Tuesday, September 16, 2014

If You're Wondering Why We're in Trouble, Take a Look at the Enrollment Management Report to the Chicago State Board

“On a personal level, I am disappointed that the Shared Governance Committee of the Faculty Senate would engage in public discourse about any of our colleagues. Those individuals mentioned in your document are professionals who command respect in the higher education marketplace because of their experience and documented capabilities. As higher education leaders and managers, their qualifications are unimpeachable. Our students, employees, and other stakeholders are the beneficiaries of the much needed depth, range, and scope that they bring to their work—all of which are essential to the effective operation of a modern urban university.”

Wayne Watson, Response to the Shared Governance Committee of the Chicago State University Faculty Senate and the UPI Local 4100. November 13, 2012.

We have a wonderful example of the “documented capabilities” of Watson’s “professionals who command respect in the higher education marketplace” in the Enrollment Management report submitted to the Chicago State Board of Trustees for its September 19, 2014 meeting. The report is nothing but a parade of jargon and empty rhetoric—bullshit that addresses none of the substantive problems facing Chicago State. It fails to offer any concrete proposals to stem the cataclysmic drop in enrollment that is continuing in fall 2014. Finally, it is an embarrassment to the entire academic community at this university. Sent by a university administrator to Chicago State's governing board, this report demonstrates a startling lack of literacy and a degree of sloppiness that would be unacceptable in a high school paper. All-in-all, this document falls far short of the literary standards expected at any institution of higher education.

This report is not a blog post or a casual communication on Facebook. There is no evidence of editing and little evidence of any serious attempt to communicate anything clearly. The combination of meaningless rhetoric and abominable writing serves to make this report opaque and uninformative. Perhaps that is by design.

Here is the title page. You'll note the report ostensibly comes from the president's girlfriend, the Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management:

Take a look at the "highlights" on page 2. I've marked in yellow those I think are most ridiculous and attenuated. Readers can make their own choices. These points raise the following questions for me: In the third bullet point, what do the "in the Grazz" programs have to do with Enrollment Management? Have we realized any enrollment gains from those programs? Where do we find the dashboards to which bullet point five refers? In bullet point eleven, the report tells us that 310 people attended the "New Student Orientation." Unfortunately, we are not told how many of those persons actually enrolled. That information might be useful. At the bottom of the page we get to the bad news, enrollment is down 6 percent. These figures are outdated, enrollment is currently down 8 percent.

Take a look at the two highlighted paragraphs on page 3. Nonsensical jargon seems an apt description. Or, how about a succession of clichés? What is the relationship between our "environmental footprint" and enrollment?

Skipping ahead to page 5, we encounter the critical university "brand" (possibly the one Patrick Cage so zealously defends):

The depressing enrollment statistics appear in more detail on page 6. Perhaps no one will read this far, after all it's six whole pages. Note the jargon. Note the style.

The report mercifully ends with an incoherent paragraph on page 8:

Producing and disseminating a piece of writing as bad as this is simply unacceptable. This is the best we can do?


  1. It just occurred to me...maybe it was Cheri who wrote Angie's dissertation for her. Could explain a lot...