Friday, January 17, 2014

Why do we cut courses?

So I have had the following discussion with Provosts for the past twelve or so years and have yet to hear any reasonable response to the points that I raise. That conversation goes something like this:

Me: Why do we cut classes?
Them: To save money.
Me: How much money did we save last semester?
Them: We don’t know.
Me: What mathematical model do you use to calculate the amount that you “saved”?
Them: We don’t have a model. Cutting classes is complicated.
Me: Then why do we cut classes?
Them: To save money.
Me: But you don’t know how much money you save and you don’t have a way to calculate that.
Them: Well yes, but we have to save money.

Now I would be the first to admit that low enrolled courses should be examined. Those with zero enrollment can obviously be cut. From one student on, every situation should be evaluated individually, preferably with some knowledgeable faculty present. For example, if you have one student enrolled in a student teaching course in the College of Education you probably would not cut that class, right? The student can’t graduate without it. There is no money to save here. Providing education is what we do. Cutting classes runs counter to that.
The cost saving explanation is fine until other questions are asked. If you don’t know how much money you saved, that’s fine, right? Except what does the university do with the un-calculated amount of savings generated from cutting courses. Why, they use that money, whatever amount it turns out to be, on other costs in the enterprise. There is an expense however, that is not monetized or calculated, that I would argue may be greater than the unknown cost savings and that is the ill will generated toward our students by cancelling courses and poorly communicating those decisions.
The administrators responsible for cancelling courses either have no experience or limited experience with our students. Many, if not most of our students have two primary factors in mind when scheduling classes, time of the course and necessity of the course for graduation. So if students are cajoled into registering early for courses and then some significant number of courses are cancelled, it provides a disincentive to register early which provides an incentive to cut courses which provides a disincentive to continue at the university because our students, most of whom work, can’t get the courses they need when they need them. This downward spiral has been exacerbated by the abysmal management of this regime. (See the last five years of blog posts)
The communication process involved in course cancellations is probably more damaging than the actual cancellations. For a professor to meet a class on Tuesday morning, have the class cancelled on Tuesday afternoon, have the students contacted on Tuesday evening about the cancellation and then have the course reinstated on Wednesday morning is worse than embarrassing. And yes this happened. It displays a level of incompetence that is unacceptable. Students are voting with their feet because this university is being incompetently managed. The damage wasn’t as bad in the fall 2013 semester because the previous Provost had planned and scheduled the fall semester before she retired in June 2013. The current interim provost seems incapable of stemming the bleeding of students. That isn’t surprising given that she has overseen the Enrollment Management division for the past two years. Those years have seen significant declines in enrollment. The arguments by president Watson about these low numbers bringing academic rigor are ridiculous on their face. 
This administration has failed. That failure is a clear and present danger to the future of the university. The president and his failed minions must go before we reach a point of no recovery. I don’t expect the Board of Trustees to act and I don’t expect the Governor to act. So whose left?
You, loyal readers. Communicate to the powers that are the overseers of higher education in the State of Illinois. Tell them what you think of this situation. If the university's possible demise is acceptable to you, tell them that. If you believe that the taxpayers of the State of Illinois, the current and future students of Chicago State University and the thousands of alumni of CSU deserve better than the current regime, tell them that. The point is say something. Call, fax, email, text your state representative and state senator. Have your voice heard.
Long time readers of this blog will note that the posts here have been consistent for the past several years.
To the regime I say this, if you choose to stay in light of your clear failures, you have been warned. Our inquiry and exposure of your failed regime will continue.

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