Monday, November 7, 2011

Infinitesimal Calculus

The letter published below was sent to SIU administrators by our colleague from the Department of Mathematics.

An infinitesimal amount of calculus was taught in this class...

An open letter to SIU President Glenn Poshard, SIUC Chancellor Rita Cheng, and Dean of the College of Science Jay Means

November 5, 2011
President Poshard, Chancellor Cheng, and Dean Means,

Since you repeatedly claim that at SIUC is “business as usual” and that “classes are continuing with qualified instructors,” I want to call your attention to events in my Calculus class on November 3-4, 2011. Several students have sent me descriptions of that class, and I quote one of them:

“Yesterday (Thursday), the first day of the strike, was very awkward. The Math 150 class was staffed by the Assistant Dean of the College of Science, [name deleted by D.B.]. She is an economist who has a background in Calculus. Yesterday’s class lasted only 20 minutes with her giving us a brief lecture of the fundamentals behind integration. She then got uncomfortable to the point where she was literally copying the book. She also took attendance, by the way. As I said, she stopped after 20 minutes, assigned no homework and dismissed the class.

Today (Friday), was basically a repeat of yesterday. The class lasted 10 minutes and we pretty much reviewed what we went over yesterday!”

How dare you do this to my students? What you did is a disgrace to our University, to Academia and to knowledge. It is also a disgrace to Newton and Leibniz, who proved the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus, one of the cornerstones of modern mathematics, the theorem that was supposed to be taught those two days in my Calculus class, the theorem that you ridiculed by the substitute you sent.

I am a scientist, and I always tell the truth. How about you?

Dubravka Ban
Associate Professor of Mathematics, SIUC
c.c. Math 150 Class


  1. Yes, it is the worst kind of boss speak to claim business as usual. I dont think that the administration really believed the FA would do this. Many have commented on the lack of contingency plans compared to 9 years ago, and the results are showing.

    But as for this pompous letter, I'm sure I'm just one of many who will say this: Really? Really? They did this to your students? How dare *you* do this to your students. Get off your high horse, Prof. Ban and leave the sacred ghosts of Newton and Leibniz out of this. You chose to participate in an ideological struggle over control of the university. You put your students second to your own inchoate grievances and resentments. This is the inevitable consequence of your actions.

    Yeah, I know it's all about the principle, not the money. That's the problem. When it is just about the money, people can reason and compromise. Principle untempered by prudence and grace leads people to do insane, destructive things. See the history of the 20th century.

    Yeah, the administration is being hypocritical in claiming business as usual, and I'm sure they know and admit privately that their efforts to keep this going are crap. What else can they do? Admit publicly to current and potential students that the FA's actions are depriving students of their education and destroying the university? Cancel classes?

    Your selfish and nihilistic actions are harming my students and wounding the university I love. Do you understand that you are tearing down the good work of generations? Do you care? I'm not sure you understand the gravity of this. Like many of our students, I come from a blue collar background. I remember the grim picket lines of my youth. People understood the stakes. When I see you out there with your damned puppets, laughing and acting like it's a big party, I think you don't get it. Or you don't care.

    Yeah, bosses will be bosses. They say hypocritical things while putting a bandaid on a huge wound. But you are much worse.

  2. Plato's Big ToeNovember 7, 2011 at 6:39 AM

    The administration could just as easily ask the professor how he could do this to his students. You can't blame them for trying. If the fundamentals of calculus are so important, he could be in the classroom teaching them.

  3. One very ticked off history professorNovember 7, 2011 at 6:42 AM

    Wow! Good for you. I am highly curious to see how History Hobbyist Professor (aka Dean Winters) works out for our students later today. Because, I too, seek out truth as a professional historian. It is painstakingly difficult what we do, traveling to world archives, piecing together historical data so that we might, just might, get as close as we can to what actually occurred in the past. It is insult to injury to be placing someone without experience in our classroom and then to go and lie about it being "business as normal."

  4. We all know that the administration is sugar coating the effect on campus. But, all of this could be avoided if the strikers would come back to work and do their jobs.

  5. I think some of you are missing the point. Leading up to the strike and even now, several days into the strike, the administration has promised "business as usual". Clearly, based on what we are learning through students' descriptions of their classroom experiences, business is far from usual. The administration continues to lie and downplay what is REALLY happening at SIU. Whether one is for the strike or not, this should be disturbing.

