Saturday, April 9, 2011

There is No Excellence Without Labor

There is no excellence without labor. Liberty Hyde Bailey.

What the hell was our soon to be installed Chancellor thinking?  Or, rather, just how was she failing to think?  

In case you have not been scrutinizing the Installation section of the Chancellor's webpage, "There Is No Excellence Without Labor" is indeed emblazoned on top of it. You'd have thought someone who was refusing to negotiate with organized labor might think twice before choosing this as a motto.  But apparently the Chancellor is so tone-deaf that the noun "labor" does not for her carry any connotation of "organized labor," "unionized workforce," "you've got to negotiate with the peons," etc., a usage which the OED traces back to 1830, though this admittedly postdates its usage for a group of moles, which may go back as far as 1471. As you can tell, I've done some manic research on this phrase, which follows after the break.  Plus, to make the savage indignation easier on the eyes, there are pictures.    

Cheng's reception at "We Are One"

Today's Southern Illinoisian ran a good story on the We Are One rally on Friday night.  I--and no doubt others who didn't attend--would be very happy to hear of your take on the event.  I have a particularly morbid curiosity about what Cheng said and how she was received, though the Southern noted there was a mixture of applause and jeers.  Comment away . . .

Friday, April 8, 2011

What are you doing about your furlough form?

So we've all gotten this mysterious Faculty Furlough Days form, with no clear guidance on how we are supposed to fill them out.  The administration hasn't officially said we can't, or shouldn't, or had better not dare, cancel class.  And the FA, apparently on the advice of legal counsel, doesn't feel it's in any position to give people much guidance, either (not to mention that it doesn't want to help sort out the mess the administration has made).  This leaves faculty puzzled, and chairs caught in the middle.  

So what are you thinking about doing with your form, and your "required Faculty Furlough Days"?   Let's get some comments going, people.  (I know that there are some of you out there--aren't there?  Maybe some of you are reading this on furlough, for all I know.  Is that legal?)  Comments can be anonymous if that makes you feel more comfortable.  

Cheng to speak at union rally?

There's a rumor going around that Chancellor Cheng will speak at the "We Are One" rally for workers' rights at the arena today, starting at 6:00.  Given her shall we say somewhat strained relationship with the unions on campus, this shows either considerable courage or utter obliviousness.  Come by and see which it is.  

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

On the collective bargaining teach-in

The text of today's DE article on yesterday's Teach-In includes some pretty representative quotations from people describing the conversation at the meeting, though the headline is unintelligible and the lead misrepresents the amount of time spent talking about the possibility of a strike.  The conversation really revolved around the threat to collective bargaining at our campus, its connection to wider trends at places like Wisconsin, and how faculty and others could better articulate their side of the story.  

My favorite part of the conversation was a point the article gets to toward the end. Ryan Netzley, whose evaluation of a recent missive from the Office of the Chancellor you may have seen on a blog near you, argued that the key to winning a broader set of hearts and minds is to get beyond the financial details and the procedural issues of collective bargaining in order to articulate the rival visions for the future of the university.  

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Public Grading

I’d like to inaugurate a new feature here at Deo volente. Public grading. It’s always terribly difficult to explain to students why grades aren’t anything more than largely pointless evaluations or unnecessary obstacles. After all, no one really grades your work on the job in precisely the same fashion as that which occurs in a class. That is, no one evaluates your work with the level of attention and care that grading and commenting requires. Perhaps that’s a good thing, but it does mean that we allow students to imagine grading as the end of teaching, not a part of teaching. Moreover, we allow students to think of grading as the evaluation of apprentices, something that you move beyond once you leave a primarily academic world. But looking at the world through the lens of grading’s intense precision is important and we should try it more often. At the very least, it would allow us to stop letting “good enough” be “good enough.” That is, if we’re not demanding more from the documents and the authors that we read every day, I do not see how we can expect our students to believe us when we demand precision, care, and sound argument from them. Please don’t hesitate to post your own versions in the comments (no anonymous grading, though, please). I think that seeing competing rubrics and comment patterns would help not only our students, but also faculty readers. After all, grading is sometimes a very isolating experience. So on then to our first installment:

Office of the Chancellor
Message from the Chancellor
— This title is redundant and gives no substantive indication of what the remainder of the missive will contain. It’s as if you simply titled your paper “Ms. Johnson’s Paper,” after putting your name at the top. In addition, offices don’t send messages: people do.

Monday, April 4, 2011

An agenda for tomorrow's teach-in on collective bargaining in Communications 1032, from 1-5, has now been released, and can be found beneath the break.  Here's hoping to see you there.  

New FA statement on the rejection of the Chancellor's ultimatum

The Faculty Association has released a more detailed response to the Chancellor's "offer".  The FA stresses that it has not "demanded" or "insisted on" anything, despite the Chancellor's repeated statements to the contrary (her press release can be found here; I can't find a copy of her latest email online, but all at SIUC got a copy).  Rather, it has always been willing to consider alternatives to its proposals.  The Board team has, however, made very clear demands, which it now plans to impose.  The most striking are a "Reduction in Force" provision that would allow for layoffs whenever the administration decides they are necessary, and a furlough provision that would allow for pay cuts whenever the administration decides they are necessary.  Put bluntly, the layoff provision would do away with tenure and the furlough provision, which allows the employer to unilaterally cut pay, would do away with any justification for a union.  Little surprise that the 'offer' was rejected.  

For anyone who hasn't seen it, the full FA statement (which has yet to appear on the FA website) can be found after the break.  

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Who's Afraid of University College?

To step aside, briefly, from my obsession with FA-administration negotiations, I thought I'd address another potentially contentious issue: the Chancellor's implementation of the new University College model.  My initial reaction to this was rather ho-hum.  I don't really care who the director of admissions reports to, frankly; I didn't think that any rearrangements of the administrative flow-chart were likely to result in vast improvements in enrollment, but, hey, if it helps, great.  Some have raised the possibility that a University College could be a sort of Trojan Horse, to be staffed by new faculty, presumably non tenure-track faculty.  But as far as I'm aware there's no evidence of any such plan.  

Yet I'm coming to see that the whole University College experiment may impact our educational mission in ways I hadn't expected, as I've recently become aware of some of the possible ripple effects of the new first year course.