Saturday, April 16, 2011

Her Time to Shine

Very different coverage of the Chancellor's ceremony from WSILwhich leads with the protest, and highlights the union side of the story, and the Southern, which covers both protest and ceremony on the front page of its print edition, but gives the ceremony a bigger picture and uses the big type to deliver the rather pollyannic headline I've given this post.

Not having gone inside Shryock myself, I was most curious about the atmosphere there.  The WSIL video and one picture in the Southern make one thing clear: the turnout was light.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Requiem for SIUC

O how I long for the days when coming to campus was a joy and being a faculty source of pride. When we all had the same goals and purpose! Our leaders had come up through the ranks and were intellectuals. Pedagogy and quality education were given more than lip service. We worked for the betterment of our university, our students, our region and our future. Then along came individuals who had agendas. They changed the goals and purpose. They put business models in place, where students became a source of income and our purpose became increasing revenues. Plans with fancy names like "responsibility center management," "self supporting units," and "super faculty" were devised for temporary gains. Leadership became more focused on how to "down size" and maximize productivity in lieu of intellectual freedom and liberal education. Unqualified people were hired and we became excessively heavy on top. Units were rewarded for bringing in more numbers regardless of quality. Those with quality but low numbers were eliminated in the name of cost saving. One by one, however, these "leaders" came and they left. Some found better jobs; others were forced into obscurity. Meanwhile morale was destroyed, unions found a strong foothold, and students disappeared. And here we are on the eve of an inauguration that for the most part is a demonstration of the depth of disconnect between the people who run the university and those who have vested interest in the university.

The Silent Majority Speaks

The silent majority has spoken up in today's DE, providing me with an easy cheap-shot illustration. 

Nixon famously used the phrase "the silent majority"of those who supported the war in Vietnam which he, of course, was earnestly attempting to bring to an end. Now there was a leader one could trust! But back to events more contemporary.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What is a university?

Lost in SIUC’s year-long logorrhea about budgets, furlough days, and various administrative restructurings has been any serious discussion of what a university is, fundamentally and essentially. Lots of chatter about “economic engines,” graduation rates, enrollment, and retention, but nary a peep about what this place actually does, what a university—as opposed to a college or community college—is for. The result of this lacuna is the blithe assumption that we all know what a university is and that we’re just discussing different ways to attain the same ends. As usual, such sanguine ecumenism is sorely misguided: the changes advocated by the current administration at SIUC actively and fundamentally change what universities do. They change what research is and they change what teaching is. They change your job, not just how you get compensated for your job.
So what is a university? Universities make and evaluate knowledge (research and scholarship) and transmit this knowledge and its values to students (teaching). Period. That’s it. No elaborate dragon of ambiguity to be slain. But that does mean that knowledge is the principle of value, not utility, feasibility, or popularity. And thus, valuing has a substantive content and does not reduce to a merely equanimous weighing of pros and cons. Learning means not just knowing, but also evaluating from the standpoint of this knowledge—and solely from this standpoint.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ad for Friday's rally

I've snagged an advance copy of the ad for Friday's rally.  Click on it to read the fine print.

Wednesday's News

Too much news, too little time.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Uncoronation Event Planned

All four IEA unions on campus (ACsE, NTTFA, GAU, and FA) are working together to present their unions' collective bargaining message at Chancellor Cheng's Installation ceremony at Shryock Auditorium on Friday. Those interested can meet at 1 p.m. in front of Anthony Hall, whence they shall walk together into the quad in front of Shryock to be there before the ceremony is scheduled to start at 2:00.

Monday, April 11, 2011

"Cheng to Go Through Chancellor Installation"

From this morning's Southern.  The headline caught me, perhaps because I supplied an additional preposition: "Cheng to go through with installation."  The lede is bizarre:
Chancellor Rita Cheng will have her traditional installation this week but don't expect it to be Woodstock.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Bearding authority

I was bold in the pursuit of knowledge, never fearing to follow truth and reason to whatever results they led, and bearding every authority which stood in their way.  

So Thomas Jefferson, as quoted in today's supplement on SIUC research in the Southern (the original context from a letter of 1814 can be found here; Jefferson is there apologizing, or at least pretending to apologize, for his youthful rejection of the claim that scripture is part of the common law). Showing remarkable restraint, I will not ask what percentage of the Southern's readership understands this use of the verb beard. Who cares what it means, it's a quote by one of the Founding Fathers on research, so let's run with it!  Perhaps the person who selected the quote didn't understand it, either.  As to SIUC's willingness to support a researcher confronting authority—here in the guise of corporate authority, the new church— I'll content myself with a brief response: Dr. David Gilbert.  

Sunday's Southern

Two big chunks of SIUC coverage in the Southern, in both of which (believe it or not), our administrators come off quite well (not to worry: I'll find something to attack in a separate post). A front page story and special section on research publicize a variety of research accomplishments, and don't equate research with grant dollars, one of my least favorite administrative tacks (any such equation in the story seems largely to be the reporter's doing).  And the Chancellor rather ably disputes a guest columnist's anecdotal argument that campus safety needs to be improved in order to attract women to campus.  

My own guess, for what it is worth, is that the campus safety issue is largely driven by people who expect Carbondale and SIUC to resemble a small town with a homogenous student body drawn from the surrounding area (i.e., not including lots of people, including lots of black people, from Chicagoland).  There are, by God, even lots of Arabic speakers on campus (with my window open the other day I heard their voices drifting in from outside Faner, giving me a delightful feeling that I was at someplace international--but not all will find this delightful).  Hence I think the Chancellor started her reply exactly in the right way, by making campus diversity a plus (though she spoke mainly of international diversity).  I'm not sure how we can better attract people who want Carbondale to be less, well, other, save by playing up diversity as a positive, and citing the figures that the Chancellor cites, which show that crime at SIUC is no worse and no better than one would expect from a university this size.