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.

While the Final Exam schedule (as paranoid notes below--I'm cheating by editing this post a bit) has long called for all final exams to be given on the scheduled date, the policing mechanism, especially for those who don't give final exams, is new. I suspect the main goal of this policy is to make sure that faculty and students keep working into exam week. And I am, in fact, in full agreement that students and faculty ought to be expected to work that final week of the semester. There are likely special circumstances when a class should or must end before that final week (readers are welcome to spell them out in comments below). But when a faculty member decides to give the final exam on the last day of a conventional class simply to shorten the semester, he or she is shortchanging students, and may indeed not give them the time to do their best work--though the students, of course, will usually happily go along in an effort to finish the semester early.

But this policy would require Chairs, Deans, and, ultimately, the Provost to oversee whether faculty members' choices are pedagogically appropriate. For example, this policy would appear to rule out something I've done fairly often: giving a final unit exam (often just a quiz on the material from the last week or two, to keep them honest) and then having a final paper project due over exam week. If I want to do that in a class not labelled "seminar", I would now need to get my Chair's approval, and unless she concurs, she will report her findings to the Dean, who then sends a blacklist up to the Provost. The policy seems to leave it to Chairs to decide what is pedagogically appropriate or not--just the fight we had over distance learning. And the effort to make sure that we are giving our exams when scheduled is eerily reminiscent of the forms faculty were asked to fill out to make sure we were teaching our classes in their scheduled classrooms during the strike.

While I haven't discussed this with others in the FA, this policy will likely run afoul of the FA contract, as it appears to be a unilateral change in the terms and conditions of employment. A prior effort to require faculty to schedule some sort of culminating experience (whether an exam, student reports, or some other meeting) on the final exam date was scuttled after FA opposition, though I don't remember the details. It is very likely that the Provost doesn't remember that episode, either, so is making the same mistake all over again.

What would a more legitimate policy look like? I at any rate would approve of the Provost reaffirming that exam week is an integral part of the semester, during which students and faculty are expected to continue and complete their work. But enforcement of this principle needs to respect the autonomy of faculty to determine how best to make use of this final week. How to enforce this principle without infringing on faculty autonomy? I suppose I would start by asking whether there is a big enough problem to institute anything like the reporting requirements the Provost would mandate.

A better policy might be simply to say that faculty are expected to be completing their teaching work that week (via a means other than correcting a final exam given the week before). That could consist of grading research papers due exam week--which seems a fitting use of student and faculty time for upper level classes. Should Chairs be asked to check up on faculty to make sure they are working that week, by reviewing their syllabi or other means? Only, I would say, as part of the "checking up" Chairs should be doing on our teaching in any event--as part of the tenure & promotion process, the regular evaluation of NTT faculty, or evaluations done for merit. I see no need for a central administration reporting process--unless it becomes clear that, despite a clear statement that exam week is an integral part of the semester, many faculty are shortchanging students by quitting early. This sort of regulation invites a slippery slope argument. Are they going to check to make sure faculty don't let out classes early? That we assign enough reading? Grade enough papers quickly enough?

In this case, in any event, why not at least start with making the principle clear, and seeing if that suffices, before setting up a burdensome scheme to police faculty behavior? Why not discuss this with the FA, and the Faculty Senate, rather than springing it on us out of the blue over the break, guaranteeing a train wreck?
Final Examination Week Memo

65 comments:

  1. University policy runs headlong into the sweeping statement, "All final or final unit examinations must be scheduled the week immediately before commencement (May 7-11)."

    From the calendar issued March 1, 2012 (sic), "7. One credit hour courses and classes that meet for less than the full semester should hold their examinations during the last regularly scheduled class period prior to the formal final examination week."

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    1. A Note: paranoid is the chair of math department.

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  2. I guess it's going to be rough for some of those folks to not skip town the first day of finals week (tenured profs in my department do it routinely).

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  3. Hmm. Tenured profs in my dept routinely 'dig in' that week, buried under term papers, exams, project presentations, theses & dissertation defenses and letters of rec for grad school applications. That's certainly characterized my finals weeks for the past 23 years.

