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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Meaning of "WOW"

To My A&S College Faculty Colleagues:

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.


Anonymous said...

”It is my hope that creative permutations will replace the singular dimensions of the past and present,,,," Professor Nemeth as usual is right. We do need a glossary. I haven't a clue as to what our good dean is talking about . Of course we're all for " creative permutations "But how do you tell a creative one from the other kind ? . Is turning students into customers a " creative permutation .?' Is that what's this is all about ? Hope not. And what are those " singular dimensions " she wants to repjace . What , in this context ,are "singular dimensions " Sounds like bad sci-fi . Or is it just bad writing ?

Anonymous said...

It's bad thinking!

JB said...

What;s that roundtable thing say about Arts & Sciences getting a real dean? I think it's more than time we did.

Anonymous said...


"WOW" is correct. Kinda weird that an academic is touting one of those who moved the cheese-type pamphlets(aka how to implement highly effective management strategies in less than 10 minutes). It's like she got in the "way back machine" and returned to those topsy turvey times of the mid-1990s.

Check out Tom Peters on YouTube discussing "Brand You"

Or read my favorite review of Peters' book from
"Tom Peters is enthralled with his own "zaniness.", March 12, 2000
By Sharon Wylie (San Diego, CA USA)
Here's Tom Peters' advice: hire "zany" people who don't know how to dress professionally (because they have a lot of energy); throw out every idea, concept, and system that has ever WORKED for your firm (because you don't want to grow stale); and forget any and all conventional measures of success (because they're wrong, and Tom Peters is right). We are not in business to make money or even to provide a great product/service --we're in business to be different at all costs (proof: Peters pooh-pooh's McDonald's as "McOrdinary's"). Although some of his ideas might prove useful to some readers, I found myself increasingly annoyed with Peters' own infatuation with himself ("aren't I crazy? aren't I just rocking your world?"). His tone conveys the sense that he'll say anything to be shocking--hardly a good motivation for writing a business book."

Sometimes McOrdinary academics are just what the Dr. ordered.

Concerned Alum

Anonymous said...

Being a foreign student, so not being extremely fluent in my command of English, I asked some people at University Diaries to translate the passage of the Dean.
Here is their translation:
“I hope that by now my meaningless bullshit has bored you to the point of losing interest so that I can sell your worthless asses down the river without further interruptions.”

This does not seem to be a sign of a bright future...

Rickety Rocketeer said...

Honestly I said, "Wow," after reading the book plug. Aren't there more notable sources for definitions? Also, did someone tell her that she needs to prove literacy in everything she writes?

umbraged said...

"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."

Where do we find a copy of this?

yo, duh! said...

I'd be interested in seeing this, too. Why is it in limited circulation? Shouldn't it be readily available? Or are they trying to get it past us without our seeing it?

Anonymous said...

The "final" Round Table Implementation Committee Report dated January 4th and discussed at the A&S Chairs Retreat this past Thursday is at present undergoing additional revisions based on input from the participants invited to attend the retreat. I don't know when this most-recently revised Report will enjoy mass circulation. Meanwhile, I will try and locate a PDF copy of the Jan. 4 Report and then attach it to a new blog post on this site so you and others can study it in advance of the next A&S Council meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 12, at 3:30 in the Student Union building. Anyone can attend.

Unauthorized said...

The dean said at the Chairs retreat on Thursday that it shouldn't be circulated yet until discussed changes are made Apparently Arts and Sciences faculty are not supposed to be reading it--You know, little pitchers have big ears. Wait until it comes down from on high, completed, so that we can worship it.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of how enthusiastic our administrators are about online teaching, please read this piece, from a concerned father in Canada:

Posted by R. J. O’Hara for the Collegiate Way

9 January 2004 ( — Those interested in residential colleges and in the cultivation of rich educational environments can benefit from imagining what the antithesis of a residential college might be. Perhaps it would be similar to what author and educator Brian Alger describes in his weblog:

This is my son’s first year in university. He was accepted into the Commerce Program at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. Our family was as proud as any family could be. He’s worked hard and has earned the right to a higher education…. What we’re finding, however, is that we no longer understand what the word “higher” has to do with education.

My son decided to take Psychology as an elective and has now completed one full term…. Twice per week my son joins a group of students in a barren classroom setting. The professor has never appeared in real life, not once, but instead delivers lectures via videotape. The students watch the videotape and take notes. Once per week a seminar takes place with the aid of a teaching assistant to help answer any questions about the videotape or the required reading…. While my son is sitting in the classroom with his classmates, identical “lectures” are taking place in other parts of the campus simultaneously and after looking at the course calendar it is clear that these “lectures” are being presented to thousands of students…. And all this for the sale price of a mere $12,000 (CDN) per year—what a great deal!

When my son asks me why we have to pay for this I have no answer that will satisfy him. He recalls high school with pleasure and notes the relationships he was able to build with his teachers—this human interaction was key for him as it is for all of us. We do accept that he must complete the university course and move on regardless of what we might think about it. His solution has been to skip classes, read the textbook and write the exams—he doesn’t even need to show up anymore—and his marks are just fine. His motivation, however, has been rocked to the core and his interest in Psychology is waning due only to the insufferable boredom in its presentation. All we can do is hope that somehow the successive years will be better in the Darwinian maze of the university—I think the survivors of this nonsense get to meet real people eventually. If the medium is the message, then both the medium and the message, in this context, are stupid. It’s not even a good movie theatre and we can get into those for $12. Any professor that believes this experience has anything to do with learning, education or teaching is one to avoid.