Thursday, January 28, 2010
Question: How many administrators does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: Not known. One custodian can do the physical labor but an unknown number of administrators will spend days trying to blame the blog for the light going out. Remember, if the lights go out around here, we had no control of the budget.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
A lot of faith has been placed in the twin concepts of integrative learning and technology. Historically, I just don't see those as having provided any great changes in American higher education. Both will take resources. As many of you know, resources make a college. With them, over time, you can develop a reputation as a quality institution. Without them, students will begin to believe they are attending a community college. Resources need to be used to recruit and retain high quality faculty and students. How one organizes or even teaches the curriculum rarely determines the quality of an institution.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Monday, January 25, 2010
Sunday, January 24, 2010
1) College of Arts & Sciences ‘Roundtable’ Update
2) Strategic Balance between Open Enrollment and Elevated Admission Standards.
The pairing up of these two topics on the BOT agenda emphasizes the significance of their relationship, but inexplicably places the cart before the horse. Any feasibility of The Round Table Report as an implementation document rests on the degree to which it is possible to strike some sort of strategic balance between A&S College’s open enrollments and its quest to achieve a “top-tier” academic ranking in the future.
The Monday timing of the BOT discussion of the Round Table Report is worse than unfortunate. BOT members at the time of their meeting will have no knowledge of how A&S Council members, who meet on Tuesday to discuss the Round Table Report, articulate their own reactions to the document and its relation to open enrollments.
The BOT and A&S Council are admittedly an odd couple, but they need to partner up soon and synchronize their discussions of open admissions and the Round Table Report. Right now they are dancing too far apart.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
1. Will it be published so that all A & S Faculty will have a chance to comment on it?
2, Will this opportunity occur before you take this report to the Board of Trustees?
3. Will approval of core classes remain with A & S Council?
4. Will A & S Council have a chance to approve the Report before the Report goes to the Board of Trustees?
In two pages, no less....
Monday, January 18, 2010
For example, last week’s Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE)includes an article titled “Scooped! Student News Blogs Challenge College Papers for Big Publication on Campuses” by Marc Parry; view the video version of the story, “Penn State Students Build a Blog Empire,” here:
We discover that there is a “brand new style of publication on college campuses” involving “unruly” entrepreneurial blogs. “Upstart” blog owners are described as “taking new media and pushing it to the limits of legitimacy.” Student blog owners claim “transparency is the new objectivity” in their innovative online social media news reporting. Their underground newspapers are global, and run “on passion rather than formal structure.” More profound, the blog owners interviewed by CHE (calling themselves “a blogging fraternity”) viewed their campus information market (before their forced entry into it) a despotic “duopoly” for information dissemination.
Here at UT, there seems also to be a duopoly of news dissemination: The two official producers of information are UTNews (a million-dollar Administration-owned/managed operation) and the Independent Collegian newspaper. Both of these newspapers have their own blogs in addition to their hard-copy newspapers.
A third news blog has been operating successfully “underground” during the past three years, gradually gaining popularity among A&S College faculty, students, staff and alumni, many of whom have posted on its pages. This third blog is now privately owned and called the “Arts and Sciences College Forum” (A&SCF) blog. A disclaimer on its home page makes clear it is not an official University of Toledo Arts and Sciences blog site. There is in fact no official A&S College blog site! The A&SCF blog by default fills an inexplicable information void that exists on the UT campus. Meanwhile, A&SCF bloggers exhibit the same sort of “passion” and commitment to disseminating news in creative ways and for exploring uncharted and unregulated modes of expression in cyberspace that characterize the student bloggers described in the CHE article and video.
This particular part of the CHE article pertains directly to a major argument in the petition that condemns the A&SCF blog: “For image-conscious universities, such popularity raises the question of how officials should react to unofficial student Web sites that take advantage of their brands.” One way would be to purturbate acrimonious peer pressures (student against student/faculty against faculty) in the hopes of exterminating the unruly blogs.
Since the petition seems to manifest a totally naïve “sandbox politics” uncharacteristic of our freedom-loving university faculty, I am more inclined to believe the advent of organized A&SCF blog-hate at this time is a red herring and thus a deliberate distraction contrived by a zealous Round Table Implementation Report strike force attempting to push the Report past those A&S faculty who have not yet read it, nor read the informed critiques of the Round Table process generating the Report as posted in the A&SCF blog over the past three years.
