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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Go, Tell it on the Mountain!

Our activist A&S tenured and tenure-track faculty at UT have a great opportunity suddenly to get their message out. Lawrence J. Burns, Vice President for External Affairs announced on Friday to all faculty and staff via e-mail that The Chronicle of Higher Education will soon conduct an employee survey called “The Great Colleges to Work for Program.”

All things considered, The University of Toledo administration exhibits tremendous balls for its willingness to participate in this study, which is designed to recognize institutions that have built great workplaces! Mr. Burns notes in his announcement that the employee-participants in this national survey will be “randomly” selected. In spite of my cynicism over the selection process, I hope I am chosen to participate.

The Chronicle of Higher Education is the highest mountaintop from which to tell to the academic world those many reasons why UT is a deliberately hostile environment for dedicated tenured professors to teach these days. There seems no shame in shaming the shameless administration that shames our beloved university. UT has fast become a Dilbert workplace where demoralized tenured professors are shunted into early retirement by ambitious carpetbagger administrators who are, in contrast, offered longevity bonuses to stick around a bit longer! This script resembles even a village pacification campaign in some great jungle war movie. Anyway, I encourage any UT employee who is asked to participate in this survey to let the Chronicle and the world know how much and why the University of Toledo is no longer the “Great College to Work For” that it once was before Jacobs arrived on the scene.

I might add that Eastern Michigan University at this time widely advertizes (billboards are everywhere) the importance of its loyal faculty and staff in its effort to brand itself as the regional “quality” provider of public higher education, as for example here: “The heart of EMU is its people, and many of those people are the dedicated faculty and staff who work every day to ensure that the EMU educational experience is alive and distinctive. The most important things to know about EMU can be found in the people who live and work here. That's why EMU continues to be a destination of choice for so many professionals in every field represented here.” This faculty-friendly and staff-friendly claim can be found here:

http://www.emich.edu/facultystaff/

I don’t want to teach at the University of Michigan, yet I respect their administration for its candid public respect for their faculty and staff, which advertizes to the world its priorities as a state institution of public higher education. I will continue to invest in my career choice to serve my students at UT, to be their accessible and ever-present teacher and mentor, and to work to reform this wretched present administration and its diabolical plans to demolish our fine liberal arts traditions and the continued provision of top-quality, intimate classroom teaching experiences. I want my students to earn their degrees, and to take pride in the process and outcome. I want them to appreciate that the state public higher education choice, the opportunity to earn a degree over the course of four years, is a noble choice and not a desperate choice. I want them succeed in their studies at UT, and twenty years from that achievement, to look back over time and conclude "Those were the best years of my life, and I treasure the experience!" We also owe it to our A&S alumni who are proud of their earned degrees to fight for continued quality in the A&S College, and to increase quality in the future.

Let's grasp this opportunity to shout our protests from the CHE mountaintop, from "over the hills and everywhere," till this present maladministration and mismanagement end, and sanity resumes, and the quality-of-education concept once again prevails over this administration's inept and expensive obsessions with quantity and bean-counting and benchmarking according to the militarist disciplines of a run-amok and morally-corrosive business model.

3 comments:

yo, duh! said...

Sadly, the hostility of the UT environment is not limited to tenured / tenure-track professors! All of us--TT/T, lecturers, part-timers (I dare say, especially the PT-ers!)--and our all-important staff, as well--feel this in different ways as we try to give our students a quality education in spite of what the Powers That Be throw (or allow to be thrown) at us. We're all in this together!

Steve said...

Just to be clear: Eastern Michigan University (a kind of scrappy, former normal school in Ypsilanti) is NOT the same as the University of Michigan (a kind of pretentious, traditional flagship university in Ann Arbor). And also to be clear: while I actually believe in the marketing message coming from EMU, it is marketing. I'm not sure the administration here is that much more "caring" of its faculty and staff than it is at UT or anywhere else.

See EMUTalk.org for a blog kind of similar to this one up north, btw.

Anonymous said...

I retired two years ago after 34 years of service at UT and 16 years service at three other universities. Early in my career here, during the presidencies of Glen Driscoll and Jim McComas , I boasted to my colleagues elsewhere about the quality of academic life here- an administration that not only respected but even tried to care for the faculty, a faculty committed to both teaching an research. In word, for many years I felt that I had made a good choice in coming here, despite reservations about living in the " rust belt " and the university's lack of "snob appeal." I had several opportunities to move elsewhere - as I have some reputation as a scholar - but I turned them down, Well, it's been downhill ever since. My last year at UT left me angry and bitter, and my experiences as retiree have added to my sense of alienation. I won't go into details. I'll simply say that this is a problem the best market campaign in the world couldn't solve. At one time universty administrators were faculty members committed to to life of the life of the mind, , at home in the classroom and laboratory or library ,able to bring to their jobs an understanding of what a university is really all about. It;s been a long time since UT had that kind of leadership, and now faculty experience seems to be a disqualification for candidates for administrative positions - witness the Brady controversy and the less heralded appointment in Arts and Sciences. The present gang are not merely inept, they are openly contemptuous of the faculty . I is a matter of sorrow to me that I can no longer recommend the universty in which I spent the greater part of my professional life to prospective students. When the issue comes up in conversations with friends, I clam up and hope I'm not asked a direct question. I will not speak for this university , let alone give them a dime, until there is new leadership. At one time university presidents w\ere expected to be "gentleman and scholars. " Well , we may not need a gentleman " -there are some fine women academic leaders - but some scholarship and a modicum of good manners would go a long way. Understanding of the intellectual life, respect for the faculty , commitment to real academic values , and a concern for students deep enough to protect them from shoddy programs regardless of the possible profits, these are the qualities so terribly absent at UT. Of the four institutions where I taught during my half century career, UT is the only one which has slid down hill. It's very sad.