HAS NOT BEEN SETTLED; the Union has not withdrawn the grievance—there has been no resolution
  • the old DAC is in place throughout the personnel process for this academic year 2012-2013; this has been agreed to in writing by the Administration; do not be intimidated by threats that new DACs have to be hurried through because of pending personnel actions for this year
  •  both the Faculty Senate and UPI leadership emphasized to all DPC and DAC committees that the DAC is a faculty-driven process. There is no place in the process for Deans or Chairs to be interfering; you can file a grievance if you are harassed by your chair or dean (I’m not sure if an entire department can file a grievance together)
  • the President’s Office has responded in writing to each DAC individually and the UPI has reviewed these comments. Clearly a template of critique was used and some comments faculty have noted indicate that either the DAC was not read thoroughly or the reader was inexperienced in the academy, in general though the comments do fulfill the Administration’s obligation at this point
  • DAC committees should be reviewing the comments and can revise their DACs to include (or not) the President’s comments; UPI emphasized—it is your DAC, it is your process
  • the Sept. 17th deadline that some Deans are pushing for is not a mandate. There is no memo of agreement with the Administration that this is the date to be followed to turn in the DACs.
  • The UPI and the Faculty Senate are working out a timeline for the completion of the DACs that is consistent with the contract and will inform the Administration. At present it calls for a working group of faculty that could share, review and comment on DACs at the college and university-levels. This is a process that could continue through the fall term. The UPI will be sending out a memo concerning this timeline to the Administration and to the Faculty.
Considering we had no contract for nearly two years, the rush to put through DACs by Sept. 17th is disingenuous. More astounding and confounding is this Administration’s insistence on uniformity and conformity in the DACs and at CSU in general. Directives that we have witnessed over the past few years have included everything from calls for students to conform to a dress code (“pull up your pants”) to stifling communication among various constituencies on campus via “computer usage policies” or communications policies—a desire to present one voice to the public that saw a demand that all requests from reporters for faculty comment be vetted first by a public relations team-- to the demand for senior and M.A. theses across the board (disciplinary research processes and campus resources be damned), uniform syllabi, and now uniform DACs. I’d add that the plan to hire “professional advisors” is part of this mentality. The only thing that CSU really has going for it right now is small classes and direct student-faculty contact—we are not a research one university where professional advisors might make sense.

Yet where uniformity and continuity of practice and process would be welcome and useful–in administrative offices—it is disregarded in favor of capricious firings and crony hires, retaliations, thoughtless plans about college reorganizations with no forward thinking about consequences or implications of such actions. Amid the disorganization and dislocation the mandate (or counter-mandate) is that everything must take place immediately. Is this a warped corporate model or some superficial version of it? Or is it indicative of something worse?

The Administrators on campus who hold Ph.D.s need to be reminded that the lifeblood of the academy is not uniformity or conformity, especially not uniformity of thought. It is argument and challenge, and anyone with classroom experience knows that questions, not stasis and uniformity, is what moves the mind forward. Students who come to CSU should not leave the institution the same as they came in. Administrative calls for conformity or faculty quietism is not what will move an institution forward. As a colleague of ours is fond of saying, “this ain’t church.” The faculty pushback on the DAC hijacking or other matters on campus is something the Administration should be happy to see. It means faculty are doing their job.

I may have cited this article earlier this year, but I will again as a reminder to faculty. Jason B. Jones in the Chronicle of Higher Ed this year, “Belief and Lazy Consensus: Focusing on Governance” (Mar. 28, 2012) notes the attempt by administrations (not just at CSU) to “deprofessionalize” the faculty in order to gain control and silence it. This includes faculty buying into the language of that misconception that “the work of the university [is] “service” rather than governance.”

One of the commentators to this article adds this:
“Faculty must take action, put themselves in harm’s way, to support each other and even support those they disagree with, when, for example, administrators and their ally colleagues isolate and act to get rid of a colleague. Not only insist on due process, insist on open due process, participate in due process, refuse to let administrators bypass or short change due process. And shut the place down when administrators corrupt the university and its principles.

Faculty all too often let little misconduct pass, which prepares them to let any misconduct pass. If you have to look for misconduct or doubt it exists on your campus, you don’t know what’s going on on your campus or you don’t care or you are too afraid to get involved….[beware] Governance is like power, you can cede it or take it. If you don’t have the authority, then you must take it.”

Faculty have authority over the DAC and over all academic matters on campus. The Administration is supposed to serve the academic interests, not the other way around. Remind them of that.

No comments:

Post a Comment