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)



51 comments:

  1. Thanks for the opening this Dave. When you have a moment, could you also add a link to the Provost's memo/DE article on "shifting advising to faculty" and the role of University College in advising undeclared students (pre 30 hours?). I would like to hear how folks--both faculty and academic advisors-- are thinking through implications of this.

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  2. It was quite startling to learn this afternoon at the open forum held in the Guyon auditorium that our enrollment is down over 20% from where it was in 1991. I know enrollment has been a problem for as long as I have been at this university (5 years) but 20 years! Good grief!! (You would think at some point some heads would have started to roll).

    I wonder whether/how the thrust of the proposal that was discussed this afternoon (shutting down "low-performing" programs, merging them, consolidating them, etc.,) will help matters or will it draw away students? Please correct me if I am wrong here, as I am still relatively new to this university - but it seems to me that one of the strategies which prior administrations used to try to attract more students here to SIUC and/or staunch the bleeding from declining enrollment was to create several new majors and programs. (I know for instance that my previous dean at CoLA was quite keen on creating new minors.) Now, if I understand the proposal discussed this afternoon correctly, it would seem that the outcome will likely be the reverse. Will this help us turn around our enrollment or impede our university's efforts?

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    1. 1991 was the peak enrollment year at SIUC (p. 21). The choice of that year may have been, in part, for dramatic effect. The revolving door of chancellors is a sign that heads have rolled.

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    2. Anonymous 4:04 again. Yes, I would agree with that, but if the problem hasn't been getting better after chancellors get removed, surely it is a bigger and more systemic problem on the administration side. Yet now it seems, we are being asked as a university to do a 180 and close down and consolidate our programs instead of the previous strategy which seemed to be more of a "let a thousand flowers bloom" approach. It would be nice to see some continuity and direction here. Sigh.

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    3. I'll take advantage of the new threaded comment feature (imposed by blogger) to avoid the trolls re the horrors of the FA below and comment on program review, which I'm fully entangled in thanks to my Faculty Senate committee. (By the way, whoever criticized me back in the day for underestimating the amount of work the FS does was right on--at least as far as the undergraduate education committee goes.)

      Anonymous above is right that our past m.o. has been to add programs--something which has no doubt come as much from the faculty eager to promote their specialties as from administrators eager to show the new things they've created. But at some point, given enrollment declines and (especially in the last couple of years) declining numbers of faculty, it is logical to worry that we can't keep doing everything we've been doing (much less adding new things). Plus the state is breathing down our neck, eager to cut programs. So, yeah, I think we need a program review process, and I think we need to prepare ourselves for the likely conclusion that SIUC would be better off with fewer programs. "Let every flower bloom" is fine--but if you don't have enough fertilizer, you'll have a big barren bed, so better to fertilize a few and get some nice flowers. (Of course, some wag might suggest that there's plenty of organic waste produced on campus via administrative and/or union discourse, but I would never stoop to such a low attempt at scatological humor myself.)

      Here are the problems, as I see them.

      1. The criteria for deciding what programs are to be cut. The current plan, I fear, too mechanically follows suggestions from the state. They will simply eliminate small programs--no matter how efficient, excellent, and essential to our mission they may be. And there may be high cost programs that justify that cost via their impact, or special extenuating circumstances justifying their high cost here.

      2. Who will be making the decisions about what to cut. While ultimate authority presumably rests with the BOT, faculty ought to driving the process. One problem, of course, is that few faculty are going to want to get their hands dirty with this. No one wants to have to vote to cut a colleague's program, and this is precisely what would be required were faculty to play a meaningful role in this process. The other factor here, of course, is that administrators will find it easier to cut if they don't have to go through faculty.

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    4. I appreciate this answer, Dave. The thing I kept hearing the co-chairs of the panel say over and over again was that while x major or program may still exist after the program review, not necessarily x department. So, it is hard to see how this will really cost the university less money or lead to more efficiencies. It is a very good thing in my view that the TA that the union and the administration bargained last fall in the context of the strike has very high standards for protecting tenured faculty. So, with that context brought into the discussion, again I don't see how much money will be saved by this.

      There was constant emphasis during the meeting at the need for faculty "buy in" to the process, which is correct, but if the outcome is as you say, closing down small programs, that may very well bread a lot of unneeded resentment.

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  3. The previous dean of Cola (along with his predecessor--Dean Scott) also played a major role in the elimination or near elimination of programs and departments. So what's new?

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  4. Our university is heading to bankrupt. Does strike help??
    Start to look for jobs, or else to be a stay-home Dad/Mom.

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    1. Supposing you don't have kids? What to do then.

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  5. No honest prospective student is going to attend a university whose President is a plagiarist who was allowed to get away with it by Faculty. Nor one with a newply appointed Chancellor who, instead of setting up a task force composed of faculty, students, civil servants, and other members of the community, chose instead to alienate everyone outside her chosen circle. Nor would they come to a university which has a library with empty bookshelves for the past five years.

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  6. Nor would they attend a university where some faculty chose to walk out on their students last fall.