    I follow the timeline logic for scheduling exams, (assuming that piling on all exams in one week helps students plan/use their time wisely (!) but not the policy to provide rationale for not giving a traditional exam as a capstone. Feels a little bit of pedagogical interference and course design micromanaging.

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  4. In addition to the policing problem, I agree with Dave that it is odd that anyone outside of my department should be involved in determining what is an appropriate use of the final exam period. In several of my classes, we use the last week(s) of classes and the final exam period for final presentations (speeches, debates, project presentations, group presentations, performances, etc.). My last exam (assuming, for sound pedagogical reasons, I choose to use this form of assessment) often comes weeks before finals week. These are not "seminars" or "studio classes." I suspect my chair will support my practice, but still... It is so confirming of our Provost to add another mandate of oversight.

    Off to a good start healing wounds and building morale. Because a heavy-handed policy memo with additional bureaucratic enforcement measures just says, "Happy New Year, welcome back, and let's respect each other in the work we do for the university!" Doesn't it?

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  5. This is really appalling and a throwback to what a previous Provost tried some years ago. I never give final exams since students in my opinion do better with a final paper scheduled for exam week rather than playing beat-the-clock in a crowded, often badly ventilated classroom in a situation that benefits the quick writer rather than those who wish to contemplate the question asked in a proper manner without worrying abot ime factors and health issues. This is "heavy-handed" and a move towards quantifiable multiple choices, speedy answers rather than contemplative research and self-education. Of course, I'm never here during Finals week to deal with extensions, last-minute student prblems, and grading in a non-rushed manner. The war by the administration against faculty is not over and another battle commences!

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  6. Yeah, this is strange -- not sure what to make of this. It feels more like a top-down solution in search of a problem (unless early finals -- or their absence -- has in their view somehow played a significant role in our retention issues--which would be a surprise). Or, maybe somehow it's a first step in laying the groundwork for institution of a "dead week" (which students apparently want)...

    P.S. So we're back to the clocktower letterhead, eh? (fine by me...)

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  7. Tony:
    Let's make this a positive war. We can call it the battle with (rather than against) the administration for high-quality education. We can carry copies of the critique of higher education du jour to emphasize the importance of writing and can explain our reasons for "take home examinations" aka papers.

    Beezer:
    The chancellor promised us time to use up our old letterhead before being forced to use the new logo. The provost is holding her to that promise. :)

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    1. paranoid is the chair of math department.

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  8. So the perpetually-pissed find something else to crab about. Why am I not surprised?

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  9. In my department, some faculty members gave final exam before the final week regularly. They just don't want to come to the campus and have more freedom. Dear FA members, why don't simply just give the final exam on the first day of the semester, then you have all semester free. Little work, full pay. Dream job!

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  10. I wonder whether these last two "Anons" have any association with higher education (apart from being faculty-hating students) since they are excellent examples of cultural faculty-bashing. Paranoid is right in hoping for a "positive war" but I doubt whether SIUC administration will look on this issue in terms of respecting the autonomy and expertise of professional teachers. It looks very much like the K-12 policies assoiciated with former President Ted Sanders as well as another example of treating faculty as servile lackeys. This is a very important issue of faculty autonomy which needs to be respected by those above. It could have been negotiated in the best terms of debate and faculty governance rather than being the subject of another insulting memo.

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  11. Gosh, anonymouses, I'm on record saying people who give exams early in order to shorten the semester are out of line. If this is a real problem, responsible faculty and the administration could (and perhaps still can) work to solve it together. I think shaming such faculty would be an excellent way to begin--and I think, had Nicklow played his cards right, rather than trying to impose a solution before announcing the problem--we could have had FS, FA, and administration on the same page with a common position on this. That, however, would require a meeting or two. You can toss off a memo like this in fifteen minutes--and successfully alienate people who would have worked with you had you bothered to try to work with them.

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  12. Perhaps if the chancellor had chosen a provost who had more experience in academic leadership - being a dean, say, or even a department chair - this would have been handled better.

