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Monday, December 15, 2008

Presidential Message

I have just watched the Presidential message about cutbacks. I am willing to do my part but there are a couple of questions I must ask. Why is it every time he talks, the only people he concludes are worth praising are the doctors and scientists? Do the rest of us not exist in President Jacobs' world? Also, please notice the hiring freeze occured right after the Medical College hired a new faculty member. (I forget the exact name and title, but it is in his video.) Why, if we are all in this together did the President not say anything about forgoing his bonus? Also, I really wish he, and evryone else, would stop referring to our students as customers. That makes it sound as if I'm the clerk at the candy counter. Education is not a buying and selling process, but a mutual effort on the part of all concerned. One might also ask why we spent $80,000 dollars in A & S on the round table to come to conclusions that, with a little leadership, we could have come to ourselves? I do not want to be a wet blanket here, but in the past, sacrifice has always meant the faculty, staff and students, not the administration. Many of us went three years without a raise in the 90s. That, of course, is what led to the decision to have a union.

There is a theory in Communication. It is called Standpoint Theory and I believe it applies here. According to theorists Harding and Wood, in order to truly understand how a society or organization works, it is necessary to ask those at the margins of that society or organization how well it operates from their perspective. The president was reviewed, not by the students, staff or faculty, but by the BOT. I imagine that a different and perhaps more accurate view would have come from those of us at the margins: the students, faculty and staff.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Little Time

I have now had some time to reflect on the round table discussions. It took us two days worth of meetings in October and one more in December to come to the five areas the good folks at the round table believe are worth examining. I can't help but believe the University could have saved itself $80,000 by just asking us to talk to each other. There is nothing truly new in the areas. However, having registered my complaint, it is time to move on. The question now becomes whether these areas will actually appear in the report (I have no reason to believe they won't), and if they appear what we will actually do about them. Those of us who have been here for awhile know that it is not just an administrative technique to stall in the hopes the problem will go away. We as a college have survived during my time here by waiting till the problem goes away. (Please reflect on the years 1999 and 2000.) It is my personal opinion that such a course of action will not be viable in this case. We, as a college, will either deal with these issues ourselves or someone else will do it for us. Yes, I know the curriculum is still under our control. And yes, I would like to keep it that way. The only way that happens (again this is my personal opinion) is for the college to be proactive in examining what we teach. The statement dealing with curriculum really divides itself into two major areas. The first is departmental. The goal is to have departments examine what they do, what they teach and to whom. We will need to do so because, quite frankly, most of us will not be receiving any meaningful new resources. That does not make me happy. In fact, I get angry when I think about what has happened to the social sciences, humanities and fine arts in this college. However, there is a certain reality that eventually sets in and says, "Okay, they don't care for my discipline. What can I do given the resources I presently have to make this viable for my students." The only place we, the faculty, can really do this is with the curriculum.

The second part of the question is actually divisive. It asks that we examine the core of the college. There are some who believe the core is just fine the way it is. There are others who would eliminate it altogether. I don't fall at either end. I do believe that the core of any university should be more than one from column A and one from column B. It should have some driving force other than to introduce students to the field of study. Again, there has to be some reality in the discussion. I would love to teach Mass Communication to 15 students. That is just not going to happen. So now I have to ask myself what resources need to be expended to achieve what I consider to be the optimum core. I understand I have put the cart before the horse here, but knowledge of what resources are truly available then drives what I can do in the core. Yes, I understand that the educational part of this should come first. But again, I can devise a wonderful core given unlimited resources. What I have to do is develop a core that has a purpose and has some chance of achieving that purpose given the financial constraints surrounding it.

I will close by trying to define what I mean by purpose. It is possible to create a core that has as its purpose global education. This would lead to a group of classes designed to help students understand our place in a global society. It is possible to create a core designed to teach western civilization. How did we get here from there? How did our culture develop the values we claim? It is possible to develop a core around the First Amendment to the Constitution. It is possible the present core does these things. I think you''ve gotten the idea. Again, I am available for any discussion.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Last (?) Meeting

The last round table meeting was held yesterday. Unlike the last time, I will not give you a blow by blow description. First, the morning was fairly irrelevant and second, the most important stuff came at the end anyway. When all was said and done the Committee believed that the College should commit to an in-depth evaluation of five issues. These are, in no order of importance, a redefinition of scholarship, an examination of the curriculum both at the departmental and core levels, an analysis of teaching modalities, a look at the way we are arranged spacially as departments and finally graduate education. I am being sparse in my description because the Learning Alliance will give the Steering Committee a report which will then be circulated. At that time, hopefully, the results from the benchmarking study will also be available. At that point we will know more as to exactly where we stand.

Please let me be as clear as possible. This is the beginning of what will be a long and probably arduous process of introspection on the part of the College. In fact, when Zemsky asked if there was anyone who disagreed with the above list I raised my hand. At that point I turned to the Provost and asked, "Is this the beginning of the journey or the end?" She responded that this was the beginning and that we were in control. I decided to approve of the above list as a starting point. I'll have more later. Again, if you have issues or questions or wish me to expand personally on the points above, please let me know.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A possible direction

I read with interest Diogenes response to my last post. I am afraid if we abandon the field that all will be lost. I think confrontation at the next round table and even taking over the next round table from Zemsky is a better tactic. In light of that I have two ideas. The first is the demand for real resources for the social sciences, humanites and fine arts. Diogenes references Johns Hopkins and well he should. An institution noted for its research that truly values liberal arts. The same is true of MIT and others. It is not an either/ or false dichotomy as we have been led to believe. That discussion occured at A & S yesterday and was important. STEMM does not mean support for one idea while excluding all others. This leads me to my second point.

If we claim the ability to integrate knowledge and to solve problems is the result of a liberal arts education, then let's put the university's resources there. Let us create interdisciplinary courses that do that. After a student reaches 65 hours, he/she must take two classes that exhibit this interdisciplinary/problem solving view of life. To satisfy the requirement, the class must be team taught by at least two faculty from different areas, not just departments. For example a class might be taught by someone who is knowledgeable about environmental issues and by someone in communication who is knowledgeable about the way those issues are actually communicated to the public. After taking the class, the student has the option of applying it toward their natural science requirement or their social science requirement. Both professors will get full credit for teaching the class. Both will be required to be present each day. The class will have no more than 25 students. Any combination of science and social science or science and art or science and the humanities will be possible. You may do the same for any of the areas. The classes may not be taken until their junior year because I want them to have basic knowledge before they get to this class. This will not add to their required coursework, but will substitute for two classes they would have taken in a specific discipline. If the liberal arts matter then we need to show them how it works. The floor is now open for comments. Please be gentle I was up late last night celebrating.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A & S Meeting

I know it's election day, but we do have a fairly important meeting. Please bring with you any ideas about the future of the college. Where do you want this next round table meeting to go? If we do not decide, others will decide for us.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Back to the future (or, who needs a crystal ball?)

Here is a copy of The Learning Alliance signed contract (July 24, 2008) between Provost Rosemary Haggett and TLA owner/operator Robert Zemsky.

Note in this contract the role of TLA member Ann Duffield mentioned in the letter, as well as the fees being charged for her TLA services.

It happens that Ann conducted a Pew roundtable interview at the University of Kansas a little over a decade ago, and her post-interview report to their provost at that time can be viewed here:

As we wait for our own roundtable summary report to arrive, my guess is that when it arrives it will have similar blather and boilerplate to justify the Brady/Jacobs juggernaut titled “Directions” – perhaps word for word to the extent that we could just substitute “UT” for “KU”! My guess is the report directed to UT will at least similarly conclude:

“In sum, my sense is that this is a group of people who are ready to move ahead!” (Ann, KU Roundtable Summary Report, 1997)

Surprise! A one hundred thousand dollar three-page endorsement by TLA of the existing Jacob’s “Directions” document! David Tucker, I agree with your insight and skepticism entirely. We UT A&S faculty and students, and especially our representatives on the Roundtable, have to strive to take charge of the next Roundtable encounter. Those of us, concerned A&S students and faculty, who have read both Zemsky’s book “Remaking the American University: Market-Smart and Mission-Centered” and the KU Roundtable experience reported mid-process by Ann don’t need a crystal ball to predict the future at UT if we remain passive participants in the Roundtable process. Abiding passively while Zemsky et all have a free hand in interpreting and manipulating the Roundtable process will inevitably be a disaster for both UT undergraduate and graduate departments in the liberal arts, for their faculties and students, and for traditional classroom teaching, unless we strive to assert ourselves immediately and take more control of this Zemsky process and its pre-determined outcomes.

