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Thursday, September 13, 2012

It's Getting Better All the Time


Anonymous said...

The next time Jacobs hosts one of these circle-jerks on campus, AAUP should round up some volunteers to hand out leaflets near the entrance. No need to be angry or confrontational, just informative.

Anonymous said...

Or a faculty leader could give an "Alternative State of the University" address on the steps of the Student Union following the Jacobs event. Speak from a position of conviction that our traditional approach to higher education does not need to be discarded in favor of corporatist ideology. The theme would be "We are the real educators here and we are doing fine without the help of hospital bureaucrats and technology salesmen."

Anonymous said...


– Dr. Previous, The Continental Philosopher

The Trouble With PoMo U:

The Late UT English Professor Wallace Martin, Asteroids, PoMo Theory and… MORE COWBELL!

In his book “Recent Theories of Narrative” (1986 – yes, this stuff has been going on for quite some time now) the late esteemed UT English Professor Wallace Martin said (and I’m paraphrasing from memory here because I don’t have the exact quote readily available):

“New [postmodern literary] theories are like asteroids in a video game – they keep popping up faster than we can shoot them down.”

(Note: For all you bright eyed and bushy tailed newbies out there “Asteroids” was one of the original video games – first introduced during the late Ptolemaic Period of Hellenic Graeco-Roman Egypt. Mark Antony and Cleopatra used to spend endless hours playing Asteroids together.)

The pervasive problem in academia is that in recent decades all sorts of crazy “asteroids” have continued to pop up at such an alarming rate that trying to shoot them all down has become a full-time and nearly impossible job.

The “asteroids” of which we speak include of course the oft-mentioned usual suspects: random, incoherent and ridiculous anti-everything Marxist Feminist Postmodernist theories, academic pseudo-disciplines and academic and administrative pseudo-departments and pseudo-programs, corrosive politically correct academic and administrative policies and agendas i.e. the PC Thought and Speech Police, politically correct dumbing-down and watering-down of the curriculum, etc. etc.

The unmitigated proliferation of pseudo-academic BS parallels the proliferation of legislative and regulatory BS that spews unabated out of the U. S. Congress like a water canon, or the Alien Blob from Outer Space otherwise known as the U. S. Tax Code.

Such academic or legislative “work” or “productivity” is not conducive to the greater health and well-being of modern society.

Rather it represents the oppressive, mind-numbing, soul-crushing, nightmarish, Kafkaesque bane of the modern world – for both those who must mass produce the mountains of useless cerebral refuse in the academic/bureaucratic office cubicle salt mines, as well as for those who must attempt to grapple with ceaseless organization, storage and “interpretation” of the relentless, meaningless, pseudo-intellectual white noise.

And once any academic or other bureaucracy (or theory or ideology) becomes firmly established and entrenched – like any virus, tumor or meme – its singular objective quickly becomes its own survival, growth and proliferation – to which end it will fight tooth and nail against all adversaries, remedies or prophylactics.

The daunting task facing contemporary academia is to try to constructively deconstruct a veritable corral reef cathedral – comprised of the calcified skeletons of countless “asteroids” – that has arisen out of decades of mindless, shapeless, multi-directional, political and pseudo-intellectual academic accretion. A common term used to describe at least certain aspects of this accretion process is “mission creep.”


Anonymous said...

More Cowbell cont.

For better or worse, the social contracts of those who have paid their dues with the university – administrators, faculty and staff – must be respected.

However, for the sake of students (who are after all the raison d’etre of the university) as well as for the sake of the survival of the University of Toledo and academia as a whole, systematic deconstruction, reformation, redirection and even phasing-out of vast swaths of the postmodern (and indeed the modern and traditionalist) university, simply must be undertaken.

All stakeholders must understand this and make an effort to find their own way to contribute to the positive and necessary paradigm shift towards qualitatively and quantitatively efficient, effective, valuable, viable, affordable, accountable and, yes, relevant higher education.

For the here and now at least, this means finding some way to work constructively with the reform efforts of the Jacobs administration – if for no other reason than that it has become increasingly evident over the past few years that, “Resistance is futile.”

But none of this means resorting to shameless opportunism and careerism (as some whose names need not be mentioned here have done), nor does it mean adopting an intransigent, entrenched, slash and burn departmental “Custer’s Last Stand” mentality.

This reformation process has been, and will undoubtedly continue to be most painful for the humanities and social sciences (and their MoFoPoMo PC administrative counterparts) – but it is within these disciplines, departments and programs that the most egregious and voluminous “asteroid accretions” have taken shape.

