Friday, September 23, 2011

"Fact-Check"

Some union folks have put together the following "fact check" in response to the Chancellor's earlier email this week.  I post it below the break.  




A fact check for the Chancellor
Chancellor: The Faculty Association (FA) would not negotiate over the summer, and the Board of Trustees team (BOT) has offered to meet evenings, early mornings, and Saturdays and Sundays.
Fact:  The Chancellor's statements are false. The FA team met with the administration on July 5, 11, and 12. The BOT could not meet in June (due to the absence of a member). The FA team could not meet in first three weeks of August (due to the absence of a member). The BOT team offered to meet late on evenings and weekends for the first time on Sept. 20, 2011 (the day before Cheng's email about bargaining!). And they carefully selected times that presented conflicts for the FA team. And the main problem isn't the number of meetings, it’s the lack of progress at the meetings we've had. We are being forced to work under imposed terms that undermine our job security, collective bargaining rights, wage security, and academic freedom. And the Chancellor suggests we don't want to bargain a contract that would restore our rights?
Chancellor: "Nothing in Board's proposal eliminates or harms tenure or threatens the Faculty Association's right to bargain any reduction in force... tenured faculty may only be laid off under two circumstances: (1) the declaration of a financial exigency by the Board of Trustees or (2) a program discontinuation."
Fact: The bargaining Cheng would grant is mere "impact bargaining" which could not protect the jobs of tenured faculty. The language on tenure Cheng uses is not found in the imposed terms we are working under, nor any contract language proposed by the BOT. Instead, the terms allow layoffs with only 30 days notice, regardless of tenure, if "the Board considers a need for a reduction in force of faculty members." Cheng's statement rests only on BOT policy. BOT policy also used to mandate that employees be paid on closure days, and allowed furloughs only after a declaration of financial emergency. They pulled an end-run around that policy and discovered a new tool, "unpaid administrative closure days," in order to cut our salaries by 2%. They could change BOT tenure policy to cut our jobs just as easily. And the standing BOT policy itself falls far short of AAUP guidelines.
Cheng: "Last year we faced a structural deficit of $5.6 million."
Fact: But did we in fact pay out more money than we took in last year? In FY 2010, the last year we've got audited figures for, SIUC took in $15.8 million more than it spent. We do know that last year the amount spent on Faculty dropped by $2.8 million. We know that spending on athletics has doubled in the last five years.  And we know that the Chancellor could find another million dollars to spend on an outside marketing firm and produce our swell new logo.
Cheng:  "None of the Board’s proposals modify the academic freedoms currently enjoyed by the faculty on this campus."
Fact: Cheng apparently doesn't understand that academic freedom includes the freedom to teach courses as faculty judge they should be taught. Indeed she herself states that the FA demand that a "faculty member should have the right to refuse to teach a distance education course" is unacceptable because it might be "costly." Being forced to teach in an inappropriate forum cannot be called "freedom," no matter how much money it frees up in Cheng's budget for her real priorities.
Cheng: "We have brought modest salary increase proposals to the bargaining table."
Fact: She's got that right.  An offer of 0% / 0% / 0.5% / 1% is indeed modest. So modest that it would not keep up with record-low inflation. Not to mention the 2% grabbed out of our pockets in 2010, and the authority to do that again, via furloughs, at any time she is willing to say she has a need for it.
Cheng: “It is not my intent to negotiate through the media or through this forum.” 
Fact: Oops, you just did, even if you said you didn't intend to. Funny, you have also said that it is not your intention to threaten tenure or academic freedom or to force anyone to teach distance learning. But you haven't been willing to produce contract language that would make your intentions binding. So just what are your intentions? And when and where do you intend to negotiate?

61 comments:

  1. There is nothing new here so why waste our time? The FA does not believe anything anyone even remotely associated with the administration says, and the feeling is probably mutual. Who even cares anymore? If the Chancellor says up, the FA says down, if the chancellor says black, the FA says white. Why not just admit that no one is even trying to work this out and avoid a catastrophe for SIU?

    The FA keeps claiming that it is representing the entire faculty, but what about the part of the faculty who would like not to be represented by people acting like petulant children?

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  2. Anonymous, As a pro-administrative supporter you are refusing to recognize facts that prove the Chancellor is a liar. No matter how many derogatory comments you publish, the fact remains that the majority of us are not fooled and if Cheng wins she will go after her former supporters as well as those who oppose her destructove CEO tactics that have no place in a real university.

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  3. I sure hope students don't read the unending misery on this blog. They are the hostages and there will be no "Stockholm Syndrome."

    Also, wanna bet the # of faculty seeking positions elsewhere is at a "record high"?

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  4. @Anonymous 6:52

    "I sure hope students don't read the unending misery on this blog."

    You bet we are! And it is tragically amusing to read childish comments written by faculty whose lectures I suspect I sat in. "Petulant children" says it all. I'm so glad to be graduating soon . . . except that I face actual job uncertainty afterwards. You guys are quibbling over tenure language? Piff. I wish I had the luxury.

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  5. Oh, and the Distance Ed controversy is the pinnacle of arrogance. I received my associates degree from an online school. In my mind, if you're a faculty member who doesn't want to get with the times and teach an online course because you're 1) too lazy to learn how or worse, 2) so arrogant that you still subscribe to the notion that brick and motar is automatically superior . . .

    You deserve to get canned.

    Have fun with your strike. I hope you lose.

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  6. Anonymous, 7:23. I'm sorry to enlighten you but your Distance Education qualification means nothing in comparison to one earned in a real academic environment. Online education is now the equivalent of an Enron junk bond as you will find out when you apply for jobs. The University of Phoenix has a very low graduation rate and several online universities go into homeless shelters to recruit unqualified victims and place them further into debt. This has nothing to do with arrogance and laziness but actually the maintenance of traditional academic standards including tenure and freedom to teach as well as opposing corporate business practices that have no real place in a university.

