Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to All!!

To All of the Faculty Voice Blog Participants and Guests,

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones! We may disagree on some policy initiative or vision for the university's future occasionally, but we can all agree on the importance of family and spending time with loved one's, the glad tidings the holiday season brings and the cause of realizing the common good in our communities; whether that community is personal and familial, institutional, or societal.

So Happy Holidays to All from the Faculty Voice Blog!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chicago politics???

So, one of the lessons I've learned in being an academic is to thoughtfully consider things, not to traipse down some intellectual rabbit hole like an ADD addled adolescent. After all aren't university faculty paid to think about things and not just throw unformed slop against the wall to see what sticks. Mental discipline, honed in a rigorous doctoral program, has given me a skill I lacked as a younger man, patience. This is the patience to think through the intellectual Rubik’s cube that are the challenges that life presents. Several of my colleagues have checked in with me since Corday’s post about some of the activities at the last Board of Trustees meeting, namely the scurrilous attacks on me by an unnamed party. What I discovered during the past couple of weeks was that I didn’t have any anger at being attacked. What I figured out from that was that I wasn’t really attacked. This leafleting was so poor in its construction and pitiable in its execution that the only feeling I did have was sadness. And the sadness wasn’t about me. I was sad for whatever intellectually deficient person even conceived of such a stupid idea masquerading as an ad hominem attack. The lack of cerebral depth in the originator of this pathetic idea was apparent. A slapstick attempt at best in a city where politics is blood sport was more insulting than hurtful. Part of my history, and it is no secret, is that I manage political campaigns. I know attack politics. As a tactic this was worse than bad. It was pathetic. I can’t believe I didn’t merit a better effort at personal destruction than a poorly constructed photocopied page of nonsensical questions. Is that what politics in this historic city has degenerated to, hapless amateurism?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Trustees meeting...

A lot happened last Friday (Dec. 9th) at the CSU Board of Trustees meeting, but a new twist to life at CSU was the emergence of the "Chicago Way" on campus. An older man stood near the entrance to the library before the full board meeting at 1 p.m. handing out flyers to those on their way in. As I passed him, he said, "you need to read this before going into the meeting." I asked him how he knew I was going to a meeting, but he just repeated that I needed to read the flyer.

The flyer was a two-page scurrilous attack on CSU faculty member Phillip Beverly.

As I began reading I found out that Dr. Beverly was largely being tainted by association to some disgraced southside politician I had never heard of and who has not been in office for decades. Not being from Chicago some of the other references went over my head. Dr Beverly's teaching was impugned and even his retired history teacher father was referred to disparagingly as not being a supporter of Chicago's African Americans. A series of rhetorical questions implied Dr. Beverly was being paid off by someone, I guess to attack the same African American community.

As I read along, I kept thinking, is it 1928? "Don't vote for Al Smith because he's Catholic..." or 1952? "Don't vote for Adlai Stevenson because he's a communist..."

The flyer listed no author or organization. There was no stamp of approval from the CSU censor's office that all campus flyers are supposed to have. After I had read a few paragraphs of the diatribe, I turned back and asked, "who told you to hand these out?" But the man would only repeat that it came from "interested students and parties on campus." He continued to pass these out as he tried to move away from me since I would not stop asking him questions.

As I walked into the library a few professors were on their way out to see what was going on since the flyers had apparently made their way upstairs to the meeting room. Dr. Beverly was unfazed by the flyers. Eventually what happened was that the Administration told campus police to find out who the man was and what he was doing. When he wouldn't identify himself, merely saying his daughter was a student here and that he would not give her name out, he was escorted off campus. So were two other men who were handing out the same flyer on another side of the campus. At least that's the story I got later on. Mr. Patrick Cage, Dr Watson's legal counsel (and former City College colleague), made a point of reminding Dr Beverly that it was the Administration that Dr. Beverly so likes to criticize that got the man off campus. Dr. Beverly pointed out that he did not ask them to do that.

It was probably only a matter of time until the full force of "The Chicago Way" hit CSU. I mean we saw it in play as the bogus presidential search of 2009 unfolded before our very eyes as CSU's "Godfather" paid off his debts and no one on the state level who could have intervened cared that we got what we got what we got.

But the story of the scurrilous flyers didn't end last Friday. Earlier this week, Dr. Beverly's parents' neighborhood was swamped with the same flyers--this time stuffed into mailboxes.

My guess is that CSU students are not involved in this effort to tar Phillip Beverly and certainly not his family. In the first place our students are not as cowardly as all this. They would have been the ones outside the building passing out the flyers themselves and would own up to their actions. Certain members of the Administration like to think that the faculty are puppet-masters goading the students on in their recent activities on campus--the formation of the Independent Students Union, and the Occupy Cook protest, as well as more student voices at the Board of Trustees meetings. It tells you how poorly the Administration thinks of the students and their capacity for independent thinking and organizing. At another meeting late last month a senior administrator is quoted as saying that faculty in a certain college have been told to pull down any posters or flyers especially from the Independent Student Union "that would disturb" the students. The paternalism that has been traditional at predominantly African American universities is not something that our students here seem to want to continue nor do they respond very well to it. Maybe they are just better at seeing through the banners around campus that proclaim "students are our first priority" or that the CEO has an open door for any student concerns. Langston Hughes' famous critique "Cowards from the Colleges" should be mandatory reading for all Administrators before they take a job.

So, are the ad hominem attacks on Dr Beverly retaliation for his vocal assaults on the university administration? Are they intended to silence him by fear? --"we know who you are and where you live..." By extension are they intended to silence anyone who criticizes the university or the African American Community in Chicago? Dr. Watson is on record as recently as November 17th's so-called "faculty forum" as admonishing faculty not to "air our dirty laundry in public" since we are up for accreditation and the HLC reads the Chicago papers. If that isn't the old paternalism in action I don't know what is. How about the CSU Admin stops doing things that put our accreditation in jeapardy? In other words, stop dirtying the laundry and there would be nothing to air.

The commotion at the afternoon meeting of the Board of Trustees did not stop Dr Beverly from making a prepared statement during public comment. In it Dr Beverly made a plea for faculty primacy in academic matters on campus and outlined for the Trustees how faculty approach issues differently than administrators. It also did not stop approximately 10 CSU students from stepping up to make public comment to the Board of Trustees. Ironically the first student who spoke brought up censorship of another form. In January a mandatory dress code will be instituted for business majors in the College of Business. In an eloquent statement to the Board, our student spoke of wanting to be "educated," not merely "trained" and painted a picture for them of students who work in the morning at a job having to carry a change of clothes from their uniforms or work clothes to business attire to attend a class. She added, what about students who have to struggle to buy books now having the added expense of buying business clothes? In the end she called for a boycott of the Business School and that business majors should all change their majors in protest.

The Board of Trustees meeting last Friday was important for other reasons. Two campus constituencies that have had to rely on indirect contact with the Board were allowed to give reports thanks to the efforts of Senate President Yan Searcy and the new Board Chairman Rozier. The Faculty Senate and the Civil Service Council will continue to be allowed to report to the Board in a formal manner. There is a firm commitment from the Board to ensure that shared governance has meaning on campus and Chairman Rozier charged President Watson to continue to adhere to these principles.

While it seems last Friday that a gauntlet had been thrown down to those who criticize the university (or its southside community) the faculty, administration, and trustees should take to heart and consider the concluding remarks of one of the student speakers. In spite of admonishments and intimidation, he said, "the student voice will no longer be ignored." Neither, I hope will others.

Time to Stop the Nonsense

After the fiasco surrounding the hectoring e-mail sent by Cheri Sidney on December 9, it is really time to end this nonsense at Chicago State. This person has no qualifications for the position she currently holds, (either Assistant or Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management) and her persistence in that position suggests that our current administration is not serious about giving this university the kind of leadership it needs and deserves. Interestingly, on September 9, 2011, the City Colleges of Chicago posted a job announcement for the position of Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Management. Here is the announcement:

Posted September 9, 2011, City Colleges Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Management

Master’s degree from an accredited college or university in Business Administration or related field with five years of progressively responsible experience in academic management, or an equivalent combination of training and experience.

Excellent organizational, management and decision-making skills. In-depth understanding of business and operational processes across many industries, with an emphasis on educational processes. Excellent written and verbal communication skills. Demonstrated commitment to diversity and multiculturalism in one’s work experience; and ability to develop a technologically integrated environment that fosters innovation within a learning organization. Experience in higher education articulation processes and program review preferred. Flexible, honest, tactful, independent worker. Ability to work cooperatively and strategically in a team environment with all levels of professional, technical and administrative staff in order to integrate resources on a timely and organized basis.

As the reader can clearly see, the minimum requirements for a position similar to Ms. Sidney’s at the City Colleges stipulate qualifications she does not possess. So why is she in a Vice President’s position at a graduate degree granting institution? How in the world did she obtain this position? or her entry level position in Human Resources, a position seemingly created just for her?

One of my colleagues returned from the recent Graduate Council meeting disturbed by the creeping influence of the office of Enrollment Management, headed by Angela Henderson. Apparently, Enrollment Management will assume some of the administrative functions formerly entrusted to the Graduate School. Again, why? What qualifications does this office have to assume any authority over the Chicago State graduate programs? In addition, this office will likely operate independently since the proposed configuration separates the functions that are Enrollment Management’s from the academic oversight of the Provost’s Office. Given the evidence that our president believes that he is qualified to dictate academic policy across the disciplines, how long will it be until the superbly qualified duo at Enrollment Management start to make academic decisions?

