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Monday, December 20, 2010

Toledo Blade Makes Front Page of Blog


How many UT administrators does it take to change a light bulb?

a. First, there has to be an administrative committee to discuss and decide what to do. This means a bonus for everyone on the committee, which means they also have to decide what staff and programs to cut to be able to afford the bonuses.

b. The committee decides to hire an outside consulting firm to assess the situation. This means more cuts at UT to pay the members of the consulting firm--per person, more money for a week than most faculty make in a month.

c. The committee decides to change not just the faulty bulb, but all the bulbs at UT! This involves changing them around and renaming them in the process! Forget the cost! Why bother figuring that out? ! Some that have served faithfully for years, truly illuminating UT, are pitched out, and the ones with a slightly brownish tinge are relocated to the best, most glorious sites.

d. This leaves UT in the dark--which the administration likes very much, but which the faculty rightly see as profoundly dangerous, and call the leader on it. The leader sheds crocodile tears about being grieved that it has come this far--not because his actions endanger UT and threaten to leave it in a shambles, but because the faculty had the audacity to call him on his 'misbehavior.' And, amazingly, he manages to convince a court judge that what he did was right--as people at UT stumble around in the darkness he left them in.

e. Actually, just skip all that stuff above--why bother changing the light bulb at all? The more UT is kept in the dark, the better the administration likes it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Goat of Christmas Future

A Modern Metaphor

The story is told of the three Ph.D.s who are out walking through the woods. They come upon some tracks. The first says the tracks are of a fawn that is starving and unable to find food in the diminished forest. The second says no, the tracks are from a polar bear driven south by warming in the arctic. The thirds says no the tracks are from an alligator that has been driven out of the swamp by development. They were still arguing when the train hit them.

Please allow me to use the above as a metaphor regarding our present position. The injunction has been denied. While this does not mean the law suit will fail, it is important that we understand where we as faculty are, and what is important to us now versus what may be important to collective bargaining in the future. Please don't read this as diminishing the importance of legal action when the CBA seems to have been challenged. However, as readers of this blog know, I have long been of the opinion that organization means relatively little in terms of outcomes. If you have the right people, the organization works. If you have the wrong people, it doesn't. Treating reorganization as either a silver bullet or a deadly one is wrong and pretty much a waste of time and resources. While I believe this administration has made a hash out of the process, it has really amounted to a smokescreen that has blinded us to more important issues.

There is a financial reckoning (here comes the train) about to occur January 1st when our new Governor takes office. It is unlikely that he will agree with the present system of financing higher education in Ohio. We need to insist on a transparent University budget. We are all taxpayers and should have access to public information. Also, we need to insist on real input in terms of who gets resources and who does not. Make no mistake, there will be cuts. It is our job to see that these take place with our students first and foremost in everyone's mind.

Speaking of our students, that brings me to a second and even more important issue. What constitutes a quality university level education? This has not been addressed. STEMM departments have gotten resources while the rest of us are told to do more with less. With the number of graduates produced each year by the great unwashed departments, I would suggest that we are every bit as much a part of that great economic engine so often referred to in PR releases as anyone else. In addition, here at the University of Extreme Student Centeredness, we continue to increase class size, as well as the number of visiting assistant professors and part-time instructors. This is not meant to slam those groups, but they are here for three years and sometimes fewer than that. While some part-times have been here forever (without a raise) most come and go. At a University that has been discussing an undergraduate research requirement, how do these two match. Research means tenure and tenure track faculty--and not just in STEMM departments.

The final item for today is assessment. This almost invariably has to do with me deriving a number for the sake of outside evaluators (read as Higher Learning Commission). First I tell the student what outcomes he/she should gain from the class. These must appear on my syllabus. Then, I have to show whether or not the students actually achieved said outcomes. For years I thought these were called grades, but no I'm wrong. I have to specifically show which questions and assignments dealt with which outcome and how well everyone did or did not do and hence show whether my class was successful. Implied here is whether I was good at my job. More and more legislatures, administrators and bureaucracies in general want a number, a metric if you will. Former Bush Secretary of Education Spellings thought you should be able to place a number next to every college and university in the country so that parents would "know" where the best value was for their child. I won't begin to explain the absurdity of it all. The problem is we must address this in some formal way. I was in a meeting where it was stated that the Higher Learning Commission eventually wants us to follow our graduates so that we can assess whether our curriculum has been successful or not. So let me make this as simple as possible. The department curriculum and I have a student for 43 hours of classes over a period that usually ranges from four to six years. The world has him/her the rest of the time. Then, five years down the road my curriculum and I are going to be held hostage to the responses (probably non random) from these former students. To believe that such results will have any validity is nonsense. There has been little statewide or national movement to tell the Higher Learning Commission, legislatures and others what a grand wast of time and effort this is. There has been little movement to tell others that learning is a two-way street and that despite my best efforts some students refuse to come to class, do the reading or even consider the subject matter. And yet, I am going to be held responsible. Excuse me, but I think I hear a train.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Guilty as charged

It is noted below that evidently the names of the new deans (Skeens, Davis and Bjorkman) were published via the web site for UT News. While I would never attempt to defend myself for such a lack of research, let me note a couple of things. I tried the university web site and myut portal. Obviously I don't have the skills to find the information. Second, the University sends out all sorts of announcements via e-mail and, silly me, I assumed they might do this for our new erstwhile deans. I know, one should never assume. Third, if this is truly a big deal then why not treat it that way as opposed to an "oh by the way you have a new dean." Guilty as charged.


It has been pointed out below that the names of the new deans have not been circulated on the University's web site. They seemed willing to let the Blade publish these but nothing to the rest of us. Shall we start an office pool on how long it takes before we are all actually informed? Or, are they waiting for the judge to decide on the reorg plan?

New Deans

Congratulations to the newly named deans. I wish you all well.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Blog for Democracy and Against Tyranny

Our professional colleague, Lauri Essig, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Middlebury, reminds of the importance of blogging for democracy.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

More Questions

Why are we spending a reported 1.9 million on consultants? Why are we spending money we supposedly do not have? Why are we spending it on folks who seem to have no background in higher education? Why, if we're looking for transformational change and synergies, did the memo discuss cuts and the ending of programs? (It's tough to be synergistic with folks who no longer exist.) Why do we need to pay others just so you can do what you have been planning to do anyway?