It must therefore fall to these faculty and administrators to accept the responsibility for their own present malaise and to shoulder most of the burden of extricating and/or redirecting these academic and administrative program areas from the largely postmodern morass within which they presently find themselves.

…So, if you really want to help out – grab a laser blaster and start shooting down PoMo PC asteroids for all you’re worth.


There are those who believe the answer to all these travails in higher education may be as simple as adding just a little more cowbell.

The clip below shows The Continental Philosopher at work in the recording studio laying down the soundtrack to his next PowerPoint presentation entitled – “More Cowbell: Postmodernity and the Irrelevant University”:

Anonymous said...

I drove and I parked and I walked to Doermann Theater this morning to hear President Jacobs' latest desperate brain fart to save his job. Apparently UT will now be "rising" on the coat tails of Khan Academy. We're about to be ICED. Thanks, Ben!

Anonymous said...

The Blade has a little story up about the speech. Jacobs apologized for trashing the kidney, but there was no apology for his support of Senate Bill 5. No matter what good Jacobs may end up doing, I can't support anyone who harbors such blatant hostility toward working families.

Anonymous said...

Let me 2nd or 3rd or whatever the motion that the PoMo poster be given her own thread. The appearance of these posts is rude and their interruptions are disruptive. Did anyone catch President Jacobs spin on the decreased enrollment? To memorable quotes: [the decline] "is a positive" and "Calling it a drop sounds negative." Why, because, in the Jacobs universe, UT has raised its academic standards high enough so that it is refusing admittance to students who want to get in, and who used to get in, but who now don't meet the higher standards. So, in other words, Jacobs is claiming as many or more studnets what to come to UT, but UT isn't accepting as many. Yeah, right.

Anonymous said...

"A university rising." The number of administraitors is rising, their pay is rising...come to think of it so much of everything is rising around here I might soon need hip boots...

Anonymous said...

The Blade's article today, "Fault found earlier with UTMC transplant program," makes me ashamed to be an employee of this organization. Michael Rees's behavior toward a university police officer was appalling. Before the merger, UT wasn't perfect, but we filled our niches well as an urban university. Now we have that disaster of a hospital hanging around our necks. What can we do?

Anonymous said...

What can we do? We can hold the Board of Trustees accountable to the taxpayers of Ohio. They chose our current trio of failure: Jacobs, Gold and Scarborough. They have continually signed off on one scheme after another to create impressions and appearances of "greatness", squandering resources and alienating our community members along the way. President Jacobs speaks of a university rising. He and the BOT would do well to consider the levels of disillusionment, disgust and anger that are rising.

Anonymous said...

"What can we do? We can hold the Board of Trustees accountable to the taxpayers of Ohio. They chose our current trio of failure: Jacobs, Gold and Scarborough."

Ask instead: what could we have done -- but it is too late now: Walk out on Week one of the fall semester and protest like we have done it doe SB5! Nothing would have worked better than a well-publicized embarrassment to this trio and the BOT stooges. Too late now, so keep paying AAUP dues for nothing.

Anonymous said...

The next BoT meeting is Monday, November 19 at 1 pm in Driscoll. Aren't there some salt-of-the-earth types in Sociology or Women's Studies with the activism experience to organize a protest?

Anonymous said...

Now the Blade's reporting on an impending federal inquiry in to the kidney fiasco. Again, the former MCO is like cement shoes on the drowning body of the University of Toledo.

Even if the merger can't be undone, I wish we could at least take the more common approach to university-hospital hybrids: have separate administrative structures for each, with a modestly staffed President's office to coordinate the two. Having the staff of a bad hospital in charge of an academic institution is seriously setting us back. If this had been a good idea, there wouldn't still be so much discord six years after the fact.

Anonymous said...

What's also coming to light is that MCO was mismanaged during Jacobs watch, yet he was promoted to President of the combined MCO/UT. All you have to do is look at the nepotism and cronyism, the provosts coming and going, the goofy "initiatives" that get funding, the increase in upper level administrative positions, the micromanagement, the drop in enrollment, and at how he and his team split up A&S to gauge his management skills. His lumping together of different departments into the new colleges (LLSS for example) makes no sense academically and his allocation of budgets to the new colleges also made no fiscal sense. All he did was equally divide the A&S budget into the new colleges with no concern whatsoever that the new colleges did not each represent an equal money share of the old A&S). How he managed MCO and his track record now with UT has demonstrated this guy and his team are incompetent.

Anonymous said...

any truth to the rumour that main campus is bailing out the hospital with many million dollars each year? remember the president only guaranteed a one year firewall between comingled funds 7 years ago? now you may know why. perhaps the surgeons salaries are toooo high?