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  7. @anonymous 8:16:

    Are you even aware that IL's flagship university has online programs? And my degree wasn't from Phoenix--where I might agree with you on the "junk bond status"--but while we're on the subject, just what sort of status do you think SIUC bachelor's degrees have vis-a-vis other schools?

    The only reason I won't divulge more information here is that my wife works in IT and I know that "anonymous" doesn't mean "secret." That said:

    Do you really mean to tell me you think there's that much of a difference? I'll have you know that I went on to study . . . elsewhere and have won multiple award and scholarships, so, thanks for your snootiness, but my EDUCATION has already proven that individual effort matters more than the institution. SIUC has a well-known reputation as a party school, so I'm not sure where you get off in terms your glittering example of brick and mortar presumed superiority. I'll bet the big muscular apes thought they were superior until a skinny ape thumped them on the skull with a femur. Have fun with being behind the times.

    I hope you're not someone I've had courses with, but it doesn't make that much difference. There is no reason to assume, as you apparently do, that brick and mortar institutions are superior to online programs. On the merits, I don't think you can prove that--the value is contingent upon a myriad of other details that have nothing to do with classroom interactions. I've sat in plenty of classes where the instructor could've cared less about students. How can you possibly generalize about online education?!

    If I were only the creature of an institution, would I even be concerned with SIU's future?

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  8. Also at 8:16:

    I've had many friends and colleagues obtain employment after completing online programs. Where do you get off saying it means nothing? Do you mean to say that the market doesn't acknowledge the validity of the skills acquired? I suspect you don't, because the facts won't support your assertion. Yes, there are entities such as University of Phoenix that are a little on the unscrupulous side . . . that said, I have friends with business degrees that have gotten jobs after graduation. Is there no merit in that? Or do you want to descend into raw numbers? Or perhaps into a nebulous debate over "quality"??

    In the latter case, the argument is entirely subjective. You have your opinion, I have mine. But if you want to talk about placement--where value carries a $ sign--then I invite you to look at the fact before you go gassing on about educational junk bonds.

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  9. One last comment directed at Anonymous 8:16:

    What elements of corporate business practices are you referring to? Lower tuition rates and the elimination of sinecures? I apologize for the acrimony laden in my charge, but you seem to want to assert that none but the bricks may confer "real" degrees. If you were really so concerned about educational standards, then distance ed would be no obstacle, because your sterling faculty members would have already encountered and surmounted this aspect of instruction.

    Perhaps we should just make it illegal to educate outside of physical institutions. Hm, what then?

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  10. On distance ed, I would like to know how the imposed terms differs from the old contract. I read Addendum D in both and don't really see the difference. Please explain. (I will vote to strike over the tenure/layoff issue but don't get the objections to the dist ed.)

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  11. The debate over distance ed is over new contract language to go along with the new policy of giving control over distance ed to academic departments rather than to the university's continuing education unit. So the language we're fighting over is part of a new part of the contract, nto a revision of some existing part. By the way, the decision to move control of distance ed to academic departments is one the FA and administration agree on. That's would led us to think that distance education would be a relatively easy issue to resolve.

    The FA's position isn't that distance ed is bad. Our position is that faculty members should retain their traditional control over how they teach their courses. The administration gets to decide, within reason, what classes we teach ("within reason" meaning mainly that we shouldn't be asked to teach courses outside of our speciality as defined by the terms of our original hire). But we get to decide how to teach those classes--because we are the ones who know the subject matter and have the teaching experience and expertise. Some classes can be taught in large lecture halls; some classes require labs; some classes can be well taught over the web, or via video; and some cannot. Those are decisions faculty have traditionally been allowed to make. Administrators without relevant expertise and experience (but under "performance funding" pressures to wring more credit hours out of fewer dollars) shouldn't be given carte blanche to make such decisions. That's the debate as I understand it.

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  12. "Fact: Cheng apparently doesn't understand that academic freedom includes the freedom to teach courses as faculty judge they should be taught."

    Such academic freedom does not exist in the state of Illinois anymore. The Illinois Board of Higher Education mandates content of each course and amount of time spent on particular subjects.

    This is done under the guise of the "Illinois Articulation Initiative", that was initially put forward to assure that course credits were transferable between Illinois institutions, but as always got kidnapped by self-appointed commissars, who now dicatate detailed course content, or else the school will lose state money.

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  13. Anonymous 5:24 asks: "The FA keeps claiming that it is representing the entire faculty, but what about the part of the faculty who would like not to be represented by people acting like petulant children?"

    They behave like children themselves, apparently, if their contributions in the comments section here is any indication. They pout that both sides will never agree without examining or discussing, themselves, the substance of that disagreement. They assume the disagreements are only about "petty" details and self-interested greed. They don't think contracts matter or will have any real effect on the quality of education at SIUC. And that is child-like naïveté in the extreme.

    Thanks, Dave, for the more mature assessment of the DL dispute in the contract negotiation. This is not a zero-sum dispute about having or not having DL as part of the SIUC curriculum. It is about how it is done. I would much rather see us follow a U of I model than most other on-line education models. Studies out of U of I make it clear that online teaching takes as much if not more effort than teaching f2f classes. Because it involves a significant investment in technological infrastructure and the significant labor of support staff and instructors, it is not a significant money maker for universities doing it right. But much of the Administration's rhetoric about getting on line is about "catching up" and generating revenue. Their proposed contract language indicates, as usual, that they are not interested in significant educator input into doing this so it is sound pedagogy.

    The administration has invested considerable sums into rebranding SIUC as a quaint country institution with the brainpower of a major research university. And yet we faculty are regularly told by this administration that we do not have the expertise to comment about or contribute to the Administration's initiatives. The faculty are not children (petulant, spoiled, or otherwise) -- but they are regularly cast as such, by the Administration and (apparently) fellow faculty, alike.

