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Thursday, December 17, 2009

A&S Round Table Update

The Roundtable Implementation Committee (RIC) met on December 16 in the A&S College conference room to discuss a “RIC Progress Report Circulation Draft” (hereafter “Report”) dated December 14th. The authors of the Report are Lawrence Anderson-Huang, James Benjamin, Charlene Gilbert, Renee Heberle and Ben Pryor. Other participants at this meeting were Provost R. Haggett, Dean N. McClelland, P. Poplin Gosetti, M. Denham, J. Barlowe, R. Heberle, P. Lindquist, C. Habrecht, R. Chandar, L. Rouillard, D. Nemeth, and D. Tucker.

This was the final scheduled meeting of the RIC. We met to jointly to “fine tune” the Report based on concerns raised and suggestions presented by committee members during previous meetings, and by interested outsiders. As I read over and contemplated on this latest incarnation of the Report in preparation for this meeting I kept in mind that the RIC was originally tasked to articulate clearly and credibly 1) a core identity, 2) a collective vision, and 3) a coherent strategy for our Arts & Sciences College. I also kept in mind how Dean McClelland emphatically and repeatedly directed the RIC to deliver a final Report that will establish our Arts and Sciences College as an “integrative hub” within UT capable of achieving “top-tier ranking” for its academic excellence. The Dean began the meeting by expressing her delight with the Report. She then turned the meeting over to J. Benjamin.

During previous RIC meetings I have voiced my concerns, and sometimes emphatically. I have offered many suggestions hoping to correct what I perceived meeting after meeting as persisting content problems in the developing draft Report documents. I have taken issue repeatedly with their false assumptions, internal contradictions, omissions, and mistakes. I share with you now my disappointment to discover that many of these same problems have persisted into this final draft Report. I think these content problems, unless corrected, will undermine the credibility of the final Implementation Report when widely circulated.

To illustrate and emphasize content problems persisting in this Report I created a “word cloud” (see image above) of the entire December 14 Report document (including its appendices). In this word cloud the top fifty terms used more than three times in the Report are displayed in alphabetical order. Contrasts in word font sizes reveal a measure of “relative importance for key terms used” based on the number of times they appear in the document.

I distributed this word cloud to the RIC at the December 16 meeting and offered up a few interpretive comments and examples. For instance, the term “excellence” does not appear in the word cloud. A subsequent word search of the document reveals that "excellence" does not occur as much as three times within the entire document. Further investigation reveals that “excellence” appears twice in the Report, both times in reference to improving Graduate Studies in the A&S College. The Report completely ignores the Dean's directive to systematically infuse academic excellence into the A&S College undergraduate experience. How can A&S College achieve “top-tier academic ranking” in the future without an aggressive commitment to the pursuit of undergraduate academic excellence in the present? Note that “top-tier” is another term that does not appear in this Report’s word cloud because it appears but once in the entire Report.

Also, search the current Report's word cloud in vain to find the term "lecturers". What sort of credible A&S College strategic planning can these days ignore their existence?

Note how the term “integrative” looms fairly large in the word cloud. The Report asserts that “integrative hub” is the RIC-designated Identity for the A&S College. Fine. Yet nowhere in the report is the term “integrative” defined! Around the meeting table I heard many times that “integrative does NOT mean interdisciplinary!” Yet no one on the RIC ever defined "integrative" though the question was raised many times. I suggested the dire need for a glossary in this Report because it can never fly while burdened with such vague terminology.

I invite you to study, analyze and interpret the image of the RIC Implementation Report content and what (and who) it represents, infers, implies and empowers. Do your own content analysis. Reach your own conclusions.


yo, duh! said...

Thank you for--once again--making available to us a straight-shooting, to-the-point report on these meetings.

Grundoon said...

It seems today every type of document of similar purpose as the Report get stuffed full of buzz-words that people have heard so many times that they simply make up their own meanings to.
A glossary at the end, which at first seemed like a humorous suggestion, seems to be simply invaluable when documents are bursting at the seems with these vague buzz-words. I for one would love to see how the RIC defines these words, as Merriam-Websters defines integrative as : serving to integrate or favoring integration : directed toward integration
At any rate I am pleased (I think...) that the RIC is working towards being integrative.
All silliness aside I am eagerly awaiting the day I can read the infamous Report.

Little Bird said...

Thank you once again Dr Nemeth. You may be the only true reporter on this event. My own fears are three: (1) that this report is going to be used by imperial administrators to try to end run Arts and Sciences Council (someone referred to a creating a "RUMP COUNCIL" at the last ASC meeting, and (2) it is so vague that administrators will use it to justify their further resource depredations on the Arts and Sciences College-while claiming that because some faculty were on the committees (an unrepresentative lot) that faculty assented to this. I can see this current dean, who increasingly appears merely as an apologist for her betters, saying "You had your chance to participate, now we implement." (3) the steering committee is and has been so heavily weighted with administrators and wannabes that it amounts merely to group-think unchained.

yo, duh! said...

