Friday, August 3, 2012

Shutting down shop

Anyone still on some sort of feed for this site will have already reached this conclusion, but my planned ultimate post has failed to materialize, and now I find myself so swamped with administrative work that I don't see myself completing it anytime soon. I'll therefore sign off here.

If I ever come out on the other side after serving as chair and return to some forum like this one, I'll have a new perspective on the sorts of issues I've discussed here. So far I've been struck by two big things. The first is how damn hard people in these administrative positions have to work to simply keep things afloat.  This summer, for many reasons (retirements, budget cuts, a new push to eliminate classes failing to meet the 5/10/15 rule, etc.) has been a particularly chaotic time.  So far nothing has prepared me for being an administrator as well as helping to lead a faculty strike--where the various sorts of chaos and personnel issues we were dealing with were similarly straining and draining. The camaraderie among union confreres was of course oh so much warmer; it's not that I've had any unpleasant interactions with administrative superiors so far, by the way, rather the opposite. It's just that the hierarchy of administration means that too often I'm either asking for money or telling people I don't have money, neither of which makes for bonhomie. Also, no chants so far, or funny signs, though the absence of student worker funding tempted me to go looking for one of those "Qualified Substitute Instructors" puppets to staff the front desk in our department office.

The second thing this sort of work gives one is a greater awareness of the effects of administrative decisions, especially the more dubious ones. Some of these have had the ironical effect of making administrative work itself harder, as centralization, at least in some aspects, seems to have done; every hiring decision (including part-time NTTs and GAs) has to be approved through so many levels that nothing happens as quickly as it could. On the other hand, I find myself wanting to centralize more in my department, at the risk of hypocrisy. Centralization isn't always bad. And some of my old hobby horses infuriate me all the more now. As I walk to my office in Faner, I look out at the $1.25 million Faner Piazza Project, and find myself quickly thinking how much stronger my department's offerings would be next year had we, say, one more NTT, costing $40,000. Did we really need to spend all that money on concrete walks and flower beds?  Is the best way to improve our famously inefficient student services—matters that I as a chair get sucked into rather more often than I did in my halcyon days as a mere faculty member—to spend millions on a new building to house these services?  Here too, sometimes, no doubt, I'll learn that a procedure or decision I would otherwise have experienced only as a skeptical outsider, and found deplorable, makes more sense when viewed from the administrative angle. And sometimes not. We'll see; it will be an learning experience.

As has been blogging. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Penultimate post: on blogging

Despite my evident pique in the last post about comments (a bit more on that later), I certainly enjoyed blogging for the last 16 months or so (about the same time as it took the FA to negotiate the last contract, as it happens). I'm obviously vain enough to enjoy having my moderate rants broadcast to some number of readers, who if not legion were at least rather more than the couple of people around the water cooler I would have vented to otherwise.

Blogging came rather easily to me. It's occurred to me that it is not entirely unlike the scholarly mode in which I wrote my dissertation: a commentary. A bit more on that, then on possible goals for a blog like this, and this blog's successes and failures in meeting such goals.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Comments closed

I've had enough comments: congratulations to some brave & articulate anonymouses, who have now succeeded in shutting them down, though they've only spared us from their drivel for a short while, as I'm shutting this whole thing down soon anyway. Anyone curious as to why I've closed comments should check out the thread under the previous post, where various nameless souls eloquently express their outrage at my removing some of their garbage from an earlier post, at my lack of manliness, at my sycophancy toward my beloved administrative superiors, or all of the above. I've been quite willing and have even often enjoyed responding to some pretty sharp criticism over the lifetime of this blog, from both sides of the union-administration divide, but, frankly, I've got better things to do, especially now that such attacks make up a large proportion of the comments, and most are illiterate, bilious exercises in name-calling, from individuals who can't be bothered to make an argument or present any evidence, but believe that we all somehow benefit from their pointing out that I'm vile, or some other commentator is vile.

As I've said before, the only rational motivation for such comments I can think of would be an cunning effort to shut the blog down, undertaken by individuals who know that they are spewing senseless nastiness. Go home, have a few too many drinks, pretend you can't write a correct English sentence, and call Dave a sycophant, or attack another commentator, or the administration, in a few anonymous sentences that you wouldn't have uttered in your own voice in public even if you were drunk. How clever of you! Perhaps you have a future in politics. Congratulations, if that's your game; if not, well, good luck to you. As I've tried to spell out in an earlier post, I'm shutting the blog down for reasons other than comments, though such comments have increasingly soured me on the enterprise, and obviously the recent happy trend toward the lowest common denominator has resulted in me closing comments earlier than I had planned.

Thanks, on the other hand, to the many who posted constructive comments, pro and con, over the life of this blog. During many periods the comments were far and away the best part of the blog, and I learned a great deal from reading and responding to them. I'll miss the good ones, the thoughtful ones that forced me to rethink things, that helped me see things from a different angle, or led me to do a better of job of expressing my own views.

A technical note: As I can't figure out how to get blogger to universally close comments, I have shut down comments only for the last few posts; for earlier posts, I've flipped a switch so that comments appear to be possible but moderated--but I won't be doing any moderating and won't post any comments.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Defeat bill 1673

Here it is, the bill we've all been waiting for, SB 1673, which will slash employee pensions and health care.

Call 1-888-412-6570 to be directed to your local representative by the We Are One Illinois labor coalition. (They will keep tabs of how many call via their service as a way of noting union strength on this issue.) If you'd rather call directly, here are the numbers for reps in the Carbondale area:

Rep. Mike Bost: 618 457 5787 / 217 782 0387

Senator David Leuchtefeld: 618 243 9014 / 217 782 8137.

While both are Republicans, and Democrats run the legislature (which runs the state), Democrats need Republican support to pass this legislation, and the Republicans may in fact be our greatest allies on this issue, as they are particularly opposed to the move to pass pension costs down to local school districts and universities.

The website has updates on pending legislation.  Capital Fax gathers media on the breaking story. After the break, an email the AAUP is sending out to Illinoisans on their mailing list.

[Extra: Faner construction]

[Schadenfreude update. On May 31 a gas line was ruptured outside Faner--sending employees home from surrounding buildings.  Earlier a water line had been ruptured, cutting of the AC in the building (but that luckily happened before the recent heat wave). Who's operating that there steam-shovel, anyway? And I wonder if the contractor's insurance will pay back the university for having to give hundreds of employees paid time off work.]

