Search This Blog

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.