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  14. "Facts," as determined by the obstinate, are not really "facts" at all.

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  15. Putting control of distance learning within the academic units means that distance learning is handled in the same manner as on campus courses. The faculty in the department discuss and decide on the curriculum, right? I seriously doubt that any department is going to do distance learning classes if they don’t have faculty who want to teach in that environment. SIU has a pretty sound curriculum review and approval process that has worked well for a very long time, and distance learning courses are a part of that same process. Nothing has changed regarding faculty input. I think it is time to quit dwelling on non-issues.

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  16. 10:57, the FA is happy to have departmental faculty decide on DL issues. And I agree that, for the most part, curricular issues are handled well on the departmental level. The problem is that in some units faculty are under great pressure to teach DL courses, and cannot set up policies as they see fit because their dean will not approve changes to their operating paper. The FA's argument is that faculty should have the ultimate tie-breaking vote (say by a 2/3 majority) when administrators try to impose one policy on a department and departmental faculty want another policy. DL is the flashpoint where this debate over faculty power is currently playing out.

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  17. Dave,

    What documents are the different DL proposals in? Are these draft documents only the bargaining teams have or are they publicly available?

    For myself, the main right I want is in how the student's work will be evaluated. If I say tests need to be proctored then that is how is has to be done. Otherwise I would not be able to sign off on the grades. An example of what can go wrong has happened with math placement testing. The math dept was setting this up but word came from Rita that students would be able to take the placement test at home unproctored. It is now clear many have cheated are in classes they cannot handle.

    We also wanted to expand testing to include transfer and returning students who have often forgotten what they learned. This has been vetoed citing the IAI.

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  18. To Anonymous 8:59, etc. I've read your posts with interest. But the reason you have succeeded in something I regard as inhumane and soulless is self-motivation and self-education. Good for you. That works on every occasion, for students in a classroom and those outside. But what about the value of being in a class, having a face-to-face interaction with the instructor, and dialogue with fellow students? These are important values that distance education can never replace, nor should it. What I and others object to is the Chancellor's attempt to force ALL faculty to do this (and obviously fire those who will not comply) despite the education and personal objections on the part of many who do not want to be involved with this type of learning. Let those who want to do this, go ahead. But faculty who have very strong objections to this (which have nothing to do with laziness!) should not be forced into DL which has still to prove itself as a valuable educational experience rather than a money-making venture.

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  19. This is 12:17 again. Back to the DL issue. Suppose I believe in DL and think it is much better than face-to-face (FF) teaching. Do I have the right under academic freedom to refuse to teach FF courses? Of course not. So, then why should I have the right to not teach DL courses?

    But, in either case I insist on the right to determine if the students have learned the material to my satisfaction. So I, as the individual who will sign off on the grades, must have the right to insist on proctored tests.

    Would language to that effect be a reasonable compromise?

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  20. The answer is because DL is not recognized as appropriate means of academic communication and so far is just a gimmick designed to attract students who do not want to read books and journals and discuss the implications in a classroom. Since the U of I is mentioned, I will add that my department was inundated with requests from students who felt cheated by such courses and wanted us to do something about it. We could not. DL can not be used for medical school, chemistry, agriculture, and other subject areas that demand a "hands-on" approach. However, as you will be soon approaching the job market I will leave you to find out how you will fare against students who have had a traditional higher education form of teaching. Also, you have not answered my point concerning the personal interaction that is part of the classroom situation in many subjects.

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  21. paronoid demonstrating how to use an unlinked pseudonymSeptember 24, 2011 at 7:47 PM

    Anonymous (5:58):

    I think you are combining responses to two different people. Anonymous 12:17 didn't address your issue because it was a different anonymous.

    Friday's Anonymous 7:23 PM, 8:59 PM, 9:21 PM, and 10:20 PM appears to be one person.

    Saturday's Anonymous 12:17 PM and 5:52 PM appears to be another.

    Friday's anonymous may not even be paying attention to this post anymore to respond.

    It's simple enough to give yourself a pseudonym by choosing name/url rather than anonymous when you make a comment. Just leave the URL line blank. It would reduce this kind of confusion if you did.

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  22. Excellent idea, paranoid.

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  23. Assuming a nom de plume without URL does not work, so by default there will me a multitude of anonymouses, unless Dave will do something about it. I'm the one from Friday 11:32 PM :-)

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  24. I just got it to work without a URL againSeptember 25, 2011 at 12:16 AM

    Yes it does.

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  25. If you can't get Name/URL to work without a URL, try hitting Preview before hitting Post Comment. That sometimes gets things unstuck for me.

    If it still doesn't work, you can provide your pseudonym within your comment.

    -paranoid

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  26. "DL is not recognized as appropriate means of academic communication and so far is just a gimmick designed to attract students who do not want to read books and journals and discuss the implications in a classroom."

    What!!!! Your narrow-mindedness is exceeded only by your ignorance. What planet are you living on anyway? Not 21st Century Earth, that's for sure!

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  27. The DL debate here is reminiscent of the debate that took place in the 1980's over computers in the classroom, and the subsequent debate about 10-15 years later over the role of the internet in education. Those that did not evolve with the times then were left behind and became academic "dinosaurs". IMO the same will be true of individuals and institutions that do not soon embrace DL.

    That said, DL is itself still evolving. It takes many forms some of which are comparable to traditional lectures in which faculty can interact directly with students in remote locations in real time and others of which can be as detached as posting assignments and receiving papers via email. The FA's blanket opposition to DL (by insisting that faculty should be allowed to refuse to have anything to do with it) is out of touch with reality (IMO), but evolution will take care of that too.

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  28. Those who might be tempted to consider Anon 5:58's comment as a reasonable or informed position should review the actual data.