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  7. No honest prospective student is going to attend a university whose FA President is a poorest researcher who was allowed to get away with it by Admin. Nor one with a newply appointed Spokesman who, instead of setting up a task force composed of his fellows, students, civil servants, and other members of the community, chose instead to mislead everyone outside his chosen circle. Nor would they come to a university with a terrible FA mafia.

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  8. Some of you should actually go in the library one of these days. It's full of books...and I was there just yesterday.

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    1. Compared to libraries of other small liberal arts colleges, let alone peers our size, hardly! Most of our books are still sitting in storage while administrative priorities seem to be elsewhere. Shame, shame!!!

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  9. Anonymous Feb 3, 2012 06:27 AM:

    You don't seem to doing much to project a positive image yourself.

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  10. Being critical of a bad situation is being positive - that is, unless you agree with Rita's ostrich analogy. "My university, right or wrong", eh, Mike? How convenient it is to shut one's eyes and close one's mind to an appalling situation. Perhaps you should start a cheerleading team?

    Joan, you ought to visit more floors than the 5th and see the empty shelves elsewhere or ask why a highly priced coffe bar is taking the place of a space that should go towards bookshelves.

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    1. The thesis (in Anonymous 8:14) is sound but I'll make an example of the details, which are less so.

      Mike was defending the FA (or at least questioning the rancid comment about FA leaders). One standard I'd hope to encourage would be our taking the time to understand someone before hammering them.

      Joan was perhaps too quick to attack those who say the library lacks books--the library does of course have many books in it, but not nearly as many as it could and should have. Most who say the library is empty (as I've said, hyperbolicly, on occasion) know this full well. Whether the lobby space could be better used for bookshelves I don't know. The problem as I understand it isn't with the floor space available for books, but the absence of shelving on the unfinished floors (including expensive collapsible shelves) and money to return & reshelve the books.

      Google, by the way, has imposed a new comment style--threaded comments--that allow folks to respond to particular comments rather than having to single out Anonymous 123. This comment, for example, is threaded to Anonymous 8:14. This new feature may help clear up some of the confusion about who is addressing whom.

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  11. There are books on more floors than just the 5th. Book are, indeed, all over the place. To say there are no books in the library is just, well, stupid. BTW, I was in the library Monday night, and those sitting in the coffee bar, and elsewhere in the building, seemed to be happy. I really wanted to spend more time amongst the books, but didn't have the time. What's your problem?

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  12. McLafferty Annex is also "full of books"--waiting for requisite funds to return to our research library where they can be shelved, perused, conveniently available. I believe that's the point being made here, and one that Library faculty/staff have spoken to at length on a previous thread.

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    1. Joan, To misinterpret a comment about empty shelves to read there are no books in the library is "just plain stupid." But that is what one would expect from an anti-Union person who ignores the fact that books have been in McLafferty for too long while money is wasted on other items.

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  13. I make no other point other than there are indeed books in Morris Library. When I read what I believe to be college professors saying there are no books in Morris Library I can't help but be a little embarressed for them.

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    1. Your belief (or deliberate misinterpretation of facts)is mistaken. This makes a very strong argument for books to be returned from McLafferty for the purposes of real education which is what a library should be, not a venue for a coffee bar that should be in the Student Center.

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    2. I simply maintain there ARE books in Morris Library. That is my point. To say there are no books in Morris Library IS a deliberate misterpretation. Yes, I know not all the books are there...that there are books at McLafferty that need to be in Morris. I know that and agree with you that they should be returned.

      I'm feel sorry for you and the other no-fun types who don't like the coffee bar.

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    3. Joan,

      Your original statement was, "It's full of books." That statement is a misinterpretation of the situation as well. The majority of the books that Morris Library owns are not in the building.

      Here are some pictures to demonstrate that "full" is a misstatement.

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  14. For the record, I believe this was the original comment that sparked this ludicrous thread (2/2, 8:43) "Nor would they come to a university which has a library with empty bookshelves for the past five years". The phrase "no books" is coined by Joan. No one disputes there are books at Morris . . . nor that there are also empty bookshelves, and as Julie points out, empty floors awaiting shelves while the books wait elsewhere.

    There are books in my office as well, but that doesn't make it a research library.

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  15. There are books in your office as well, but that doesn't make it a research libraryb if you never read them.

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  16. Clearly Morris isn't `full of books', very little space is devoted to books; plenty of space is devoted to the Math Lab, Coffee Bar, Computers, etc, etc, So you are wrong there Joan, for sure.

    This reminds me of the joke: Joan's library was stolen one night. The next day she called the police and said: Please help me! All 2 of my books were stolen last night.....and the worse thing is that 1 of them I hadn't finished coloring in.....

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  17. A library shouldn't have Math Lab, Coffee Bar, Computers...??
    What is an outdated view!!!

    I believe in old days, a library wouldn't have bathrooms either. So you mean that a real library is that kind of library?

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    1. A library should have books, mainly.

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    2. Not really, a library should have book and readers who can think and reason.

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    3. A reader can't read or think without books. By definition a `reader' must have something, preferably books, to read......

