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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

Monday, August 4, 2008

on stupidity

here is an interesting editorial in the Chronicle of Education that was passed on to me:
On Stupidity.