    According to the US Dept of Ed., National Center for Education Statistics: "In 2007–08, about 4.3 million undergraduate students, or 20 percent of all undergraduates, took at least one distance education course." [Distance Education in Higher Education (Indicator 43-2011)]
    http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_dhe.asp

    and
    http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=80

    Quantifiable data on this issue are readily available and easily accessible, so it would behoove us all to become better informed. Where will SIU be in a few years if we loose 20% of our undergraduate credit hours and how many credit hours are we loosing now as students receive transfer credit for DL courses offered elsewhere and how many faculty lines is that costing us? (the latter questions can probably be answered by Institutional Research).

    Clearly we cannot simply dismiss DL as "gimmick".

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  29. Previous post (9:13 am) by Persnickety

    (tag line did not work)

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  30. This is 12:17 PM and 5:52 PMSeptember 25, 2011 at 9:19 AM

    I do not believe education in large lecture halls is possible. Yet my chair can assign me to a large lecture course. But he cannot force me to use multiple choice tests. It may take me a few extra months to turn in my grades of course and he realizing this might choose not to assign me that course.

    (We do at least have contract language that restricts the student to faculty ratio. I am opposed to the admin raising that. I also have a question: does the student to faculty ratio include DL students?)

    With DL, even if I am a dinosaur, I'll give it a try if I can have confidence that the students' work is their work. Can we develop contract language that would insure that? For me means I need right right to insist on proctored exams.

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  31. Another link that might be helpful for those not familiar with DL to review is the US Distance learning association site

    http://www.usdla.org/ and the links therein to various resources and information about using DL (various delivery methods and techniques), assessment, and the overall effectiveness of DL.

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  32. @9:13 AM

    I am not a Luddite and I appreciate the information you posted. But, your math is wrong. 20% of undergrads taking at least one DL course over two semesters is not the same as 20% of credits coming form DL. One tenth of one fifth is 2%. But it is a growing sector, and I agree it cannot all be dismissed as a gimmick.

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  33. There is no contract that can guarantee you that students will not try to cheat, but proctored exams are not the only way to ensure the integrity of a class. The DL community has thought (and published extensively) about this issue and we can learn from their experience and incorporate it. No one (on either side of this debate) wants to compromise educational quality.

    Ultimately (IMO) this is not about education or quality of education, its about power. Who has the power to assign faculty to teach a class. The FA wants to control that and the Administration will not concede that power, which it already holds.

    As I read the situation, the administration is likely to be willing to offer raises equal to those it offered physical services employees, but I do not imagine that it will budge an inch on this issue because of the precedent it would set. I have always thought the tenure issue was an FA red herring (I really don't care whether you agree or not, that is my opinion after reviewing all the relevant documents), so if your beef with the administration turns on the DL issue, you had better settle in for a long stroll on the picket line.

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  34. Wow, someone else is persnickety too :-)

    You are correct, my math was wrong. What can I say, Sunday morning follows Saturday night...

    Thanks for the good catch!

    Persnickety

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  35. USDLA is a trade and advocacy group with an accrediting arm, not a site for reliable information or research on distance education's effectiveness.

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  36. This is 12:17 PM and 5:52 PMSeptember 25, 2011 at 12:27 PM

    @10:13 AM

    Educational quality is compromised routinely in FF and DL classes. Witness the dummied down large lecture classes or what passes for Freshman English. Simply asserting that the advocates of DL have solved all the problems does not cut it. For courses where tests matter, knowing who took the test matters.

    I think the contract issue is about how top-down decisions about DL are going to be made. There should be room for compromise. I am glad DL will be moved to the units. But I want more clarity on the roll faculty will have. I do not want the absolute right to refuse DL courses, but need some say in how I will teach.

    I wish we could read the actual language the bargaining teams are looking at.

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  37. Re distance learning, the state of Washington requires all community college teachers to teach at least one distance learning class per year (or per quarter--I'm not sure which). This requirement met strong opposition from faculty, but is now just part of the job.
    I retired in the 20th century, and am so glad not to be teaching in the 21st. But, the comments on the antediluvian attitudes about distance learning are sadly accurate. Such attitudes will react to the above by pointing out the inferiority of community colleges (where all the teachers are our graduates) rather than the issue of distance learning.

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  38. Thank you Bruce and the previous commentator. I remember the euphoria greeting the arrival of Betamax and Laserdisk which soon became obsolete. However, useful, it may be in some circumatances, DL is NOT the answer for ALL educational situations and to force faculty who have conscientious and genuinw objections to using this new version of a technological fix is no solution at all. Personally and professionally, there is no substitute for being in a classroom situation with a good Professor interacting with his students, gauging responses via facial expressions and body language, and developing dialogue accordingly. DL can not perform this crucial educational function and were Socrates and Einstein with us today (to name two examples out of the many that could be cited), I'm certain that they would reject DL as well as recognize the hideous underside of another technological encroachment into the area of human interaction that is a key part of any superior form of education. DL may be fine for an "Associate Degree" but nor for any other higher qualification.

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  39. I suspect that faculty associated with the very successful online MBA program in the CoB might take issue with your opinion.

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  40. This is 12:17 PM and 5:52 PMSeptember 25, 2011 at 8:11 PM

    Well, I doubt many COBA will be going on strike regardless. But MBA programs in whatever format are designed to mainly money for colleges and have little known educational value. I don't take an entirely negative view of DL however. The faculty in departments where DL won't work will elect chairs who won't impose it. Where DL does work well I think faculty will volunteer so they can stay home all day.

    Some departments will be divided and the faculty will have to slug it out. That's part of academic life.

    How about this as a compromise. This is an idea just off the top of my head. Instead of putting DL stuff in the contract just have the contract say: "The Faculty Senate shall develop a policy on DL that balances traditional faculty curricular rights with institutional needs to adapt to a changing educational environment." ?

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  41. That sounds a great idea since it does not force anyone to do anything against their personal beliefs.