And the vagueness mentioned in Little Bird's (2) allows the administration, or whoever ends up with the power and control, to define anything and everything as they want, to their benefit, regardless of what really went on and was said.

sirLawrence said...

OK, free-speech board-
In all fairness, it should be mentioned that the administration has had a hands-off presence in the entire process (except for the hiring of the LA in the first place). The only substantive comment by the provost has been "be aggressive". At least 45 faculty have participated and formulated the result. We are not all "wannabes".

Anonymous but not Naive said...

Sir Lawrence:

Is the fly informed of the purposes of the spider? You talk like a rube in a casino who thinks he will retire on his winnings when it's really set up so the house always wins.

If you are who I think you are, you were present when the president announced the "evaluation" of the college, that was a response to "badly behaving" faculty, mentioned in his FOIAed emails. Zemsky worked for him and "facilitated" the early roundtables. Look at the present steering committee, too. Remember Brady and other selected contributors?

You are adopting the same explanation that administration will use to shove this set of ambiguous principles down the throats of faculty--namely that it was a democratic effort by faculty and is therefore legitimate; that faculty has made all this and has therefore agreed to whatever is done in its name. "Implementation" cries the Dean. But you should of all people well know that this will be used by top down administrators to bypass Council, all in the name of faculty.

It would be fine if these principles were released to departments--who would then formulate their own initiatives based upon them, and them come to Council with them as curriculum and program changes. All would support this.

But I think the vagueness of the report at it is presently shaping up, will combine with the unrepresentativeness of its authors and the harshly prescriptive tendencies of this administration to allow them to further starve the College and divert its resources. Accreditation is coming up. How do you think Arts and Sciences will fair? I am worried we will become no more than a community college, something which Owens already does better.

And I agree with several voices that have questioned how this set of principles is going to achieve excellence. Most of the the foremost voices that have become barkers for the roundtable have never themselves achieved anything that could be reasonably described as "excellence." Now they prescribe excellence? This is absurd.

And a last note--the roundtable seems to have been the Provost's idea from the beginning. Recall that this was mentioned in the original letter by Jacobs that announced formally its creation. She merely delegated the steering. This is not hands off.

sirLawrence said...

dear ABNN-
yes, i am who you think i am.
on representation:
of the 56 people who contributed to the document,
4 are from the community
7 are administrators (including associate and assistant deans)
20 are chairs or directors
21 are full professors
17 are associate professors
4 are assistant professors
1 is a student
15 are in math and science
11 are in humanities
12 are in social sciences
7 are in fine and performing arts
(+/- 1)
about excellence...
it comes in many forms.
i would not doubt the sincerity or qualifications of any of the above, and many are nationally recognized figures.
we may all be naive, but we see opportunity when it presents itself.
-lawrence anderson-huang

Anonymous but not Naive said...


Yes Lawrence, there is a Santa Claus, but your belief in the Roundtable suggests a, extraordinarily high level of gullibility. Or are you running for office now? You have done exactly what I said the administration would in fact do regarding the roundtable--declare it a democratic effort when it was and remains stacked, a top-down mandate.

I quote now a previous commentator on the blog, a respectable professor whose earnestness and abilities are generally acknowledged:

"I was a member of the original A&S Roundtable that met a year ago. It had many good and sincere faculty members, and a few people like Tom Brady who knew nothing of undergraduate education and had no business being there. There ARE some good things in the Zemsky Report, but it was HIS report, not OUR report, and I fear that the implementation of any portion of the report is being driven by a VERY small group of people, most of them administrators or faculty members with administrative ambitions.

"From what I have heard, the Extended Roundtable Retreat in early May (in the middle of final-exam week!) was a joke. A close friend and colleague attended the “Teaching Modalities” session. There was only ONE session, attended by only 6-8 people, and lasting for a couple of hours, tops. My colleague described the session as a somewhat interesting and wide-ranging discussion, but not one that really reached any definite conclusions.

"Here’s my basic question: how can any group of roughly half a dozen people, meeting for only a couple of hours, come up with a plan to address teaching needs in the College?? (Side question: why isn’t the discussion about LEARNING needs, which is really what everything we do is supposed to be about?)."

Yes, Lawrence, there are some excellent people on the list you gave, but they had little to do with writing this report. The writers are a small and very unrepresentative group. In fact, who are you representing? I suspect many on the list you gave would not like having their name linked to the report. Also, people on the roundtables have complained they their clearly voiced concerns are being ignored by the writers.

Merry Christmas.

Anonymous said...