The problem of marketing

I tried my own hand at marketing the other day with the phrase, "It's an Education, not just a diploma." The response was underwhelming. There are many reasons for this, but they are not going to be a part of this post. I'll address those at another time. I need to return to the issue of the round table (actually it was oblong). My fear is that if we don't produce something, something will be produced for us. So the question is, what should one actually produce?" This is a real question especially if you don't know what problem it is you are trying to solve. I asked that very question at one point during the conversations and got no answer. That may be why members of A & S aren't interested in the discussion. They see no problem.

Let's assume for the moment because it will help my ego that the above phrase is acceptable. Most of us view what we do as important and more than just being employed at a diploma mill. Most of us also believe we do what we do quite well and that with more support we could do it even better. The problem is explaining to eighteen year olds, their parents, our Board of Trustees, our President, and the state legislature what it is we really do and why it is important that these students (young and old) learn things other than stemm. (Please do not read this as my dismissing the stemm programs, but let's be realistic, this whole affair is really about the "rest" of us.) The programs in stemm have received resources and done quite well. The grant money derived from these programs is excellent and their graduates do well. We should all applaud them. The problem is explaining what an education really is.

Just for starters, I asked myself what I believe one of our graduates should be able to do. Here's the preliminary list: be creative, understand the scientific method, know something about western thought and from where our culture derives its values, show problem solving ability, display rational thinking, understand the role of faith and religion in societies, understand why other societies think differently than we do, be able to write coherently in a variety of forms, and display the ability to speak in public (I am after all in communication).That's the short list. And, that's the problem in a nutshell. Do we organizationally and requirement wise actually achieve even this short list with our graduates? Perhaps there is no problem and we should be happy in our work. That's not likely to happen. We need to be able to say in a coherent and logical manner what it is we do.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Okay, I've got the slogan: It's an education, not just a diploma. What we need to do know is show how students are really getting an education. If we want our graduates to be: creative, critical thinkers, rational thinkers, problems solvers, and understanding of other cultures and points of view, how do we get there? What is it we do or should do that will be more than a menu? Does this involve reorganization? Does this involve curricular changes? Let's talk.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Continuing the Roundtable

Judging from the lack of comments about the initial roundtable two things are possible. The faculty don't care or they don't care to comment using this paraticular vehicle. I will again post my office number U-Hall 4740-C; my phone 419.530.2172; and my e-mail dtucker@utnet.utoledo If you have anything you want discussed, tossed around, tossed out, please contact me.

My belief is if we do not take charge of this next roundtable, we will not be happy with whatever the final report says. Assume you had the opportunity to remake the college from the ground up, what would it look like? I eagerly await your visions.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Additional Reports on L.A. Roundtable

Below are posted for your convenience, mainly, two other reports of roundtable impressions/experience. These two have already gone around by email within the College, but perhaps you missed them. David Tucker's most excellent and complete report follows this entry. Additionally a great boggle of information was shared at the ASC meeting on 10/23 which may be reflected in the minutes when they are avaliable. Bloggy is hungry and would like other accounts from other perspicacious people, so please post them or send to

Account 1.

Preliminary reflections on the roundtable discussion:

Renee Heberle

If I were to offer an overview of what happened at the roundtable I’d summarize it by saying that the faculty there talked about what we have been doing and trying to do in and through the College of Arts and Sciences for as long as we’ve been around (whether for one year or for 20 years). We identified, sometimes quite bluntly, the obstacles and the opportunities we experienced, including those put out by administration but also those created by general institutional demands, workloads, and strangled resource flows.

I would identify the opportunity the roundtables offer, if any, as a model space for faculty to put on the table their particular perceptions, desires, and goals in a place where judgment was suspended and the facilitator was a fully neutral party—so “neutral” in fact that it did not seem necessary (to me anyhow) to hold back criticisms and challenges to the process or with reference to the situation we find ourselves in under the terms of the merger and the current administration.

The first evening was spent with Robert Zemsky offering back to us the Learning Alliance summary of predominant themes in our interviews, words and phrases that characterized sentiments of interviewees, and suggestions about how to proceed.

How to proceed was described using the analogy of climbing the mountain and making sure we are always climbing and not second-guessing, looking down, or worrying about “the holes in our backpacks.” When someone asked if the mountain was defined in advanced, Zemsky replied that we are inventing the mountain as we climb. One of the stipulated facts he insisted we not have any doubt about is that there was no hidden agenda on his part, he does not do work with administrations who have hidden agendas and that it is no skin off his nose what happens at UT, he and his team are here to help us identify some ideas, goals, plans, and to develop a common awareness of where we stand.

Words he listed as negative: neglected, self-important, uncertain, process oriented, incoherent.

As positive: diverse, student centered, scholarly, democratic, creative, interdisciplinary, dialectical, innovative, good outreach, undiscovered.

He also said that there is a strong sense of attachment of faculty to the College and to UT.

Other words that may be neutral or merely descriptive: complex, competitive, resistant, growth, instability, trust, shift away from Humanities.

Zemsky did comment that there were noticeably more negative words than anywhere else they had done roundtable in 15 years.

Stipulations that were made and repeated through the discussions: this is not an exercise in comparing us with other Colleges here at UT; splitting the College is not on the table; vocationalizing our educational mission is not on the table.

He first named our problem as a morale problem and was promptly challenged—we don’t have a “morale” problem. Our morale is a consequence of problems we’ve faced over the last ten years. Let us not take the consequence as the cause—we don’t have to fix our morale, we have to create a better environment in which strong morale can be a good possibility. It is material and structural issues we are up against, not “morale” problems.

A important theme that developed throughout the two days was that the College should come to be seen as a HUB of the University (as opposed to a service College, a last-chance major, or a remedial space for students to circulate until they can make it in other Colleges). It should be a DESTINATION OF CHOICE.

There was an enormous amount of discussion about the relationship between the University and the economic life of the region it serves. Many very profound things were said about not drawing one to one relationships between our efforts and job creation, or our projects and economic outcomes, or our efforts and whether the City of Toledo rises or falls.

Restructuring of the bureaucracy came up as well as the issue of being significantly underfunded.

Analogies of how to characterize our College: as family? (we protested that one), a public collaborative project (Zemsky’s summary of what was said), a community?

We need public spaces for discussion. The faculty “club” is no longer and nothing has replaced it. Could Council be such a space? Not as currently constituted.

The lack of any transparent hiring strategy was emphasized. That positions are continually lost to the College, absorbed by central administration, and re-allocated without any clear rationale is a problem for planning, for making decisions about renewal, tenure, and promotion (don’t be firing even inadequate faculty if you are going to lose the line…), and for developing any sense that curricular plans we make could possibly be realized.

Wednesday morning:
In response to a question of what has happened at other campuses where these roundtable were held Zemsky said it was mostly a matter of giving the participants a common language with which to describe their efforts, goals, issues, etc. to develop a “problem-solving” language, to develop a “sales” language about how the College understands itself and its role in the University.

There was a huge amount of discussion about the relationship between Toledo, its self-image and economic status, and University of Toledo as an “engine of economic development” or as a facilitator of success in rendering Toledo a healthier and more vibrant city. Is our success linked to the success of Toledo? The answer seemed to me for the most part to be “no”—we do what we do as a University and while it should be in relationship to Toledo and the region, it should not be determined by it. The excellent point was made that some of us see Toledo as a kind of laboratory for research, that we can study it, study the region, study the Great Lakes, study our context, and through that study perhaps have an impact on the self-understanding of the City. But we should not think about it as a cause and effect relationship—ie. UT transforms = Toledo recovers.

Mention was made of constant references at the state level to UT as the agent of change, the exemplary space wherein state planning for the University system may come to fruition in a real way (reference to the merger, etc).

If Arts and Sciences is to be foundational, a HUB in the University and a destination of choice, how are we going to deliver our education in ways that mark us out as having something unique and do what is necessary in light of the state strategic plan.

Discussion turned to the responsibility of the administration to raise the money and raise the profile of the University and the College effectively, so we can do our work. How much responsibility is at the door of the faculty and programs to do the recruitment, fund-raising, and community interaction work necessary to sustain a strong University? How much is on the administration? Is the administration doing too much administering (micromanaging) and not enough fund-raising, community work, or promotional work at the state level to advocate for the University and College?

The discussion of interdisciplinarity/integrative initiatives took up much of the time on Wednesday. Zemsky kept asking whether it is true, at least among those faculty, community and student representatives he was looking, that we wish to move toward being a more integrated, interdisciplinary College with more “functional flexibility” in how it is that faculty work together across departments, and particularly across the STEMM/Social Science/Humanities divides. The consensus each time he brought it up was that yes, we do agree, in that room, that this is where we should be headed. We knew not all faculty would agree, but that we thought it is a necessary developmental direction.