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  13. prof with a dragon tattooJanuary 9, 2012 at 2:48 PM

    Hi, long time lurker, first time poster. This policy doesn't seem new to me. I came here in 2005 and was immediately informed of this. I asked about the requirement that first semester, and the answer was that we were required to provide x number of instructional hours per semester (Dave's comments above point to that, as well) and failure to do so brought uncomfortable scrutiny from the Legislature.

    What seems different to me is the report to the Provost and the timing: second week of the semester.

    That first year I wrote a brief email to my Dean, explaining that I was using the exam period for final presentations. No one ever tried to change my syllabus.

    I have no systematic knowledge of how often this has been abused but do know that in my College, more than ten faculty took off early last year, leaving town before finals week. This meant a stream of students through the office who needed help from someone who was gone. I offered to try to help them. So, again, as Dave said...

    And anyway, that's my anecdotal .02.

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  14. My department chair is a strong FA supporter. He basically ignores this policy (as well as others). So we have the ''business as usual''. No change. Who care!

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  15. I think what the memo means is that IF you have a final exam it must be during exam week. If you have a final paper due exam week instead that is fine. The problem occurs with some faculty (maybe only a few?) who have a final exam the week before and deprive their students of instructional time and cut into their study time for their other finals.

    There have been attempts in the past to have a "dead week" or at least a few "dead days" before exam week. I have argued against this because given our student body we would have riots - especially in May when it is nice out. I think that this push to not overload students with exams or assignments just before finals is an attempt to give students time to study; it i kind of a compromise. I try to save the last week of my undergrad classes for review.

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  16. The problem here for me is that "dead week" assumes that only exams add pressure to students lives. But if we moved to a "no major assignments or exams in the week (or few days) before finals" that would be both unsound and unenforceable. What constitutes "major" and what else are we supposed to do with those classes?

    What any attempt to mandate pedagogy policy and structures of enforcement always runs into is the variety of pedagogical strategies employed across departments an disciplines. I believe our Provost is well intentioned, but fails to account and accommodate for that variety in this latest memo.

    If the primary concern is that we use our final exam period as part of state required contact hours, that is a concern best met by reminder and handled at a department level. The strike demonstrated that the Administration can be pretty dismissive of contact hour concerns when it wants to be -- after all, no real organized effort was made to make up those lost hours, and what it considered "business as usual" during the strike was pretty flimsy.

    If the primary concern is alleviating student stress at the end of the semester in order to enhance retention, the Administration needs to tread carefully. Mandating from above what can and cannot happen in the classroom at particular times of the semester is not without problems. I'm sure we could retain many students if we got rid of all challenging projects and assessment tools and just gave them good grades for paying tuition.

    I've worked at institutions that had a few days without classes before finals week. That might be an option, but the cynical side of me suspects it would be more an invitation to party than get one's work done. And of course, particularly in the fall with the proximity of Thanksgiving break to finals week, it would be a scheduling nightmare.

    In any case, clarification of the concern (problem) and collaborative work towards a solution would, as Dave already suggested, be a wiser and more effective (and less alienating!) way to deal with this issue.

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  17. According to FA president Randy Hughes:

    'In accordance with the Addendum to the contract on "Intellectual Property, Copyrights, and Patents," the faculty member's course syllabus is the property of the faculty member. Faculty members are not required to provide syllabus to their Chairs or Directors.'

    What a joke here! So the Admin has no right to have faculty syllabus? If the syllabus says: if you love FA, then you will receive A! Is it ok for that kind of syllabus? Who can say no right?

    I really support HMO now.

    HMO=Hughes Must Go!

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    1. Shouldn't it be HMG=Hughes Must Go?

      I support YMG=You Must Go............

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  18. Basically, if a syllabus is a personal property, then the author has the right to refuse the Admin to take a look.

    Thus without permission, the Admin can not cite it, copy it...etc.. by law.

    How the Admin can agree this type of contract?

    I support HMO too!

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    1. Shouldn't it be HMG=Hughes Must Go?

      I support YMG=You Must Go............

      Delete
  19. I don't understand why Randy didn't discuss this with the provost before he sent out this to the entire faculty members. Is this the right way to seek a solution or he just has no interest to deal with it?