  6. Yes Brooke, it is disturbing. But frankly, it is being used to mobilize students in favor of the strike, which is equally as disturbing. If students want to stand by their professors that is great, but they need to understand the issues. Censorship is not among the issues causing the strike.

  7. What is REALLY happening at SIU is that a small fraction (about 20%) of the faculty are doing their utmost to destroy the institution's reputation as a place of scholarship and learning and replace it one of radicalism and adherence to extremism. I do not see the FA talking heads discussing THAT fact in public. How many times have you heard the FA acknowledge that there are entire departments where no member of the faculty has abandoned their students? The vast majority of faculty have chosen to ignore the strike and are in their classroom doing their jobs.

    This professor, if s/he is so concerned about what our students are learning (and I take personal interest in this since I have some of my students in Math 150 at present), should follow the leadership and example of professionalism shown by most of his/her colleagues and get back into the classroom and do his/her job.

    I am more than sick and tired of this crap. Its the start of a new week and I am getting REALLY angry at those selfish faculty that have abandoned their posts and are dragging us all through the mud. (And don't even bother to reply saying its the administrations fault; this was the FA's doing and the responsibility for being away from their class rooms lies with each individual faculty member).

  8. How dare? Professor Ban might ask herself the same question. Afterall, Professor Ban was the one who abandoned her students to substitute instructors.

  9. Believer in the good fight (not the easy one)November 7, 2011 at 8:20 AM

    For those so outraged that professors are out on the picket lines, I guess you are all okay with the idea that the administration should be able to declare financial exigency and lay us off without any specific criteria for doing so. That letters should be able to be sent out giving us 4 weeks notice that we are no longer needed here. Yes, let's trust this administration, which has so clearly shown their wisdom over the last few days by censoring information they do not like. It's okay -- we KNOW they won't do that in the future, that we can trust them not to declare financial exigency when there may not actually be such a problem so that they can silence critics they don't like. It's okay that critical voices should be silenced, because who needs critics when they may keep people away from the university? We need bodies, not critical thinking, right? It's okay, really, we can trust that the long term value of the SIUC diploma will be upheld by these same ones who have proven themselves so able to listen and respond to those who suggest a different way of doing things, who question priorities. The moral outrage shown here is one of self interest. Yes, let's get back into the classroom, where we should all just shut up and trust that those at the top have our best interests at heart, where those who have different opinions should be maligned. The right to put our bodies and jobs on the line is so silly -- let's all just believe in the good fairies to see us through. No history of civil disobedience and speaking truth to power here, oh no. We're just a university... oh, sorry, I meant trade school.

  10. I really sympathize with students right now. I sympathize with those who criticize faculty for "abandoning" their students and striking. There is no doubt that the strike will have negative consequences for the University, at least in the short term.

    However, I have a hard time with the argument that the faculty are the ones damaging the reputation of the University as "place of scholarship and learning" as 7:54 suggests. In fact, Poshard is the one who has actively pursued a "race to the bottom."

    Under Sam Goldman, the University was virtually ignoring admission standards to admit any student with a pulse. Just last year, the Administration (with the help of the Faculty Senate) *eliminated* all admission standards in place of a "holistic" approach to admission. Further, Poshard has repeatedly made the call that we need to compete with community colleges, and is pushing for widespread use of distance education.

    All the while, tuition increases for SIU over the last ten years have outstripped virtually every other state institution, moving us from the most affordable university in the state, to the third most expensive.

    Yes, this strike is hurting students. And yes, it will hurt the University for at least the short term. But no, it is not the faculty that are destroying the university's reputation as a place of scholarship and learning. Those folks on strike are trying to preserve it.

  11. Well Day 3. Today I passed three strikers at the entrance. I know one personally -- we exchanged smiles. I am glad there will be no rain and that the warmer temperatures will be less difficult.

    This week I will teach two class today, one as a guest teacher (invited before the strike) and another my class. I have office hours today as well. They are booked solid. My class tonight goes late and I will meet with two students afterward. I should get home by aroun9:30 or 10. I don't think I am all that unusual a professor.

    It is possible I will teach a class in another college. Oddly, I do have the expertise to do so. More importantly the other faculty and I have a solid history of mutual respect and have always treated each other with such. I think it sets a tone for more productive negotiation when people work together before there is such animosity.

    Many of the FA with whom I talk actually talk with me. We discuss. Things do not devolve into name-calling, nose-snorting, hand on table banging...all though I have seen this happen.