Core curriculum issues came up repeatedly in terms of how to deliver a more integrative education, to help students understand the educational experience they are being offered and are expected to flourish with at the University.

The point was made that students come from high school and they are “still going to school” – hence questioning the core requirements and not seeing the connections between what they think they are interested in and all we ask them to accomplish while here. “Getting an education” is different from “going to school” so we need to do a better job with students generally in the College, who are majors, but who are more than majors, helping them see what they are getting out of their four years here.

Faculty/administrative relationships were brought up intermittently, with reminders of where the impulse to hire the Learning Alliance came from (the awful situation with the Dean) and how it is happening in a context in which faculty are being “managed” and “administered” but not respected or treated as co-equals in the project of the University by this current administration. Zemsky suggested the language of “partnership” suggesting a “law firm model” in that we are co-equals, but that there is responsibility of all players to be “rainmen.” That the state spigot of funding is now more like a trickle, and that while the administration has to raise money, faculty have to get on board with finding alternative sources of funding and support as well.

The “impulse” toward interdisciplinarity: there were examples of good work and ideas being frustrated over and over again with instability in administrative priorities and a lack of transparency in funding priorities.

How to work with integrative/interdisciplinary approaches as a hallmark. “Functional flexibility”—that is, keeping the structure and missions of departments in place while creating spatial and resource access for functional relationships, collaborations, co-teaching, etc. to take place and be recognized for tenure and promotion purposes and by the University as part of its mission.

Our strengths include our ability to tap into students’ creativity, to help them make connections between unfamiliar things, to develop habits of critical thinking.

WAC came up as an example of an integrative effort that lost its funding and survives through the sheer tenacity of its current directory. Why would such a key program not have a budget???

The potential for affecting the lives of women and people of color and people with disabilities was described with reference to the impact of faculty and staff led efforts such as the “Take Back the Night” marches every year, one of the largest in the region—of the relationship with the Ability Center of Toledo and the presence if frustrating struggles to survive of the Women’s and Gender Studies Department, the Africana Studies program, the LST program and the Disabilities Studies program. These are hallmark initiatives yet the feeling is that they are taken for granted—that they add tremendous value to the life of the community and to the University, providing a lifeline of recognition and possibilities for disempowered students and community members.

The point was made that the University, in particular the College of Arts and Sciences contributes to multiple “economies” – not only the “money economy” but to the moral economy, the aesthetic economy, the political and social economies, of the region. We should not limit our understanding of what makes life good and what kinds of goods we are “producing” through our work.

Zemsky asked how students are choosing the University and then how they are choosing the College.

He said that there are those students out there choosing among the “medallion” schools (Ivy league, etc) to be set aside for the moment. The bulk of students who are selecting a
College or university are doing so on the “mall model”—not seeing the substantive differences in terms of educational quality, but looking at the Universities as if they are consumers looking at Gap, then moving along to the Limited, then onto Sears, with little awareness of the how the stores are “really all the same” in terms of the criteria they were using (quality of the rec center, dorms, “student activities,” local club scene). They are choosing colleges and universities on the basis of causing the least disruption possible in their lives, not on the basis of what will provide them the most in terms of an educational experience.

However, Zemsky also thinks that students will be looking for places that will prepare them for whatever comes in the job market. The assumption must be now that one will not prepare for one career and stay in it for the rest of one’s life. One must “be prepared for anything”—for whatever comes in the constantly fluctuating market out there. This is what we need to be selling to students about the value of a liberal arts education—that it is truly rigorous preparation for the tough and competitive labor market.

How much “wander around” time should or can students have these days when coming into a University—or into the College? How much direction should they be given, how much choice? How do we/they decide when they are exploring in a healthy and productive way and how do we know if they are lost instead? Advising is a central issue—at what level is it most effective? At Rocket Launch—University wide? In the College office? At the departmental level? With a more integrative model, how would the demands of advising change and how much would one-on-one contact be necessary, and when? The suggestion was made that if advising is successful through the FYI courses, the students generally well there after. They get their feet on the ground and decide on a major or maybe two with concentrations or minors and then they are on their way. If they change their mind they have the knowledge of how to make those changes and where to go to ask the questions.

Benchmarking was then discussed: it is a comparison for reflection on who and how we are, it is not an assessment or providing templates for what we should do. Just to get a broad sense of what is going on out there at comparable institutions.

Some suggestions as to what data to look at: student and faculty retention, research monies, teaching loads and faculty/student ratios, numbers of College majors (benchmarking will be of College level data, not departmental level, though some extrapolation will be necessary), numbers of students served, numbers of TT faculty, lecturers, adjuncts, TA’s, etc. numbers of degrees granted at different levels.

Account 2.

Lawrence Anderson Huang

dear colleagues-
here are some notes from the first roundtable with the learning alliance.

they are not necessarily complete, and in some cases may be misquoted in some respect. they are just a distillation of my ten pages of notes. at the a&s council meeting thursday 10.23, we will discuss my and others’ experiences.

one thing i want to make clear: the roundtable discussion does have a chance to affect the direction of the college in the next decade and beyond, if the administration listens. and, we received evidence that the administration will listen, if we get our act together and argue forcefully for what we want the college to be. our interim dean is on our side, and wants cogent arguments for resources that we sorely lack. this process is potentially a great opportunity for us, and the roundtable participants really need your support and suggestions. we do not want to impose our vision without your approval, so please consider these notes carefully and listen to other participants at any opportunity you have to get a picture of what we are discussing and what we should discuss.

so here it was from my view:
first, zemsky reviewed the history of the learning alliance and the roundtable idea, and he gave us the ground rules:
a) no secrets about what we discussed, but no attribution to individuals when reporting.
b) no speeches.
c) no breaks and no vacuums in discussion (to be sure, there were none :^)).

we will as a group “sign off” on the essay that the LA writes as the outcome. this essay will be common and part of the record. there will also be a benchmarking report; more about that below.

we learned that of the 15 or so universities where the LA has conducted similar roundtables, 1/3 had very serious, profitable, and lasting discussion; 1/3 were what was described as “cotton candy”- sweet and tasty, but forgettable; and 1/3 were in between. so the success rate is really only 1/3. at the conclusion of our discussion, zemsky reported to me that ours was one of the most intense and possibly profitable in his experience. of course he could have been pandering, but his style does not suggest that. he seems pretty straightforward and honest. however, don’t count on my impressions. ask and listen to others.

then we reviewed the words and impressions used by participants in the interview process to describe the college. roughly 1/3 of the impressions were positive, and 1/3 negative. the other 1/3 comments were conflicted in one way or another. but, on balance, there was a positive feeling about the college. three interviewees were completely positive, and three were completely negative. I should point out that the negative comments were not necessarily faulting the college (although some were, such as “self important” and “incoherent”). more typically they expressed issues of trust and neglect from the administration and community. there was no evidence that the non-college participants had a particularly different impression from the faculty participants.

there was some discussion about morale; participants stressed that poor morale was a consequence of conditions, and not a source of failure.

zemsky reported that no other institution that they have worked with has had the same history of decanal change as has happened at UT, but continued to say that it doesn’t really matter- we work with the world we are in. but, as a result, the LA heard more words like “embattled” here than anywhere else in their experience.

then zemsky reported on what we said we wanted for the college in 10 years. comments included that we really want the college to be seen as a hub, a place where people come together. this hub idea came up again and again throughout the entire discussion. we want more integrated, cross disciplinary learning (more below), and we want to be seen as a place of rigor. we should be a destination of choice, not cast-offs from the professional colleges. we are good at getting enthusiastic young faculty, but find it hard to keep them (later the interim dean had some forceful comments about resource management in this regard). a split of the college is definitely off the table from the point of view of the participants. there should be no second-class citizens.

three things need to be done. we need strong leadership (“leaderless” was a common negative description). we need a restructuring of the bureaucracy of support structure. we are underfunded, and cannot do what other colleges can; e.g. attract and retain good students.

questions came up about our urban mission and open enrollment- the university expects a&s to carry the burden. there was quite a bit of discussion at this point about the value of the urban (or more properly perhaps the NW ohio mission to first generation college students). there was also discussion about the changing state mandate for a cohesive university system that provides both common experiences and centers of excellence. by 2014, all students entering a four-year institution must have high school algebra II, one or more sciences, and a foreign language.

the summary of the discussion included: we are a family (bad metaphor that engendered much discussion right there). we need more public space for creativity- both among our faculty and among our students. we are messy, but in the end create a beautiful text. undergrads are missing a sense of belonging. there is no sense of a plan for faculty hires.