Let me be clear here. While Angela Henderson’s continued tenure in her position is troubling and may create accreditation problems, having someone working as a university vice president with the nonexistent credentials possessed by Cheri Sidney is a disgrace and an embarrassment. If she could not even apply for a similar position at the City Colleges, what is she doing at this school? Her hiring at this level of responsibility could be perceived as being motivated by something other than academic qualifications or experiential factors. Allowing her to continue in this position makes a mockery of our stated commitment to “academic excellence,” or “academic integrity.” I wonder how our “stakeholders” would respond if they knew that this university employed an individual with such qualifications in an important academically-related position.

The continued presence of these two administrative employees puts Chicago State in the unique position of being the only one of five similar schools, Chicago State, Eastern Illinois, Illinois State, Northeastern Illinois, and Western Illinois, to employ administrators in these positions without doctoral degrees. (No need to wonder about the University of Illinois, Northern or Southern Illinois universities, they have no one with similar credentials in comparable positions) I will not discuss university experience here since I have addressed that issue in previous posts, but suffice to say that Ms. Henderson and Ms. Sidney are woefully inexperienced when it comes to university management. In the other four schools, the Provost is entrusted with the operation of enrollment management. In order to emphasize my point, I present the following:

At CSU, the VP of Enrollment Management holds a M.S.N., the AVP holds a B.A.
At Eastern, the VP holds a Ph.D., the two AVP’s, also hold the Ph.D.
At Illinois State the VP holds a Ph.D., the AVP also holds a Ph.D.
At Northeastern, the VP holds a Ph.D., the two AVP’s also hold the Ph.D.
At Western, the VP holds a Ph.D., the AVP holds a Ed.D.

I suggest that the foregoing illuminates one reason why many faculty and students are expressing concerns about our current administration. Everyone in comparable positions at similar institutions possesses a doctorate. It also suggests that some of our administrators treat Chicago State like it is a second-rate institution. While they complain about negative press coverage, they bring in administrators with laughable qualifications. I am sure that this comparison of academic qualifications would seem puzzling even to persons with no knowledge about university operations. For people who do know how universities are supposed to be run, this could suggest that this school is being operated for the benefit of a handful of well-connected people, regardless of the potential consequences.

It is time for our administration to stop this nonsense. I believe that Chicago can offer a far more attractive lifestyle than Charleston, Macomb, or Normal. Why then, can we not attract stronger candidates for these key positions? Most important, this university is fortunate to have hundreds of dedicated staff and faculty and thousands of motivated and willing students. Is this all we deserve? In 2003, an HLC survey found faculty, staff and students dissatisfied with the school’s administration. In 2010, staff, faculty, and administrators expressed the majority belief that the university (read administration) respected neither the staff nor the faculty. Currently we are under attack from a variety of sources and the problems identified in 2003 and 2010 continue to fester. While the administration prefers to think that the disaffection on this campus stems from a few “disgruntled” faculty, this is a dangerous and delusional way to view the recent complaints. In fact, many of the administrative actions over the past two years seem to demonstrate a profound lack of respect for the people who do the job of educating and assisting our students.

I believe that Cheri Sidney should be removed from her position immediately, before she has the opportunity to do real damage to our academic endeavors. Perhaps some of our administrators believe she is performing adequately, but continuing to defend her tenancy in this position is simply to endorse and validate the notion that her mediocre academic credentials should be sufficient for a school “like Chicago State.” As her tone-deaf e-mail of December 9 demonstrates, she lacks any fundamental knowledge of what faculty do between the end of classes and the calculation and posting of final grades. I regret having to say this, but I think it is shameful that some of our administrators apparently think so poorly of this school’s staff, faculty and students that they seem unwilling to mirror the commitment to academic excellence exhibited by the vast majority of the university’s employees and students.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Overreach versus Outreach: The "Sidney memo"…

First, let me say that I am in complete agreement with my colleague, “Corday” who posted recently about the “Sidney memo” (see below). Never before have I seen at Chicago State (or any other institution of higher education at which I have worked) a promulgation like the Sidney memo is claiming to be just a “reminder.” For the time being, I will give Ms. Sidney the benefit of the doubt as it is equally unlikely that she would have seen such a memorandum written to university and graduate-level educator as an undergraduate student. However, perhaps some reminders for her are in order:

The university under President Watson has strongly encouraged improving “writing skills” for our students as they have often been underserved in this area by their prior educational experiences. Indeed, I agree. Having graded papers for fifteen years (30 semesters plus 15 summer sessions), I can attest both to the underpreparedness of our students (and in this regard they are little different from undergraduates nearly everywhere!) and the importance of improving this skill before they receive their baccalaureate degree and make their way further into the world as a CSU graduate. In order to improve one’s writing skills (not an innate skill), many hours of practice are required. This should also indicate why my colleague “Corday” was particularly irritated by the Sidney missive. GRADING PAPERS TAKES HOURS to do well and fairly!!

When I received the “Sidney memo” last night, I had just completed grading a stack of papers for the entire day. From 10 am until nearly 11:30 p.m., that was almost all I accomplished. This term, I received approximately 75 term papers (between 6-8 pages each). For the math challenged, this means somewhere between 5-600 pages of content not including cover pages, summaries, endnotes, bibliographies, etcetera. The stack is about as high as two or three reams of papers or nearly half a foot high. There are not many who can read a 600 page book a week and still maintain a teaching schedule, personal and family obligations (which I confess I often ignore this time of year in addition to the hour long commute each way to campus). And I should add, I do this every week for the last six weeks of each semester because I assign and must grade many other paper assignments to provide “feedback” to students before their term paper is due (full disclosure: I have three short essays due per class before Thanksgiving). This is one way of saying; all I do is grade papers at this time of the year. I do not do Christmas shopping, the holiday tree is on the ground in my backyard, and Christmas cards to 100+ people are on hold till next week. Given the approximately 2,000 pages I actually grade in November and December (not counting other assignments and daily quizzes), I can assure Ms. Sydney that I am acutely aware of the deadline this term and every term.

There is a solution: I could give multiple choice (multiple guess?) exams. These can be graded in about 5 minutes by a machine. And I remember all of the questions/answers to these types of exams from my own undergraduate days very well while I have already forgotten most of the papers I wrote back then (full disclosure: I still remember many of the paper topics from my undergraduate coursework and could explain several in great detail. And in fact, I remember none of the questions from the multiple choice tests.) Another solution would be to “skim” the papers. I could read 600 pages very quickly if I needed to do it. But since final grades are involved, my concern would be that the consequences of doing this never outweigh the benefits. If I skimmed too quickly (and missed that signature progress I had been hoping to see), I might underreport a student’s progress or worse, not recognize the profound accomplishments of those rare students I get in every class who really “surprise” me on the term paper in unexpected and usually positive ways.

However, none of these remedies to increase the speed and efficiency of my term paper grading are reasonable in a manner that would conform to standard indicated in the “the Sidney memo.” What Ms. Syndey seems to require would be that I always finish grading all of my term papers three or four days early and that I only work during office hours in my office on campus (as needed to count on my CSU timesheet I must submit). In fact, I spend hours at home usually well into the “wee hours” because my office hallway is too loud with many students just now visiting their professor’s office for the first time that semester for me to concentrate effectively on grading. I estimate that it takes twice as long to grade a paper in my office this time of year than it does at home. Yet none of these concerns hit the mark.

The real problem is overreach. Why is staff from “enrollment management” bothering to contact faculty? This is a non-academic area of the administration where Ms. Sidney’s competence (or awareness of professional standards for university faculty) is severely lacking. If any such memo were desirable, it should have been sent to ALL FACULTY reminding them of the timetable to submit grades; not apparently a punitive one sent to academic deans. Given the fact that there remains two days to submit grades and that the timetable for submission had already been sent out by the Interim Registrar, I can only speculate on the reasons Ms. Sidney choose from to send this memo out.

Perhaps there is a turf war in the administration? Perhaps AVP’s are fighting over which areas are under their “control.” or perhaps enrollment management is assuming the functions of the Office of Academic Affairs and simply desires to let faculty know “who is in charge.” Additionally, it could be that Ms. Sidney did not realize that professors are also “professionals” and you do not need to “make a list and check it twice” as the song goes this time of year. We are not “bad” and “good” professors; only professors who have to get their grades in by Monday. For the most part, CSU faculty do fulfill their professional obligations to their charges and to the institution with integrity and in a timely manner. I guess another reason might be that Ms. Sidney just hit the send button on an email message too quickly and now wishes she hadn’t but cannot retract the memo. Yet another possibility might be that she had a bad meal and wrote something she later regrets. Finally, the real likelihood is that she has no experience dealing with university level administrative work and doesn’t really understand the nature, purpose and function of the faculty at a university and what the vocation of the professoriate consists of in real and concrete terms.

As one not given to premature speculation, I won’t claim to know what Ms. Sidney’s motives are for sending out the memo I received last night. But I do hope I never receive another one again as I know what the deadline is after only one memo and I am a professional. Furthermore, I am also fair and I shall take all the time I need to ensure that I have respected my students work and effort in submitting their final term papers (even if it means getting grades in at 11: 56 p.m. on the final day).

Part of being a professional means “self-determination” with regard to professional duties, not just skimming stuff and following orders.

Who is Cheri Sidney and why is she sending me this annoying email?

Oh right, here at Chicago State High School she's the one with the online degree B.A. making 95,000-100,000+ per year (apparently to send out emails like this). On Saturday she squealed on me and others of my "teaching faculty" colleagues to my Dean and Provost that I have still not submitted my grades. I guess this was so important that we had to by-pass the preferred method of oral communication from powers on high of "telling the deans to tell the chairs to tell the faculty..." Others of "teaching faculty" have voiced irritation over this irritation. But I forget, our university status has been rapidly downgrading to that of a community college with doctoral programs run by school marms.

Grades are due on Monday, well, duh.
Ok Ms Sidney, B.A., here it is for public view: I'll get my grades in on time, but please, please don't report me to the principal.