    What I have found is that curiously, there are a few very hurt and very frightened people who believe wholeheartedly in the untrustworthiness and even evil intentions of "The Administration." It is possible there exists similar inability to see from some on the administration's side.

    When this whole bruhaha is over, how will all of us do the hard work of looking deeply into our scars and those we've inflicted on others? How do we purposefully change our way of working together?

    Strikers stay warm out there. Students, I will teach my classes and others for which I am qualified. Parents, my whole program has chosen not to strike. We believe there were and are better ways to settle our differences.


    PS. Sorry to have posted twice.

  12. @Anonymous 7:45: I've chosen to support the faculty on strike based on countless hours educating myself on the issues. I've read numerous documents from both sides. The administration's censorship is just one of the many good reasons it should not be trusted. Most of the students I know in favor of the strike are very educated on the issues and I find it offensive that you assume we are not just because we support the strike.

  13. One thing is for sure....

    A very, very small percentage of SIU's workforce is on strike....causing havoc for the vast majority. It's about two percent of the total SIU workforce.

    So these two percenters on now on their third day of a union imposed furlough.

    Your new contract better reflect big gains...gains that can only be attributed to a strike. Otherwide the FA will be vilified as much as the administration is 40 years after the 104.

  14. I’m not going to lie, I’m concerned about the potential negative effects this “labor dispute” could have on SIUC & its reputation as well. However, it’s also important to realize that our administration - with its revolving doors leading to the highest positions, the censorship of SIUC’s voices, attempts to control the campus newspaper, its misrepresentation of “business as usual” – all of these have harmed our reputation already. Look at media stories & representation beyond the immediate area (the Daily Egyptian being a shining exception) and you’ll see that in the vast majority of cases, if any negative backlash is expressed, it is toward the administration & their handling of these events, including those leading up to the strike itself.

    Yes, in the short-term my students are not being taught the material I have prepared for them. In the short-term they might be confused as to what exactly I’m fighting for, and why it seems to be at their expense. In the short-term I am losing money I cannot afford to lose – this is day 3, so my next paycheck is already going to be smaller than my “furlough days” paychecks from this spring.

    But please understand that I am fighting for the *long-term* reputation of this campus. For the *long-term* education of my students, who I am extremely dedicated to. For my (and your) *long-term* job security and fair working conditions. I trust that my students are smart enough to do their own digging around and figure out what exactly is at stake. And when I get back to my classrooms, I will definitely give them the opportunity to ask me whatever lingering questions they might have.

    I understand many of the criticisms this strike & those participating in it are receiving. But I don’t understand the accusations that my striking indicates that I am selfish, greedy, or simply don’t count my students as my highest priority. I know I’m making an accusation of my own in response, but I think these criticisms reveal little but short-sightedness. What does it matter if my students don’t miss a single day of lecture for the rest of the semester, if SIUC can’t keep up with employment standards to attract & keep the faculty necessary to give them the education that makes their diploma actually worth something?

    There is no doubt that when all of this is over and we all return to work, there will be A LOT of work to be done. Although the bulk of this work will not be between SIUC and the outside world & community, but between US – you and me and the rest of those posting on this site. Unnecessary demonizing aside, I think most of US (faculty, whether striking or not) care about our students and this campus. We’re going to need to find a way to work together toward our common goals. We have to.

  15. Believer in the good fight (not the easy one) said...November 7, 2011 at 9:28 AM

    Quiet One, thank you for your post.

    I appreciate your sense of respect for all involved, and I respect your decision to stay in the classroom, even though I have chosen a different route because I see no option after 16 months of getting nowhere. I, too, have met a few who believe only in the "evil" of the administration and they, too, are part of the problem. Your comment that "It is possible there exists similar inability to see from some on the administration's side" is clearly the case as several of the posts above make clear.

    I have for a long time been a supporter of the administration, and still do not believe their intentions are evil. But the more this situation continues, the less respect I have for how they are handling it. And I have done my research -- I know the issues very well.

    I have friends on both "sides," although most people I know do not buy completely into one "side" or the other. What makes it possible for us to talk is the mutual respect that we show each other, the lack of name calling. We will be able to move forward when this is settled.

    But the comments suggesting that those on the picket lines are misinformed and selfish does show a lack of respect. It shows the same lack of respect that I feel I have been shown by the administration when we have been told that we are easily replaceable, when we are electronically blocked from e-mail, Blackboard and SalukiNet, and the lack of respect shown to students, alumni and parents whose comments are censored. And it shows a lack of respect for the beautiful aspects of this country's history exemplified by those who stood up for what was right, even when it was difficult and they stood far more alone than I feel at this moment.

