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

Monday, November 7, 2011

Senate Drama Follow Up? or Trickle Down?

Two days after a Faculty Senate meeting where several important votes took place in the life of our University, it appears as if another failure to inform and notify affected parties of critical information has occurred. And it didn’t take long for the same strategies of avoidance and failed communication practices to recur. While an individual senator expressed concern over notification procedures, election violations and the gradual diminution of the faculty’s role and voice on curricular matters on an important University committee, these concerns were never communicated directly to the committee in question by either the Chair of the committee nor by several administrators who were present at both meetings. The tragedy is that these acts of omission are being imposed upon this “faculty elected” committee not by the administration, but by one of our own: another faculty member! The rubber stamp of authoritarian approval was then rendered complete when two administrators attended the same meeting and failed to notify the committee of these matters. Here are some of the pertinent facts:

The November meeting of the University General Education Committee (GEC) that followed the Senate meeting last week started with ten minutes of silence (apparently there is little to discuss) while awaiting a quorum. The Chair of GEC then informed the committee members how a quorum is to be calculated (in a manner that directly contradicts his own statements in a previous committee meeting although this time were close to being accurate for a change). The Chair then proceeded to conduct the meeting as if a close 11-10 vote two days earlier that threatened to disband (and reconstitute) his committee had never happened. The first matter of business, passing the revised General Education outcomes, also had barely survived an 11-10 vote that requested the motion to be tabled for 30 days pending a university wide forum to be held. But neither of these two facts were mentioned or discussed at this meeting.

This led to my asking, “Why is it that CSU faculty are never (or rarely) informed about critical information that may affect their decision-making ability by other university constituencies?” And “does it not matter that nearly half of another faculty elected body found it sufficiently necessary to hold off on approving these outcomes pending an additional month of discussion and deliberation?” And yet this committee simply rolls on to yet another vote without knowing what occurred two days prior? And how come we keep “deciding on” things without being informed of actions taken by other reasonably knowledgeable and well-intentioned faculty colleagues serving on other committees on campus?

In fairness, I should note that for the first time in four GEC meetings, a reasonably substantive discussion occurred in the GenEd committee on the GenEd outcomes where it had not previously. Instead of the usual pleasantries and vague statements I heard the last few months like, “Gee, things are in flux and a lot of change is coming at CSU,” the primary discussion this time was over the significance of the following three phrases: “liberal education,” “liberal arts education,” and being “liberally educated?” These concepts refer to significantly different educational frameworks for general education with greatly varying meanings that will now require assessment (as if we are really clear on the meaning of these terms and as if we had found consensus as a result of collective deliberation on the rest of the terms in this document for our institution).

Naturally, it would be good if there were consensus on the committee that approved this document about the meaning of these terms. Much of the content of this document, how it is to be assessed, and what relation it has to the GenEd curriculum is less well understood. Indeed, I would argue that it has not been well-discussed and that email communication and online editing of a limited body of received commentary has not produced a well deliberated result or an institution wide consensus on these matters. While the discussion at this particular meeting was good, nonetheless it was surprising to this observer that a general consensus on the committee was lacking still after so much discussion had “supposedly” already taken place. And it was also surprising that the GenEd document was approved as amended without the CSU community as a whole being informed of the final version. How can discussion occur when no one has possession of the latest version of the document? Indeed it had not been subjected to anything more than the mere “editing” of a few sentences for twenty minutes during the previous seven months in the GEC itself (since April 2011).

Two items should catch your attention that make this meeting “blogworthy:” First, how can one vote on a document that has been edited from one already been approved by two other university-level committees? Does the Chair intend to return this edited document to the Senate and GEAC for re-approval? And secondly, why did neither of the two administrators who were present inform the committee of the Senate action two days earlier when both were present at the Senate meeting?

