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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.


Odysseus said...

That Kansas report sounds (1) pollyanna-ish and (2) sycophantic. Vacuum cleaner salespeople have more well-developed, grounded visions that inform their work and purpose. I wonder if L.A. has a form letter for these reports. Eeeeek.

yo, duh! said...

I agree totally with David Tucker, Odysseus (my reaction to the report: can you say “warm and fuzzy”??? yuk!!!), and Diogenes!

Interesting, how UT can come up with the amount of money necessary for TLA services—and Jacobs' "longevity bonus." It's good to know UT can afford all that. But many departments remain understaffed, in terms of both faculty and support staff, and many faculty members are underpaid for the work they do. Facilities? Some faculty offices are so small there's no room for more than one student to meet with the faculty member at one time; some classrooms students meet in might well not pass a health/safety inspection (been in SA lately?)—not to mention (but I will anyway) the classrooms that are decent but technically un(der)equipped, denying students a means of learning with tremendous potential, and one they are experts at using. Increasing teaching loads by raising caps. Main Campus and Scott Park: Expecting faculty to commute between campuses with no mileage compensation (which almost any other business would provide); office access at Scott Park only due to the goodness of the staff over there (no sarcasm intended—they are very nice and as accommodating as they can be there); no phone access there for students unless faculty members use their own cell phones on their own dimes. Little stuff: Automatic doors (ADA) that won't open. Sinks and drinking fountains that have been covered in plastic for years because they don't work. Elevator lights that don’t light up—is it coming or is it broken again? Etc., etc., etc. Nope, can't afford to take care of those things. But we can hire TLA.

So count me in. How do we go on from here?