The apparently blog-challenged petitioners do not like easily accessible informed critiques of the Roundtable process and Implementation Report posted on the A&SCF blog. They seem maliciously intent on killing the messenger.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Now that we have that out of the way let's examine yesterday's train crash at Arts & Sciences between this blog and the Round Table Report. The meeting was a case of making mountains out of molehills and molehills out of mountains. Beginning with the former, there seems to be a group (one has no idea how large or small) that finds this blog offensive. They have raised the straw man that because of the blog's name people from all over the country are somehow seeing this page, drawing dastardly conclusions about the university and never setting foot on our fair campus. They demanded the blog be taken down, or, at the very least it change its name and URL. They were concerned that when you Google Arts and Sciences this is the second thing you find. My imediate answer is to just say no, but I will take time to elaborate. I've checked the data. No one from off campus is reading this blog. We and this university do not make anyone's radar. I'm sorry to inform you but we just aren't that important. Surprise, surprise, but the inner workings of the College of Arts & Sciences just don't matter to many people, including those members of A & S Council who wondered what on earth all the fuss was about. The University of Toledo has a million dollar public relations machine. We have this blog. We are not going anywhere.
Top universities result from three things: the quality of their students/graduates, the quality of their faculty (teaching and research) and the amount of resources the university has to throw at the first two. This brings me to my previous statement about making a molehill out of a mountain. The Round Table report has taken the major problem of this college, resources, and ignored it. We have been told our future lies in integrative programs and new teaching methodologies/technologies. I have given reasons elsewhere on this blog as to why I believe these answers to be wrong. We have spent over a year-and-one-half of our time and produced what I believe to be marginal results while the administration has refused to even supply a faculty member to Foreign Language to help with the Confuscious Institute. That action alone should have said volumes to A & S Faculty. In the twenty-two and one-half years I have been a member of A & S faculty, the tenured and tenure track faculty in the Humanities, Social Sciences and Arts have been decimated. Until those resources and returned, you can produce reports till the cows come home and your programs will not improve. You can have as many integrative programs as your little heart desires, but if the Titanic's side is still caved in all you've done is rearrange the deck chairs.
Monday, January 11, 2010
I wish to thank Dr. Tinkle for the loan of his/her computer for this purpose. Dr. Tinkle is right about one thing--it is time to get serious. First, let me acknowledge the time and effort that has gone into this report. There has been a lot of work done; the question is, to what end? I asked at the original round table meeting what problem it was we were trying to solve? I received no answer. I still have not received an answer. I have been told that we are remaking the college for the next however many years; and, that this document will provide us with that path. The assumption always been that this is a good idea. I do not believe the assumption to be either right or wrong, merely misguided. Inherent in any organizational change (and make no mistake that is where this will go), is that the outcome will result in something better, not just different. It also assumes a certain level of power, authority and control over students in order to make those outcomes reality. This last assumption is just not correct. Please allow me an example. One of the things that media researchers have concluded is that it is very difficult to determine exactly what an audience will do with any particular content. When All in the Family premiered it was generally believed that the character of Archie Bunker would make racists realize just how stupid they appeared. Actually the opposite happened with a particular audience segment; something of a complete surprise to the producers. The assumption is that integrative programs and new teaching methods (generally involving technology of some type) will inherently improve the outcomes realized by our student body. This is a dubious assumption. They may be slightly different graduates because they have been exposed to slightly different information packaged in slightly different ways, but it is not likely to result in "better" graduates.
I also have a problem with what is not in the report. As has been pointed out elsewhere, there is no glossary, nor any effort to define terms. There are also no footnotes or citations of any type. We are told that intergrative studies is the next best thing to heaven, but no research is provided. We are told that technology can be used to better our students' performances but again there are no citations. There is no bibliography. Knowing where things have been tried and on what scale seem to me at least to be relatively important in this context.
The other missing item has to do with student responsibility. Nowhere in the document is there any statement about what students need to do. It is all on us. It is all our fault if they fail. We have just not found the magic bullet to reach them. The report has an overwhelming faith in the magic bullet called technology. You can find the same kind of statements made at the introduction of radio, television and the computer. They were all going to improve education.
The report also talks about rewards for a variety of things, primarily "innovative" teaching. Where are they getting the money? Remember this is an administrative bunch that refused to fight for a faculty position for Foreign Language so they could house the Confuscious Institute. And, the Institute was deemed extremely important by our dean.
I have one other comment before returning control to Dr. Tinkle. There seems to be a general rush to get this approved by the administration. Why? What happens next? Once the report has been approved, exactly what happens and when? It would not surprise me to see significant portions of the College reorganized by the end of this semester. That was the original goal of Dean Lee. Now if anyone complains, the administration will point to this report and say, rightly or wrongly, that they had lots of faculty input during the process.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Apparently A&S Council members and the A&S faculty at large will not be asked or required to approve or disapprove of the final Report (which is still being revised). Instead, Dean McClellan will release the Report for wide distribution across campus as a "for your information only" item. Meanwhile it will move up the “official” ladder of higher administration approvals. Approval at the highest level will trigger the implementation phase. The recommendations will be prioritized. An aggressive timetable will be set.