Cheri Sidney
11:19 AM (22 hours ago)
to David, Cheryl, Derrick, jbalogun, nmaynard, rmilo, sgist, Office, Angela, Debrah, Victoria, Carnice, bhicks

Teaching Faculty:

You are receiving this email because you have not submitted your final grades for the fall term as of December 9, 2011.

In order for the registrar's office to effectively run the end of term process it is imperative that final grades be submitted by December 12, 2011 as indicated in the December 5th communication below.

Please feel free to contact Beverly Poindextor (x3526) or me (x3534) with any questions or concerns.

Cheri Sidney
AVP, Enrollment Management
Chicago State University

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

REMINDER: Friday Board of Trustees Meeting

Faculty should attend the CSU Board of Trustees meeting tomorrow, Friday, Dec. 9th, all day in the Academic Library, 4th Floor. It would be worth it for no other reason than to meet the new trustees who have not even been formally announced on campus (as far as I am aware).

Morning is for the various committee meetings, but afternoon @ 1 p.m. will be the Full Board meeting. Not sure when public comment will take place. The Faculty Senate is presenting a report and there is a chance that faculty concerns may be represented to the board in a more formal way than ever before (and happily ever after?). I believe students will be present and speaking out since both the Independent Student Union's "Occupy Cook" protest and the Student Government Association's open forum over the past two weeks have been raising student consciousness.

Faculty should attend the board meeting. It is so easy to give in to apathy about this meeting and all else attached to administering this leaky old ship of Chicago State. One of the things that we do not learn in graduate school is how important we are to the functioning of the university, not just as teachers and scholars, but as talent that the best universities know to utilize. We forget what a privileged position we have as faculty, not just because "we can have our summers off" (as any of our relatives will remind us--like all we do is lie on a beach from June until August) or that we are the envy of friends with our flexible schedules that makes it seem as if we work only 2 or 3 days a week (would that I only had a 40-hour a week schedule). For those happy few of us this is what we have netted from the many years in graduate school --and most of us have averaged 5-8 years in that great limbo of the "ABD" while surviving on shoe-string salaries. We might not now be making $90,000+ like some of our administrative colleagues, but most of us are richer in other ways.

Faculty are priviledged. We are experts in a field, we hold specialized knowledge, methodology, and a way of thinking critically, of expressing ourselves eloquently and this is what we have the privilege of sharing and passing on to our students. At the last Board of Trustees meeting in September after several faculty had spoken up, it seemed to have emboldened a few of the students who were present. One young woman who spoke during public comment told the Trustees, the professors who were speaking and expressing concern about what was going on at the university, "they have what we want." Such a simple statement, but it gave me pause. Our duty as faculty is not just in the classroom, but to the university as a whole. We have a responsibility to be concerned about the way the university is run, who is making policy, why we should listen to them; we have to question why policies are being put in place, especially policies that affect that academic integrity of the university where our prerogative is paramount as almost any university's governing regulations will state. There have been plenty of things happening on campus, hirings, firings, directives, countermanded decisions, re(dis)organizations coming at us at a fast and furious pace this year. Many of us, not just "a few disgruntled" or "fringe" faculty, as the Admin likes to think of us are immensely concerned about the state of Chicago State.

During the contentious past presidential search of 2009 at CSU we faculty never got the chance to have an honest discussion with the Board of Trustees as to what we wanted our university to be (that elusive "potential" we are all aware CSU has)-- and maybe these days we are more aware of what we don't want CSU to be. Either way, it's time to realize we still can have that discussion.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

One Dean's Search (continued)

In response to the most recent post on the search for the Dean of Students, I offer the following:

First, I don’t believe any of the previous posts discussed whether or not a search occurred for this position.
Second, if none of the previous posts talked about the search, it seems difficult to argue that anyone said anything that seemed “unfair to Dr. McKinney and the search committee who worked so hard to bring a solid candidate to campus.”
Third, the post argues that communication with the faculty took place and alludes to “one of the email announcements that were sent to all faculty through the Moodle site” as an example (this e-mail did not come though in the post). Is that how these notifications were handled? I do not recall receiving anything from the administration regarding this search, I also do not recall receiving anything from the Provost. In fact, on October 17, 2011, one faculty member specifically asked the Vice President of Enrollment management about whether or not a search had been conducted. Here is the text of that e-mail message:

“Dear Ms Henderson,

Thank you for the information you forwarded regarding recent appointments. Was there a university-wide academic search for the position of Dean of Students? As per Board of Trustees regulations any search to fill the position of of Dean and above (VPs, Provost, President) must be conducted as a university search with faculty participation. Please advise that this process was followed.”

If the communication regarding the search had been as transparent and inclusive as you assert, why would such a request be necessary? Recently, the administration made the unusual request for faculty input in drafting the job description for the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. The e-mail request for this input went from the administration to the Chairs who were then supposed to forward it to the faculty. Does not the administration have the ability to send e-mail notifications directly to faculty?

In addition, as we all know, search committees on this campus do not hire candidates, the administration does. Unless the administrative searches operate in a fundamentally different way, no search committee is able to rank candidates. In addition, I am also unaware of any administrative search that has included faculty participation in creating the job description, a function the faculty participates in at a number of universities.

Because the administration does the hiring, faculty have concerns about how these job searches take place. Eventually the people hired for administrative jobs may be moved to positions in which they can affect the choices made for administrators, faculty, and staff. That is why we feel that viable faculty participation in these searches is vital. Does the administration go through the Faculty Senate? Does the administration simply cherry pick faculty they know are acquiescent? Let’s not be too naive here, there are a number of ways the administration could (notice I do not say “has” here) “stack the deck” in favor of a particular candidate.

As pointed out in previous posts, several of our administrators in key posts do not possess qualifications similar to incumbents at comparable institutions. The question remains, why? Why cannot Chicago State attract the kinds of persons that hold these positions in places like Eastern Illinois, Illinois State, Northeastern, and Western Illinois universities? This remains the question for many faculty and we hope that our new administrators' lack of non-academic degrees and/or experience in graduate degree granting or four-year universities does not adversely affect our accreditation efforts.

As for your post’s final paragraph, you imply that faculty are suggesting that Dr. McKinney’s hire represents some kind of political maneuvering on the part of our president and you express your indignation at the fact that this “false information” only serves to “discount the efforts put forth by the committee . . .” I don’t see the accusation anywhere on this blog that these personnel moves are being orchestrated by the president, but there does seem to be a pattern of moving Watson-era persons from the City Colleges directly into key administrative positions here at Chicago State. I hope you are not suggesting here that our president would not make a politically motivated personnel decision because his history proves that false. More on that later.

Monday, December 5, 2011

One Dean's Search

The chair of the Dean of Students Search Committee wrote this to the President of the Faculty Senate and has allowed to let me post it for anyone who is interested.

I am responding to your request for information on how the Dean of Students search has handled, per Dr. Westbrooks request. Personally, I am glad that I was asked, as I have been trying to decide whether or not to respond to the post on the faculty blog that didn’t seem to have all of the details straight on this specific search, which is unfair to Dr. McKinney and the search committee who worked so hard to bring a solid candidate to campus.

What I have outlined below are the 1) qualifications of the chair of the committee as a faculty member, 2) composition of the committee, 3) process followed, 4) notification process and response to faculty, and 5) outcomes.

First, please know as a faculty member, I chaired the search three separate times in order to find this candidate. While I am serving as the Interim Associate Dean, I have never given up my faculty status – I have taught courses, advised, and had to complete portfolios for retention just as everyone else. In fact, now that the CTRE is fully functioning with a focus on faculty needs, I am working to reposition the LAC with a more student focus and then will be returning in Fall full time to my role of Associate Professor.

Second, the composition of the search committee for the DOS is listed below. It was a solid group of individuals who had a broad knowledge of student affairs. There were two faculty, four directors from the area, one civil service and one student.

• Chair, Liz Osika, Associate Professor in COE and Interim Associate Dean
• Yvonne Patterson, Associate Professor, Counseling Center
• Fernando Diaz, Director of the Latino Resource Center
• Jason Ferguson, Director of Student Activities
• Stella O’Keekee or Raven Curling, Director and Manager of Housing
and Residence Life
• Lee Junkins, Director of the Career Service Center
• Julie O’Banion, Administrative Clerk, Dean of Students Office
• David Anderson, IBHE Student Representative
• Six students who are active in student affairs were part of the on-campus interview process

Third, during the process the search committee reviewed over 100+ resumes, made 24 phone screening calls, and brought eight different people to campus beginning back in November 2010. The first two candidates we brought onto campus in December were not recommended for hire. We resumed the search again in February and brought three
candidates to campus. The committee recommended a candidate from the University of Akron and everything was approved for him to come to campus. You might recall that the Provost even made the announcement to campus that he was coming. However, at the very last minute he decided not to make the transition to CSU. Finally, the search was reopened in June. We brought three candidates to campus, of which the
committee made the recommendation for Dr. McKinney to the Provost.

Fourth, faculty were notified for each of the campus visits that they were welcome to come to the open interview session. The only faculty member that I recall who actually showed was Laurie Walter. I have pasted one of the email announcements that were sent to all faculty through the Moodle site at the bottom of this message.

Finally, I would like to discuss the outcome. Dr. McKinney was a top candidate as rated by by all of the students and individuals who were part of the process. The students especially stated that they felt that they could relate to her and that she knew what to do to help make the improvements needed within Student Affairs. She brought to campus a broad range of skills including background in assessment,
accreditation, and student services, just to name a few. She held positions at the level of Associate Dean, Assistant Director, and even was a faculty member for two years and a police officer for five.

If you would like more information about the exact details, please let me know.