    I do and will continue to talk with people with all perspectives... as long as there is mutual respect. I love this institution. I have given 10 years of my life here, regularly working 60 hour weeks. And my choice to be on the picket lines is not borne of selfishness (who would WANT to not get paid and stand out in the rain?). It's borne of the belief that the easiest thing in the short term is not always the best for the long run. And it stems as well from research into the structural aspects of the situation beyond this university but which are playing into what is happening here.

    We are a university community, and it is our job to lead the way. And when this is settled, we can either further alienate each other, or we can come together to celebrate the democratic process that is occurring as we write... and that we at SIUC are leading the way in protecting higher education in this country.

    And now I also will stop, and leave space for others...

  16. My post from yesterday got caught up in the spam filter (I think) and I reposted part but I'll restate the rest. I attended the meeting last night and it was the first time that I attended. There were hundreds present, all eager to resolve the dispute. I know people post on here that only a small percent of faculty are striking and refer to it as week. Maybe this is coming from those who change the keep changing the denominator (600 bargaining unit faculty to 2000 instruction faculty). I am not on the picket line but I am also not in the classroom. I greatly appreciate the sacrifice of those who are fighting (the 9:09 and 9:28 posts are good examples here).

    I appreciate an earlier comment on this blog that respects people's choices to strike or not-strike. That demonstrates our willingness to consider individual choices. When others choose to step in, however, and teach courses for those who are on strike, that no longer exemplifies respect for our personal choices.

  17. Teaching classes for those individuals that are not doing their jobs IS showing respect for peoples choices. It shows respect for the choices made by students who chose to come to SIU to get an education - a choice that those who have chosen to walk are disrespecting in to try to improve their own job security in the event of an FE.

    The surest way to bring about an FE is to do exactly what is being done right now by the strikers - screw the students!

  18. Quiet One wrote the most sensible thing cutting to the heart of the matter:

    "Yeah, I know it's all about the principle, not the money. That's the problem. When it is just about the money, people can reason and compromise. Principle untempered by prudence and grace leads people to do insane, destructive things."

    The other unions were fighting over concrete things but the faculty union - no, no, this is about PRINCIPLE. Ultimately it is about a no-layoff clause that they aren't getting this time (unlike last time when the "Evil" administration agreed to no layoffs EVEN IF there was a FE.

    The FA leaders are pied pipers and I feel sorry for where they have led their rank and file. Many I know got temporarily revved up by the demagoguery but, really, the Board has moved miles on FE. But they should not give into FA's notion of a veto or third party.

    Interesting how the emotion is now swinging against the union on here (from students at least).

  19. I teach in Dubravka's department. I ran into the person who 'taught' her Calculus class. She was very upset, almost in tears, about this. She said she was forced to do it and did not want to.

  20. Is it possible that the tone is changing between 8 and 5 because many of those who support the union are away from computers while many of those who are off the picket line are able to access this blog?

  21. Any word on the Teamsters??

  22. I think the fact that certain departments have higher or lower numbers of faculty participating in the strike could be an indication that certain disciplines have a higher or lower likelihood of attempt to control what is taught and how. There is probably very little room for ideological differences in the teaching of engineering, for example, whereas many of the humanities might find the threat to tenure to be scarier due to the potentially more controversial nature of what they teach. This is not a reflection on their level of dedication to SIU, their students, or their departments.

  23. Anti FA rhetoric is growing louder across campus every hour this mess continues. One thing is clear to me. The FA as it currently exists is a thing of the past. It may or may not survive the efforts of the FSN to remove it, but it will not emerge from this the same organization that it went into it. Too many people are far too angry for that. It cannot continue to represent the radical minority view dismissing the majority of faculty as simply out of touch, as it has in the past.

  24. Anon. 3.10. Had you been outside the Student Center today you would have seen a huge demonstration of students supporting FA faculty. Students are mad but not at faculty on strike. They are angered at the shoddy replacements they are given in class revealing the lie to Cheng's idea of professional substitutes. A biology dean with an interest in history teaching a specialist class in that subject with no Ph.D in that area is an insult to the students and the whole university ideal. That does not bother higher administration and Rita's poodles who are quite content to devour crumbs from her table until they find she has no further use for them.