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  20. I take Randy's email as clarification of contract (given stated confusions about implications and implementation) and affirmation of the intent behind the Provost's email. One might also ask why the Provost didn't discuss this policy extension with constituents before sending it out? and departmental oversight should be sufficient.

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  21. This is not clarification. It doesn't help the situation. He can offer a help if he feel something wrong.

    I support HMO!!!!

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  22. Jonny Gray said: ``In any case, clarification of the concern (problem) and collaborative work towards a solution would, as Dave already suggested, be a wiser and more effective (and less alienating!) way to deal with this issue.''

    Is Randy's memo moving to the direction you mentioned above?
    It seems to me NOT. Randy simply put more gas on the fire.
    This is FA!!! I support HMO too.

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  23. My department chair require every faculty member to post his/her syllabus on a course web site. Could I refuse to do so? Of course, I always pass my syllabus to my students.

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  24. According to Randy: ''faculty members are not required to provide an explanation of this decision to their chairs and directors.'' Of course, you can refuse to do so. My chair doesn't like HMO, he loves Randy so much....

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  25. Look, Randy needed to get something out to faculty while there was still time, before the semester began. He just returned to town after a well deserved vacation. I don't think there was time for consultation with the Provost who, as another comment has noted, didn't consult with the FA, either.

    Note that at the beginning and end of his memo Randy agrees with the Provost's goal: final exams should be given during finals week. But the means the Provost uses to reach this goal are problematic.

    One of the main issues the union fought for during negotiations was academic freedom--particularly vis a vis distance learning. The provost's memo would set up a system in which chairs oversee the pedagogical decisions of faculty not only about the timing of final exams (which we agree about) but about whether or not to give final exams at all. The union's opposition to this policy is consistent with its defense of our academic freedom to teach our classes as we judge fit.

    Syllabi--unless produced in special circumstances, through dedicated grant funding by the university--are the intellectual property of those who wrote them. The contract's addendum on intellectual property makes this clear. The contract obligates us to share them with our students--naturally enough. The union's position is that instructors need not share their syllabi, their intellectual property, with anyone else. Doing so could enable others to make us of our intellectual property in an illegitimate way. This issue became particularly topical during the strike, when departments wanted to use syllabi in order to help subs cover classes.

    My own department has routinely collected syllabi in the past, which I assume is pretty regular practice, and in fact checks them to make sure they include necessary information. As the contract itself requires that syllabi spell out some essential items, I myself don't see how this policy violates the contract--so long as this is the only purpose of checking syllabi. But checking syllabi for final exam policy is not in keeping with the contract, and so I think the union is clearly right to speak up on this occasion.

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  26. Dave said: ``Look, Randy needed to get something out to faculty while there was still time, before the semester began. He just returned to town after a well deserved vacation. I don't think there was time for consultation with the Provost who, as another comment has noted, didn't consult with the FA, either.''

    Let me use a symmetric principle to get the following:

    Look, the provost needed to get something out to faculty while there was still time, before the semester began. He just returned to town after a well deserved vacation. I don't think there was time for consultation with the FA who, as another comment has noted, didn't consult with the provost, either.

    What you think now?

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    1. The Provost could have sent his memo out months ago. Randy had days before the semester began.

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  27. Oh boy. I just can't wait for the semester to begin. Of the things in the world to be concerned about, the FA is worried about who gets to see a syllabus.

    Really!?

    A couple of points. The provosts memo wasn't sent to the faculty at large. It was sent to deans, chairs and directors.
    It doesn't say exams must be given. It says if exams are given, they must be given during finals week.
    If the faculty member choses not to give an exam, he or she needs to notify their chair.

    It doesn't say finals MUST be given. It doesn't say those who don't give finals will face sanctions.

    So is the FA upset about giving a copy of their syllabus to their chair?

    Really?!

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    1. FA upset everything. They want more pay and less work. If you disagree with them then they hate you. I simply stay far away from them. This is a group of hateful people.

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  28. Jonny Gray said: ``In any case, clarification of the concern (problem) and collaborative work towards a solution would, as Dave already suggested, be a wiser and more effective (and less alienating!) way to deal with this issue.''

    According to Dave, Randy doesn't have the time to do 'collaborative work towards a solution. But he did put more gas on the fire. What can you say now?