we ended the tuesday evening discussion with an attempt to describe our relations with the city of toledo, and our feeling of attachment to UT. there is some evidence that UT is becoming a driving force in the leadership of community development in toledo. this discussion carried over into the morning. are we held hostage to the success of the city? are we held hostage to economic development? some mention was made of viewing the city as a resource, a microcosm of world problems worth studying from both academic and problem solving viewpoints. are we held hostage by STEMM? there was a lot of discussion about the indirect economic value of the arts and other non-STEMM endeavors that we must articulate.

what are our bragging rights?
80% of UT extramural funding comes to a&s. successful alumni are generous, endowing chairs. we have strong faculty-initiated interdisciplinary and integrative programs. jazz. the birth of the university honors program. public lecture series, global initiatives. the WAC program, although it has lost funding.

there then ensued a lengthy discussion about the value of integrative studies and whether such programs could be the “wave of the future” or at least a hallmark of UT that sets it apart from other institutions. we have an unprecedented opportunity for a paradigm shift in how we teach the liberal arts. is the integrative impulse strong enough to be a key player in our narrative? what is the value of departmental alliances? how do we ensure proper recognition? we have examples: e.g. the economics department recognizes publication in non-economic journals. do students know what integrative studies means? what are their alliances? we need a more flexible way to provide a support structure and people in charge of that support. nothing comes free. what is the impact on student learning? how does an integrative approach impact the core and 1000/2000 level courses? What is the relation of the core curriculum to the place of a&s as a hub of inquiry?

We need to teach students how to make connections between disparate ideas, how to be creative. students are getting more creative about defining their own world as opposed to looking for a place in a predefined corporate world. we should take vocationalism off the table, and not have to prove a one-to-one relationship between courses and future jobs. a&s is the ideal place to create the integrative learner that is capable of finding self-worth in a rapidly changing societal landscape.

we are dealing with a generation of mall shoppers, students who do not know how to shop for quality. the one exception is parents of learning-disabled students, who DO know what to look for and what questions to ask to serve their children. but, we may be on the verge of change. students want to maximize opportunity over risk. they are beginning to look for places that prepare them multi-dimensionally.

we next asked the question: are we a college or a collection of departments, both from the internal perspective and as seen from other colleges? students do see us as a collective supermarket, maybe more from the major point of view than as specific departments. we may have just such an identity crisis. the college is more a part of student life than they understand. we need to communicate better about the value of the core experience. advisers should be able to define the usefulness of courses outside the major.

we discussed the value of just wandering around without choosing a major right away, and the difference between wandering around and carving a meaningful path to self-fulfillment.

zemsky mentioned the book “The Art of Changing the Brain: Enriching the Practice of Teaching by Exploring the Biology of Learning” by neurologist james zull. we should ask students right at the beginning where they think they are, rather than assume they are blank slates and ready for our “wisdom”.

In summary: we should provide a more integrated experience both in learning and research. this integration should extend across the STEMM boundary. what has to change? possibly departmental and functional organization. we should teach creativity through connections. what does it mean? how to make it work? there is a perception that we are not a hub, but rather a service. but, if we get our act together we can be the hub whether others like it or not. we are not about vo-tech. we wish to have a learning experience that promotes learning by choice. we are close to a breakthrough in thinking about what our college means- we need to tell our faculty, administration, and community about that breakthrough, and test it against them.

finally, we briefly discussed benchmarking. we recommended institutions for comparison (the ohio system, various MAC schools, and some others). the standard items to consider include degree production, retention, GRE and other exit test scores, faculty/student ratios, tenure/tenure track vs part-time faculty, salaries, graduate assistant salaries, class size, teaching loads, a senior experience for students, grants, PIs, NRC ranking, external prizes and scholarships, staff counts by function, etc. as far as integrative programs are concerned, we can look at major and minor programs offered. the LA people stressed that all such data is extremely fuzzy and incomplete; one can only hope to draw very crude comparisons.

well, that’s it. somewhat disjointed, but i think it reflects the breadth of discussion we had.
-lawrence Anderson-huang, reporter at large

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Roundtable Roundup

LAH has already distributed his blow by blow description of the first roundtable. I will give you mine although they don't vary by much. If you are in a hurry please proceed to my conclusions which do vary from his.

Evening One:

The evening began with Zemsky noting that we had about a 33 percent chance of success, a 33 percent chance of failure and a 33 percent chance of "cotton candy." This latter is when you think you've gotten somewhere and haven't.

This was followed by a discussion of the five words used to describe the College. He noted that we were the most negative group he and the Alliance had ever interviewed. Three of us were entirely negative, three of us entirely positive and the rest fell somewhere in between but generally more positive than negative.

There were some commonalities in the interviews. Many saw A & S as a hub. Many wanted it to become a destination of choice for students. Many wanted to better retain young vibrant faculty.

Everyone was adamant that we should remain one college.

Lots of things were then tossed around including: retention, access, funding and leadership or lack thereof. Zemsky said that if we want to become a destination we can get there through being more selective about who we let into the college. Discussion of our mission and role in the City of Toledo then ensued.

The conversation moved to whether we were a family or not and if we are a family is it a dysfunctional one. I personally disliked the family metaphor. The idea of a public collaborative was tossed out and people seemed more interested in that.

As the evening ended, Zemsky noted that the portrait painted by the interviews was not a flattering one. He did say there seemed to be a strong attachment to the university.

Day Two--Morning:

This began with someone asking Zemsky to name a couple of places where the process seemed to work. He did that naming Johns Hopkins and Temple. He then said that whatever we decide would involve a sales job. This is not an exercise in governance; it is a way to give us a language through which we can make decisions.

The discussion rambled a bit as we talked about our relationship with the City of Toledo. It came back around when we were asked about bragging rights. In other words when discussing the college what do we brag about? Much of the discussion revolved around interdisciplinary programs. Zemsky asked if that was what the college should use as a hallmark. He thinks we need to find a way to make A&S distinctive and this might be the way to do that. Examples were then given of programs or efforts that have been made which cross disciplines.

Integrative learning was then discussed.

There was discussion of the paradigm shift occurring in the State of Ohio. The system is going toward far more integration of programs and courses. The person talking said the liberal arts needs to be at the center of this. We did not, however, define liberal arts. The issue was then raised if we were only after efficiency in this effort. No answer was forthcoming.

We came back to the Leadership issue. Zemsky noted that we may be resistant to change because we have developed survival skills and strategies that work under the current set of circumstances. Whoever becomes dean needs to be able to lead us and take us to the point of being the university hub. Things need to revolve around us.

We then went back to what we can brag about. There was some nice discussion about creativity and that what we do is allow students to make connections across discipline and enhance their creativity and hence their abilities to perhaps solve problems.

Lunch: Yea

After lunch the discussion got a little fuzzy. Before lunch we were talking about integrative learning, after lunch about departments. You can have both, but the discussion really seemed to slow down in terms of what changes might be made and how those changes might be made.

After this we talked about the benchmarking study. LAH has sent a memo to you all and you can read about this in his memo.

Zemsky was fairly positive at the end of the day. I am not so sure.


Okay, let's be honest I have a tendency to see the glass as half empty. That comes from 22 years of essentially being disappointed by the administration of this institution. I heard nothing from the Provost during these eight hours that reasssures me. (Let me say in her defense, that she may perceive her role here as that of an observer.) In the middle of day we receieved a copy of an article titled, "The Campus of the Future." It came from the President. It was ill-timed and appeared to be a ham-handed attempt at influencing the process.

I have a couple of conclusions. First, the administration (please include the state government in this definition) sees the university system of Ohio as an economic engine of change. Our university administration sees marketing as an integral part of economic development and university image (branding). It wants A & S to be marketable. While Zemsky is not a marketer per se, his research is about a university's ability to market itself. He makes the point in his book that a quality education is not what prospective students actually seek out. He thinks they make their choices in other ways. We, the faculty of A & S, are not in the marketing business, but in the education business. This creates issues between the administration and us. We are interested in how to do what we do better. We want our students to know more and be able to do more when they graduate. Anything that helps in that process interests us. Anything that gets in the way of that process does not. My main conclusion is that anything we decide to change has to be marketable (in that the administration thinks it will separate us from other institutions), economical (in that it can't cost the university any more or much more than the present delivery system), and educational (in that the faculty have to believe it will improve the overall quality of the students we graduate.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Well I'm just back from the roundtable all day meeting. It's going to take a while to digest the information and then make what happened understandable. That will actually take some thinking. I'll get back to you as soon as I make some sense of this.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Learning Alliance

Hi Ho Hi Ho, it's to the TLA I go. We'll learn some stuff and then we'll ....... I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next. I'm putting my thoughts in a sealed envelope and come February the results and the groundhog will see the light of day.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A New Beginning



I am excitedly anticipating moving in to the new Memorial Fieldhouse classrooms. Perhaps a mission is better symbolized by a new gathering place than by a "Statement" made of words. What conversations could be started in a new place like this?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Mission Statement (continued)

I appreciate those who responded to my question about the mission statement. One said the transformative part is now included in the vision statment. I guess visions and missions are different as are core values. I suspect there are differences there, but they hardly matter. The second respondent asked if this was a coy way of asking if mission statments are relatively useless. My response is, "that depends." It depends on whether the mission statement is so wide as to drive a truck through it or whether it actually makes a measureable statement about who we are. Ours strikes me as the former. When the mission statement was being debated I wrote one of my own and submitted it. I got the "thank you for your input" letter in response. I offer it here now.