Whatever you can do to dispel the belief that Dr. McKinney was someone who was brought to campus by the president would be appreciated. As I said at the beginning of this post, that is false information that really discounts the efforts put forth by the committee and the quality individual that CSU is lucky to have in the position of Dean of Students.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Chicago State City College

Given the spate of former city college administrators in key administrative positions at Chicago State, it seems appropriate to make a comparison between the current state of affairs and the conditions that existed under interim president Frank Pogue.

First of all, let’s discuss the qualifications of Frank G. Pogue (Ph.D. Sociology, University of Pittsburgh), our interim president in 2008-09. Dr. Pogue came to Chicago State as interim president in 2008. By that time, Dr. Pogue had already served for 25 years in various university administrative jobs, including 11 years as president of Edinboro University in Pennsylvania. Prior to that he had served from 1983 to 1996 in the SUNY system as interim president of SUNY-Cobleskill, as Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs and Special Programs at SUNY-Cobleskill, and as Vice President for Student Affairs at SUNY Albany. After leaving Chicago State, Dr. Pogue received an appointment as the interim president of Grambling State University. He is now that school’s permanent president.

Given the fact that Dr. Pogue continues to serve as a university president, it seems likely that given the right circumstances, he would have remained at Chicago State. In any event, we know the history of the subsequent presidential search and the ultimate selection of our current president.

Early in his brief tenure at Chicago State, Dr. Pogue articulated his goals for the university under his stewardship. Among them were: “Continuing to pursue academic and personal excellence;
Improving the financial aid and operational management and enhance other University operations; Restructuring the University to ensure that we enhance the quality of administrative leadership; Enhancing and increasing undergraduate and graduate enrollment and improve persistence and graduation rates; Aggressively instituting marketing and public relations strategies that will enhance the image of the University; Creating additional ways to recognize and acknowledge the contributions of University constituents for the excellence they achieve;” and finally, “Increasing graduate enrollment, support for the graduate Division and identify future graduate program opportunities.”

The Pogue administration disseminated these goals to the entire university community and they are encapsulated in a press release dated September 9, 2008. In addition, in mid-2009, Dr. Pogue made this observation about university leadership: “My position is anybody can clean house. Anybody can walk in off the street without an ounce of education and fire everybody. My job was to empower people to do their jobs.”

Dr. Pogue made these comments in response to remarks made by the newly-selected president of Chicago State, Dr. Wayne Watson. Compare Dr. Pogue’s views on the university with Dr. Watson’s: On May 4, 2009, Dr. Watson spoke to Peter Sachs of the ChiTown Daily News about the need to change Chicago State’s culture. “You’ve got to change people’s behavior or you’ve got to fire them.” That included faculty. Dr. Watson warned: “If for any reason they refuse to do their job and to do research … then those faculty have defined… their future status.” On May 6, 2009, Dr. Watson described himself as being “among the top in the nation in terms of higher education.” and asserted that he would “focus on helping CSU professors improve their teaching,” a comment he disputed on May 11 when he claimed “This quotation is not attributable to me, for I did not make such a statement.” Then three days later, on May 14, the Chicago Tribune reported that Dr. Watson was thinking of creating some kind of faculty training program because "We are going to have to take our existing faculty, and in some instances, not all, we are going to have to teach them how to teach. Why do we make the wrong assumption that because you have a PhD in chemistry that you know how to teach?" Based on this material, I think it is safe to say that the two presidents take a somewhat divergent view on the competence of Chicago State’s faculty and on their own appropriate roles as university presidents.

I think that one of the ways to judge a leader is by the quality of the people he or she chooses for key administrative positions. Again, there is a fundamental contrast in the two president’s choices for important posts related to the university’s academic integrity and reputation. On October 28, 2008, Dr. Pogue announced the appointment of Dr. Howard C. Johnson as Vice President of Academic Affairs and Enrollment Management. Given the reported (often times inaccurately) problems with graduation and retention our school has encountered over the past several years, this position seems vital to our continued accreditation and academic progress. At the time of the appointment, I asked myself: who is Dr. Howard C. Johnson and what are his qualifications for this position? This is what I discovered:

Howard C. Johnson held bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics and a Ph.D. in mathematics education from Northwestern University. He had taught mathematics and mathematics education at the City Colleges of Chicago, Syracuse University, and the University of North Texas. He had published extensively and presented numerous papers at various conferences. He had supervised 10 doctoral dissertations and served on another 15 doctoral dissertation committees. His administrative experience included 12 years as the Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at Syracuse University, which included 7 years as the Dean of the university’s graduate school; 1 year as Executive Vice Provost of Academic Affairs at Syracuse; and 4 years as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of North Texas. Needles to say, I thought Dr. Johnson an outstanding choice for his position. Of course, he is now gone. You may view Dr. Johnson’s recent C.V. here:

Since our new president has taken over leadership of the university, the personnel in the Office of Enrollment management have come to their jobs with quite different credentials. Prior to beginning this discussion, I want to categorically state that there is nothing personal in any of the following comments. I know that administrators often like to deflect the conversation from the subject at hand to the behavior of individuals participating in the discussion. Unfortunately, I do not know how to nicely say that someone is unqualified. I do not personally know any of the individuals I am about to discuss, so I do not want anything I say to be construed as an attack on their character or worth as human beings. Because they lack what I believe should be the minimum qualifications for their jobs, I simply do not think they deserve to hold the positions they occupy. I am also unsure about whether or not the persons I will discuss are the only persons to have occupied this position during the tenure of our president, they’re just the only ones I know of. As always, if there are factual inaccuracies, they are mine alone and I will be happy to correct them if someone has the consideration to point them out.

Someone named Andre L. Bell came to Chicago State as the Vice President of Enrollment Management, possibly late in 2009 or early in 2010, He apparently came directly from the City Colleges of Chicago, where he had worked for only 10 months. Mr. Bell had been hired on January 12, 2009, by the City Colleges, seemingly for his first position, a Senior Research Associate in the District Office at a salary of $66,240. Mr. Bell must have done a superb job in his 10 months at the City Colleges because the Chicago State administration hired him at a salary of $150,000 per year. I do not know what became of Mr. Bell since he no longer appears on any CSU sites. I am assuming that he has left the university. I have no idea what educational or other qualifications Mr. Bell possessed that made him a suitable choice for such an important position.

Our next (and current) incumbent in this position also came to us from the City Colleges. Angela Henderson had a long tenure in various CCC administrative positions: She was an instructor, an assistant professor, a departmental chairperson, a Dean, Vice Chancellor of Health Programs, Academic Affairs, and finally Provost from August 6, 2010, until her resignation on May 11, 2011. According to public records, Ms. Henderson holds both an M.B.A. and a M.S.N. from the University of Illinois-Chicago (1992), and is currently enrolled in a program described as “Nursing Administration,” which may be one of the components of the Doctor of Nursing program at UIC.

Other staff in the Office of Enrollment Management include the new Dean of Students, Teresa McKinney. Dr. McKinney served from September 10, 2007 to June 15, 2009, as the Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, then from June 15, 2009, until November 5, 2010, as the Assistant Dean of Student Services at Daley College. On November 5, 2010, the City Colleges apparently laid off Dr. McKinney as part of a “reduction in force.” Dr. McKinney received an Ed.D. in Community College Leadership in June 2011 from National-Louis University.

Finally, the Director of Enrollment Management, Cheri Sidney, seems the most mystifying occupant of one of the university’s most important management positions. While neither Ms. Henderson nor Dr. McKinney possess any administrative experience at the university level, it is not apparent that Ms. Sidney had any managerial experience at all when she got her job as Associate Director of Human Resources on November 9, 2009. As noted in an earlier posting, Ms. Sidney possesses an on-line degree from what is essentially DePaul University’s equivalent of our Board of Governors program. In addition, she came to her position with no relevant university administrative experience, and possibly no management experience at all. Interestingly, the university hired her into a newly created position in 2009 and has subsequently promoted her to the Director of Enrollment Management, a position roughly equivalent to the Dean of a College. Why?

As I and other posters have said repeatedly, we are concerned about the qualifications of these administrators and the effect it may have on our upcoming accreditation. Again, I am not saying they are not nice people, I am simply pointing out that given their thin academic and non-existent university administrative credentials, they seem curious choices for such important positions. Having top-level administrators like these puts Chicago State in a unique position relative to similar schools (as I pointed out in a previous post).

Given the caliber of the person Dr. Pogue selected for the Enrollment Management position, it seems like Chicago State could have attracted a strong pool of applicants. A critical top-level academic management position at a university in the city of Chicago should attract candidates with distinguished academic credentials, strong publishing records, and relevant and extensive university management experience. None of our current incumbents seem to possess any of those credentials. Perhaps the intent of our current administration is to turn Chicago State into the eighth City College of Chicago. Perhaps they know no other model.

In conclusion, after he left Edinboro University in Pennsylvania in 2007, the college Board of Trustees honored Dr. Pogue by naming the student center after him. Perhaps the Chicago State Board will accord Dr. Watson a similar honor upon his departure. Of course, it is always possible that by that point, there will be no campus.

Monday, November 28, 2011

This is Unconscionable

One of our new Watson-era administrators is Cheri Sidney, currently (I believe) the Assistant or Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management, a bastion of former City College administrators. Ms. Sidney earns $95,004 per year in this position, a position that seems rather critical to our continuing accreditation given the problems with graduation and retention we have experienced in recent years. Given her nearly $8,000 per month salary, I think it is fair to ask what qualifications she possesses for a job of this importance.

Some time ago, one faculty member attempted to ascertain her educational qualifications. When the administration returned the FOIA, the administration had redacted the information in the section on "highest degree attained." Of course, information available in the public domain provides an alternative to information produced by an administration that is apparently unwilling to respond forthrightly to a legal request. Here is the answer to the question of Cheri Sidney's educational qualifications.