Comments are closed on this post due to violations of Godwin's Law, and thanks--special thanks--to numerous other anonymous offenses against good taste, bad taste, any taste at all. For similar reasons, even before shutting comments down, I have forever deleted (ah, what absolute powers I have as blogmaster, though they are but a pale foreshadow of my administrative kingdom to come!) I have deleted, I say, a number of terribly clever personal and impersonal attacks made via abusive references to poultry--who really deserve better, don't you think? Is there a law mandating that comment threads cease and desist once we get to maladroit rhetorical bestiality of this sort? Gosh, there should be. Johnson's Law? I shall be immortal, after all.

OK, I promised only retrospective posts but this one is close to home. The Southern has a story today on the renovated "pedestrian mall" outside Faner, where I work.

Two points: the non-aesthetic reasons for this renovation given in the story are bogus. And this is a helluva lot of money: $1.25 million.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Closing thoughts on the strike

Some closing thoughts on the conflict between the FA and the administration that culminated in last fall's strike.

I suppose the lead can be that less has changed, at least in relations between the FA and administration, than many of us expected. Many expected Armageddon. It didn't happen. Neither the FA nor the Poshard/Cheng administration has ceased to exist. Neither side won a clear victory, but neither has peace and goodwill broken out. Now back to business as usual isn't the worst of all possible results. The Cheng administration has not engaged in any significant retribution that I'm aware of (my relatively smooth approval to serve as chair is one sign of that for those who don't regard me as a traitor to the True Cause). Nor, so far as I am aware, has there been much in the way of action by FA stalwarts to punish their colleagues who didn't strike.

Of course that fact that nothing much has changed doesn't mean that a stalemate was inevitable, or that there aren't longer-term consequences of the strike and the conflict leading up to it that have yet to become evident. I still tend to believe that the FA faced a true existential threat during the strike, and suspect that putting an end to the FA was at least one result devoutly to be wished as far as some on the administrative side were concerned. It's also possible that had more faculty joined the FA strike, more effectively shutting down campus, Cheng could have been sacked. The fact that one emerges from a contest with the parties more or less where they started doesn't mean that the stakes weren't high in the first place, only that the contest came out more or less even.

Thoughts on possible longer term results after the break.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Moving on

As most readers of this blog will know by now, I have been elected to serve as department chair by my colleagues in Foreign Languages and Literatures. It's this, mainly, that has led me to decide it's about time for me to stop blogging. Here I'll try to explain that utterly momentous decision--and also another decision I made, to stay on the Faculty Senate. A third change to my status didn't require any decision: I will no longer eligible for "active membership" in the Faculty Association, as chairs have been classified as AP ("administrative professional") staff who are no longer members of the FA bargaining unit.

I'm not explaining myself because many will care about why Dave is doing what he's doing (though some anonymous comments of late have reflected an unhealthy interest in my nefarious motives, and should have fun commenting on this). Rather, the issues I'm dealing with here may be of more general interest than the trivial question of how I'm going to spend my time. So there's room for discussion here that goes beyond the charge that Dave is selling out, never had anything worth selling, etc. In a few additional posts I'll try to pull together some things I've learned from blogging and the rest since Namdar and I started this blog back in March of 2011. Then it will be lights out--though I suppose I'll leave the blog floating forevermore on blogger, comments turned off, adding to the electronic detritus of the internet age.  

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Do or die time for pensions

The legislature may be about the ram a pension bill through.  Here's a link to the latest statement by the IEA president, Cindy Klickna. And here's a link to a handy form that will allow you to send off a quick email to the governor and your legislators. The IEA provides a form letter, but you can edit or delete it and write your own.

This development is so depressing that I've tried to ignore it. But if all us take a few minutes to send off a quick email, that may make a bit of a difference. I use the union links because they are handy, and the unions ought to have some power with our Democratic state government, but this is, I suspect, an issue that unifies the vast majority of faculty, union or no. As I've blogged before, our pensions are already far less than those at peer institutions. These reforms threaten to reduce them to Walmart levels--no better than Social Security (and in fact cheaper for the state, which doesn't even match the payments it would need to make were we in the Social Security system).

Monday, May 14, 2012


A quick review of the new SIUC graduation: I think the new ceremony is an improvement. 

I attended the ceremony for the colleges of Liberal Arts and Mass Communication and Media Arts.  The new ceremony was more of a show (as in the confetti below), but on the whole this was a good thing, I think. Past Liberal Arts graduations, at any rate, were almost entirely formulaic; some years the distinguished alum would give a speech (of varied quality), and a representative of the alumni association would make a quick pitch for that organization, but other than that it was mainly "by the power vested in me" language, followed by the long if joyous parade of grads across the stage. Most years no one made any effort to say anything inspirational. Surely graduates should get someone making an effort to send them off with some words of wisdom. Now they do.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

"Ed Games"

"Ed Games", presumably a reference to the hit young adult book and movie Hunger Games, is the title of a series of articles the Southern Illinoisan is publishing on the power struggle between SIU President Poshard and trustees Lowery and Herrin. The first round of articles was published Sunday; another article appeared today.

I think the technical term for what we've got ourselves here is a pissing contest. The articles themselves strike me as fairly balanced, though as Poshard has more voices on his side (inasmuch as he still has more votes on the BOT), his charge of "micromanaging" gains a certain credence. But it is at least curious that Poshard sees unprofessional and unethical meddling whenever anyone challenges his authority--members of the BOT asking too many questions about SIU, the governor's office meddling by lobbying members of the BOT. While Herrin's insistence on asking questions seems eminently responsible and appropriate, his positive vision for SIU appears to devolve to that lowest common denominator of current political thought: "it ought to be run like a business".

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Goose Test

To take the goose test, identify the figure to your right. To check your answer, click on the picture--or just keep reading.

I don't know what people tell the few new arrivals we have these days, but back in my day (I arrived in 1998), whenever anyone literate heard that you were heading to SIU, they would tell you to read Richard Russo's 1996 academic farce, Straight Man. Russo wrote the book while at SIU, and while he cunningly camouflages the setting by placing his second tier state university in the dying coal country of central Pennsylvania, there are those who believe that the book, which happens to contain elements like Faner Hall and a campus lake, may have something to do with our own beloved institution. The goose from the cover illustration alludes to the goose the protagonist, the chair of the English department, holds as he stands before the campus lake, threatening to kill one duck (sic) per day until he receives a budget from the central administration. Okay, so he was a bit drunk when he found himself in front of some TV cameras. Perhaps I should have tried that.