Any implementation strategy for transforming A&S College based on Report recommendations will involve administrative interpretations of the Report, to be used as a transformative tool. The Report is vague in all aspects, and invites abuse. It was supposed to articulate clearly an identity, vision and strategy for A&S College but failed to do so. It is fair to ask:
Is this Report a sophisticated instrument appropriate to fine-tuning the A&S College in its aspirations to achieve top-tier ranking? Or is it a crude hammer?
Two proverbs come to mind immediately:
1) “One of the quickest ways to break something is to fix it when it ain’t broken.“
2) “To the man (sic) with the hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
I believe that the Round Table process might have created a “sophisticated instrument” of a Report – if it had been “entirely faculty driven.” But it was not. This crude hammer of an implementation plan was always administrator-driven. Most faculty involved held administrator rank. The results were predictable: It is well documented that the Jacob’s Administration from its beginning trumpeted that the Arts and Science College is “broken” and that President Jacobs’ personal goal is to fix it. This hostility quickly manifested as the Zemsky TLA Roundtable, micromanaged from the outset to destroy the College rather than build it taller upon solid foundations.
Yet, in spite of all that is amiss with this RTIC Report, the consensus voice of Chairs at last Thursday’s retreat generally echo one emphatic and recurring message regarding the Report’s “action items" and which is: “We have been doing this all along!”
The Report as discussed thus firmly establishes that the A&S College was not and is not “broken” and it seems obvious therefore that the majority of the Report’s “action items” can be accommodated within modified and updated existing A&S College delivery systems and structures. My advice to A&S faculty members, students, staff and alumni is to demand the right to democratically vote their approval or disapproval of this dangerous document before it heads on up the implementation ladder and beyond their reach to recall.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
The final “College of Arts and Sciences Round Table Implementation Committee Report” dated January 4, 2010 is now in limited circulation. Please find a copy and read it carefully and discuss it with others.
As a member of the Roundtable Report “writing team” appointed by the A&S Executive Committee I strongly recommended at all stages of its preparation a glossary without which, as an “implementation report” with specific action items and a timetable, it seemed dangerously vague, inchoate and vulnerable to abuse whatever its progressive intentions. There is no glossary in this final Report. This raises a huge red flag. For certain, I want to know what “integrative” in this Report foreshadows as a transformative tool applied to A&S College when implemented by this present UT Administration. Without a glossary, this Report reads aloud as an Ode to Ambiguity.
Please consider reading aloud this concluding paragraph of the Report (written by Dean McClelland) to your favorite therapist if you are in search of outside advice about the wellsprings of your angst as a higher-education academic professional: ”It is my hope that creative permutations will replace the singular dimensions of the past and present. Tom Peters authored a best seller entitled, 'The Pursuit of WOW!' in which he defined 'WOW’ as ‘someone (something) that stands up and stands out from the crowd.’ I have every confidence that the College of Arts and Sciences will continue to be the acknowledged 'integrative hub' of UT, and that UT will be a WOW in global higher education in the future.”
I try to envision “creative permutations” and “WOW” as the outcome of this final Round Table Committee Implementation Report, but all I see on the table is discount pizza.
Monday, January 4, 2010
Here is just one among many provocative and intelligent comments readers have offered regarding this significant issue:
"We are all customers of banks, dry cleaners, and grocery stores, yet we rarely walk around wearing sweatshirts with the names of these firms written across the chest in large letters. We don't brag to friends and family about whether a dry cleaner accepted our laundry and we don't place framed deposit slips from our banks on our walls. We don't attend reunions with fellow customers of our grocery stores nor are we asked by the management of our dry cleaners for financial support. The relationship of a student with his or her university is far richer, far more complex, and far more rewarding than the word "customer" can ever capture. I do not believe that our students are customers: they should expect and receive far more than a simple customer."
I agree. Our A&S students deserve academic excellence in return for their substantial investments in our institution. They trust us and the 100-year venerable Tradition of our College. We A&S faculty members must persist to deserve and earn their trust. The most-recent Roundtable Report recommendations in the main neglect to address the concerns, needs and expectations -- and the trust -- of our most diligent and highly motivated students. If A&S College admissions are to be "open to anyone" let's consider adopting the logic of Ronald J. Daniels, President of Johns Hopkins, who argues that quality higher education should be "interdisciplinary, fully engaged with its many communities, and open to anyone of merit."