The University of Toledo Community claims the right to examine the past, present and possible futures unfettered by the doctrines of governments, religions, or other dogmas. We claim the right to information, freely sought and freely shared. As such, we use as our guiding principle the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Mission Staement

I went to the University's web site and typed in mission statement. It took me to the mission statement and the university's core values. The question I have is, when did they remove the line "The University of Toledo is a transformative force for the World"? Perhaps it just never got changed on the web site or perhaps our mission has been changed.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


I have enough angst. I'm voting for the contract.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The contract

I attended the Union Reps meeting last Friday. At the meeting I spoke in favor of accepting the contract. After the meeting I voted to reject it. Today, I think I'll have a beer. I now know what Harry Truman meant when he said he wanted a one-handed economist. They always said on the one hand we could do this, but on the other hand we could do that. Let me give you a few examples.

First, let us examine health care. One the one hand it is going to be more expensive. On the other hand, it is more expensive everywhere and after this next election it will likely change in some meaningful ways no matter who gets elected. I might note here that this contract will require my wife to get health care at her place of employment for over $170 per month. On the other hand, almost no employer has this benefit anymore. I thank our negotiating team for keeping it as long as they have. No, we do not know which network will be offered. This seems strange given the amount of time the administration has had to find someone. On the other hand, they have said it will be Frontpath or Medical Mutual. On the other hand, no one in the western world gets that choice but perhaps us. If you are healthy, and have no major changes in your coverage requirements, the cost for the next three years may actually be more than convered by the January payment.

Second, was the discussion over grant payments. I have to admit that a large grant in the Communication Department involves having someone else pay for lunch. I know almost nothing and I believe the Union needs to do a better job of explaining what is really involved here and who benefits.

The third issue involved merit pay. Frankly, this is silly. When the merit is so little, all it does it create hard feelings within a department over what amounts to nickels and dimes. I also realize that the history of Dean's merit is somewhat suspect and as a result most people do not like the idea. I have no real problem with it as long as that money does not come out of monies that may have been applied to the across the board payments.

The real problem with the health care and Dean's merit goes back to the issue of trust. Frankly, I have been given few reasons to trust this administration or any other for that matter. Rumor has it that someone on their negotiating team is gloating over the health care because they said it would be negotiated with all three unions at that same time and then they, the administration, settled with the other two. That pretty much tied the hands of our group although they were still able to gain concessions. This is NOT the way to build a trusting environment.

There are good things in this contract. The raises are reasonable given the present economy. Although I have been here for 21 years and that excuse has been used since I arrived. The raises for promotion now make a promotion worth getting. There is an early retirement package. It's just there's still that little voice whispering in my ear about trust. Go to the meetings. Ask questions. Perhaps I'm just paranoid. But as they say, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean someone isn't out to get you.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New Participant

Most of you who have read this blog on a semi-regular basis are familiar with Dr. Tinkle. Dr. Tinkle is on hiatus primarily as a result of a smear campaign and because he believed his presence may have been hurting the blog more than helping. Before leaving he asked that I relate my interview experience. I did that and then asked that others do the same. I also asked that anyone with a comment about what I had to say should e-mail me. Since that time no one has come forward to discuss their interview and only one person has e-mailed me to comment on what I had to say. That's really too bad. Those of you who were not chosen to participate should be outraged that so little information has come to you.
I must also say that I find it a touch strange that the chair of Arts and Sciences Council believes this blog should not have anonymous contributors while at the same time we seem unable to get those participants in the round table to come forward with a synopsis of the interview process (anonymous or not). Why are they keeping this particular light hidden under a bushel basket?
While I have chosen to identify myself there are several reasons for blog anonymity. First, the participant may not have tenure. Second, given a certain level of vindictiveness shown by some faculty and administrators there may be a fear of retribution toward the department or the faculty member (tenured or not). Various people at a university have various agendas. One's comments may or may not fit with those and as such inadvertently create a rather hostile work environment. I will not judge another's reasons for remaining anonymous. I will welcome their participation and comments just as much as one who fully identifies himself/herself.
We are now entering what is and for the foreseeable future will be a difficult time for the college. We need your input. We need your participation in this process (anonymous or not).
As my dear sweet mother always says, "You either stand for something, or you stand for nothing at all."

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Alexander is Diogenes?

“If I were not Alexander, I would be Diogenes!”

– Alexander of Macedon, 356-323 B.C.
(see Plutarch of Chaeronea, Life of Alexander, Section 14)

Friday, September 26, 2008

on diogenes, anonymity, TLA, and this blog

the real Diogenes used the streets of Athens as his blog and was not concerned with anonymity. it appears that only anonymous contributors are posting to this blog, and, except for myself, only anonymous contributors are responding. while anonymity has its good points, in all of the contributions so far the substance of the correspondence does not require anonymity- constructive criticism is always appreciated and carries more weight with a name behind it. for example, in diogenes’ posting below, “Dancing with Zemsky, Inc.” he warns us of a close connection between what he reads into zemski’s writings and into jacobs’ pronouncements and his own interpretation of the BOT’s positions. that is a good warning and certainly subject for debate, here or elsewhere. the only need for anonymity comes in the language he uses. the debate should be around two points:

do zemsky, Jacobs, and the BOT really think of “a perfect world where ideally the managerial demands for a skilled workforce are finally met by a thoroughly privatized higher-education machine that supplies skilled droids promptly in response to these demand.” and

will TLA in its facilitation of the college assessment “take [us] to a mystical place in his zealot mind of [this] perfect world.”

i think that is a vast oversimplification of zemsky’s writings and most of the BOT’s feelings about higher education. most CEOs will tell you that they want employees at all levels who can think critically for themselves and make their voices heard within the company. of course there are very famous exceptions in various whistleblower cases. when one actually sits down and talks with these people, including Jacobs, one finds that the conversation is interesting and thoughtful. now, i know that as far as contract negotiations were concerned, the administration often did something different from their conversation. i also know that the BOT and jacobs have concerns about streamlining the curriculum. but, the assessment process as documented by TLA provides an ideal environment for our voices to be heard. if we take the path of refusing to participate as diogenes suggests, we deserve what we get. cynicism is fine in its place, but not to the point of disengagement simply on the basis of cynicism. we will have plenty of opportunity to scream if the assessment report either misquotes the roundtable discussion (which TLA would be foolish to do), or if the administration refuses to engage with that part of the report that it does not like. the assessment will make our concerns public in a way that the administration cannot pretend it did not hear.

now, back to the blog- I am sure that most readers know that blog postings only represent the minds of the individual posters. however, when a forum designed for council expression becomes dominated by the voices of one or two people using virulent or sarcastic language under the cover of anonymity, it can be, and probably is, interpreted as “the nature of the A&S council at UT” by the outside world whether we like it or not. those of us in council know what council is like. this blog, plus the published minutes (which are much more difficult to find and much less lurid to boot), is all that the outside sees. some people will say “great- they believe in freedom of speech and give the naysayers a forum” others will say “who are these people? children?” we will have discussion and vote as to how to proceed at out next council session. suggestions are welcome.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Dancing with Zemsky, Inc.

This is an advanced seminar in Zemsky/TLA Inc. for those who have read his “Remaking the American University: Market-Smart and Mission-Centered,” and for those who are interested in applying more critical thinking to why TLA is now investigating our A&S College and discussing the implications of this investigation for present and future A&S and UT students, faculty and staff.

Make no mistake: Dr. Zemsky, CEO of The Learning Alliance (TLA) is a dangerous zealot. The book suggests it is so. This recent Zemsky speech leaves no doubt.

Also read here:

Zemsky’s TLA should be called “The Free Market Core of Social Engineers, Specializing in Transformative Change for Public Higher Education.” His mantra to higher education administrators over the last decade has been “dancing with change” to which he has now in desperation added “on the side of the angels”! Glory Be!