One of the premises of Russo's book is that anyone who spends more than two or three years at Central Pennsylvania State (or whatever he calls it) is, well, a failure. While the book is funny and smart, I thought this premise of Russo's book was false, or at least farcical. Glad to have landed a decent job in the humanities at all, finding myself among smart, well-qualified colleagues, and feeling the value of SIUC's particular mission--bringing a quality research-university education to an inclusive student body--I thought anyone who shared Russo's attitude* was a snob, or self-loathing, or at least a novelist. Here was important work to do, an important mission, many decent students, mostly strong colleagues; not an elite school, by any means, and a big state institution, with all the bureaucratic and political nonsense that entails; not the best location in the world; but a place one could make an honorable and successful career.

You'll have anticipated the next line: I'm not so sure anymore. Believe it or not, I'll try to say why without dwelling on who is responsible for the malaise around here. And I'll try to suggest what I think is a rather obvious and relatively easy step that could be taken to help lessen that malaise.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Quinn's Pension Plan

It is, I am afraid, a typical Friday afternoon story: bad news.   A "choice" between losing state support for retiree healthcare and a 3% pay cut in the form of increased contributions to pensions. The choice is a ruse to avoid constitutional scrutiny. Plus, universities (and school districts) would be asked to pick up more of the tab--though the details there are unclear. The unions are naturally opposed to the plan.

Here are some early news stories: Fox ; Chicago Tribune.

I've cut off comments on this post, as I'm sick of having to read them to see if anyone has managed to be not only illiterate, mean-spirited, uninformed, baseless, and witless, but acutely offensive enough to be censored. Not to worry: I'll post something fairly soon that will provide a field day for the anonymouses. In the meantime, well, consider starting your own blog . . .  Cheers, Dave. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

More Golden Shovels

Groundbreaking for the new student services building took place yesterday, as the Southern reported. The aim is to put an end to the Woody Shuffle. Woody Hall is not an ideal structure for its current function (it was, I believe, originally a dormitory) and this building will no doubt be more functional and more attractive.

But anyone not brand new to this blog will know that I've become reflexively critical of new infrastructure on campus. As trustee Don Lowery rather sharply pointed out in his WSIU interview some time ago, SIUC has the infrastructure to support c. 18,000 undergraduates, though only 15,000 are on campus. So our priority is infrastructure? Paid for by student fees? As if the Woody Shuffle was due to the architectural shortcomings of Woody Hall, not to poorly functioning bureaucracy; as if that bureaucracy will automatically improve just because we've put it in a new building. We've lost hundreds (sic) of civil service positions over the last few years; would you rather go to bad old Woody with enough staff or the brand spanking new building with far too few staffers?  Thanks to the state's messing with pensions, and to low campus morale, the university will face something of a mass exodus of employees in all classifications in the near future. We will soon be coming up against our contractually mandated student-Faculty ratio of 26:1 (which the administration tried to raise both during and after negotiations). The answer? New construction!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Research space needed; books to return

The DE has an article on the return of books to Morris. This is good news. But missing from the article is the reason the books are coming back. It is not because they are valued, but because they are valued less than the McLafferty Annex itself, which is now coveted as a research space. The $1 million required to get the books back materialized once this became clear--or this at any rate is what I gather from comments by the Chancellor some time ago,* noting how many groups had expressed an interest in McLafferty. Of course research space is also a good thing, but this sequence of events seems to show how low a priority the library, and particularly its print collections, has around here. This is yet another reminder, for any needing one, that when an administrator says "we don't have the money to do x" it often means "I've decided to spend the money on y instead". 

The priority on getting the books out of McLafferty rather than in to Morris may help to explain the rather sketchy details in the story as to how exactly the books are going to get to Morris. From reading the story, one gets the impression that despite having had the books in McLafferty for three years, we have made no plan about how to get them back. But the confusion in the story may be as much journalistic as administrative: I welcome comments from readers with more insight into this. McLafferty itself is now closed to browsing, and its books lost in limbo during the transfer. Some such loss of access is necessary, but it will be interesting to see how long the limited access lasts.

* She made these comments at a Faculty Senate meeting, but I haven't been able to find them in the minutes.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Faculty survey

This a quick plug for the survey being done by the Faculty Senate's "Faculty Status and Welfare" committee.  The survey is easy enough to take, and will as it happens introduce you to the Desire2Learn software package we will all need to learn to love as it replaces Blackboard next semester. It is not at all difficult to access the survey, even if you've never signed on to Desire2Learn before (as I hadn't) and the survey itself is as painless as you need it to be.  It basically consists of a couple of open ended questions which you can answer at length (my response--surprise!) or very briefly, and a single multiple choice question on morale. Results are to be confidential, something the software should guarantee (you may leave your department name blank to assist in anonymity should you so choose).

Here's the link:  Below the break, the email SIUC faculty should have received from Becky Armstrong.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Faculty Senate vs. strategic plan

This started as a comment in response to someone asking if I raised the points in the previous post during the FS meeting.  My comment went on so long that blogger would force me to cut it up, which I'm taking as a sign that it would be better off as an independent post. Still another comment, by the prolific and well-informed paranoid, linked to the accreditation report that precipitated this strategic plan.

I did raise these points, as it happens, joined by a number of others who were critical of other things. To the extent that a preponderance of intelligent and critical questions and the absence of vapid praise make for a good senate meeting, it was a very good senate meeting. Those answering the questions (Tom Britton and Peggy Stockdale) responded smartly and calmly but also, if I may dare say so, somewhat complacently.

When I made the point that this strategic plan had no strategy, for example, Peggy Stockdale immediately responded that that's just what she had said, repeatedly, in internal deliberations, but, well, that wasn't in the cards. Another senator, however, began the conversation by saying that he preferred this report to Southern at 150 precisely because it didn't outline some unrealistic grand plan. There are indeed worse things than a strategic plan that doesn't say much of anything--one that says significant, imprudent, and impractical things, for example. But I still think this looks like a missed opportunity.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Strategic planning

Below you'll find a link to the draft strategic planning document that is making its way around the Faculty Senate (which will discuss it today) and other campus groups. The plan was, I think, required by our accreditors, who found Southern at 150 in need of revision. I made some sage remarks on strategic planning in an earlier post; this plan and process do not fall into the worst excesses of the strategic planning racket, but the resulting draft plan is rather disappointing.

I'm just working through the plan myself. While my faith in the efficacy of such plans is limited, my initial reaction is that this is a strategic plan lacking a strategy. Love it or hate it, Southern at 150, Walter Wendler's import from Texas A & M, did promote a specific vision for this university; it was probably an impracticable one, and it certainly slighted undergraduate education in the service of high-profile research (at least in my opinion), but it did outline a strategy, with goals clear enough that they required specific means to reach them, and our success or failure in reaching those goals could be clearly measured.