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  42. Anonymous (8:11) & Anonymous (8:28):

    It's not a bad idea, but I don't think the administration would want it, at least not as written. The administration thinks we're already too late on distance learning and that we need to rush to catch up. Despite how long the contract negotiations have dragged out, something from Faculty Senate easily could take even longer.

    The administration also (justifiably) wants some control over distance learning. I don't think they would accept giving control of the policy to Faculty Senate, and I don't think the FA would accept the degree of administrative control that the would be inserted in administrative revision of this proposal. A likely administration proposal based on this suggestion would be, "The Faculty Senate shall recommend a policy on DL that balances traditional faculty curricular rights with institutional needs to adapt to a changing educational environment by [DATE]. The administration will take this recommendation into account when developing policies and procedures regarding DL."

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  43. Wait a minute. This was a good suggestion and you want to reject it because you think that the administration might change it? You changed it and put hypothetical words in their mouths!

    Why not try it before you reject it on their behalf.

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  44. To September 24 1:02 PM,

    I would take umbrage with your assumption that distance ed is "soulless and inhumane." The interactions I've had with online instructors have been warm and enlightening to about the same degree as FF courses. There are always bad eggs among students and teachers alike.

    What I don't understand is the resistance to the very idea that faculty could be forced to teach online classes. Now, I don't know how course loads are calculated, etc, but I'm sure an equitable agreement could be reached on that score.

    From reading your post I suspect you might be one of those who advocates "fair share" dues from non-union faculty? I understand that IS one of the issues at present? If so, how is the Administration/Department compelling an instructor to teach distance ed any different--fundamentally--than compelling other faculty to support an organization they don't agree with?

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  45. Anonymous, 1:2, Now you are putting words into my mouth concerning "fair share" that has nothing to do with my objections to distance leanrning. That is another issue.

    I will ask "Why do you think Faculty who have genuine objections to DL be forced into this type of teaching?" This is not only bullying and undemocratic practice but fits into the imposed contractual administrative demands that faculty be told what to teach and how they should teach it. Your attitude puts you firmly on the side of the administration so I hope Rita will reward another of her supporters. I doubt it.

    You can not have warm and enlightening contact with an online instructor to the extent you would have in a classroom. On that level, I suppose you would be in favor of abolishing the Oxbrdge seminar/tutorial pattern of learning that many graduate level classes operate on? To push online courses down the throats of good instructors is "soulless and inhumane" and these features clearly reveal you to have the same attitudes as our current odious Chancellor.

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  46. 7:24 PM

    Phew, that was bitter! To be fair, I called for it, since in my earlier post I mentioned that instructors who refused deserved to get canned--that was a bit harsh. Let's dial back the acrimony, please.

    On union dues, I really don't think it's a separate issue, since we are talking about compulsory contributions in order to maintain job security. I would fight "fair share" tooth and nail. However, if you really want to ignore what I think the obvious parallels are, well ok, that's not really what I want to talk about anyway, which is distance ed being linked to contracts.

    First, a generational note: as someone growing up in the information age, I really dislike the fact that young people facing the job market must be more internet/technology literate in order to gain employment while our elders do not have to make the same adjustments.

    If tenure supposed to be a lifetime job guarantee where no mandatory changes to teaching format ever occur, then I suppose you have a point: the administration is forcing distance ed down your throats in a most
    undemocratic manner.

    If, on the other hand, the real issue is distance ed becoming a high priority for SIU (which I sincerely doubt will become the case in the medium term future, as so many other schools do a better job with--but that's another post's worth), well, why couldn't you just go find a job somewhere else, where the focus is not on distance ed?

    I happen to like FF classes better than distance ed for a variety of reasons, especially at higher course levels. Still, when it came to surveys courses, etc, I had a better experience with online and correspondence classes than with FF.

    At the end of the day, these are faculty issues, and I apologize if my comments, tone, etc. have been out of place. Nevertheless, I have come to love SIUC over the past few years, and I hate to see what will happen to it when a strike drives down enrollment and a bitter work environment causes faculty to flee like rats jumping from a sinking ship.

    For better or worse, distance ed is here to stay. It benefits a set of students that for a variety of reasons, cannot avail themselves of FF courses. I know that from personal experience. Also from experience, the workloads are often higher in order to compensate for less FF instruction. Many schools have discovered ways to ensure exams are proctored.

    If SIU wants to survive long term, it will have to become more receptive to change, and that change will involve online education. That does not mean that students are widgets: they need affordable education at times that suit their schedules.

    Unless you can guarantee every student a job after graduation, why should you forever be exempt from teaching distance ed?

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  47. I have concerns about DL but am not totally against it. But would you really want to take a DL class if the instructor was convinced it was worthless? I think good leadership would not have trouble finding faculty who want to explore this or other new ways of teaching.

    I also have concerns about large lecture courses. If making a course part DL can free up my time to have meaningful FF interactions will students I'd be all for it.

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  48. To Anonymous 10:26, Now the tone is less heated I will reply to two of your comments. When I applied to SIU, DL was not on the agenda. Research and effective teaching are. Basically, I do not think DL can supply effective teaching. That is an issue we disagree upon. Secondly, no faculty member can guarantee any student a job after graduation. Look at the national and international situation. But what may tilt the balance for some, rather than others, will be the fact that they took classes with an instructor with an international reputation as well as effective teaching, rather than an anonymous online instructor. I know a very eminent colleague who even refuses to have email and a computer in her office. This does not stop her being an excellent scholar and teacher and her university respects her right not to do so, rather than our Chancellor who wants to increase course loads and force reluctant faculty to teach online. Would you not agree that is is much better to have instructors who want to engage in this teaching than ones who regard it as total anathema? Would you fire those reluctant instructors despite the fact that they have international reputations that attract students to this campus? Surely, you must realize that Cheng is not interested at all in your definition of DL but simply seeing it as a method to provide education on the cheap? Mostly, here, you get what you pay for. Students will recognize this and choose to attend other prestigious universities that do not commit themselves totally to this money-making device. A world of difference exists between MacDonalds and a gourmet restaurant but Cheng wishes to make SIUC the "junk food university of Illinois." Also, for the record, I detest large lecture courses which I taught in my first year at SIUC.