Dr. Zemsky is dangerous because he does not trust the American public to demand “transformative change” in public higher education quickly enough to serve his ideological agenda. Frustrated with public complacency he advocates instead “top-down” change and advises like-minded thinkers like our own Board of Trustees to make change happen quickly. We recognize here the same sort of privatizing free market mentality that serves greed and fosters corruption and is ruining the global economy at present (see today’s Wall Street Journal).

Zemsky is a dance instructor who teaches his own twelve-step – a sort of rollerball tango -- to presidents, provosts deans, chairs and directors of administrations of public higher education. Let Zemsky et al have their way here at UT and the outcome will not be pretty for the A&S College and its liberal arts tradition. At present it looks like our next TLA visitors will be Dr. Joan Girgus, Professor of Psychology from Princeton University, who specializes in quantitative measures in Assessment. I would ask her: “How to you statistically assess the power of poetry to shape character and civic responsibility?” “How to you assess the complex dynamics of student, faculty and staff morale?” Plus a zillion other hard questions about "quality" assessment in benchmarking begging to be asked. The other TLA visitor is Dr. Susan Shaman of the Peach Bottom Group who specializes in – wait for it -- Board/Trustee Relations! As we already know, Dr. Robert Zemsky, TLA CEO specializes in Institutional Mission. He probably had a hand, indirectly, in ghost-writing our own Mission Statement to suit his ideal timetable for transformative change in public higher education, which is now playing out here at UT– though temporarily bogged down by some unexpected A&S “bad behavior”-- in its “Directions” implementation stage. Which is why TLA is here; to get our ducks in a row.

The term “transformative change” and its explicit and implicit threats to public higher education have been around on this campus for some time. A&S Council specifically considered its virtues and vices in their “Resolution Adopted at the Special Meeting of the Arts & Sciences Council on October 19, 2006.” In retrospect I see a pattern of aggressively systematic transformative change here that begins several years ago with the BOT hire of The Good Dr. Johnson, includes the opportuistic and hastily contrived UT/MUO merger, continues with the hires of President Jacobs, Provost Haggett, ex-Dean Lee, and is now immersing our A&S College in TLA investigations and indignities. These days I wince every time I hear our Provost use the term “transformative change” (and she does so A LOT), because I, like you, have read up on Zemsky ideology and TLA benchmarking rhetoric which depend on successfully proselytizing that phrase and all it implies as it is reason for their own enterprising existence (read $82,ooo plus expenses, and counting ...) . I think "transformative change"s time is past, and its idea and underlying assumptions are clearly bankrupt as demonstrated by current trends in the marketplace of goods, services, ideas and institutions. Why does our BOT enthusiastically embrace trends in the marketplace long after they have begun to fail elsewhere?

For A&S citizens, and especially for those on the TLA Roundtable, dancing with Zemsky Inc. means the sort of “transformative change” you suffer by giving into his demands to lead, which entitles him guide you anywhere he chooses and meanwhile permits his clients to step on your toes. His guidance will take you to a mystical place in his zealot mind of a perfect world where ideally the managerial demands for a skilled workforce are finally met by a thoroughly privatized higher-education machine that supplies skilled droids promptly in response to these demand. No independent critical thinking humans will be welcome in a Zemsky dystopia of our futuristic workplace. Expendable and loyal worker ants who hoe the row for low wages ONLY need apply. Do you too want to be on “the side of the angels” in this epic battle for the soul of public higher education? Then trust Zemsky Inc. and the TLA, the UT BOT, and the Jacobs Administration top to bottom and that you will be kindly herded (no cattle prods, please!) to a good place and not to a bad place.

No thanks! The whole TLA scenario unfolding takes me on a walk across our lovely main campus to gaze from a bridge upon the present Ottawa River. As you all know, we have always had this little river on campus, The Ottawa. Its name, like the campus it flows through, once upon a time sung of our UTraditions, and of peaceful, productive times in the not-so-distant past that many of us concerned student, faculty and staff in the A&S College cherish loyal to that Tradition fondly recall and strive to preserve as a living memory to pass on to future A&S students, faculty and staff. Several decades ago some bigwig in the Army Corps of Engineers had a bad idea and transformed the original river with its unique historic character and rustic identity, and its profound educational message, into a muddy ditch, lean and mean -- just because he could. The Truth of that river could not drown out his power. That bucolic river was deliberately engineered to speed right through the campus on some mindless journey rather than allowed to remain in its God-given majesty and allowed to continue to meander through UT and its productive educational community while on its own contemplative journey through time. This history of our river provides now a timely lesson in the error of “transformative change.” What happened to the Ottawa on campus is that some powerful hydraulic engineer’s wet dream came true. The story has irony: now UT planners want to “restore” the Ottawa River Tradition on campus to its bucolic state. They hope to recapture some of its inspirational charm and educational virtue. I hope they succeed, but the creative destructions of misguided transformative change writ large are almost impossible to reverse once entrenched.

I also hope that informed A&S faculty TLA Roundtable Alliance members, having 1) read up on the Zemsky ideology, and 2) recognized his mystical zeal for top-down “transformative change,” and 3) become increasingly concerned that they too have been duped or seduced into becoming essential parts of a TLA-scripted and BOT-endorsed self-justifying benchmarking process, will now consider politely recusing themselves on moral and ethical grounds from any further participation in this sordid TLA process.

The Last Word

This will be a difficult story to write. First the good Dr. Tinkle has decided to quit participating for a while. The reasons are varied but they boil down to whether my participation in this blog is helping or hurting. At this point it seems to be the latter. That is unfortunate. Some in the administration will see this as a victory. Any time free speech is threatened it hardly represents a victory. Some will see this as cowardice; that Dr. Tinkle is running away from his/her principles. There comes a point when in fact a format is not longer affective and I believe I have reached such a point. I still deny the statement was in any way racist. Those who know Dr. Tinkle no that to be true. But if that were the only reason I would continue to blog. However, since the last entry in which Dr. Tucker suggested wider participation and the publication of interview results, the following has happened. He has received one e-mail and the blog facilitator has received nothing. Where the hell are you people??? If this constitutes the faculty interest, then we are lost. There is no sense in having roundtables or even square ones.

There are important issues that need to be on that table. What are they? Let me give you a few.
1. What kind of student body are we going to have? Yes I know no one likes to discuss this, but it is necessary. It's easy to retain bright students and if retention is going to matter what will that do to our grading? Will we be rewarded for passing as many as possible? This is a real issue about what a university education really is.
2. Are we a social service agency, an educational institution or both?
3. Who will be rewarded and for what will they be rewarded?
4. Will we ever see full-time tenure track faculty lines in the Arts, Humanites and Social Sciences?
5. If STEMM is supposed to push Ohio's economy, how come all our previous science, math, engineering and medical graduates did not succeed in doing that? Is there a critical mass that we have to achieve? Who will educate the entreprenuers who are not STEMM majors?

This is but a short list and I'm sure someone will read something nasty into something that was said: tough cookies, get a life.

This blog is a necessary communication feature, but only if you use it. If we do not address these and many other issues, all will be decided for us. And in the end they will say they did it with our participation. I will be back, but only when I see some usefullness in participating that will not damage the efforts being made by some of you.
Dr. Tinkle

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Response to charges

Dr. Tinkle has been accused of being racist because in my latest effort I suggested that admissions had been recruiting alums from Lucasville. This charge has come from None who blogs at None claims the reference was to our minority student population. First, the reference was not meant racially. If it was taken that way I apologize. Second, in his comments, None must be assuming that the only alums of Lucasville are minorities. How racist is that? What this really represents is an attempt to sidetrack the issue by bringing up one small part of my previous entry and attaching the charged word racisim to it. The real issue addressed by my last blog had to do with the interview process. That process has remained rather secretive. LAH has suggested you go find a participant. For some, and some departments or programs, that is more easily said than done. In my never ending effort to supply information to the masses I, the one and only Dr. Tinkle, have done that for you. I went looking and came upon Dr. David E. Tucker an associate professor in the Communication Department. Rather than give you information second hand, I am turning over the remainder of this entry to him. He will review how he obtained a spot on the panel and exactly what went on in the interview process. Dr. Tucker:

First things first. I obtained a spot on the roundtable by asking for a spot on the roundtable. I also asked two colleagues to write e-mails in support of my candidacy. While I won't bore you with all the details, I have a background and publications in the areas of curriculum and assessment. I was also the Head of the Courses, Curricula and Administrative Division of the Broadcast Education Association. This is the national organization most closely allied with what I teach.