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  29. Jonny points out that Hughes's email provides information to the faculty about what the CBA indicates about compliance obligations with the Provost's recent enforcement mandate. It is an argument of false equivalency (as well as a tu quoque fallacy) to compare Hughes's email to the Provost's memo. I applaud Hughes's affirmation of the Provost's sound intent while noting also where his enforcement mandate overreaches. I would prefer an open conversation about such issues before such mandates are made. When the Provost chooses not to do so, he instantiates other kinds of responses. I appreciate the clarifications from Hughes and the FA about my rights as a faculty member and employee of this university. Thank you for asking.

    In parting, I note that the acronym "HMO" is as inaccurate in its initials as its aim. But it does indicate, perhaps, how carefully some anonymouses here consider their responses before posting them.

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  30. Absolute right does not make sense. People have free speech right in this country, but I won't appreciate the right to say something bad.

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  31. Anonymous 8:40 AM:

    The memo doesn't say that someone who doesn't give an exam just notifies the chair. Faculty who do not give exams "are expected to provide an explanation." Unless the class is in a special category, a class without a final exam is reported to the Dean who reports it to the Provost as deviant.

    If the memo doesn't say that faculty will face sanctions for not giving an exam, its tone is such that someone like Tony Williams has reason to be concerned.

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    1. paranoid is the chair of math department.

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  32. I applaud Provost memo. This is necessary for basic operation of a university. The two points raised by Randy Hughes do not make any sense. How many people will still listen FA ?

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    1. It was a very sad, negative, pointless memo.....not a good way to start a new semester.

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    2. I applaud THE Provost's memo. The two points raised by Randy Hughes do not make any sense. This is necessary for THE basic operation of a university.
      How many people will still listen TO THE FA ?

      Please correct the missing words and bad grammar.

      Delete
  33. Paranoid...

    I commend you for living up to your screen name. If you provide your Dean with a reason why you don't give an exam, and I'm sure a prof would have a good reason since the are professionals and in charge of their own classes...then the Dean doesn't need to come back with questions about why an exam wasn't given. Again, the memo doesn't say exams MUST be given.

    No, I think the FA is just looking for a new fight...something that'll take it through the end of the academic year. Indded, the post here on Deo Volente regarding program changes seems to be another attempt by the FA at finding something to fight about. I guess it keep the membership in a lather.

    BTW, Tony is "concerned" about everything.

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  34. If professionals in charge of their own classes will offer good reasons for not giving an exam, and, in turn, a dean won't need to come back with questions about why an exam wasn't given, then the demand for explanation is redundant. That makes the policy a pointless inefficiency, so why even promulgate it at all?

    I tend to disagree with Dave, Jonny, and others who describe this as an inadequately collaborative solution to an existing problem. Instead, the memo does precisely what it sets out to do: contends that administrators, including chairs and deans, have a managerial role that extends beyond mere learning objectives and outcomes to the means of their accomplishment. It makes no sense to offer an explanation for a pedagogical or assessment tactic to someone who is not, by that very act, vested with the authority to judge the validity of that explanation and tactic. Thus, the memo says that your dean and chair are in the business of not just judging your learning outcomes, but also of micromanaging your pedagogical tactics.

    At this point though, I don't think we should be surprised that the consequence of a purportedly innocuous plea for assessment and accountability turns out to be yet one more step toward the deprofessionalization of faculty.

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  35. It certainly seems that Nicklow is making a problem out of nothing............`they' tried something similar when Dunn was here a few years ago. I think the admin have to justify their big salaries, hence they create more problems, paperwork...........it really is very sad and negative.

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  36. Has the font size changed here? Maybe it is just my computer...?

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  37. Shouldn't it be HMG=Hughes Must Go? (not HMO)

    I support NAMG=Negative Anons Must Go............

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    1. Hypocrisy, thy name is Anonymous.

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    2. Yes, perhaps the post was a bit too self-referential.....

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  38. Anon 6.18:

    I applaud THE Provost's memo. The two points raised by Randy Hughes do not make any sense. This is necessary for THE basic operation of a university.
    How many people will still listen TO THE FA ?