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  49. Anonymous 2:51

    I will respect your opinion on the effectiveness of DL teaching but I will humbly submit that my wife and many former colleagues and coworkers have found employment after obtaining online degrees while many friends and several siblings remain unemployed after obtaining degrees from fairly prestigious brick and mortar institutions.

    Education alone cannot guarantee employment. My point is simply that distance education is the simplest, most cost-effective way for students to train in new fields. It provides flexibility that class schedules and rigid attendance policies do not. Coupled with self-motivation and persistence, DL degrees and certificates can and do provide real value. Academically, schools such as University of Maryland, DeVry, Sam Houston, and many many others have reputations that rival or exceed that of SIUC in several departments. Why should SIUC not receive a larger share of that market?

    You ask if I would "fire those reluctant instructors despite the fact that they have international reputations that attract students to this campus?" If DL became part of the job description and they refused to teach in that format, absolutely. If the issue is that important to them, they can find employment elsewhere; this discussion is about the institution as whole, not individual faculty.

    You also assert:

    "Students will recognize this and choose to attend other prestigious universities that do not commit themselves totally to this money-making device." Perhaps. But given the national economic realities to which you refer, if they can't find a job, retraining in a new field/discipline, or perhaps more advanced education. DL has been and will continue to be a giant leap forward in the democratization of education. Call it junk food if you want, but maybe some students can't afford a five-star restaurant.

    IMHO, to call DL ineffective (without discussing pedagogy, course content, assignments, and evaluation methods smacks of snobbery and an unwillingness to innovate.


    I will concede that, quite frankly, I do not understand the administration's position on salaries, or for that matter, the priority given to sports, Saluki Way, etc etc. I have had an excellent academic experience at SIUC, and I believe that my instructors here deserve fair compensation. I would also agree that as a student, I would not want an instructor for a DL course who was not dedicated to the medium. But I do think that the future development of SIU, including a sort of nuclear option on DL is the administration's prerogative. If you discharge the recalcitrant, in this market I do not believe SIUC will be hard-pressed to find enthusiastic and competent replacements (and probably at lower salaries). I suspect that suggestion may incense you, but I also suspect it may be the case. If other schools, online or otherwise, hire DL instructors, I do not understand why the administration could not, if it desired, require instructors to teach DL courses as a condition for continued tenure. How is that unreasonable?

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  50. I see you removed that last post. Nice censorship. Way to demonstrate the FA's capacity for honest disagreement.

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  51. 6:25, I assume you're speaking of a comment caught in the spam filter. I've just found two more and released them. If you have noticed something else that's gone missing, comment on it more specifically or, still better, email me at dmj2@me.com. (As the "Post a Comment" thing at the bottom of every post tries to inform you, Google requires use of a spam-filter that seems to flag 5% of legitimate comments as spam. I can't turn it off.)

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  52. Maybe it was the lame handles of the previous posts.

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  53. So, how is a new, enforced, requirement forcing instructors to teach DL courses that was not part of the original job description and tenure "unreasonable"? Very much so. As well as being a breach of contract thus making SIUC liable to legal action, it is an infringement on academic freedom and I will be damned if I will be forced to look for another job due to the bullying tactics of a Chancellor who will probably cause the first strike in SIUC's history. Individual faculty make the institution's reputation despite the fact that higher administrators believe that this is an "administrator's university" and that students are coming here because of the administration (This last point is true as I heard it voiced several years ago).

    I assume that the people you mention have found employment at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, University of Chicago, Oxford, Cambridge, and the Sorbonne?

    I also think you should acquaint yourself with wider issues involving the erosion of tenure and money going to sports rather than education since they are all part of the same problem.

    Basically, nobody in my acquaintance with the world of excellent scholarship rates DL as being of any real value and if people want to pursue this area they should leave and found their own "universities." After all, there is the precedent of the Bob Jones University and the Oral Roberts University so why don't you leave and allow the rest of us to follow the pursuit of acceptable academic standards rather than engage in the latest technological gimmick that by its nature can only provide inferior education and inferior qualifications? Fortunately, in my department DL is unacceptable and anybody who proposed it would be treated as the unprofessional person they really are.

    All this boils down to is a violation of academic freedom, the very thing faculty are fighting for. To give in will immediately result in lower standards and this involves DL.

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  54. I'm not talking about about employment (and I think here you are talking about faculty while I am talking about the plight of working class/middle class people trying to change careers) at elite schools. People with bachelor's degrees or lower who can't find work or lost their jobs need retraining, but not everyone can afford to return to school full time or move to a city with a solid brick-and-mortar institution.

    While we're at it however, I'd like to mention, elite schools such as Cornell, University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard offer online/DL degree programs. In my opinion, the course medium has very little to do with academic freedom. We're not talking about course content, which I agree is the prerogative of the instructor, no matter the delivery format.

    One of your statements highlight what I find to be an appalling degree of intellectual snobbery. You said:

    "nobody in my acquaintance with the world of excellent scholarship rates DL as being of any real value and if people want to pursue this area they should leave and found their own "universities.""

    I might expect this sort of elitism from a Gladstone liberal or a modern libertarian of the Ron Paul variety, but not from a (presumed) union member who I suspect would cherish the ideas of industrial democracy, and individual rights and freedoms. SIUC is not Harvard, Cambridge, of even U of I, and to eschew DL or reject what I regard as medium that has proven its utility, value, and profitability elsewhere projects an arrogance that I will strive to never emulate.