On June 9, 2006, she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in the DePaul University School for New Learning Degree Program. A description of the program follows:

Undergraduate Programs
School for New Learning
If you’re 24 or older and looking for the best way to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, DePaul's School for New Learning might be the ideal approach. This customized degree program is available via online classes, allowing you to complete your degree at a time and place convenient to you. But a remote location doesn’t mean you will be on your own—you will be regularly connected with faculty, professional experts, and classmates, receiving individualized attention and support throughout your academic program. You will also have access to DePaul's extensive resources, including library, academic and student support services. Here is the website:

On November 9, 2009, the Chicago State administration hired Ms. Sidney for her first job at the university, or at any college as far as I can determine: The Associate Director of Human Resources, at a salary of $90,000 per year. Since she landed the CSU job, Ms. Sidney has only two years of experience in any kind of university management, all at Chicago State.

So, this is what we deserve. I can scarcely imagine anything more insulting to the students, our faculty, our alumni, the taxpayers of Illinois, accrediting agencies, and the Board of Trustees than to have someone with an on-line bachelor's degree and no previous management experience, in a top administrative position in our graduate degree granting institution.

Given the administration's apparent desire to keep this information from the faculty, it seems safe to assume that they know about Ms. Sidney's spectacularly unqualified c.v. If our president is really concerned about this school, its students, its public image, and its continued existence, he will dismiss Ms. Sidney immediately and determine who was responsible for this outrage? Any administrators who, knowing of her inadequate qualifications, participated in her hiring should be subject to disciplinary action.

The CSU Cash Cow

Through FOIA requests, faculty has determined which administrators at Chicago State make more than $90,000 per year. At least six of these administrators come from the City Colleges, and are making quite a nice salary:

Angela Henderson, Vice President of Enrollment Management $150,000 per year
Patrick Cage, General Counsel $132.000 per year
Ronnie Watson, Chief of Police $129,996 per year
Yvonne Harris, Associate VP of Sponsored Programs $120,000 per year
Maricela Aranda, Associate VP of Admin and Finance $114,996 per year
Teresa McKinney, Dean of Students $95,004 per year

Who knew that the City Colleges of Chicago, the archetype of a well-run educational entity, offered such a tremendous pool of talent. It’s nice work if you can get it.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cronyism continued

Just to add to the audaciousness of the Chicago-way cronyism at play in the CSU administration revealed in the previous post by BIROBI--salaries for these M.A., B.A., and Ed.D administrators tops $90,000--this is also public record.

When Dr Watson's own appointment as CSU president was rammed through by Trustee & political friends (now gone from the Board and the ILL Senate), fear was expressed that CSU would be turned into a community college. Who knew that this would become so literally true?

What is going on here?

Students articulated their frustrations with the Chicago State administration at the “Occupy Cook” event of Thursday 23, is it not time for faculty to do the same? In the past on this blog, there has been a great deal of comment about how our president is turning CSU into something akin to an eighth City College of Chicago. Is there any specific evidence to support that assertion? Recently, the president admonished faculty not to “air our dirty linen in public,” that such a desire for one’s “fifteen minutes of fame” might adversely affect our accreditation since the HLC members “read the local newspapers.” Is this something that really might hurt our accreditation efforts?

What does the HLC actually use as a basis for its accreditation decisions? The organization’s website is available here:

Here are some pertinent excerpts from the HLC site:

The Criteria for Accreditation
Criterion One: Mission and Integrity

Criterion Statement The organization operates with integrity to ensure the fulfillment of its mission through structures and processes that involve the board, administration, faculty, staff, and students.

Core Component 1d The organization’s governance and administrative structures promote effective leadership and support collaborative processes that enable the organization to fulfill its mission.

Examples of Evidence

The distribution of responsibilities as defined in governance structures, processes, and activities is understood and is implemented through delegated authority.
People within the governance and administrative structures are committed to the mission and appropriately qualified to carry out their defined responsibilities. (bold is mine)

The HLC website does not specifically address uncomplimentary newspaper articles. It does, however, insist that all university constituencies be involved in organizational operations and that administrators are qualified for their jobs. Keeping this criteria in mind, an examination of personnel in similar positions at Chicago State, Eastern Illinois, Illinois State, Northeastern Illinois, and Western Illinois universities reveals stark differences in the qualifications of their key administrators and ours:

Chicago State: Wayne D. Watson. Ph.D. in Education (Northwestern), 2 years of experience in university management.
Eastern Illinois: William L. Perry. Ph.D. in Mathematics (Illinois), 22 years of experience in university management.*
Illinois State: Clarence Alvin Bowman. Ph.D. in Speech and Hearing Science (Illinois), 9 years of experience in university management.
Norheastern Illinois: Sharon K. Hahs. Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry (New Mexico), 11 years of experience in university management.
Western Illinois: Jack Thomas. Ph.D. in English (Indiana University-Pennsylvania), better than 5 years of experience in university management.
*above the level of dean.


As does our Provost, all the other provosts at Eastern Illinois, Illinois State, Northeastern Illinois and Western Illinois hold the Ph.D. All have significant experience in university management.

Vice President of Enrollment Management

Chicago State: Angela M. Henderson, Master of Science in Nursing, R.N., 6 months of experience in university management. Came to CSU directly from the Chicago City Colleges.

Eastern Illinois: Part of the Provost’s duties. Blair M. Lord. Ph.D. in Economics (California-Berkeley), 20 years of experience in university management.

Illinois State: Jonathan M. Rosenthal. Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literature (Princeton), 10 years of experience in university management.

Dean of Students

Chicago State: Teresa McKinney. Ed.D. in Community College Leadership in 2011 (National-Louis University), two months of experience in university management. Came to CSU from the Chicago City Colleges.

Eastern Illinois: Daniel P. Nadler. Ph.D. in Higher Education (SIU-Carbondale), 18 years of management experience in university student affairs.

Illinois State: Larry Dietz. Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration (Iowa State), 26 years of management experience in university student affairs.

Northeastern: Frank Ross. Ph.D. in Higher Education and Student Affairs (Indiana), 15 years of management experience in university student life.

Western Illinois: Gary Biller. Ph.D. in Educational Policy and Administration (Kansas), 20 years of management experience in university in student affairs.

An analysis of this data reveals that the administrators in key positions at Chicago State have neither the appropriate educational qualifications nor the requisite management experience to be in such positions in a post-baccalaureate degree granting institution. Indeed, they seem to be involved in something akin to an on-the-job training program here. My question is simple: why were these two CSU administrators considered the best persons for their jobs? Given all the prior negative (and inaccurate in terms of our graduation rates) reports of our myriad administrative problems, it seems irresponsible at best to fill these key academic positions with persons with non-academic degrees, no Ph.D.’s, and no prior university administrative experience.

These two administrators are not the only key administrators to have come from the City Colleges to CSU. Yvonne Harris, Interim Associate Vice President, Grants and Research Administration at Chicago State, served as a Department Chair at Truman College, then as Dean of Mathematics and Science at Harper College, a community college in Palatine. Maricela Aranda held various administrative positions at Olive-Harvey College between 2002 and August 2011. She is currently an Associate Vice President of Administration and Finance at CSU. Jasmika Cook, Executive Director of Student Support Services at Chicago State, served as Associate Vice Chancellor for Workforce Development at the City Colleges. Chicago State General Counsel Patrick B. Cage served as a Senior Staff Attorney for the City Colleges from February 2008 until November 2009. CSU Police Chief Ronnie Watson served as the Inspector General (part time) for the City Colleges from November 2007 until early October 2009. Finally Cheri Sidney lists on her LinkedIn page a two year job (2006-08) as Director of Student Retention at Harold Washington College. In addition, she lists her current position as “AVP” (which I take to mean Associate Vice President) of Enrollment Management. Her educational qualifications for a key administrative position at Chicago State are no more than a Bachelor of Arts from DePaul University in 2006. I was unable to confirm Cheri Sidney’s employment with the City Colleges.

In addition to these eight currently employed administrators. Andre L. Bell, who served as Senior Research Associate at the City Colleges from January until late November 2009. He is listed in the 2010-12 CSU online catalog as the Vice President for Enrollment Management. He no longer appears on our website and I am assuming he has left the university.

These administrators are spread out in a number of key operational parts of the university. Former City College employees with no university administrative experience occupy key positions in Enrollment Management, Student Support Services, Administration and Finance, Labor and Legal Affairs, and the university Police. It seems like Chicago State is indeed beginning to resemble the City Colleges of Chicago, at least at the administrative level. It also seems like our academic and administrative integrity is less important that taking care of former City College administrators. I find this extremely troubling and would encourage a continuing discussion on this issue.

The information in this post is based on evidence available in a variety of public venues. I would welcome any corrections to factual errors I have made (which are solely my own).

Thursday, November 24, 2011

More Thoughts on "Occupy Cook"

I enjoyed the contrast in behavior between the students, armed only with their thoughts and their rhetoric, and the administration, protected by a police presence and advised by the university counsel. Although several members of the administration tried to convince the students that there were legitimate reasons for their many failures, or alternatively, tried to avoid responsibility by claiming that the student perspective was simply wrong, the students seemed particularly unpersuaded by those shopworn rationalizations and ham-handed attempts at deflection.