    Please correct the missing words and bad grammar.

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  39. This is a poor place for professional discussions. So many people with highest degrees behavior like those who are uneducated. It is really shame to SIU.

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  40. "If professionals in charge of their own classes will offer good reasons for not giving an exam, and, in turn, a dean won't need to come back with questions about why an exam wasn't given, then the demand for explanation is redundant. That makes the policy a pointless inefficiency, so why even promulgate it at all?"

    Kinda like faculty office hours? They're supposed to be there...so deans and dept. chairs should just assume they are?

    Are our faculty subject to no accountability at all?

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  41. Actually, it's not "kinda" like office hours at all. One can show up at an office and check to see if someone is there. One does not evaluate an explanation based on whether or not it is present: one evaluates the legitimacy, soundness, etc. of the explanation.

    In addition, it's "kinda" like the policy has nothing to do with real accountability because if it did there would be a mechanism for evaluating pedagogical tactics that isn't easily evaded by simply producing official and unofficial syllabi.

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  42. Ryan, I see what you mean, and I'm pretty sure I agree with you. When I call for collaboration, it is not to have a titular role in how my pedagogy (or anyone else's) can be micro-managed by the far-removed. Rather, I am willing to grant that the impetus for the Provost's memo may be a reasonable problem. But the memo glosses the problem in favor of detailing a managerial solution.

    What I crave in the spirit of shared responsibility for this institution is leaders who would come to the faculty and say: here is the problem as we understand it, here is the evidence of the problem, and here are the harms (to retention, recruitment, etc.) as a result of this problem. This is clearly an academic issue but one that may also require some adjustment to our operating procedures. What can/should we do about this?

    By reducing this issue only to a question of accountability, and only faculty accountability at that, we continue down a path not only of deprofessionalization but also demoralization. I grow weary of this path, but it is not a path the FA put us on.

    NAMG, indeed!

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  43. There are always bad apples everywhere. It is interesting to see if FA would like to protect all apples, no matter bad or good.

    Some faculty members of our department have the office hours at parking lot. If he/she doesn't see any his/her students waiting at the parking lot, then he/she leaves.
    I haven't seen my colleague next to my office for the entire Fall semester last year.

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    1. Thats because your colleague has resigned......being in the office next to you was too much for them

      Delete
  44. Anon: 2/05. The answer to your question in the first paragraph is No. The FA has made it clear that it does not condone unprofessional behavior on the part of its members. Also, concerning the narrative in your second paragraph, can you verify this or is is another apocryphal story? The Union has agreed to official office hours for everyone for the past 10 years or more. So, if this is going on, you really should complain to your Chair and Dean assuming that you have your facts right and this is not another union-bashing Anon. post.

    Alos, Jonny, I fully agree with your points. This issue could have been handled much better according to a collegial sense of shared governance that our administration is opposed to.

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  45. Everyone is invited to watch some interesting related to what we discuss at

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdqQTIQhn5A

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    1. Of course, this is all unedited, "realistic" footage, shot by someone who does not have an agenda and worthy of Fox News or Gary Metro & Co turning their attentions to manipulation or (as he terms it) "opinion."

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  46. Tony: you are not police or boss. Don't try to chase everyone. Have too much time? Go to do your research. Don't get excited, please.

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  47. Anon: I have time to do both research and comment on reactionary and misleading posts from the opposition. But you're right, if this "Ann Coulter" technique is the best they can do they are not worth bothering about. In this instance, a pathetic item of manipulated footage was worth the comment if only to show how desperate the opposition is.

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  48. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  49. Replies
    1. paranoid is the chair of math department. Please be alert! John.

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  50. It is pity to see some people (such as paranoid) cannot think and cannot reason, but they like to bark everywhere.

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  51. Anonymous / John (8:42, 8:43, 8:44, 8:45) + comments on other old blog posts:

    Repetition does not make a statement true.

    If you dig back far enough, you'll find an exchange from before the strike that I had with "Disgusted" about details of an FA meeting that the chair of the math department was not at and probably would not have been allowed to attend.

    From what I know of the chair of the math department, he is not as ornery as I am, and I'm not as fond of sweater vests as he is.

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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.