This plan offers a number of ideas, many banal, some smart, some troubling. But there is, as far as I can tell, no attempt here to clearly articulate any overarching goal, new direction, change in emphasis or reordering of priorities. Other than a shockingly frank criticism of the SIUC foundation (more interested in controlling money than raising it), there is no effort at diagnosing our problems and planning to overcome them. If one believes that strategic planning is a real opportunity for an institution in crisis, as this one is, to turn things around, then this is a missed opportunity.
A Strategic Plan Feb 15 2012

Friday, April 6, 2012

Trustee Don Lowery on WSIU

I've finally found a working link to Don Lowery's "Morning Conversation" with Jennifer Fuller on WSIU from the 4th. Lowery's comments on the controversy between some on the board of trustees and President Poshard is unsurprisingly rather different than that in Poshard's news conference. I don't necessarily agree with everything Lowery said, but he certainly struck me as someone who's taking his job as trustee seriously, and feels it his responsibility to ask hard questions of the administration--something we need in the BOT. Lowery says that the administration has not been terribly forthcoming with answers to his questions.

Lowery's analysis of SIUC is decidedly more bleak than Poshard's claim that everything was peachy under his leadership. Lowery seemed to me to be a bit obsessed about tuition going up, in addition to the far more damning issue of enrollment going down (a factor Poshard did not mention in his hour long press conference). Our tuition needs to be looked at in comparison with our peers--it is likely that if everyone is raising tuition, there's some good reason for it (declining state support and rising costs come to mind). Of course this isn't to say that higher tuition is a good thing, or that Lowery is wrong to question administrative assurances that all possible cuts have been made. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

On coach Hinson

As you'll no doubt have heard, SIUC named Bill Hinson as our new basketball coach. I've learned too much about the seamy side of college athletics, and the fact that well over half of the budget for athletics at SIUC (as most schools) is diverted from academics, to remain much of a college sports fan. But if one grants, as I'd rather not, that SIUC should divert over $10 million per year to provide entertainment in the form of athletics, then you can recognize better and worse decisions about athletics on campus. If you buy that premise, then the decision to pay our new coach less than half of what Chris Lowery was making is most welcome. It is also good to hear administrators were full of praise of Hinson's job promoting academic success among his players; that may be just talk, but talk is a start.

Hinson's salary is still a rather respectable $1.5 million for five years. But Bruce Weber, who many in Carbondale would have liked to see return to his former stomping grounds after he was fired by Illinois, will earn $1.5 million each year at Kansas State going forward, again on a five year contract. By my math, that means that SIUC will have $6 million dollars more on hand after five years than it would have had with Weber back in town. Is he a six million dollar man? He's charming and all, but I rather doubt it.

Put otherwise: you could pay 20 Associate Professors of Classics for the price difference each year between Weber and Hinson. Of course this doesn't mean that SIUC will hire 20 more professors. Most, after all, would be rather poor basketball players.

If only it were this easy to undo some of the lavish spending on Saluki Way, which our students will be paying off in the form of bonds for years to come. But give Cheng, and perhaps Moccia, credit where credit is due. They seem to have realized that we shouldn't continue to spend ourselves silly on athletics. In contemporary American academe that puts them ahead of the curve.

Friday, March 30, 2012

A bit of good news

This went out on the Faculty Senate list this morning:

For your information:

House Bill 5531, to eliminate the 50-percent tuition waiver for children of university personnel, was overwhelmingly defeated Thursday evening in the Illinois House.

William Recktenwald
President, Faculty Senate

Here's a brief press account, which credits downstate Republicans with killing the bill. The plan's sponsor, Luis Arroyo, is a democrat from Chicago.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Poshard, Herrin, and the strike

Glenn Poshard's press conference has provided, if indirectly, the best explanation I've yet come to as to why there was a strike at SIUC last fall. The most important comment comes at the very end.

About midway through his statement, Poshard claimed that deposed board chair Roger Herrin was, as part of a pattern of errant behavior, communicating with the FA through some sort of private channel, and attempting to negotiate with us himself. Poshard waved a sheet of paper which he said Herrin had given him, a sheet which outlined the union's demands. What Herrin told Poshard I don't know, but I do know this: Herrin had no communications whatsoever with the FA leadership. I know this from my personal role on that leadership in the lead up to the strike and during the strike, and because the absence of any communication has been confirmed to me by others on the leadership, as it will be confirmed by Randy Hughes to the press (presumably in a story for the Southern tomorrow, assuming he and the Southern's university reporter, Codell Rodriguez, managed to get in touch before deadline). This isn't to say that Poshard was lying; what he said in his press conference is entirely consistent with him receiving a misleading impression from comments made by Herrin about his source for the document with FA demands.  Herrin's comments were, even in Poshard's telling, rather cryptic. My guess is that either Herrin deliberately played up his FA contacts as some sort of power play, or Poshard jumped to conclusions, or a little of both.

Of course readers may not take my word for this, or Randy Hughes' word. There's a more substantive argument to support my position--though it won't convince the most cynical, it will lead me to a rather more important claim about our recent history. Herrin was wrong about what the union wanted, because he wasn't in contact with the union. But Poshard believed that Herrin was right. At the very end of his press conference, Poshard speculated that the union might have held out for salary gains because it thought Herrin could somehow deliver them. That's false: we had no such belief. We weren't in contact with Herrin, and we didn't hold out for salary gains. But that's what Poshard thought we were doing, so he thought that no agreement was possible, and this mistaken thinking, buttressed by Herrin's claims, may have played a large role in precipitating the strike.

Poshard's Press Conference

I'll prudently avoid comment until I've watched it (and maybe even longer). But may I, of all people, say thank God that we are also about to announce the hiring of a new basketball coach, the better to distract attention from all of this?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

UIC faculty lose round in effort to combine NTT/TT faculty

An Illinois court has ruled against the effort of the UIC United Faculty to jointly organize TT and NTT faculty at UIC (University of Illinois Chicago). This does not mean that UIC will not be unionized, as the university has said that it does not object to separate unions for TT and NTT.  It looks like the faculty union, while it has the right to appeal the court decision, will move forward with separate unions so as to begin collective bargaining sooner rather than later.  For more, check out the UIC United Faculty website and this story from Inside Higher Ed.