Now on to the information you are probably most interested in--the interview. I spent an hour with Ann Duffield. In an interesting sidelight she was on campus for the Pew Roundtables back in the mid nineties. We had a wide-ranging discussion that I will attempt to condense. But, before I start that let me give you my e-mail, campus phone and office address so that if you have questions you can contact me easily. 2172 I reside at 4740-C University Hall. In our discussion I raised what I thought were several essential issues. First, I believe we are charging university prices for a community college education. That is not true in all departments but with the ever increasing number of lecturers and visiting professors I see it as a distinct possibility. Second, I told her I believe there is difference between obtaining a degree and getting an education. We are being pushed in the direction of becoming a diploma mill in some areas. She asked two questions. First she wanted five words that I would use to describe the college. These are the five: underappreciated, underfunded, community college-ish, argumentative, and self-absorbed. Why I specifically chose these five and not others will make for a hearty debate. It is a debate I am willing to openly engage in. Second, she asked where I wanted to see the college in 2018. I told her I wanted to see a communication department in 2018. We both laughed. I told her I wanted to see a more intellectually rigorous college, known for its academics. She then asked what three things I thought were necessary to achieve this vision. I said we should quit worrying about retention. We should pay for the best and brightest students we can find and not just in the natural sciences. Finally I said we need to recruit scholar/teachers and pay them to stay. As a sidelight to this we discussed branding. It is my personal opinion that universities do not create brands--they have them assigned. To this end if the University of Toledo and the College of Arts and Sciences want to be known as something other than a place to get the diploma and get on with life, then we must begin to act like a major college and demand resources that will take us there. Ms Duffield offered the opinion that departments and colleges needed to do more for themselves. While I agreed to a point noting that my own department now had made some efforts in that area, I did say the problem was faculty. While a social science department may raise some funds, there is hardly enough grant money out there to start our own faculty lines. That has to come from the central administration. We parted friends, I think. My impression is that the Learning Alliance really believes itself to be a facilitator and not an evaluator. I will now make a request. In the interest of open dialogue, I believe all the other 34 participants should likewise inform the faculty of their interviews. Rather than having the Learning Alliance do a synopsis of what they claim was present in the interviews, we can judge for ourselves and perhaps begin to draw some of own conclusions or at the very least begin to examine some possible directions. To that end I suggest you all send your summaries to Brian Patrick the blog facilitator. He will be more than happy to help in this effort at an open dialogue. I thank you for this opportunity to inform my colleagues.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The interview

Dr. Tinkle knows that Larry has sent an e-mail out to all explaining what went on in the interview, but bless his heart he has it all wrong. I have it on good authority that interviewees were thrown into a darkened room, had one bright light flashing in their eyes and were forced to listen to Donnie and Marie records for an hour. At this point they confessed to the following items:

1. Forcing the move from quarters to semesters.
2. Being behind the hiring of Vic K.
3. Telling Dan Johnson that the merger was a great idea and how he could sell us all down the river.
4. Encouraging the Board to NOT do a national search because an ex-marine surgeon was a perfect fit.
5. Telling admissions they should really recruit more Lucasville alums.
6. Being in charge of the Browns offense.

Actually even under duress they did not admit to that last item.

While LAH gives a fairly decent rundown of the interview process, (so I've been told) it does strike the good Dr. Tinkle that perhaps a meeting dedicated strickly to a discussion of the interviews would have been a good idea. It is probably important to ask these folks real questions about what they believe the college should be doing and how the college is going to get there. After all, they do represent us.

Finally, my sources tell me that Ann Duffield was very plain about this not being a college evaluation. That word has been tossed around a lot. For those of us who grew up in the sixties, think brainstorming session. LAH is correct in that this is or should be, just the beginning. Dr. Tinkle, however, still has this little voice saying, "The administration will read into this whatever it wants."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Deconstruct this!

This is the dustjacket image from the Zemsky et al book. I'll go first. "It is woman of color graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with her eye on the prize. She is trained to make big bucks as a trader on Wall Street. She has an enormous college loan debt because her university said she was its customer, which offered her control over her career path if she would agree to pay tuition for four years. So she did. It seems like a solid contract: an expensive college education in exchange for a high-paying job. "Indeed" she is thinking: "if my degree doesn't me the job I am trained for, I can just hire a lawyer and sue the university for fraud -- and still pay back my college loans."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The list is out

In my never ending effort to keep everyone thoroughly confused, I have analyzed the list of roundtable participants. The excitement of who was on it had me on the edge of my chair. After seeing the list, there is some belief that throwing my chair is perhaps a good idea. Actually, there are five chairs on the list, so I have a choice. Sociology has been shut out. English almost got shut out but the head of the writing center more or less qualifies. The folks in Art got two spots, and the Provost got two while departments with huge numbers of majors got one: communication and psych. Heck, the community got four spots. Now, to be fair some may have been asked and refused or were unable to participate thereby skewing the results, but it certainly is a fascinating list.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

First Round Table Meeting

As clear as water--polluted water

Well her grace appeared at the A & S meeting last week. Those who attended expecting any real information were real disappointed. The Provost said nothing. Actually she talked quite a while, but really said little. There was (and still is I believe) no comprehensive list of the knights and ladies who are members of the roundtable. There is also a benchmarking study that goes along with all of this, but exactly what is being benchmarked was not revealed. The Provost was asked but claimed not to know exactly what variables were going to be compared. Given that one member said that the benchmarking data used for the salary equity study had to be "cleaned up" after it was received from Institutional Research makes one question the quality of this section of the study. After all, if our data has to be revised, what makes us believe that any of the other institutions data are any better. (Just as an aside, Dr. Tinkle applauds the work of the salary equity folks.) So there you have it--a group of unknown membership and a benchmarking study with unknown variables. Yep, that appearance was quite the song and dance routine. Maybe she's taking lessons from our new interim dean.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A & S Meeting

The Provost will make an appearance today at A & S. She will supposedly discuss the Learning Alliance and the roundtables. I suggest those who have been choosen for this august body refer to themselves as Sir.... or Lady.... It might be nice to find out from her Ladyship of Provost how the body was choosen. It might also be nice to get some sort of operational definition of the problem that's actually being solved. So far this looks like a group in search of a problem, rather than a problem solving group. Having read some of Zemsky's stuff words like market smart and public purpose seem to abound. These words can be stuffed into almost any carton of any size. I also remember reading at some point his statement that universities must regain control of the curriculum from the faculty. This concerns me. Whoever belongs to the "choosen" will have to pay fairly close attention so as not to be overwhelmed by abject nonsense. As with many consultants, if there is no problem then he will create one and "solve" it. I am fearful that we have agreed to participate in our own demise.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

First meeting

At the Arts and Sciences Council meeting I finally discovered why we, as a college, have been so forlorn in our efforts to improve. When our new interim dean was introduced she explained that she had taken both voice and dance lessons. It was a eureka moment for me. We finally have a dean who can really sing and dance. With apologies to Tom Lehrer:

You can't expect the college to win against her foes
With no one in the office who can really tap her toes.

All joking aside, I wish her well.

Now to the business at hand. I wish to thank those who responded to my post about mid-term grades. I was unaware that the original movement came from the Faculty Senate and not the administration. While I will participate, I can't help but wonder that we are still playing at the margins when it comes to improving education. Many still look for a magic bullet that will make everything just fine. After twenty-nine years, I am pretty well convinced there is no magic bullet. There are, however, many magic moments. A colleague once said that education consists of "professors posing interesting questions to interested students." While we are pretty good at the first part, the problem is the second part.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Just for the record

In another blog(utfacultyfirst) I was attacked for implying that mid-semester grades are a waste of time my time, and with being a conspiracy theorist as to why CWA settled. Since it doesn't seem to have been clear to some what I was saying, let me try to blow away the fog. Let's take the mid-semester grade problem. Some believe that I am just lazy. No. I just think that mid-semester grades are a waste of time. They will not achieve any great leap forward in education. They are merely something an administrator can point to and say, "Wow, look what I did." Just for the record, I explain very carefully to all my students how they can with one division problem figure out where their grade is at any time in the class. When they cannot do the division, I even do it for them. It is not the time involved; it is just one more way of saying to students, "you don't have to work at all." Education is a two-way street. You can lead a student to an education, but you can't make them think.

As to my comments on the CWA. The point was the administration said it would negotiate health care with all the unions at the same time. It did not. This is not a conspiracy. As to why CWA settled, I have no idea and I am not sure you would get an honest answer from anyone. They do not have tenure, I do. This puts their jobs in a much more precarious position than mine. Please note that CWA does not, as far as I know, have a blog. All one has to do is look at the Dixon case and understand that those of us with tenure have an obligation to speak out for those who cannot.

I was also accused in another blog of just wanting to keep the faculty angry. No. What I said was faculty should judge the administration by its actions not its words.