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  18. A library should have books, readers who can think and reason and a Dean who respects them.

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  19. Who's dean doesn't respect them?

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    Replies
    1. Because the Dean is Admin, and they didn't receive the raise they wanted.

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  20. Hmmmm, I kinda like some of the ways the library has been evolving.

    And Joan...I agree I like the coffee bar!

    I also like the large areas for computers and the study rooms with amazing views. Haven't seen the Math Lab yet so I can't comment. And the Annex! Wow. Love it! I get a LOT of work done out at the Annex because there is scarcely a soul out there.

    As far as books, the majority of the literature I need (and my students need) is in journals which I access electronically through Morris or through professional affiliations. What I can't get, I've always been able to get through Inter Library Loan. My guess, from reading these threads, is that this is not the case for other professions. Maybe getting on the Library Advisory Board would be a way to be heard?

    Also, I came from Washington, D.C., and the reality of closed stacks and three buildings was just the way it was. Spending weekends in NYC on occasion and trying to do work meant NYC Public Library, also closed stacks. We don't really have closed stacks, just two buildings. Is it really so bad?

    How many of you deal with students who don't ever set foot in either building and only search electronically for full articles and ignore the citations that will take them a little time to dig up?

    What concerns me more than the presence or absence of books in Morris, is the consistent whittling down of research librarians. How many specialized people will we lose before we hamstring ourselves?

    Just a few pennies, Kim

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    1. Coffee bars, and amazing views............it's pretty sad if that's what you think a library should provide. If you want those, please go to a Starbucks at the seaside. What we need at SIUC (a university) is a decent library with books in for the students to read and learn, and for the faculty to use in their research.

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    2. You completely have NO sense and should get out of here!!!

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    3. I agree with Anon 3.13, its pretty sad if all you want from a library is overpriced coffee and good views.

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    4. Please learn to use and spell English properly before you post here. You can learn these things in Morris Library. Thank You.

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    5. The sick man of SIUC.

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    6. I am not even at SIUC anymore, am retired. There are too many negative people, like you, who don't appreciate why a research university needs a good library. Please don't forget to us a spell and grammar check before you post here....I won't be checking this again.

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    7. To Anonymous (2/10 3:33 PM & 2/11 4:15 PM):
      We are standing around a virtual water cooler where spelling and grammar errors abound. Why are you singling out this comment for a spelling and grammar check? Most of Kim's "errors" are incomplete sentences and are consistent with the casual tone she uses throughout her comment.

      To Anonymous (2/9 5:24 PM and 2/10 7:08 PM):
      Unlike Kim's incomplete sentences, your incomplete sentences are indecipherable. Who is the sick man? Kim, as far as I know, is female, and Anonymous is of undetermined gender.

      Kim:
      In the morning, in the evening, and on Saturdays, McLafferty is worse than a closed-stacks library. The wait for a book delivery can be as long as 45 hours if a book is requested at 4 on Friday afternoon. The barriers at Morris Library give students more reasons (or excuses) to fail to follow up on citations.

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    8. Good to hear Anonymous Feb 11, 2012 04:15 PM who is going to retire. The less this kind of ignorant people we have, the better future will be for everyone else. Good bye and good luck.

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    9. Anonymous (Feb 23, 2012 11:19 AM):

      I'll confess my own ignorance.

      What about Anonymous Feb 11, 2012 04:15 PM makes that person ignorant?

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  21. A library must evolve with time, for sure. But I still think the basis of any library should be books, not research articles. Or else one loses the pleasure of browsing, and you can't browse in McLafferty, it is a horrible, souless building.

    We should encourage students to visit a library, after all we are their teachers, books and teaching go together. And its hard to do this in a library with few books. So, it is bad to have most of the books in McLafferty for these reasons.

    I like what Wendler used to say (which Cheng has never said) that the heart of a University is its library.

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  22. Some people on the Library Advisory Board have attempted to request the administration to start moving books back to Morris. It has fallen on deaf ears. Unfortunately, many of us are not in your privileged discipline and need constant access to books and journals now in McLafferty but limited to sub-banking hours 12.0 - 4.0 pm. You can not request deliveries on Saturdays either So rather than enjoying the "amazing views" reminiscent of a "let them eat cake" attitude, please understand that many of us need the access to books we once had in the old Library. People may go but books will remain and they should be a priority rather than sports stadiums and inessential administrative buildings, the money for which could have gone towards getting those books back. A generation of students will attend SIUC and leave without having the benefit of a proper library in one place, something far more important than amazing bars and economically inflated coffee bars! That is one reason why students are transferring in their junior and senior years to other colleges.

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  23. Leaders of a university should say (and believe) a heart of a university its its library. The fact that our current crop of people in charge around here does not suggests strongly they are not leaders.

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    1. What does that phrase mean? When Walter Wendler said it, I assumed it meant, "Here's a platitude about the library, so I can say I support it just like I support Mom and apple pie."

      http://www.unshelved.com/2007-7-30
      http://www.unshelved.com/2007-7-31
      http://www.unshelved.com/2007-8-1
      http://www.unshelved.com/2007-8-2

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