    The letter written above was one of deep sincerity and outrage. It did not deserve the condescending comments it received. Anyway, after the dispute is over Cheng's supporters should wear a new version of Hawthorne's scarlet letter but this time "S" instead of "A". By refusing to support their colleagues who are fighting to preserve AAUP standards and trying to prevent Poshard's "race to the bottom" they are little better than traitors to their profession - and they know it, hence the tone of their blogs.

  25. A mathematics graduate studentNovember 7, 2011 at 7:24 PM

    To those who think Dr. Ban should go back to class,

    First of all I would like to say Dr. Ban is an awesome teacher, who must be in class, who should keep serving siuc math dept. I am sure she was not so happy to walk out of the class. I know that since I have taken a courses with her and seen her commitment for teaching. I wonder if those who talk against the strike action, understand what they are trying to save. Remember we, students did not come here because siu has a great reputation for athletics, got a new stadium or we have a great administrative people. We came here because siu has good faculty, so we get to learn what we want. How do we know the faculty is good? because they do good research and teaching. I will ask you this, do you think this qualified faculty has nowhere to go? You think qualified faculty will join siu if the academic freedom, secured tenure is not here? No they won't. They are lot more qualified than you think, they will never be jobless. But they fight to save the quality education in siu. It might hurt some students today, but will save the future of siu. I respect those who are fighting to save siu. I am proud to be taught by the quality professors in Math dept like Dr. Dubravka Ban. Proud of you Dr. Ban!

    Administration: Do you really think ''business as usual'', give me an instructor for my Math 500 level classes. Do you think a random person can teach math? that explains everything about you all..

  26. Huge? I saw about 100 students, out of 13,000. And I heard the students walking out of my building leaving the canceled classes and they were definitely NOT supportive of the strike - they were mad as hell, including specifically at one prof that regularly posts here about how supportive the students are.

  27. As a student, I prefer faculty that think for themselves and have the guts to stand up for what is right. My faculty are trying to protect the integrity of this university....Have you seen the sporting complex lately? Its grand nature reminds me of something Albert Speer would design. The Administration is still building and spending and building and spending. When will he hypocrisy end? I am proud of the Faculty that have said enough. It will make students feel less fear when having to deal with the ever increasing fees that are spent on sports rather than on education.

  28. Saddened 6.38am

    Please leave Prof. Ban alone, she is an excellent teacher and scholar; her branch of Mathematics research is one of the most difficult to master; I refer you to the note posted by the Math Grad later at 7.24 for more details.

  29. 8.08:

    There were at least 200 students in total when the group from A.Hall reached Chataqua/Oakland, still not a great number, but I imagine that many went home for the weekend waiting for the end of the strike. Those that were there were very focal and supportive. Not a bad turn out all in all considering general apathy amongst all types of people for this kind of thing, a good turnout for SIUC.

  30. "As a student, I prefer faculty that think for themselves and have the guts to stand up for what is right. My faculty are trying to protect the integrity of this university....Have you seen the sporting complex lately? Its grand nature reminds me of something Albert Speer would design. The Administration is still building and spending and building and spending. When will he hypocrisy end? I am proud of the Faculty that have said enough. It will make students feel less fear when having to deal with the ever increasing fees that are spent on sports rather than on education."

    Nice violation of Godwin's law. 29 posts is all it took? Congratulations!

    Seriously, did you see the crumbling wreck our facilities were before? The reason Saluki Way happened was years, years, and more years of inaction to make sure that athletic facilities were well-maintained. Unfortunately the students had to pay for years of incompetence before. While it may frustrate you, I advise you to look at the example of a university that cut their football program - Wichita State - that cut football and experienced a major drop in enrollment. The current supporters of athletics had to keep it alive for the student athletes who needed it. I'm sorry this isn't such a black and white choice. Unfortunately the issues you mention are far more complicated than "stop taking money away from students and faculty". Now issues like the Lowery contract are bad but that was forced on everyone by high through Poshard and Roger Tedrick.

  31. As a former grad. student of Dr. Ban, I can say from personal experience that she is very concerned about the well-being of her students. As far as everyone attacking her and her colleagues for being on strike, placing blame on her for leaving her classroom, I would like to point out: she is a saint for teaching as long as she did without a contract. You people are ridiculous. The administration is effectively trying to eliminate tenure and you ridicule the faculty for fighting for their jobs. Has the whole world gone mad?


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.