The point is that by not providing key information, a deliberative body can continue to deliberate on non-essential items and imagine that is it doing its job without really addressing critical information. Ultimately, the failure to consider said critical information could result in unpleasant and unexpected consequences in the future. In this case, without properly discussing the new General Education outcomes sufficiently and their connection to the current GenEd requirements, the membership will now be faced with the task of explaining future decisions to remove some current GenEd courses from the approved list to their colleagues. This will likely lead to reduced enrollments in key programs and likely to staff reductions that will be unexpected. At least folks will have a few semesters to come up with a reasonably good justification for this decision before the damage appears at which point the administrators in the room last Thursday will be long gone. And just as likely is the possibility that many of the committee members will have resigned from or stopped attending the meetings when they become too “difficult” or “burdensome.” Were they to remain, they will be expected to explain the reason for their vote last Thursday which will be much more difficult because they were not well-informed of the content of the document vote don in the first place.

Representation, effective communication and proper deliberation really are significant on this committee!! And leaving out critical information to affected parties, failing to genuinely discuss and deliberate upon important matters, and administrative attempts to cover up unpleasant facts really does “trickle down!” Ultimately, these decisions (and the lack of sound processes in reaching a result) do affect our students, the quality of the education they receive, and the integrity of the university’s academic reputation.

None of these items were on the agenda.

BOGged Down

In a few days 701 Board of Governors students, more than 10% of our total enrollment, will require advising for their Spring 2012 courses and the dizzying maze of confusion caused by the CEO and CAO of CSU who commanded that BOG transform into something else. That something else is General Studies (GS). While the proposed changes to the program as presented by the office of the Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (who will now inherit the program in this endless reshuffling of university programs, units and departments) illustrate a degree of hard work by faculty, chairs, Deans and staff in the CAS and BOG program, the new General Studies program is troubling for several reasons.

First is the student confusion and extra hassle this brings; the very things students complained about during the 2009 campus teach-in and the comments collected this semester by the Independent Student Union (a collective of students concerned about the direction of the university). BOG students received a letter from Provost Westbrooks on August 12, 2011 informing them of the changes. According to Dr. Westbrooks, “The reason for the reorganization of the program is to ensure that the degree earned by the students will prepare them for the challenges of professional life in the 21st Century.” The rationale sounds reasonable until you consider why many BOG students are in the program. These are students who are non-traditional age. They are pursuing a degree either because their job or job advancement requires it or for personal reasons. So, immediately one should scrutinize the soundness of this transformation.

Back to Westbrooks’ letter: After they are informed that the name has changed students are told that they must chose one of four options. These include 1) finishing their BOG degree by the end of Fall 2013. They have three semesters to complete or they will be transferred to GS; 2) change major to GS; 3) change to a traditional major program; or 4) Change to an Individualized Curriculum Program if they have earned more than 90 hours toward BOG degree. Finally, Provost Westbrooks explains that advisors will be available to assist them. I have faith in our university faculty and staff and believe that those advisors who will now be asked to much more work (will they get properly remunerated for their work?) are very good at their jobs. However, you can’t ask anyone to learn the entire curricula of each department and program in the university! BOG students who wish to choose option 3 will find this process difficult. Many have already expressed confusion and frustration at this additional hurdle on their way to achieving their educational goals.

The BOG confusion serves as metonym, metaphor and meditation on the confusion experienced by many students this semester as colleges, programs and departments were shuffled by executive order. Students sought guidance from faculty who upon return from summer break found out about these latest illogical institutional initiatives (III). One young man summed up this problem at the recent Board of Trustee meeting when he described how his department chairperson changed three times since last semester.

The Interim Dean’s office explained that as the last Illinois State University to have a BOG program we were an anachronistic bunch. We are told that the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) is ecstatic about this move into the next century. So, was this top-down authoritarian imposition into academic affairs (sovereign faculty space under any shared governance regime) a good idea? It depends on who you ask. If you ask current BOG students, you are likely to receive a negative response. These students, who were described as ‘experimental subjects,’ may not like the outcome of this ‘experiment’. Hopefully, the IBHE and HLC will answer in the affirmative.

