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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.