One of the things I--as a lecturer--really appreciate about your report is that you mention lecturers and our importance:
"Also, search the current Report's word cloud in vain to find the term "lecturers". What sort of credible A&S College strategic planning can these days ignore their existence?"
We lecturers--and part-timers--bear the brunt of the grunt work. We teach many of the classes students need to take upper-level courses from assistant, associate, and full professors--many of whom would likely not want to teach these courses. (But I would not want their responsibilities, either.) I'd be interested to see the percentage of classes taught by part-timers, lecturers, and tenured/tenure track faculty. It's great that you included us--thanks!

Anonymous said...

While waiting for the publication of the roundtable report, let me make bold to suggest that there's a fundamental standard by which such documents should be judged. A good academic plan enables and empowers good people - faculty and students alike - to do good work in the classroom, laboratory, library and community. A bad plan sets up roadblocks in the way of good work. And what is good work? Newman tells us that for a university, to do good work is to contribute to the training of the intellect, nothing more, nothing less. I don't think the past decades of strategic planning exercises, encounter groups and roundtables have done anything to improve on that definition. All too often they've done the opposite. In any case, universities do not achieve excellence through the quality of their planning documents. Excellence requires a faculty and student body passionately committed to what is sometimes called "the life of the mind. " But everyone Knows that . Don't they ?

Anonymous said...

Hello Lawrence. Please correct me if I am wrong: Full-time tenure-track and tenured faculty at UT have full-time professional obligations as defined in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. According to the CBA a portion of their myriad faculty professional obligations are to “accept their share of faculty responsibilities in the academic governance of the University.” This important faculty function is termed voluntary participation in “shared governance.”

However, faculty serving officially in UT administrator positions – as chairs, program directors, special administrative assignments, and so on – are not members of the t/t-t faculty bargaining unit. This would seem to be for good reason, because they could not possibly meet their full-time (teaching, research and service) professional obligations as defined in the CBA if they were officially designated as holding administrator positions. They are instead faculty-on-official-leave-of-their-full-time duties who choose for various reasons to officially function as administrators, with most receiving extra compensation for doing so. They have willingly opted out of the faculty bargaining unit in order to be administrators.

The reward system for administrators is quite apart from strict and transparent CBA faculty compensation and promotion standards. Administrator performance is measured in murky metrics and involves bonuses and perks for obscure services rendered. An A&S College t/tt faculty member in an administrative position must in the first instance demonstrate loyalty and be beholding to the code and conduct of the UT Administration and subject both to its values and its whims.

In consideration of the above, let’s sort out the apples and oranges in the “contributors” list you have provided. Let apples represent CBA-covered faculty volunteers to the Round Table. Let oranges represent either A&S College faculty holding administrative positions and assigned to the Round Table (and not covered by the CBA) or the Administration’s selected appointee-contributors to the Round Table:

“of the 56 people who contributed to the document”

4 are from the community = 4 oranges (I assume Dr. Brady is counted among these)

7 are administrators (including associate and assistant deans) = 7 oranges

20 are chairs or directors = 20 oranges

21 are full professors = of which the vast majority are oranges

17 are associate professors = of which the vast majority are oranges

4 are assistant professors = let’s call them all apples in the event they were volunteers and not selected to serve by the Administration

1 is a student = orange

The five authors of the final Round Table Implementation document working hand in glove with Dean McClelland are (not surprisingly) all oranges.

My rough tally is 15 or so apples tops and 40 (minimum) oranges.

There is in this grocers basket no rational argument in support of Dean McClelland’s incredible claim that the Round Table Report document is “entirely faculty driven.” This is a claim you apparently persist to support, and for reasons I can no longer fathom.

Anonymous said...

"[w]e may all be naive, but we see opportunity when it presents itself. -lawrence anderson-huang

Thus this desperate Roundtable faculty-administrator huddle around the A&S College lifeboats!

Anonymous said...

What happened to the Christmas graphic and post?

Anonymous said...

Farewell Peaceful Respite and Holiday Cheer!

There’s more work to be done to ensure the New Year
Does not let Greed and Ambition grind this College to shame.

Let us strive to achieve “top-tier ranking” and fame!
Will A&S College opt for Excellence now? Or, in short,

Will we become Northwest Ohio's remedial institution of last resort????

sirLawrence said...

happy new year to all!
i certainly am enjoying the commentary in this thread :^) instead of categorizing the writers by paycheck classification (which does not imply anything about motivation), we could also classify the writers according to # who have active scholarship work, # who have active teaching work, and # who have active service work (all overlapping descriptions). but rather than worrying about the writers, how about criticizing the content constructively? the public document will be out soon... it will always be a document in progress and amendable.
-lawrence a-h

Little Bird said...

Sir Lawrence:

Apparently you haven't actually read much of what commentators have said re the content of the report. Discussions of content (and its substantive lack) in the roundtable report has been ongoing.

And now the Dean has pushed a timeline for implementation of this nonsense.