But, we won’t know the answer to this question for some time. What we do witness is the intrusion into faculty space without an understanding by the regime of what is required to undertake such a reconstruction of a large program. This is illustrated by the scrambling that the committee to eliminate BOG and create GS had to do to develop this still incomplete program. Other faculty committees are being asked to sign-off the reconstruction/demolition/reincarnation of BOG without it even being completed. This, just days before registration. While I have faith in my colleagues and our CSU students that they will get through this maze relatively unscathed (though, obviously this will cause hardship for many), this illustrates well why faculty must govern academic affairs. Those who are not in the classroom nor do the grinding work of running the day-to-day primary mission of the university (learning) can’t possibly know whether or not their plans for reconstruction are pedagogically sound or whether they will assist students in acquiring their degrees, certificates and other qualifications. Nor can they know the amount of frustration and energy, and lowering of morale and enthusiasm that such ill-conceived notions bring.Traditionally, wholesale program changes and eliminations emanate from the faculty. A faculty knows the academic side of the university. Thus, this body is best positioned to develop it. Administration generally serves as a rubber stamp or in an advisory capacity on curricular matters. Their role is to support faculty initiatives and work to take care of the university’s budget. They might also care for the university’s reputation.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Drama in the Senate Meeting!

Wow! A faculty Senator called another Senator’s proposal “stupid” in the Senate meeting yesterday afternoon and accused him of shamelessly seeking to advance his career by, of all things, offering to serve on a university committee! High drama in the CSU Senate! Of course, things are not always as they appear at CSU.

In fact, the real issues are failed notification procedures, improper committee appointments, failure to follow committee Bylaws and the gradual denigration and loss of legitimacy of a very important faculty elected body. And you thought this blog only focused on administrative failures!

It is important to note that when the Senator in question “claims” to follow Robert’s Rules during the conduct of his meetings closely (though he only uses these to silence the dissent of “certain” faculty members) that often he interprets these rules to his selective advantage. And it is important to note that the Senator in question has a duty under the Bylaws of his committee to perform certain actions in a timely manner (distribute petitions of candidacy for committee vacancies to all eligible faculty members) and he repeatedly fails to do so, all while complaining that he desires faculty input! The truth is that he desires only “certain” input: the input that supports his preconceived ideas or input that he can direct to his own ends. The result is a “faculty elected body” that is not really faculty elected. The committee is “stacked” with new members ill-prepared to meet the challenge of their task and often under-informed of the consequences of their decisions. Decisions whose consequences will be felt long after they are gone and where accountability becomes difficult to establish and any resulting damage difficult to repair. Credibility is hard to win once it has been lost.

And in fact, this committee has few members with any institutional memory regarding policy development at a very important time: right before the HLC visit. Indeed, the Senator in question often claims to have been working very hard on important committee matters. In fact, this committee under his leadership often dallies for months at a time and repeatedly fails to deliberate over the actual consequences of committee actions. Did I neglect to mention that this committee is central to the academic integrity of the university? And that informed deliberation and tolerance for dissent are usually qualities desired in higher education? But alas, we want our students to think critically… faculty members seem to be exempt from this criteria!

And so we settle for another ill-informed policy decision (like the approval of the General Education outcomes yesterday without so much as one public and university-wide forum!) that will play itself out over the next several years causing the predictable Sturm und Drang that will follow in the wake of such decisions. Much of this could have been avoided if only the committee had really discussed and deliberated over these matters (as opposed to merely editing a document). And much of this could have been avoided if only the committee had allowed those with expertise to offer their insights on the matter without assuming inappropriately that they were trying "take over." Spectacle and short term thinking has often triumphed over substance and long-term planning.

And to think we noticed only the administrative failures to notify the university community of the rationale for its decisions or to communicate these effectively! In fact, some of the faculty achieve the same outcome and ineptitude for themselves that they chastise others for…

How “stupid” of us, indeed.

And I guess things may not always be as they appear!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Comparative Search Processes 101: an example of transparency for CSU?

A friend of mine connected to that lofty institution on the north side known as DePaul University forwarded a letter to me that she received from their president. It was an invitation to faculty "to share the deliberations" with their board of trustees and "to invite you to participate in the decision they will make to select a new university provost."