I don't frankly understand why the UIC administration has been so adamant in its attempt to keep NTT and TT faculty separate. If it is part of a divide and conquer mentality, that effort is not likely to succeed, I don't think, as separate locals, which are generally part of the same overall union organization (AFT/AAUP in the case of UIC) end up working together in any event. From a purely administrative standpoint, it would presumably be more efficient to have one union contract rather than two. Union activists at the recent NEA Higher Ed conference were themselves split on which sort of structure works better for them--it's not as if the union movement is united in believing that their leverage is better with a local joining TT and NTT, as the two sorts of faculty do sometimes have divergent interests.  At any rate, my experience has been that the NTT and TT locals work pretty well together here at SIUC as separate locals, from the union side of things, and that UIC should thus be able to do just fine with two separate unions, if that's what the administration and courts insist upon.

A little burst of blogging this weekend after an extended Spring Break . . .

Saturday, March 24, 2012

BOT shakeup

[President Poshard has now (3/26) discussed this issue with Jennifer Fuller on WSIU.]  

Both the DE and the Southern carried stories on the recent shake-up in the Board of Trustees, in which Roger Herrin was voted out as chair by a vote of 5-2 (really 5-3, as Herrin abstained), to be replaced by John Simmons.  The DE also has a video of Herrin's brief statement at the outset of the meeting, and the vote itself.  The same 5-3 margins led to re-election of Ed Hightower as Vice-Chairman and selection of Mark Henrichs as Secretary; the three offices form the Executive Committee of the board. Herrin and trustee Donna Manering turned down appointments for lesser posts on the board; Herrin at any rate made it clear that he did so because he regarded the downgrade as one to a menial position.

Herrin explicitly said that he believed that there were times when saying less meant saying more, and hence did not say very much about the reasons for his ouster. But the very fact of multiple, public contested elections on a seven person board shows that there is a very deep disagreement here. I did not attend the meeting, nor do I have particularly good sources on the BOT, but this all strikes me as a pretty big deal.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Tuition waivers under attack

Tuition waivers for university employees are again under attack. Currently university employees get a 50% tuition waiver at other Illinois public universities. For some coverage, check out this article in the Chronicle, and an opinion piece in the Springfield Journal-Register (the latter just flagged by the Chancellor in an email to show us President Poshard at work opposing the bill).  The relevant bill, HB 5531, has now passed out of committee. Contrary to some comments in the press, which implied that the bill was aimed at high-paid employees, the bill would immediately eliminate the tuition waiver for any university employee.  This may however be a ploy to prepare for a compromise in which only lower-paid employees would continue to receive the benefit, or perhaps (though this is just my speculation), a compromise eliminating the benefit only for new hires.  The bill is opposed by educational unions (including the IEA), as you might expect. Here's a helpful link from the Northeastern Illinois University Chapter of University Professionals (AFT) outlining ways to lobby elected officials against this bill (though it predates the committee vote).

As a parent of a child who could one day benefit from this provision, I'm naturally rather opposed to this measure. But it has always seemed reasonable enough to me for university employees, who are generally less well compensated than those in the private sector, and who are, or at least ought to be, particularly devoted to education, to receive some such waiver. You make less money than you would in another profession, but you can afford to send your kids to school--that at least used to be part of the basic socio-economic contract for university staff. Eliminating this waiver would thus break a promise made when staff took their jobs here. A "compromise" measure that limited the waiver to low-paid employees would probably remove the waiver from most faculty, I'd wager. And the savings would be rather slight. While exempting new hires would avoid the more obvious issues of fairness, it would hardly help us attract good people to the university, and exacerbate the increasingly two-tier system of employment, in which younger faculty receive worse benefits than older ones simply because they were hired more recently. So, yeah, I hope President Poshard, the IEA, and everyone else on the right side of this issue manage to defeat this short-sighted effort.

Monday, March 5, 2012

NEA Higher Ed Conference

I spent last Friday and Saturday at the NEA's Higher Education Conference in Chicago and thought I'd post a report here while it was still fresh in my memory.

I suppose blog readers curious and/or critical about the NEA (I remain curious, being a relative newcomer) may first want to hear some general characterization of the attendees and tone of the conference. Compared to the academic conferences I usually attend (in classics and, strangely enough, political science), one striking feature was the range of institutions and hence range of faculty represented: not only research faculty, but community college faculty and faculty from four year schools without major research missions were naturally to be found, as were many non-tenure track faculty. Less tweed, more egalitarian. The sessions I attended were well attended and well presented, though it struck me as a bit odd that many presentations rehashed articles published in the most recent NEA Almanac of Higher Ed (here's a link the the NEA's site for this publication, though the most recent volume there is from last year). Questions and comments from the floor ran a gamut--as they do at academic conferences--from insightful to self-absorbed. In the last comment at the conference, for example, a faculty member made the excellent point that the Obama administration's plans for higher ed didn't seem to call for much in the way of faculty input, while going on and on about her own personal expertise, experiences, and credentials in a way destined to lessen anyone's interest in getting such input.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Strike deductions under the radar

Jyotsna Kapur of C & P asked me to post the letter below, since the DE seems uninterested in printing it. I am happy to oblige.

February 2, 2012

An open letter to Chancellor Cheng

Dear Chancellor Cheng,

As expected, I noted along with others who had honored the strike, a cut in our February paychecks.  In my case, I expect another paycut next month.  What surprised me, however, was that the paycheck gave no reason for the cut—just a lower salary, that’s it.  Last time, you administered a cut in our salaries it was duly noted as the cost of administrative closure days.  I am sorry, I don’t have language suggestions for what you could call the strike days: dock days, fine for striking, ticket for loitering on campus, or simply--on strike.   But noting the reason for the salary reduction would be the transparent thing to do.

As far as money goes, there is little difference in the loss of pay between the furloughs you had imposed on us last year and the cost of going on strike this year.  But there is a world of difference in what it means for my self-respect as a faculty member.  The furlough days were imposed on us without negotiation and that is why the FA insisted on our right to challenge their legality in the current contract.  If we win, we will win back the loss of pay for all faculty and validate the principle of collective bargaining.  The cost for going on strike, on the other hand, was a price I agreed to pay.  So, I am not complaining about this cut, Chancellor but the discourtesy of not acknowledging the strike while making that cut.  Could you then please revise my salary statement for this month, noting the days I was on strike?  You may keep the money but I’d like to keep the record.

With best wishes for the New Year,

Jyotsna Kapur
Associate Professor, Cinema and Photography

Monday, February 27, 2012

Satan and Higher Education

Yes, that was the teaser headline over at Inside Higher Ed to an article on recent remarks by Rick Santorum, who has managed to lose the lead in Michigan over the past week by attacking contraception and higher education, the two pillars of our modern society. Of course the incumbent president has himself made some controversial remarks on higher education, essentially jumping on the performance based funding bandwagon. 

