Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Chancellor's Convocation

[My original post didn't properly post the invitation.  The invite should now be embedded.  For a very partial reconsideration of my original outrage, see the comment stream. Dave]  

Believe it or not, I was planning on going. I have a robe which I spent good money on, and so I try to wear it whenever I can. I rather like ceremonies. And I think our students get a kick out of such things; certainly their joy at graduation, which I make a point of attending whenever I can, is moving. Then I saw the invitation.

Invitation 0711

The excess word "Chancellor's" in the middle of the invitation, appended to the proper title for this event, "New Student Convocation", tells you everything you need to know about this place. Note also how Chancellor Rita Cheng is singled out in the nice white font. We are invited not to welcome students to SIUC but "to join her" at her new student convocation. I'd be there for a New Student Convocation for our students. But I'll be damned if I show up for a ceremony that seems designed most of all to put another bullet point on the c.v. of Chancellor Rita Cheng (• Established New Student Convocation). Maybe Chancellor Rita Cheng didn't approve the invitation herself. But whoever did it knew well how to ensure that Chancellor Rita Cheng was the center of attention. Welcome to the administrative university.

To tell the Chancellor whether you'll attend her convocation, click here.


  1. Dave, I can't see any image for the invitation!

  2. If you have not already figured out, everything here is about her. She wanted to have University College to establish her legacy, she wanted to have her inauguration even though faculty and staff’s salaries were being cut, and this is her new student convocation. Don’t forget, there is a new queen in town. Faculty members are ‘encouraged’ to come not ‘requested’ to attend. In my opinion, Faculty and staff, who really care about SIUC, shall boycott ‘her’ events and send a strong message that we are here for our students not for her.

  3. I googled the term" Chancellor's new student convocation," and it appears to be fairly boilerplate language. God knows, there is enough that's wrong right now, namely the administration's unwillingness to bargain. But I don't think that this convocation is one of the problems-- or even indicative of the problem. Pomp and circumstance has a place--and is even to be welcomed as a means of bookending the university experience--. I think such a development might be welcome at SIUC. But it needs to be complemented by a real willingness to respect the democratic traditions that should accompany any celebration of the college experience.

  4. If including “Chancellor” in the name of the event is the most offensive thing about the convocation, that’s not enough reason to skip it, especially if you like that sort of thing.
    My undergraduate institution immediately followed the dignitaries’ speeches with music from the marching band and time to practice the school song and cheers with the cheerleaders. After the convocation/pep rally, thousands of new students filed into a small yard where we waited in long lines to get box dinners and where it was so crowded that we couldn’t sit down to eat.
    Is it a surprise that my school retained its party school reputation?
    I’ve been told that a major retention predictor, regardless of grades, is whether students feel like someone at the university cares about them and like they are not just a number. Herding students is not a good way to create that perception.
    I hope SIUC can do better than that.

  5. Anonymous #2 raises a good point, but my 15 minutes worth of "research" on Google (above par for a blogger!) only partially confirms it.

    Some places (UNC Greensboro, Wiconsin, Syracuse) do indeed use the phrase "Chancellor's New Student Convocation", but more just go with "New Student Convocation". (That is, a search for the separate terms Chancellor's New Student Convocation returns more New Student Convocations that aren't owned by the Chancellor than those that are.) The first hit under "Chancellor's New Student Convocation" is . . . SIUC.

    We're dealing with a somewhat artificial attempt to reinvent a ceremony, and the rather stilted and awkward language of the invitation may be the result of incompetence as much as administrative hubris. Readers should check out the invite for themselves (now that I've finally fixed the image) and judge whether the Chancellor's role in it is disproportionate or not.

  6. Wow! You and your vocal minority never cease to amaze me. I really did not think that adults could be so immature. The Chancellor is associate with an event so I will boycott it. Really?! I truly hope that you do not pass that attitude on to the students you teach. I am truly flabbergasted!

    Well, if you would have attended the convocation, you would have witnessed a great event. The students, staff, faculty, community leaders, and, yes, administrators that spoke provided excellent comments for our new students. I hope you heard that the faculty attendance was tremendous (they had to add more chairs due to the turnout of faculty). That tells me that SIU does have some great faculty who do support our students. I appreciate that Chancellor Cheng had a convocation. She wanted to show our new students that we truly appreciate thm and want them to do well here. Again, based on the attendance, I think the silent majority agree with her.

    I will end with a thought that I have shared with all of you previuosly. If you are so unhappy here and think that everyone is always out o get you, then leave. You would most likely be much happier and we would not have to hear your whining all the time! I think the Tea Party needs some more members.

  7. "They had to add more chairs due to the turnout of faculty."

    The event required an RSVP for faculty. That tells me the no-show rate for faculty is lower for an event to benefit students than, say, one to benefit the chancellor.

    Caring about students is something I think both the "silent majority" and the "voice of the majority" (what you call the "vocal minority") can agree on.


I will review and post comments as quickly as I can. Comments that are substantive and not vicious will be posted promptly, including critical ones. "Substantive" here means that your comment needs to be more than a simple expression of approval or disapproval. "Vicious" refers to personal attacks, vile rhetoric, and anything else I end up deeming too nasty to post.