Finally, in that blog (utfacultyfirst) the blogger asked if I also drown kittens. No. I let the butcher take care of that. I merely grill them with a little butter and some garlic.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Welcome Back

Hellooooo Campers: Welcome back to Camp Toledo where the next semester promises fun, excitement and well okay, so we all know better. Anyhow, with the semester starting today and the Democratic Convention beginning, I thought now would be a good time to remind folks that talk is just that--talk. It is action that counts. So let's review. The administration promised that it would engage in Interest Based Bargaining. Then the administration wasted over a year of the Union's time. The administration said it would negotiate health care with all three unions simultaneously and then settled with CWA. (Don't you wish you really knew why CWA settled. Were they threatened with outsourcing and a loss of jobs??? Inquiring minds would love to know.) The administration told our dean that it backed him and then tossed him off like a worn out sock. I say all this because the future Interim Dean and the Provost will make an appearance at tomorrow's Arts and Sciences Council Meeting. Remember these will just be words. It will be the actions of these folks over the next several months that will matter.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

give her a break

Before we become too incensed, I encourage the reading of all documents carefully.
The Senate minutes for 22 April (under the leadership of last year's executive) state, among other things:


The Core Curriculum Committee is recommending a hybrid of this mid-term grade, and early alert grade, and what we are recommending is that for the academic year 2008/09 we initiate a pilot project and invite faculty teaching general education courses to participate. What this would entail is between weeks 4 and 7 the Registrar’s Office would open up the grading system. Faculty teaching gen ed courses would be encouraged to give students who are earning a C+ or lower mid-term grades.


Senator Thompson-Casado: Are you envisioning this for summer courses as well or just Fall semester courses?

Marcia King-Blandford: We just talked about the new academic year.


Chair Floyd: We need to take a vote on whether to take the committee’s recommendation. The motion is to accept the committee’s report and forward this as a project next year. All those in favor please say “aye”. All those opposed, “nay”. The report has been accepted.


Therefore, it would appear that the Senate recommendation for midterm grading starts this fall with letter grades. In addition, it is entirely voluntary.

Now, quoting from the Provost's memo of 2008.08.21:


On April 22, 2008, the Main Campus Faculty Senate accepted a recommendation from the Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee to encourage faculty who are teaching general education courses to assign a midterm grade to those students who are earning a C+ or lower. We know that each of you is committed to the success of your students, especially those first-year undergraduate students whose first semester is a critical time of transition. We are inviting you, therefore, to help us provide a safety net for these students not only by participating in the Faculty Senate recommended midterm grading project, but also by providing midterm grades to all first-year students in all classes.


Midterm grades can be posted between the 4th and 7th week of classes through the Web portal using the self-service for faculty. Self-service grading will open on September 15 and close on October 13. Midterm grades will not show on a student’s academic transcript or become part of their permanent academic record.


That sounds like an invitation to me, not a demand or a requirement. The language is essentially the same as that of the Senate.

We can argue endlessly about whether the Senate action is a resolution or merely an acceptance of a report. It does not matter. The Provost has acted upon a faculty recommendation. That sounds like a refreshing case of faculty governance to me.

We may not approve of the Provost's handling of the dean affair. However, we cannot let that carry over into other policy. Yes, it would have been better if her memo came out earlier. So what. It is voluntary. Besides, I am sure that most faculty will agree with me that final grades (+/- a letter grade) for 90% of our students can be determined within 2 weeks of class activity, given no intervention. Gadzooks! it is not a formal grade! Estimations are OK! There is no need to change syllabi- just tell the students that you are or are not participating in this exercise. Again, quoting from the Provost's memo:


Students should be informed on the syllabus or in another form of writing that midterm grades will be assigned for first-year students who are receiving a C+ or less in a class.


The memo says should, not must.

And finally, we will have many battles ahead, concerning the outcome of the Learning Alliance report, future faculty lines and other resources, more important curricular issues, etc, etc. If we stupidly fight the provost on this one, we REALLY lose our credibility.

Please attend Faculty Senate meetings and voice your concern there. That is where this suggestion came from. I was at that meeting.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Provost's sudden demand for midterm grades

I was shocked and distressed to receive the memo from the Provost this morning regarding a new requirement for midterm grades. It is arrogant and incompetent to send it out only one day before the semester begins when faculty have already prepared their syllabi. What does she do over the summer? She gets paid a high salary for this mismanagement.

1. The main problem of this poorly thought out idea is that it is too late to incorporate it into the syllabus of a course. I have arranged all my courses and coordinated dates for my own grading time and for the Fall break.

2. Apparently the Provost didn't get much practical advice from professors. The fourth week is too early for a student to have grasped the basic concepts, hence a grade is premature. The most that can happen is a few quizzes. The seventh week is more reasonable. The old drop date was the eighth week.

3. In order to assign any grade the professor needs to estimate a curve for all students. This means grading 100 percent.

4. The wording is slippery. It appears to say the Senate recommends grades for the weaker students, but then jumps to saying all students. We need to look at the exact Senate resolution.

5. This strikes me as a case where the Provost will whine that faculty are being uncooperative.

David Davis

College Review Process Gears Up

"The Inquisition Tribunal" by Francisco de Goya.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Interim Dean

The excitement never abates here at UT. We now have an interim dean. According to our Provost she is Data Driven. Oh my. Now I must admit Data was great on Star Trek The Next Generation but I'm not certain it is the adjective I was most looking for in a dean. After some twenty-nine years of college teaching, it has been my experience that universities use data when the data fit what the administration wants done. They ignore data otherwise. There is one other picky little item that bothers me. If our interim dean was on the dean's advisory council, what role did she play? Was she aware of our previous dean's shortcomings and what did she do to try to correct those over the past year? Her credentials seem excellent but limited. She has been an adjunct professor. How much teaching has she actually done and to whom? As we all know there is a great deal of difference between teaching senior pharmacy majors and introductory general education classes. In a time when general education is being attacked it does give me some concern. However, having said this I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt partially because I have no choice and partially because her background tells me she is not a pushover or a puppet.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Interim Dean Poll Results for the Record

Results of the Interim Dean Poll are as follows:

Number of votes cast: 88

Winner: Marietta Morrissey, 35 votes (39%)

Second: Patsy Komuniecki, 19 votes (21%)

Third: Carter Wilson, 13 votes (14%)

Fourth: Michael Dowd, 11 votes (12%)

Fifth: Constantine Theodosiu, 7 votes (7%)

Sixth: Charles Blatz, 3 votes (3%)

And as the Provost always says: Thank you for your input.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Students Issue New F.O.I.A. Requests re A&S Budget

A&S students have sent the following Freedom of Information Act request to university officials:

Mr. Conley,

We have been invited by Dr. Scarborough to review any budget information to our satisfaction. To this offer, we are requesting the following information:

-An itemized breakdown of the budget for the last five years for the College of Arts and Sciences, including items that are designated as "budgeted elsewhere,""designated revenue" and "expenditures" that originate in the Provost's office or else outside of the Board of Trustee's approved budget.

-The 2008-2009 departmental budget breakdown for all colleges in the university and the medical center.

-The ratio of designated budget per FTE student, budget per headcount of students, budget per faculty, expenditures per FTE student, expenditures per headcount of student, and expenditures per faculty for each college in the university.

-All types of revenue generated by each college and the medical center over the past five years. As well as transfers of monies into and out these areas.

-All communications-including presentations and emails-to the Governor, Board of Regents (including Chancellor Fingerhut), any elected official including state or national representatives and state or national senators, and the Board of Trustees by President Jacobs, Scott Scarborough, any Provost, or Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences under Jacobs' tenure discussing the the finances, revenue and budget of the University of Toledo or finances, revenue and budget of any part of the University of Toledo. Included in this request are any emails on the same topics between President Jacobs or Scott Scarborough and the main campus Provost.

Joe, you may see this part of the request as unnecessarily broad, but based on comments by high level administrators we have reason to believe that there may be significant differences in the amounts given for the budget and revenue for the College of Arts and Sciences, as well as the university as a whole, depending on the audience. Because of this we feel we must make this request.

-The monetary amount of scholarships allocated to each college in the university, the monetary amount of scholarships per student in each college in the university, the number of tuition waivers given to students in each college of the university, and the percentage of students in each college who receive tuition waivers and any other financial aid besides student loans or federal grants.

This information will help us to see a clear picture of the state of the finances of the University of Toledo. We request the information be presented in electronic format, on disc; for ease of transportation, lowered environmental impact, and lowered cost. The student organizers can deliver the information to Mockensturm, Ltd. as part of this review, please contact Evan Morrison to clarify any points.

Evan Morrison, on behalf of SSAS