    As I indicated in my previous post, I agree with you on sports (if you ask me, most US universities spend far too much on sports), and I cannot offer much of an opinion on tenure. From reading other posts, I do believe the university could afford to pay faculty higher wages, and I'm all for that.

    I have participated in just about every type of course format that there is. Have you? From where I sit I can tell you that student motivation and instructor feedback are the two most crucial ingredients of success. Peer interaction is important too, and I will concede that high quality peer engagement is more difficult in an online, asynchronous environment. That said, I have sat in enough discussion-oriented course at SIUC and elsewhere to attest that good discussions are difficult to foster in classroom environments as well.

    At the end of the day, I think we're just going to disagree here. I believe SIUC would become a stronger university if it embraced DL more enthusiastically. Should it come to a strike, good luck--sincerely, not sarcastically. I don't support you on the DL issues, but I hope your tenure and pay issues are resolved favorably. I can't really speak for the other union's issues. I think that a strike will ultimately drive away students--further contributing to the enrollment crisis--but perhaps the administration does need to concede a bit more to faculty.

    Best of luck.

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  55. This is 12:17 PM and 5:52 PMSeptember 28, 2011 at 10:34 AM

    What about this as a compromise on DL. A faculty member can refuse to teach a DL course if they submit a letter stating why the DL format would undermine the pedagogical purpose of the course. The chair can decide against the faculty member if the reasons are judged to be frivolous. Then the faculty member can appeal to the JRB.

    It is a bit Byzantine I admit. But we should distinguish between faculty members who just don't want to try new things and those with real objections. For me, I would object if I could not have tests proctored. If my chair found a way to have the tests proctored, I'd give it a try. But other people might have different objections.

    Realistically if someday 10-20% of our courses where DL it would not be that hard to find faculty to agree to teach this way. It seems like a pointless fight.

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  56. Anonymous, 10:34. That is a good compromise. However, Anonymous 8:57,despite our plagiarist President defining university education as exclusively a "meal ticket to the middle class, (not surprising from somebody as ignorant as he is!), employment is not the sole objective of a university education. It is the pursuit of knowledge and original ideas, qualities that would attract employers in any field.

    Universities are not trade schools so really there should be a division between real universities (especially those engaging in research as SIUC is supposed to do) and vocational bodies that provide job training for students. The problem that you have mentioned concerning money has much to do with obscene salaries incompetent administrators earn for mismanaging universities,"qualities" that would get them fired immediately in the real work If a cap were put on administrators's salaries we might have candidates from the faculty who would work for the love of the job and not use their positions to make a quick buck and enlarge their retirement money.

    For myself (and many others) DL is not real education and to force those who do not wish to participate in this latest technological "brave new world" inferno is corporate and managerial "arrogance" that has no place in a university. If you look up the publications of many of these administrators you will discover they are mostly failed academics, especially Cheng, who has no idea of what a university is and is acting in the worst traditions of a corporate Oriental despot.

    You have your ideas. So do I. But I would not force them on you. Neither (in normal circumstances) would I expect you would force yours on me unless you wholeheartedly agree with the appalling, undemocratic manner Cheng is running this university.Your previous posts evoke echoes of Stalinist purges in terms of forcing your views on others.Certain pedagogical practices belong outside in vocational and trade schools not within what a university is really supposed to be

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  57. Anonymous 4:44,

    First, I have no issues whatsoever with the issues of salary, administration, etc. It the ideological opposition to DL that I find so repellent: it makes me shrug my shoulders regarding the "undemocratic" approach on DL-although, from looking over a fraction of the posts here on DL, the issue is more complicated than simply the firing of teacher who doesn't want to teach DL. If it counted towards regular teaching load, what's the big deal? Objection to the format? Of DL? Really?! I'm sorry, but I find that extremely childish.

    Here is what I believe is the crux of the matter. You state

    "employment is not the sole objective of a university education. It is the pursuit of knowledge and original ideas, qualities that would attract employers in any field."

    I agree on both counts! However, you seem to be implying that this intellectual pursuit is only possible at "real" universities, inferring, I think, that this cannot happen asynchronously, independently, over over great distances--it is the sole domain of brick and mortar, bell-tolling campuses to stimulate this activity and cultivate a love for Mother Gnosis?. Am I right? Your definition is a little disconcerting however, when coupled with your statements about "trade schools" versus "real universities." By pursuit of knowledge, are you referring to liberal arts and sciences equally?

    I will admit that I really do not understand the administration's logic on tenure language or DL (and I will readily admit that beyond my personal experience and ideological convictions, my knowledge of both derives solely from this forum). However, given the venom I have read in the responses from (putatively) faculty who abhor DL in principle, well, I then I am perfectly willing to see radical options exercised (though I seriously doubt any firing would every happen). If I have to pick my poison, then I pick the corporate managerial arrogance over intellectual elitism. Vilify me all you want for that, but that is my honest opinion. I roundly reject tying the noble pursuit of knowledge to any particular medium. Insisting on format has little to do with academic freedom, or democratic university governance, IMHO.

    I predict the FA will probably win some kind of language protecting the right of instructors to not teach DL, but I would predict there are already enough instructors in most departments who are willing to take on the extra course (and the extra money!). In my opinion, it is a silly item to go on strike for, and I won't shed a tear if you lose on that score. I wish you could see from my perspective, what an important opportunity DL has been. If you could, perhaps you might change your mind.

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  58. Thank you, Anon. 7:49, You've proved my point in stating that you prefer "corporate managerial arrogance over intellectual elitism." The first is what Rita Cheng is doing -and destroying SIUC in the process - while "elitism" has always been used to justify the anti-intellectualism of politicians (Poshard is a key example), "Joe Six Pack", Fox News, and the very existence of that species called "Podunk University." In this context, "elitism" means the protection of high intellectual standards and skepticism towards anything promising a quick fix at the cost of academic rigor.