ISU leads student occupation of president's office

I have been at CSU for twenty-five years, and yesterday--along with a day in 1994 when students refused to allow the provost to take over a student protest rally--was the greatest day in those twenty-five years.
The Independent Student Union (ISU) led well over 100 students over a two hour span in forcing the administration to shut up and listen to what students had to say about the many frustrations they experience from the incompetence and indifference of administrative offices and services at Chicago State: Fs on the transcript rather than withdrawals because of lost paperwork, failure to help new students to find their advisors and get properly registered for classes, failure to properly manage the university’s image including highlighting the many accomplishments of students, faculty and alumni, failure to honor outstanding student achievement, and failure to improve communications. These instances of failure to treat our students as they deserve are a disrespect to them. At Chicago State, with its overwhelmingly African American student enrollment, they are a racist disrespect.
The faculty played an auxilliary role of helping students to prevent the administration from seizing control of their occupation. This was an honor to the faculty present who stood behind and facilitated this expression of working class power.
In the second hour the administration, with the help of a student plant who is a representative to IBHE, tried to turn the tables by complaining that ISU failed to "work through proper channels." As a communist, I observed that this was precisely the strength of what the students did. The "proper channels" are a way of keeping us in our place, under the control and dominance of the administration. What made the occupation of the president's office a powerful event is that it broke the rules, occupied the president's office against the administration's wishes and despite its efforts to deflect student anger toward the government and legislature (though these are proper targets too), and empowered so many students to assert both their diginity and their power. This is an expression of working class democracy.
I commend the faculty who helped with this powerful protest. I congratulate ISU for empowering so many students. May ISU long be a vehicle by which students are enabled to become active against social injustice and the many harms of racist capitalism!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Protest Tomorrow - 10 a.m.

The Independent Student Union that has organized this fall and plans to exercise its right to free speech and assembly and Occupy the Cook Building on Weds. November 23rd. at 10 a.m. The students are worried about the "cheapening" of their degrees. No, they are not simply trying to attain their "15 minutes of fame" or cause scandal that will lose us our accreditation. Below is listed what concerns them and should concern us as faculty in spite of today's equivocations:

Dr. Watson is embarrassing Chicago State:
• 41 Serious discrepancies in the last financial audit (financial mismanagement).
• Falsification of our student retention rate by allowing students with GPA’s as low as 0.0 to register for classes (dishonesty).
• Overrode faculty and changed the curriculum in disciplines in which he has no expertise (mindless arrogance).
• Repeated reorganizations of departments that confuse both students and faculty (incompetence).

We have a DUTY and an OBLIGATION to speak up and stop the CHEAPENING OF OUR DEGREES! Join the Independent Student Union when we OCCUPY the President’s office and mass call the Governor and our State Representatives and Senators on Wednesday, Nov 23 at 10 am.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dean's Search in CAS: "In the spirit of shared governance..."

A letter from the Interim Associate Provost reached some faculty in the College of Arts & Sciences late so I'm noting it here. The Provost's office does not want individual faculty swamping email boxes so if you are from the CAS send your ideas to your department chair before the deadline tomorrow. This is an actual request for faculty input!!! and it's about a search!!!

"Please initiate a discussion with faculty from your departments regarding the language they want to include in the advertisement for the position of Dean, College of Arts & Sciences [CAS]. The advertisements will be posted in the Chronicle of Higher Education, DIVERSE Issues in Higher Education and the CSU Human Resources portal.

All responses need to be in by Tuesday, November 22, 2011. A draft position description will be forwarded to the Chairs & faculty before Wednesday, December 7, 2011.

If the search process goes well it will begin in February and conclude in May before the close of the semester. The position’s anticipated start date is July 1, 2012.

In the spirit of shared governance, please ensure that you solicit input from all faculty, who are so inclined, in this important process."

Now, when will we be asked about that Provost search...?

Friday, November 18, 2011

On the Cutting Edge of Humanities Scholarship

CSU Professor and internationally know author, Sandra Jackson-Opoku, and Dr. Evelyne Delgado-Norris, French scholar and professor at CSU, along with others in the Department of English and Foreign Languages and Literatures, and the College of Arts and Sciences presented a powerful program on Tuesday, November 15 which was appreciated by at least 70 students, faculty and administrators. Webster, a Canadian of multi-racial African descent, described the racial conditions in Canada which mirror our own in Chicago. This activist described life as a young boy and man in a working-class neighborhood in Quebec City. His personal stories of racial profiling and harassment at the hands of police resonate with many in our beloved city.

Webster detailed the nature of racist indoctrination at the hands of Canadian educators who never allowed for the study of African-descended and Native Canadian people. As an educated French- and English-speaking African Canadian man, Webster feels compelled to write and speak about such things. He described how he and his friends speak in Frenglish (hybrid French and English language). Like most colonized and resistant peoples, this generation of multiracial Canadians have had to create a language that allowed them to speak of their circumstances. Or as the late, great thinker/writer James Baldwin wrote “People evolve a language in order to describe and thus control their circumstances or in order not to be submerged by a reality that they cannot articulate.” Frenglish, like ebonics and Spanglish, allow colonized people to describe their reality, critique it and mold it. Frenglish, ebonics, Spanglish and other denigrated languages allow the marginalized and the resistant to express their unique subjectivity vis-à-vis an oppressive, dominant society. From this location they can assume agency, identity and a right to speak. Perhaps the words of Frantz Fanon from his important, Wretched of the Earth, help us understand the importance of language to our people: “every dialect, every language, is a way of thinking. To speak means to assume a culture.”

Hip hop throughout the world is created by colonized people in their language. Whether in Spanglish, Frenglish or ebonics, hip hop is a beautiful expression of THEIR knowledge in THEIR language. It’s a shame that the Black and Brown managerial class can’t see that beauty. Perhaps if they were to look to Robeson or Morrison for their examples of ebonics instead of corporate rap ‘stars’ or the latest anti-Black rant disguised as a legitimate prejudice against ebonics, they would be able to appreciate the beauty of our languages and assume their power.

Again, many thanks to Sandra and Evelyne for developing this program on the internationalization of hip hop, highlighting the importance of youth culture to our globalized world and furthering our understanding of the African diaspora. Thanks for bringing Webster’s beautiful hip hop (wisdom) to the CSU community.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Of dogs and ponies

Well that's the last time I mistake a "faculty forum" for a place where faculty actually have a forum. For more than an hour and half this afternoon I was transported back to the days of Elnora Daniel's All Campus Assemblies--remember those grandiose boring old powerpoint shows of hers? So here was yet another lecture on our strategic plan and mission and vision. [music swells at the point-- The Platters, "Smoke Gets in your Eyes"] Maybe someday we will get a Law School and Medical School complete with teaching hospital and an M.B.A. program,and a westside campus --we are the little college that could. Except, O great Oz, when we can't.

I wanted to hear more about "ethical leadership" from our CEO--the words spoken so seriously this afternoon and with a straight face. I wanted to ask, 'how does this play out on a campus where fear, intimidation, and retaliation are management techniques? where the patronage pit is alive and well?' We are after all the City Colleges Re-employment Program. (BTW Any bets on who will be the next provost? Can we at least have the farce of a search since that seems to be the only way upper administrators are hired?). Ethical leadership, indeed. [music swells--again it's the Platters--this time, "The Great Pretender"].

But if I had had a chance to ask a question, I probably wouldn't have. I would have instead reminded faculty to support the Independent Student Union that has organized this fall and plans to exercise its right to free speech and assembly and Occupy the Cook Building on Weds. November 23rd. at 10 a.m. The students are worried about the "cheapening" of their degrees. No, they are not simply trying to attain their "15 minutes of fame" or cause scandal that will lose us our accreditation. Below is listed what concerns them and should concern us as faculty in spite of today's equivocations:

Dr. Watson is embarrassing Chicago State:
• 41 Serious discrepancies in the last financial audit (financial mismanagement).
• Falsification of our student retention rate by allowing students with GPA’s as low as 0.0 to register for classes (dishonesty).
• Overrode faculty and changed the curriculum in disciplines in which he has no expertise (mindless arrogance).
• Repeated reorganizations of departments that confuse both students and faculty (incompetence).

We have a DUTY and an OBLIGATION to speak up and stop the CHEAPENING OF OUR DEGREES! Join the Independent Student Union when we OCCUPY the President’s office and mass call the Governor and our State Representatives and Senators on Wednesday, Nov 23 at 10 am.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

CSU & Trends in Higher Education

Given the excellent discussion of Benjamin Ginsberg’s recent book in the previous blog post from Nov. 8, I thought I would offer some further food for thought to put the changes that are going on at CSU in broader context. In discussing changes within universities in the U.S., one writer noted that people frequently discuss “the high necessity of a businesslike organization and control of the university, its equipment, personnel and routine. What is had in mind in this insistence on an efficient system is that these corporations of learning shall set their affairs in order after the pattern of a well-conducted business concern. In this view the university is conceived as a business house dealing in merchantable knowledge, placed under the governing hand of a captain of erudition, whose office it is to turn the means in hand to account in the largest feasible output. … Under this rule the academic staff becomes a body of graded subalterns, who share confidence of the chief in varying degrees, but who no decisive voice in the policy or the conduct of affairs of the concern in whose pay they are held. The faculty is conceived as a body of employees, hired to render certain services and turn out certain scheduled vendible results.”

When reading this passage, I was struck by how closely it fit with the emphasis on the “business/corporate model” that seems to have been adopted at CSU – we certainly hear references to creating a more “efficient system” when many of the recent changes at CSU are discussed (such as the attempts to reorganize the College of Arts & Sciences, etc.). Many faculty at CSU can also likely relate to the experience of being “a body of graded subalterns.”

What struck me even more, though, was that the observation of this trend was not remotely new, unlike the newer trends discussed by Ginsberg in his book. The above passage is from Thorstein Veblen’s book The Higher Learning In America: A Memorandum On the Conduct of Universities By Business Men, which he wrote in 1918. That Veblen noticed this trend in 1918 and developed a strong critique of it is pretty remarkable, I though. It suggests that many of the problems we are seeing at CSU are not at all unique to CSU and are not anything particularly new.

I suppose that the question this raises is if the attempts to transform universities to follow a “business/corporate model” are nothing new, then what does that suggest to those of us who want to resist these changes right now? For this, I don’t have any answers, but perhaps it starts by affirming what we, as faculty, think that the purpose of a university is and CSU’s purpose in particular.

