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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.