Anonymous said...

any truth to the rumour that main campus is bailing out the hospital with many million dollars each year? remember the president only guaranteed a one year firewall between comingled funds 7 years ago? now you may know why. perhaps the surgeons salaries are toooo high?

Anonymous said...

I agree with 5:06am. The two units should be run separately: hospital on its own separate from academics. No co-mingling of funds. The division into main campus and health science campus was designed to conceal the fuzzy finances between academics and the hospital. The current arrangement puts us all at risk all the time.

Anonymous said...

From the Vancouver Sun

"Universities have been taken over by administrators"

For the past few weeks I have been working at the University of Erlangen in Germany. Apart from congenial students and colleagues, the most impressive aspect of the place is its lean administrative structure compared to what I’m used to. It got me to thinking.

Of course, universities have always had administrators, and the Germans are no exceptions. And they do love titles: the rector, for example, is styled “Your Magnificence.” In North America, such exalted personages, though with less grandiose labels, historically have been recruited, often reluctantly, from the faculty for limited-term duty. When I was an undergraduate at the University of B.C., the dean and later president, Walter Gage, taught calculus to engineers. Those days are gone, perhaps for good. No longer do academics set priorities for university life. Today, administrators make the rules and control the agenda.

When professors were on temporary administrative assignment, they never forgot the purpose of the university was teaching and research. Now, full-time professional mangers see administration as an end in itself.

Today, there is a fundamental conflict between academics and administrators. Teaching, research and scholarship have as their overriding purpose making public new ways of thinking or recovering forgotten old ways. Professors are as competitive as anyone else, and they enjoy making discoveries and introducing superior insights. They see the university as a means to that end.

Administrators see university as an end in itself and teaching and research are just the means. They think that the curriculum, for instance, should reflect what students, their parents, or maybe government bureaucrats want. Faculty know they are better qualified than anyone to determine what students should learn.

Across the continent, administration has become a growth industry at a time when budget constraints are said to compel the reduction of full-time faculty positions. Recently, for example, the University of Calgary offered mostly senior faculty a “one-time buyout” with no guarantee that their positions would be replaced. Such a commitment, they said, would reduce administrative flexibility.

One reason administrators have won is because there are so many of them. At the U of C, the “Executive Leadership Team” boasts, besides the president, six vice-presidents and two lawyers. More interestingly, the first vice-president listed cannot do his job, fundraising, without the aid of a senior director, four executive directors, 13 directors, four associate directors and 13 lesser officers, coordinators and specialists.

What do administrators do? They meet, attend conferences and organize retreats. Sometimes they have joint retreats with administrators from other universities. This is how they learn about “best practices,” which seems indistinguishable from mindless mimicry, the very opposite of academic discovery and insight.

They also do a lot of strategic planning. Then they update, develop, and revise it. When they are not planning or retreating, they produce vision statements and slogans.

If you wonder why universities are expensive to operate today, follow the money to the administrators and support persons. I doubt students come to university to enjoy the fine work of well-paid under-provosts and senior associate directors. They are more likely to find whatever educational value exists in the underpaid work of part-time sessional instructors.

Here’s a suggestion. Maclean’s annually rates Canadian universities and colleges with all sorts of measures. They should add a measure of administrator-to-student ratios. Money spent on administration cannot be spent on academic programs. There would be a measure that would mean something.

Barry Cooper is a political-science professor at the University of Calgary.

Anonymous said...

What you will NEVER hear Dr. Lloyd Jacobs say:
"In this time of uncertain changes affecting higher education, we should move cautiously because missteps can be costly to the budget, to the morale of the faculty and staff and to the educational aspirations of our students."
You will also never hear Dr. Lloyd Jacobs say:
"The administration has learned from our mistakes."

What you will hear him mutter:
"Education would be so much better if we could get rid of faculty."

I'm depressed.

Anonymous said...

Do surgeons (or Marines) ever publicly admit to making a mistake? Not in my lifetime and not in UT's.

Anonymous said...

Did you guys know that LJ is a contributor to the Huffington Post? Here, he complains that the University of Virigina is doing it wrong: Sigh.

Anonymous said...

If you have read any of the stuff Jacobs has written on the topic or just listened to him talk, then you know that his "beliefs" regarding academics are simple: universities should train students in the skills needed in a particular historical period and compress the graduation schedule as needed. This is his mantra and UT is his personal experiment in making a universitiy "revelant," i.e. making a university that caters to the practical needs of society.