Dominus noster
Santorum's argument appears to be that (a) there are decent, hardworking people who can and should make fine lives for themselves and their families without going to college and (b) the arch-liberal, Satan, has taken over Higher Ed.

(a) isn't unreasonable, and all professors at places at SIUC have heard and made plenty of complaints about the strategy of making college accessible to all by letting everyone in to college only to have many of them fail. 12 years of decent education, culminating in a high-school education that goes beyond mere job training (but includes that), could well be enough. But I don't know if this ideal is still practicable given the increasingly high-tech workplace out there and the chronic problems facing our K-12 educational system.

(b) I can't comment on, as I, like many readers of this blog, have taken a blood vow to remain silent about my fealty to Our Great Master. But Santorum's remarks do lend a certain weight to those arguing that we ought to change the name of the College of Liberal Arts, lest it be taken for a College of the Dark Arts by a certain sector of the population.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

University state budget news good so far

The Southern has a quick story on Quinn's budget address, with reactions from Cheng and Poshard. The news here re the overall budget is good (i.e., Quinn does not advocate cuts to the higher ed budget), and includes plans to increase funding for MAP grants. But there are lingering concerns about pensions, in two senses: employees may be asked to pay more, and employers (i.e., the university) might be asked to pay more, which would mean less money was available for other things. Of course the final budget approved by the legislature may differ greatly. But the reaction to Quinn's message from the democratic leaders of the legislature was warmer than last year, at least according to the Chicago Tribune article, which including the following interesting bit from Senate President John Cullerton:
Cullerton called it time to “take the next leap forward in comprehensive pension reforms that control costs while preserving the constitutional rights of current employees and retirees.”

“Unlike Indiana and Wisconsin, we intend to work with unions to accomplish this goal,” Cullerton said.
There is of course plenty of bad news in this budget plan as well, including closures of several downstate facilities. Quinn, though, is obviously making education, including higher education, a priority, for which those of us in that line of work should be thankful.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Differential teaching loads

At least two college deans on campus are pushing chairs to assign extra teaching to faculty who haven't produced any research over some period of time. This raises all sorts of issues re the FA contract, tenure and promotion, and merit procedures (even if we have no merit for the next few years, more teaching now will mean less research production later). But I wanted to start a thread for faculty to comment on this push on its merits. Would you like to empower your chair to assign additional teaching to faculty she or he determines are non-productive in research? 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Faculty Senate 2/14/12

A report on this month's Faculty Senate Meeting.  (Agenda here.)

Upcoming events
  • On Friday, February 24, at 3:00 G. W. Reid, the executive director of the IBHE (Illinois Board of Higher Education) will speak on performance based funding, and take questions. Faculty were encouraged to attend; he's not going to every campus, and this will be a good opportunity for SIUC faculty to give him our input and show our interest in this process. 
  • On February 29 President Poshard will speak on campus about employee pensions, from 1:30-3:00 in the student center auditorium.   
Program review. For me the highpoint of yesterdays' Faculty Senate meeting was what didn't happen: there was no significant discussion of the draft document on program review, despite a lengthy and somewhat critical review of the draft document circulating about that process. This was in large part due to the unspoken rule that after a meeting has gone for over an hour, everyone starts to clam up, together by Senate President Bill Recktenwald's urging us to submit comments in writing rather than engage in an extended discussion. The Chair of the Undergraduate Education Policy Committee, Stephen Ebbs, had to buck Recktenwald a bit to say anything at all.  He was answered, cordially, by Alan Karnes, co-chair of the committee that produced the Program Review Report; Karnes said that this was just the sort of feedback his committee wanted. Karnes also made the smart observation that the Public Act's requirement that universities report underperforming programs directly to the legislature, rather than merely to the IBHE, was particularly scary. It was unfortunate, though, that there was no more discussion. I don't entirely blame Recktenwald for this--he is also responsible for organizing the faculty panel on program review earlier this month, and so is hardly suppressing debate on this. It is rather probably part of the m.o. of the organization to have meetings consist far more of reports (mainly by the Chancellor and Provost) rather than discussion, much less debate—especially debate, which is scary.  But reports, unlike discussion and debate, would perhaps be better left to written form, perhaps with quick oral summaries; we don't need to hear which streets are going to be repaved this summer, etc., when we could be discussing more pressing matters. More on program review, perhaps, in another post. In what follows I'll try to cover other highlights of the meeting.*

Friday, February 10, 2012

Graduation consolidation

The DE has an article on the new commencement scheme which, following other campus trends, moves us toward centralization. The DE also prints a rather impassioned letter from a student in the College of Agriculture who isn't happy about the change. Rather than college level graduation ceremonies, we'll have clusters of colleges: Liberal Arts & Mass Comm; Agriculture, Applies Sciences, Engineering, and Science; and Business, Education, and Law. There will also be no August graduation, with summer graduates being allowed to walk six credits early in May. The Chancellor's email announcing the change is pasted at the end of this post.

As the letter writer notes, the downside of this change is that individual college traditions will be lost--despite the Chancellor's protestations to the contrary. While colleges will still be allowed to hold their own, additional ceremonies should they so choose, such ceremonies obviously risk rather low attendance, as not that many students, parents, or faculty are going to want to sit through a second ceremony--especially as the first one will now be rather longer. A decision not to outlaw separate ceremonies (which would be a rather extreme step even for this centralizing crew) isn't exactly the most robust form of upholding old traditions.

The advantage is that fewer ceremonies may produce a grander effect, more "pomp and circumstance" as CoLA Dean Kimberly Leonard is quoted as saying.  Graduates will now get to march in the robe parade together with faculty et al, for example, which is a nice touch, making them more actors and less audience.  Of course this innovation doesn't require centralization. At any rate, we'll have to wait and see whether fewer ceremonies are better than more.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Advisment to the faculty?

The DE reported the other day on a change in the works to shift some advising responsibilities from academic advisors to faculty.  The Provost quickly enough shot down the story in an email sent to deans (and pasted below). The story has arisen thanks to a report on campus advising by an outside consultant (embedded below).  This report is highly critical--critical of what it termed a "chaos model" of campus advising, with a particular weakness in advising for pre-major students. The report (which I've just skimmed) does briefly discuss the advisory role of faculty, but only as a very secondary matter, as something warranting further study.  Money quote:  "This report does not focus on the role of faculty advisors or the potential for further development of faculty advising at SIU" (p. 11).

So unless there are internal plans afoot that I'm not privy to, I don't think there's any real problem here from a faculty perspective. And while the report was critical of advising on campus, it was careful not to be critical of advisors, who are by and large doing all they can in what the report characterizes as very poor conditions. Advisors have to spend far too much of their time negotiating paperwork and arbitrary and unclear campus requirements and policies.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Murky enrollment numbers et al.