    In your earlier post you suggested firing anyone who refused for reasons of conscience to do DL. Let me give you two examples.

    Professor A. Somebody who attracts students as a nominated Pulitizer Prize competitor or renowned scientist whose very reputation attracts students in the first place but is skeptical towards DL. Under your previous mandate you would fire this person who attracts good students and contributes to the university's reputation.

    Professor B. Somebody who scraped through tenure, regards research as a nuance, plays to the gallery by entertaining students, maintains low standards in teaching, and indulges in excessive service to suck up to administrators. This person would be retained because s/he agrees to do DL.

    I think the choice between which candidate is more qualified to be in a real university is obvious.

    Finally, I take your word about DL. If you want to do it, then fine. What I most object to is the support of Cheng's mandate of forcing faculty to do this. As well as increasing course loads, there is the issue of payment (there is no guarantee of "extra money" since our Chancellor is a "pathological liar who will not put anything down on paper), as well as the very conscientious and genuine objections to those who do not wish to engage in this form of "education" and have high qualifications and international reputations.

    Finally, you should look at other links that will provide you with further information about the erosure of tenure under the present imposed contract as well as the "reduction in work force clause" that will result in firing especially of those who disagree with DL. These links are easy to find and part of the broader picture.

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  59. Anonymous 2:14,

    I am not "anti-intellectual," just anti-elitist. Looking at your two examples, I don't think Professor A ought to have the right to refuse teaching DL courses, so long as the course (s) counted towards the agreed-upon course load, etc. Not in theory anyway. In practice, I suspect that if the professor were really as valuable as you suggest and irreconcilably opposed to DL, then exceptions would be made. If not, Professor A can vote with her feet and take her skills to another university.

    I don't care about the nuts and bolts of how teachers are paid for DL. I think all teachers should be paid fairly (and amply) for the teaching they do, and that should apply to DL just as much as FF courses. And I agree that should be put in writing. That's perfectly reasonable, and if the Chancellor wants to force faculty to teach extra courses (above the standard 2/2 load) pro bono, well, I would agree that is is filthy and I would be angry about it as well. But I have no qualms whatever with leaving the administration the right to mandate DL teaching. Again, I very, very seriously doubt it would come to that, since it seems like departments have a fair amount of control over what is taught, but in the abstract, I'm willing to go that far. As I have implied already, instructors have the ultimate right of refusal by leaving the school, and if they are as valuable as you say, well, I don't see why you're worried about them.

    It is your approach to DL and your implied a prior assumptions about it that I disagree with, not any of the practical, contractual issues that you have mentioned. On the issue of DL, I think the FA should back down, but it's not my fight. I think the whole notion of "faculty being forced to teach DL" is a straw man (well, woman, right?). Most of the arguments I've encountered against DL or SIU's handling of it (on this blog) revolve around its (putative) low quality, etc. The uninformed negativity is what I dislike the most. Instead of bashing DL for it's presumed defects (and there are defects to FF instruction as well), why not search for ways to improve it and make it conform more to your high standards for "real" universities? If that were your attitude, then I would be far, far more likely to stand with you on the question of forcing recalcitrant faculty to teach classes in a medium they dislike.

    When you examine the particulars, I think DL has its merits and demerits, just as FF classes do. I despise large lecture courses, and I've sat in enough discussion classes to know that even when "discussion" is graded, all too often the people who are silent receive full credit. Or, perhaps worse, I have seen an instructor pass out notecards for students to write down the points they make in order to receive credit. IMHO, that destroys organic, dynamic discussion.

    In an asynchronous environment, you do lose some of the human interaction you claim to prize so highly. However, you gain a higher focus on the written word and the ability to quantify and measure weekly student participation. Also, in my experience, there has often been a greater amount of written or independent work required than in FF classes.

    At SIUC I have built some relationships that I prize very highly, and (you may appreciate) I would not trade them for anything, even the same degree at a lower cost. However, I built valuable relationships through my online work, and I am grateful for those as well. Much of that work was writing-intensive, and the intensive, individualized attention I received helped make me a better writer and student.


    On tenure and reduction in force clauses, I agree with you, and I don't understand why the Chancellor and/or board won't settle on the issue. To me, it seems like a no-brainer.

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  60. Good points. First, what if this DL requirement were NOT part of the original course load and tenure requirement that Professor A initially agreed to when she/he read the job description? Since it has been imposed AFTER the fact, it is therefore an arbitrary imposition. Nobody in my knowledge working in a first-class university has been forced to agree to a DL course as part of the conditions of employment at this current time. This is because most good departments believe in high standards and at present, DL, does not fit these requirements. Also, whe again have the "love it or leave it" argument. Professor A may want to live in this area for several reasons (apart from the dire employment situation affecting mobility) and Cheng has already stated that exceptions will NOT be made. Secondly, "shared governance" no longer exists in SIUC just top-down corporate management skills and if good professors are forced to go elsewhere, the reputation of the university (and enrollment) will suffer. The FA will not back down on this DL issue. That is one of the many reasons I support them.

    Again, you always have the opportunity of going outside to found your own DL university, but it is a system that has been under investigation and scrutiny of late. DL simply doe snot belong in any university that has high standards.

    The Chancellor will not act in a professional manner and settle the issue to everyone's satisfaction since she embodies the worst aspects of the corporate mentality you espouse. Her "reduction of work force" policy is designed to fire faculty, even the good ones. If she achieves her goal, she will leave SIUC instantly to take up the many offers she will have from states such as Texas and Wisconsin in her acquired status of "the Chancellor who abolished tenure in a University", something right-wing politicians would immediately applaud.

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  61. This really isn't going to get any more productive. I disagree with your assumptions on DL, and by the looks of it, DL is a relatively minor issue in negotiations. If you happen to know me, I would love to talk about DL more in person, preferably divorced from the whole question of a strike. Best of luck in getting a favorable settlement.

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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.