Veblen certainly had an idea about this in 1918. He starts his book with a discussion of “The Place of the University in Modern Life.” His argument is the following: “The conservation and advancement of the higher learning involves two lines of work, distinct but closely bound together: (a) scientific and scholarly inquiry, and (b) the instruction of students. The former of these is primary and indispensable. It is this work of intellectual enterprise that gives its character to the university and marks it off from the lower schools. … University teaching, having a particular and special purpose -- the pursuit of knowledge -- it has also a particular and special character, such as to differentiate it from other teaching and at the same time leave it relatively ineffective for other purposes. Its aim is to equip the student for the work of inquiry, not to give him facility in that conduct of affairs that turns such knowledge to ‘practical account.’”

Perhaps these ideas are worth thinking about in preparation for President Watson’s “Faculty Forum” that will be held tomorrow in the Breakey Theatre at 12:30.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fall of the Faculty--how much further can we go?

Since the purpose of this blog is to share information and opinions among the faculty at CSU I'm not sure many people know that at the Board of Trustees meeting in September several faculty members attended and spoke during public comment on the state of the chaos (most of it unnecessary) that is affecting everyone on our campus. One of our faculty colleagues quoted from a book that has come out by Benjamin Ginsberg, entitled, The Fall of the Faculty. Last week NPR interviewed the author and on their website is a link to the interview as well as an excerpt from the book. I'm posting the link to it here as well as the excerpt below. Many of us, not just "a few disgruntled faculty" ("white" or otherwise as ex-Trustee Finney once characterized us), want to reclaim the faculty's place as the keepers of the intellectual integrity of the university. Our students are beginning to ask us questions about the value of their degrees from a place that values patronage over academics. As one student put it to the Trustees at this same comment period,"they (the faculty) have what we want." The students understand. Ginsberg's book should be considered the first blast of the trumpet.

And if anyone from the Administration at CSU cares to refute Ginsberg's position, consider this an invitation to do so.

From the NPR website:

From 1975 to 2005, the cost of attending public universities in the U.S. tripled. Benjamin Ginsberg argues that much of the increased cost can be attributed to administrative bloat.

Since the 1970s, Ginsberg notes, the number of administrative staffers has risen by 235 percent, while the number of faculty and students has increased by only about 50 percent.

Some administrators do so little that they “could be kidnapped by space aliens and it would be weeks or even months before his or her absence from campus was noticed,” Ginsberg writes.

He also says the increase in administrators is taking universities away from their fundamental academic purpose, and doing students a disservice.

Book Excerpt: “The Fall Of The Faculty”
By Benjamin Ginsberg

College students generally view professors as individuals who exercise a good deal of power. Members of the faculty, after all, direct the lectures, labs, studios and discussions around which academic life is organized. Professors also control the grades and recommendations that help to determine students’ graduate school and career prospects.

Students are often aware, too, that some of their professors are movers and shakers beyond the walls of the campus. Academics are visible in the worlds of science, literature, the arts, finance and, especially, politics where they serve as analysts, commentators, advisors and high-level policy makers.

But, whatever standing they may have in the eyes of undergraduates or even in the corridors of national power, most professors possess surprisingly little influence in their own schools’ decision-making processes. At most, though perhaps not all of America’s thousands of colleges and universities, the faculty has been shunted to the sidelines. Faculty members will learn about major new programs and initiatives from official announcements or from the campus newspaper. Power on campus is wielded mainly by administrators whose names and faces are seldom even recognized by students or recalled by alumni.

At most schools to be sure, faculty members control the content of their own classes and, for the most part, their own research agendas. The faculty, collectively, plays a recognized though not exclusive role in the hiring and promotion of its members. Outside these two areas, though, administrators seldom bother to consult the faculty. And, should faculty members have the temerity to offer unsolicited views, these will be more or less politely ignored. Thus, there are few schools whose faculty members have a voice in business or investment decisions. Hardly any faculties are consulted about the renovation or construction of buildings and other aspects of the school’s physical plant. Virtually everywhere, student issues, including the size of the student body, tuition, financial aid and admissions policies are controlled by administrators. At most schools, fund raising and alumni relations are administrative matters, though faculty members are often asked to entertain alumni gatherings by giving talks and presentations.

Most professors, perhaps, have only a passing interest in the university’s physical plant or its investment strategies. Particularly at research universities many faculty members normally pay little attention to their school’s undergraduate admissions policies. But, professors lack much power even in areas in which they have a strong interest, such as the appointment of senior administrators, the development of new programs and curricula, and the definition of budgetary priorities.

As to appointments, on most campuses, presidential searches are controlled by the trustees or regents, while provosts, deans and other senior administrators are appointed by the president with varying degrees of faculty input. Professors, to be sure, often do serve on administrative or presidential search committees, alongside administrators, students and college staffers. These searches, however, are usually organized and overseen by corporate search firms employed by trustees, in the case of presidential searches, or the school’s administration for other searches. Before the 1960s, such firms were seldom retained by universities. Today, however, as college administrators imitate the practices of their corporate counterparts, search firms are a fixture of academic life. In recent years, two-thirds of the presidential searches conducted by large universities have been directed by professional head hunters.

In consultation with their employers, these firms identify most of the candidates whom the committee will be able to meet and consider. Generally speaking, search firms rule out candidates about whom anything at all negative is said when they investigate candidates’ backgrounds. This practice introduces a marked bias in favor of the most boring and conventional candidates. And, even the constrained choice given the committee is seldom final. Search committees are generally empowered only to recommend two or three candidates for review by the president or trustees who actually make the final decision. Many schools, of course, do not bother with even the pretense of faculty participation in administrative searches. The faculty learns the name of a new president or provost when the trustees issue a press release.

Once appointed, presidents serve at the pleasure of the trustees and can only be removed by them. Other administrators serve at the pleasure of the president. Every school employs a great many administrators whom the faculty regard as foolish or incompetent. But, so long as these individuals retain the support of their administrative superiors, the faculty is usually powerless to remove them. At one school, Pennsylvania’s Albright College, the faculty were dismayed to learn in 1999 that the resume’ of their newly appointed president was filled with fraudulent claims–books never published, positions never held and so on. Yet, while the facts of the matter could not be disputed, most trustees continued to support the president for nearly five years before he finally agreed to step down. Much of the Boston University faculty loathed and feared dictatorial President John Silber during his twenty-five years in office but, given Silber’s solid base of support among powerful members of the board of trustees, faculty opposition came to naught. In a similar vein, the trustees stood by the president of West Virginia University in the face of a faculty no-confidence vote when it was revealed that the university had awarded the daughter of the state’s governor an MBA degree she had not actually earned. Conversely, faculty support will certainly not protect an administrator’s job if she or he runs afoul of the Board. In 2005, for example, Cornell’s Jeffrey Lehman, a president whose work was generally approved by the faculty, was summarily fired by the Board, apparently in the wake of a personnel dispute. The Board neither consulted with nor informed the faculty before determining that Lehman should go.

Occasionally, to be sure, just as riots and disturbances in a third world country can bring about the regime’s downfall, severe faculty unrest may bring about the sudden ouster of an unpopular or inept administrator. In 2006, for example, vehement faculty protest forced the resignation of Harvard’s Larry Summers and Case Western’s Edward Hundert. Yet, not unlike third world peasants, disgruntled professors are seldom able to convert their brief paroxysm of rage into any form of sustained influence. In the university as in the third world, after the jubilant celebrations marking the ouster of the hated old regime end, an imperious new leadership cadre arrives to grasp the reins of power. Confined to an occasional uprising, the faculty exercises little more power over administrative tenure than the students, another campus group that can occasionally overthrow a college president but almost never governs. Thus, in 2006, apparently a difficult year for college leaders, several weeks of protests by Gallaudet College students forced the resignation of president-elect Jane Fernandez. At last report, however, students were not running the college. As often as not, faculty protests have little effect. Thus, for example, at New York’s New School for Social Research, several years of faculty rebellion, including a 271 to 8 vote of no confidence in December, 2008, did not result in the ouster of despised president, Bob Kerrey.

The views of the faculty play a similarly limited role when it comes to new programs and spending priorities. For example, in 1998, faculty at the University of Texas at Austin were surprised to learn that the university administration had decided to spend nearly $200 million to expand the school’s athletic facilities. This plan included renovation of the football stadium as well as construction of an air conditioned practice field, a new track-and-field stadium and a new athletic center. Not only did this involve a diversion of funds from other potential uses, but it would come at the expense of badly needed classroom and laboratory space. The faculty’s objections were ignored.

In a similar vein, early in 2005, Florida State University professors were startled to learn from press accounts that their school’s administration planned to build a school of chiropractic medicine on the Tallahassee campus. Indeed, before the faculty had even read about the idea, the university’s president had already hired an administrator to oversee planning for the new school and advertised for a dean to direct its programs. University administrators boasted that theirs would be the first chiropractic school formally affiliated with an American university, making FSU the nation’s leader in this realm. Administrators apparently were not bothered by the fact that chiropractic theories, claims and therapies, beyond simple massage, are universally dismissed by the medical and scientific communities as having no scientific basis. In essence, FSU administrators aspired to a lead role in the promotion of quackery. Fortunately, the state legislature cut off funds for the chiropractic school before the administration’s visionary plans could be implemented.

In 2008, Virginia Commonwealth University faculty were astonished to discover that their administration had signed a secret agreement with the Philip Morris tobacco company which prohibited professors from publishing or even discussing the results of their research without the company’s permission. Under the agreement, queries from third parties, such as news organizations, were to be directed to the company and university officials were to decline to comment. The school’s vice president for research asserted that the contract, which violated the university’s own rules, struck a reasonable balance between the university’s need for openness and Philip Morris’s need for confidentiality.