I've been busy with more pressing & official service work during the last week, so haven't posted.  Today I'll mainly just flag a couple of stories to provide a venue for comments.

I can't fully cut through the spin around enrollment numbers. We have 322 fewer students than last spring. The Chancellor is quoted as saying that the numbers are better than expected, but I don't quite follow her logic. She says that she expected at loss of about 360 students, given small class sizes (where class refers to things like the class of 2012, for example).  But the newspaper stories don't fill in her logic; there are all sorts of possible complications regarding expectations. And of course the administration focuses on the good news stories, noting colleges that are up (especially MCMA), but not analyzing the losses, leading one to suspect they are, as we would expect, putting out the most positive version of the story.  I if my math is correct, we were down 220 students last fall (fall 2011 vs. fall 2010), so one would expect this spring to be down only 220, if we suffered no losses in addition to the losses normal over the fall/spring transition (via graduation and attrition). It thus looks like we lost 100 more students this spring. 

There is also of course the larger context: the Southern notes that John A. Logan enrollment was down 5%. The success or failure of our recruiting & retention has to be measured in some large part by how well or badly our peers are doing (where I mean, mainly, Illinois universities rather than community colleges).

At any rate, we'll see what the Chancellor tells the faculty senate; at our last meeting she was frank about enrollment looking down.

Enrollment in the DE

Enrollment in the Southern

Pensions in the Southern

Program review in the DE (note the open forum on Thursday from 1-2:00 in the library auditorium)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A College By Any Other Name

Update: DE story, 2/14

Faculty and staff in the College of Liberal Arts (CoLA) received a memo from our Dean, Kimberly Kempf-Leonard, asking our views on a name change for our college. First let me applaud her for seeking staff & faculty input. Now I'll provide it, using the blog to amplify (if only a bit) my support of what I suspect will be a losing cause: Saving the Liberal Arts. (Apologies to the non-liberal artists among you, though I hope the following will be of some interest to those outside CoLA.)

The Dean's memo began with an accurate report that the CoLA retreat (which I attended) strongly recommended a name change. I will almost avoid calling attention to the fact that the most forceful recommendation coming from our day long retreat was a name change. The Dean's memo also accurately sketches problems with our current name: let me stipulate that most students--even most current students in CoLA, not to mention potential students--do indeed have very little idea of what the words "liberal" or "arts" mean in this context.  More on that later. 

In addition to being asked whether we support a name change, we're asked to order our preferences among all possible permutations of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, with the resulting acronyms. You can come up with the list on your own. I find the need to consider each and every possible arrangement a droll example of the academic obsession with pecking order. The only name I heard mentioned at the retreat was CHAS, presumably either as a sop to humanistic types with a lingering fondness for liberal arts, or simply on the ground of euphony, though no one pointed that Hass is German for hate. Other acronyms, if pronounceable, would produce things sounding like: Cash, which would at any rate have different connotations than Liberal Arts; Shah, which might help Arabic; Saw, appropriate in an era of budget cuts; Ash, what you have after cuts; and let us be sure to give full consideration to Ass.  Of course CoLA is silly in its own right (you've no doubt heard the old one about seeking corporate sponsorship for CoLA from Pepsi, with the resulting name change, the Pepsi CoLA).

Back to the recommendation from the retreat. A name change did win the poll for the best idea at the retreat. But I think we need to qualify this recommendation in two senses. The first is that there was almost no discussion of the pros and cons of a name change, for the simple reason that there was little discussion of any single topic. The retreat, as I suppose is usual for such things, was run on the principle that the more bullet points one generates, the more work has been done. So separate groups came up with their own bullet-points, generating easel after easel of short phrases. A selection process from among the bountiful yield of bullet-points did indeed show strong support for the name change. But while this support is broad it may not be terribly deep.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Graduation requirements change

[Be sure to check the comments for a clarification about the change.]

According to an email from the Chancellor sent out late Friday afternoon (and pasted at the end of this post), SIUC will now require graduates to complete only 42 hours in upper division classes (the old requirement was 60--out of the 120 minimum required).

I haven't done the research necessary to determine whether this lowering of our requirements for upper division courses is in keeping with our peers or not. Nor was I privy to the discussion about this change that took place in the Faculty Senate (which presumably took place before my election to that body). So I'm hoping for some informed comments. I did find it odd that the email came out at 4:43 on a Friday afternoon, the traditional time to hide things, and then, upon reflection, found it a bit odd that it came out at all. I at least had no idea of how many upper level hours were required for our undergraduates, so this one could have gone under the radar as far as I was concerned.

The question to ask, obviously, is whether or not lowering our formal graduation requirements will seriously undermine academics. It may not.  Student can now graduate with four fewer upper-level classes--but these classes will be replaced by lower level classes, of courses, classes which may be valuable in their own right. On the other hand, the change raises the specter of dumbing down the curriculum. It is in keeping with removing the requirement for a core interdisciplinary course (a 300 level offering) and replacing it with University College 101.

The Chancellor triumphs this move as one that will help us attract more transfers, but does not in her message say anything about any potential downsides--she does not say why it took "thorough and careful study" to reach this decision. She does, at the end, throw in a bit about continuing to ensure academic integrity of our degree programs. "Our degree programs" may be the key phrase here; perhaps the idea is that individual programs will need to safeguard academic integrity, as the university as a whole won't be doing it, at least to the same degree it had in the past. But just as SIUC faces competitive pressures with other potential hosts of transfer students, our academic programs vie with one another for students. So don't be shocked if you hear a Friday afternoon suggestion that your program reduce the number of upper-level offerings it requires.

The Chancellor's email is pasted after the break.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Examgate in the DE

Today's DE has a story on examgate.

This is the sort of squabble this place excels in. Both sides agree on the basic goal of the Provost's memo: final exams should be given, as scheduled, during finals week. There would never have been any debate if the Provost had simply written a memo telling chairs to remind faculty of this university policy. Not every university policy requires a cumbersome and intrusive enforcement mechanism. If faculty giving early finals are and continue to be a problem, that problem will come to light from student complaints--especially if not only faculty but students are informed of the university policy. Most faculty offenders, if there are such, would be sensible enough to clean up their acts.