This letter could be a primer for our own Trustees and upper Administration as well as the Human Resources Department (btw now acting as a career center for hapless CSU students since the student career & placement office was eliminated this term). Our Admin has seemed skittish at best, hostile and secretive at worst, about including faculty in its alleged "searches" for Vice Presidents (btw the Shared Governance Committee of the Senate is still waiting for a response from Ms. H's office over who was on the last VP search, guess it will have to be gotten through the Freedom of Info Act tsk, tsk). And my goodness, the the DePaul Univ. President referred to faculty as "colleagues" in his letter. Since our Admin wants to make CSU over into a version of the City Colleges (note its most recent appointees and those on campus who seem have the ear of the CEO) perhaps it would be worthwhile looking outside the community college and corporate boxes to see how other universities do it. I know, I know, we are not DePaul University (they are not a political patronage pit), but if you want to improve your tennis game you play with someone who is better than you.

So here are some highlights. Wish I could say this is the type of letter I would ever receive here at CSU.

..."As you know, search processes in higher education follow a predicatable timetable. They generally begin in late summer or September with the formation of a representative search committee, seek a search firm to assist the committee, and then collaboratively create a job description for the position. That position is advertised to surface candidates. Simultaneously, through other connections of the faculty or the search firm, additional candidates are recommended and/or encouraged to apply. Offers are generally make to succesful candidates in the late winter or early spring, with the hope that the successful candidate will conclude affairs at her or his present institution and come to DePaul midsummer.

[Timing of the Search since it is the end of the fall term]
"It's simply impractical to ask the Faculty Council, Staff Council and the Student Government Association to propose candidates for the search committee before the winter quarter. The Trustees and I have little desire to conduct a compressed search for a position that is so important to the life of the university. For these reasons, the board thinks it best that we appoint an interim provost for the 2012-2013 academic year and begin the process of search for a new provost this February, getting a head start on the following year's cycle. This will give DePaul ample time to think through what we are seeking in a new provost and to search for a strong pool of candidates.
I am writing today, therefore, to seek your consultation on who you might propose to serve as interim provost. The board is seeking someone who is already a member of the DePaul community, so that the learning curve required for one year's leadership is minimized. That individual must also agree not to apply for the full position. This is for two reasons. That individual's attention should not be divided during the year by both the duties of the job and the search process itself, and the university community should not have to wonder whether decisions are being made to influence the selection process. Both the search process and the day-to-day administration of the university are "cleaner" if the interim provost is not applying for the position.
Obviously, an interim provost must have come from the faculty ranks earlier in his or her career and have shown a significant record of progressively responsible administrative acumen and skill, able to handle the many responsibilities of the provost's office... we also will be seeking someone with good knowledge of standard practices in faculty governance and who has a natural tendency to work collaboratively.
...I invite you to recommend candidates and share your reasons for proposing them. I also invite you to send me any thoughts you might have as to what the interim provost should accomplish during the year of the appointment. I will ask the office of the Secretary to send you a website shortly to which you can submit those thoughts, with the option of doing so confidentially...

Search for a Provost
At the same time I invite the Faculty Council, Staff Council and the Student Government Association to begin immediately the process of nominating members to serve on the search committee for the new provost. I expect the committee's work to begin in early February, and to pick up steam beginning in the Fall of 2012.
I specifically ask Faculty Council, Staff Council the Student Government Association, the deans and the Office of Academic Affairs to propose a slate of candidates and alternates so that the trustee chair can assemble and propose to the board a search committee that is appropriately representative of the larger university. This will also provide additional names if for any reason an individual finds that she or he can no longer serve.
The search process for provost will be conducted in the same manner as in past years. The search committee will consist of trustees and representatives of the faculty, staff, student body and administration. The chair of the board will appoint a chair from among the trustees and that chair will assemble the search committee. Internally, there will be three faculty, two staff, one student, one dean and one representative each from the Office of Academic Affairs and the Office of the President. As always, the Office of the University Secretary will staff the search process, a major task for which I am grateful. And, as always, the entire university community will be invited to meet finalists and submit their recommendations.
I can assure you that the trustees intend to listen carefully to the thoughts of the university community as the process unfurls. I ask you, therefore, to participate in this search process as you are invited along the way. The role of provost is the single most challenging job at any university, and it is important that we find and select an outstanding individual for this task...

We know that CSU's provost will retire in June. When does our university leadership intend to lead Faculty, Staff, and Students in this search? Can we hope for even half the transparency and shared participation that the DePaul University community is promised? Or, are the rumors here true and another City Colleges colleague of the CEO is already in place to take over as provost?