At my own university, a 2006 press release informed the faculty that the school’s administration had decided to establish a graduate school of business and would soon begin a search for a dean. The announcement came as a complete surprise to the faculty. Even professors in such fields as Economics, who would be expected to contribute to the new school’s efforts, were not consulted about or even informed of the plan before it was made public. Most faculty members were dubious about the administration’s objectives, particularly when it became evident that fund raising for the business school, which would require tens of millions of dollars from the university, would take precedence over other, more pressing, development priorities. Oblivious to faculty concerns, the school’s former president and former provost blithely declared that they hoped professors would direct graduating seniors with business interests to the new and even now unaccredited school.

Particularly aggressive administrators are prepared to confront and silence faculty resistance to their plans to establish new programs or reorganize old ones. One favorite administrative tactic is the claim that some fiscal or other emergency requires them to act with lightning speed–and without consulting the faculty–to save the university. For example, in 1999, the president of the University of Dubuque informed the faculty that because of a financial shortfall, the administration was eliminating or consolidating more than half the school’s majors and programs. For the most part, liberal arts programs were to be cut in favor of the business curriculum favored by the administration and the school’s trustees. No faculty were consulted before the president made his announcement nor was evidence of the supposed financial crisis presented to the faculty.

More recently, in the wake of the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster, administrators at several New Orleans schools declared states of emergency. These administrators asserted, with some legal justification, that in times of emergency they possessed the power to reorganize programs, drastically change the college curriculum, eliminate course offerings and, indeed, close entire departments without consulting the faculty. At Loyola University of New Orleans, according to a report commissioned by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), President Kevin Wildes surprised the faculty by releasing a document entitled “Pathways Toward Our Second Century,” which presented a blueprint for a complete reorganization of the university, including the elimination of several programs, consolidation of others and the suspension of eleven degree programs. The president conceded that his administration had begun work on “Pathways” before the hurricane. Katrina, though, “may have forced us to accomplish this undertaking much earlier than expected.” In other words, the hurricane provided the administration with an opportunity to bring about a complete reorganization of the school’s teaching and research programs without faculty involvement.

Similarly, under the cover of a declaration of fiscal exigency, Tulane’s president, Scott Cowen, proffered a “Plan for Renewal,” that included reorganization or elimination of academic programs and major changes in the curriculum. Some faculty members charged that the plan was an opportunistic effort to implement proposals that had been presented to the faculty and defeated before Katrina. Tulane’s administration rejected this interpretation of events, but President Cowen conceded that the hurricane had allowed him to take “bold” actions that could not have succeeded under normal circumstances. “Out of every disaster comes an opportunity,” Cowen said. As we shall see below, the financial crisis of 2009 gave administrators new opportunities to take bold actions.

Even in matters of curriculum planning, an area usually seen as the province of the faculty, some college administrators and trustees have been encroaching on professorial power. In 1999, for example, faculty at the State University of New York (SUNY) charged that the system’s trustees were mandating a new system-wide general education curriculum without so much as consulting the SUNY faculty. In 2005, Delaware State University administrators relieved the faculty of the burden of curriculum planning when they informed professors that the university would be developing a new degree program without any faculty involvement at all. The university had contracted with a New York company called “” which would design and staff a new online Delaware State Master’s degree program in graphic arts and Web design. The school’s administration dismissed faculty objections to its curricular outsourcing plan.

In many instances, when they declare the need to reform the undergraduate curriculum, administrators have no actual interest in the curriculum’s content. Their real goal is to reduce the centrality of the traditional curriculum and to partially supplant it with what might be called a “student life” curriculum consisting of activities, seminars and even courses led by administrative staff rather than faculty. The traditional curriculum gives the faculty a privileged claim on university resources and decision-making priorities while the new curriculum enhances the power of administrators and justifies hiring more administrators and fewer faculty. Administrators usually seek to justify their school’s shift in emphasis by explaining that a good deal of learning takes place outside the classroom or involves subjects beyond the realm of the faculty’s traditional sphere of competence.

A former assistant dean–or perhaps deanlet or deanling might be a better title–at my university explained that students need to learn more than academic skills.12 They also must be taught, “the universal life skills that everyone needs to know.” And what might be an example of one of these all-important proficiencies? According to this deanling, a premier example is event planning. “For many students, the biggest event they’ve ever planned is a dinner at home.” But, planning an event on campus might require, “reserving the room, notifying Security, arranging transportation and lodging for out-of-town speakers, ordering food.” Armed with training in a subject as important and intellectually challenging as event planning, students would hardly need to know anything about physics or calculus or literature or any of those other inconsequential topics taught by the stodgy faculty.

An instrument often used by administrators to gain control over the curriculum is the study commission. Many universities, in recent years, have established commissions or committees to study the undergraduate curriculum and make recommendations for reform. Though the precise reasons for reform may not be clear, Americans generally believe that reform is a good thing and find it difficult to deny the desirability of considering reform proposals. Thus, even when the faculty is dubious about the need for such a commission, it is hard pressed to argue against its creation. At some schools, Berkeley, Chicago, Harvard and Stanford for example, professors were able to gain control of reform committees, asserting plausibly that they knew more about curricular needs than other groups on campus. More often, though, the makeup of the committee is designed to dilute or diminish faculty influence and the committee’s subsequent recommendations are often designed to create new budgetary priorities that will enhance administrators’ power and prerogatives.

One example of this phenomenon is the Commission on Undergraduate Education (CUE) established by my university in 2002. This commission, whose announced goal was to improve the quality of undergraduate education, seemed to be modeled after similar commissions that had been established at Berkeley and Stanford. This sort of “borrowing” is common in administrative circles, where original ideas are usually in short supply. Administrators often hide their mimicry under the rubric of adherence to “best practices.” They can seldom offer any real evidence that the practice in question is even good, much less best. The Hopkins president who launched the committee had once been a Stanford faculty member, while the Hopkins provost, formerly a Berkeley professor, had actually served on Berkeley’s undergraduate education commission. Perhaps it was only natural that they should copy concepts from campuses with which they were familiar. While Hopkins borrowed the name CUE from its sister schools, the Hopkins commission functioned quite differently from its namesakes. At Berkeley and Stanford faculty members had seized control of their undergraduate commissions and had largely beaten back administrative incursions into curricular matters. Hopkins’ faculty, however, was caught off guard and watched as the committee became an administrative tool.

Administrative designs were evident from the outset when the president charged the commission with the task of improving undergraduate education, “ both inside and outside the classroom.” The phrase outside the classroom usually signals an effort by administrators to shift budgetary priorities from teaching, which the faculty controls, to other activities where, as noted above, faculty claims of expertise are weaker and administrators have an opportunity to expand their own bureaucratic domains. The role the administration expected the committee to play became even more clear when its make-up was announced. At Berkeley and Stanford most CUE members had been drawn from the faculty. At Hopkins, though, only eight of the forty individuals named to the commission were full-time professors. Twelve were administrators and staffers, and the remainder were students and alumni. Of the eight faculty commissioners, two were untenured and, thus, concerned not to make waves, and some of the others were individuals frequently appointed to university committees because they could be trusted by the administration to refrain from making trouble.

Named to chair Hopkins’ CUE was a freshly-appointed Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, a former medical school professor who had little or no experience with undergraduate education. This lack of acquaintance on the part of its chair with the subject of the commission’s inquiry would presumably be no hindrance to its efforts to improve education outside the classroom. Before the commission could complete its work, this worthy left the university to become the provost of a small college. The inaugural chair was soon replaced by a new Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, also an individual with no experience inside the classroom.

For at least some of the faculty committee members, service was a mind-numbing experience. On many occasions the CUE chair scheduled presentations by counselors and consultants–presumably experts in education outside the classroom–who led the commissioners in incomprehensible role-playing exercises. One professor told me that he thought he had been transported to an alternative universe whose official language was psychobabble. Administrators on the commission, though, were reported to enjoy their work. Like their bureaucratic counterparts everywhere they welcomed time out of the office, particularly if lunch was provided.

CUE submitted its report in 2003. Only a handful of the report’s recommendations actually focused on undergraduate education, the committee’s nominal topic. For the most part, these recommendations took the form of vague and platitudinous exhortations. Recommendation 5, for example, declared that the university should, “Expand the opportunities available to first-year students for intellectually engaging academic experiences in a small group format.” Presumably, implementation of this bold proposal would require overcoming fierce opposition from the many groups on campus committed to blocking student exposure to intellectually engaging experiences. Other recommendations were trivial. Number 12, for example, called upon professors to, “give final examinations only during the final examination period.” This would end the common practice of offering exams on the last day of class, a custom that had undoubtedly diminished the quality of American higher education for more than a century. Equally bold was Recommendation 33, which prodded the university to, “improve food quality and service.”

If CUE had little to offer on the topic of undergraduate education inside the classroom, it had much to say about what should happen outside the classroom. Recommendation 1 called upon each college within the university to appoint a “senior level administrator” to assure the quality of undergraduate education. Recommendation 12 affirmed the need for a new administrator to, “develop networking and internship opportunities for undergraduates.” Recommendation 26 demanded that more minority administrators be hired. Other recommendations called for expansion of administrative supervision of most aspects of campus life.

One might have thought that improving undergraduate education would begin by enlarging the faculty to allow a larger number and greater variety of courses. Perhaps, the committee might have considered changes in the undergraduate curriculum to address emerging fields in the sciences or new concepts in the humanities. But, apparently the idea that at least the first steps in improving undergraduate education should have something to do with faculty and courses is an old fashioned and overly professorial perspective. Created and led by administrators, the commission found that the undergraduate experience could be most effectively improved if the university hired more administrators! Several years later, many committee recommendations, including those pertaining to the quality of student life, had not been fulfilled, according to the school’s student newspaper. Those proposals calling for the appointment of more administrators, however, had been quickly implemented.

Reprinted with permission of Oxford University Press, Inc. Copyright 2011