Instead the Provost intervened in a heavy-handed manner, by attempting to impose a whole new level of administrative scrutiny of syllabi, scrutiny which would extend not only to the timing of final exams (where there is no disagreement), but to an individual faculty member's decision about whether or not to give a final exam (where there may well be disagreement). Vague language about "final unit exams" also interfered with a faculty member's ability to do any evaluative work during the last week of the semester. It didn't help matters that the Provost sent out his memo on January 3rd, during a break and just two weeks before the spring semester began, and tried to establish an enforcement mechanism that would begin during the first two weeks of the semester. The result was predictable--especially predictable had anyone remembered the similar brouhaha when Provost Dunn attempted to require "final cumulative experiences" (vel sim.) on scheduled final exam dates. Chaos and dissension: Happy New Year.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Parking Deck Marketing Gone With the Wind

Update (2/10): The marketing signage is going back up around the construction site.  Hooray!

Sorry, but this one is just too juicy to miss. During the deconstruction of the parking deck east of Faner a fence set up to keep folks out of harm's way was decorated with new marketing materials.  "Know No Bounds" and the like, with pictures of earnest but happy students eagerly engaged in research with inspiring professors. Or at least attractive people posing as such. I don't know about you, but I certainly found it inspirational.

Alas, the banners that covered the chain link fence do not seem to have been designed with wind in mind; they did not have those little vents built into them, as more sensible banners do. Hence, during the rough weather we've had the last couple of days they appeared, according to my informant, to be threatening to tear up the fence by acting as giant sails. Certainly the banners are now down, leaving a clear view through the chain link fence of the ruin that was the parking deck, an area cleared in order to make way for the new $34.5 million Student Services Building. According to my sources, the cost for the now discarded banners was a mere $40,000. Just a drop in the bucket.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Report on Program Changes

The Provost's committee on program changes has completed the final draft of its report (posted after the break), which is now making its way through the Faculty Senate and other venues for comment.

I'm not going to comment on this report at length right now, as I haven't had time to think it through. The committee was formed in part because the state is mandating that universities report on "low performing programs," meaning that those with low enrollment (<25 UG majors), few graduates (<6 per annum), or high cost (compared to peers). This process is also intended to help SIUC become more efficient. As the plan SIUC settles on could eventually result in multiple mergers, elimination of programs, etc., this is obviously an important matter, and I thought it appropriate to share this draft report as widely as possible to maximize faculty input and transparency.

An obvious problem with the process here, to my mind, is the idiocy of defining all and any small programs as "low performing". If we take that literally it will--to allude to my own department's plight--be hard to offer any language major other than Spanish. But that's not this committee's fault: it's the state's definition. And this report does suggest other ways to justify the existence of a given program, perhaps even a small one.

I am on the Faculty Senate committee that will be commenting on this report and will be happy to learn from comments made here. 

Introducing foreign grad students to US culture

Mike Sullivan of the Math Department suggested that I point readers toward a draft document he's prepared suggesting things that foreign graduate students, especially those planning on staying on in the US after their education, might want to bone up on. Compare the Beloit College "mindset list" meant to introduce faculty to their students--though that list is devoted to what humanities types call "little c" rather than "capital c" culture (i.e., popular rather than fancy pants culture). This is a nice diversion from our more divisive fare, so I'm happy to oblige.  Here's Mike:

This Summer I will become the graduate advisor for the Math Dept. A large fraction of our graduate students are from overseas. I started thinking about how to acclimate them to American culture. Many students in math, science and engineering are foreign but will stay here and become apart of our technological elite. Foreign undergrad students will be taking courses in the humanities, but foreign grad students in the STEM fields will not. So, I put together a web page I'm calling "An Introduction to American Culture for Foreign Graduate Students." It is just a series of lists of mostly books and movies that students or young academics could pursue when they have time over the next few years. It is pretty haphazard.

I'd like to get feed back on it either here or by e-mail (look me up). It is really a job for people in the humanities after all. I want to keep it short and be something a busy grad student or young academic could get through in a few years. I did not include recent movies that were widely seen overseas. I wanted to include both important literary novels and popular novels. So, here is the link, let be know what you think:

It is easy to think of things to add - but harder to decide what to prune. You may want to think about it yourself for a while before looking at what I have done.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

New finals week policy

The Provost has sent out a memo requiring faculty to give final exams or "final unit examinations" only during exam week (the full memo is embedded below). The expressed purpose is "to ensure that students have the time to do their very best work" by not overburdening students during the last week of classes. If you aren't giving a final exam in your class on the regularly scheduled date (including if you are not planning to give any such exam at all) you are now "expected to provide an explanation" to your Chair, and the Chair will report you to the Dean, save in cases of "seminars, internships, studio classes, and independent work, where exceptions make pedagogical sense".  The Dean then submits a list to the Provost by the tenth day of the semester. So Chairs are being asked to gather syllabi, and if you're not giving a final as scheduled, your chair has to decide whether that makes pedagogical sense, and if the Chair decides it doesn't, you're getting reported to your Dean and the Provost. Just what they will do with such reports is not said.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Less Bad Budget News

The Southern reports today that the governor is now saying that he hopes to hold funding for education, including higher education, steady, despite his gloomy outlook on the budget over the medium term (an outlook that may in fact not be gloomy enough, according to one Springfield insider). This would be far better news for SIUC than the prior report that state funding might be cut 4.25%.  We will of course have to see what the legislature comes up with--as they seem to wield the real power in this state.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Library Dean Carlson off to Texas A & M

[Update:  The Southern ran a story Friday on Carlson's move, and reports that he is disappointed that 2/3 of our books are still in McLafferty; Carlson is reported to say that failure is due to the lack of state funding for the sixth and seventh floors of the library.]

SIUC's Dean of Library Affairs, David Carlson, is moving on to Texas A & M, the DE reports.  Carlson's departure won't come as a surprise to those in the know (a group I am a marginal member of after having conversations with various librarians on the picket lines), as Carlson lost a major turf battle when Instructional Support Services was transferred to University College.  Now many of the offices housed in Morris are not run by the library; I suppose it is natural that after having overseen the renovation of Morris Carlson may have been irked to find that control over much of the building was given over to another unit. 

Carlson won an award as Illinois Academic Librarian of the Year in 2010, but will be best remembered, at least by this blogger, as the guy who emptied the library of books. Most of our collection remains in McLafferty, which I continue to consider outrageous; while it would have been expensive to return the books, the expense involved was a relative pittance in terms of the overall renovation of the library, and should have been made a major priority from the get go. The new Morris building is admittedly a vast improvement over the old one, and does provide a "campus center" to rival the student center. And of course digital resources are increasingly important, making texts less so. But texts still matter, even old ones, and by consigning them to exile in the vast shed on McLafferty Carlson sent the message to our students that books don't matter.