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.*


Centralized hiring.  We learned a bit more about the centralized hiring process.  There is to be a faculty committee advising the Provost on position requests that make their way up from the departments and colleges. This committee will consist of four faculty chosen by the FS and Grad Council, and one chair; the make up of the committee was apparently not so heavy in faculty in the original plan, so this is a welcome development. Another positive development was the provost saying that there was an "expectation" that departments whose requests were denied would receive some explanation as to why they were denied, an explanation that might help them improve their chances next time around. But this whole process, of course, again raises for me the issue of whether the prime determination of individual hires belongs at the central administration level rather than the college level. It is essential that the central administration have the power to move money between colleges, I think, as demands and needs change over time. And the central administration should obviously review college level choices in some fashion, to ensure that colleges aren't making poor decisions given campus-wide needs. But I see no good reason to believe that the Provost and this committee will improve on priorities determined at the departmental and college level by ranking positions de novo. Imagine trying to rank a hire in philosophy versus one in dental hygiene. The provost several times stressed that he would consider all arguments units made, not just financial ones, but the repeated  buzz words about "strategic hires" and "yields" suggest to me financial concerns will dominate at the central administrative level. Given the vast diversity of the position requests at that level, it is difficult to see how other concerns could play much of a role.

Enrollment.  The Chancellor & Provost stressed the bright side of enrollment numbers; for the fourth term running we have more new students entering campus. I asked the Chancellor to explain her logic about smaller classes working their way through the system, and think I now better understand what she means. I take it that the argument is that because the entering class of 2012 was smaller than the entering class of 2011, when the 2011 class graduated last year we automatically took a hit in overall numbers. Once the larger classes work their way up the line, there will be no further such built-in declines. There are also some promising signs for next fall, with a 6% increase in freshman admissions and 2% increase in transfers. Of course there are all sorts of complications here—it's not as if our students graduate in lock step, after just four years. It would take a much more detailed look at all the numbers to see if we are really improving on recruitment and retention on all or most fronts; and comparison with peers would be needed for context. And until overall numbers start improving, we won't truly have turned the corner on this. 

Budget.  The IBHE has made its budget request, asking for a flat budget from the state. This budget would contain a "carve out" for performance based funding, but a rather small one of only 0.5%. The Chancellor is not convinced that the performance based rubrics well enough compensate SIUC and other similar schools for our mission to serve first-generation college students and other underrepresented groups, and to some extent the performance rubrics are still hobbled by the lack of relevant data to more fully measure things like research productivity (outside grants). There is some good news on the capital budget side, at least for those of you in the Comm building, which is ranked highly on the state's priority list for rehab.

Construction. Conversation here centered on what Woody Hall will be used for once the new Student Services building is up in the old site of the parking deck (where the advertisement banners have now returned after a few weeks vacation). It strikes me as somewhat odd that these plans are not yet finalized, but apparently there is no shortage of reasonable proposals for what to do with Woody. International programs seem likely to receive much of the (relatively) prime first floor real-estate. This of course raises the question of what will happen to their old digs (over at the NW Annex).

* You can send written comments to Stephen Ebbs at: When I shared this post with him, Bill Recktenwald rightly suggested I give people this address (and also reminded me of the open panel on program review held earlier this month). 


  1. Could someone please direct me to the place in the public act that requires direct reporting to the legislature? I read that in the report, but cannot find it in the act itself.

    Here's the passage from the Public Act available online, which indicates that the report is still to the IBHE:

    Each State university shall report
    annually to the Board on programs of instruction, research, or
    public service that have been terminated, dissolved, reduced,
    or consolidated by the university. Each State university shall
    also report to the Board all programs of instruction, research,
    and public service that exhibit a trend of low performance in
    enrollments, degree completions, and high expense per degree.
    The Board shall compile an annual report that shall contain
    information on new programs created, existing programs that
    have been closed or consolidated, and programs that exhibit low
    performance or productivity. The report must be submitted to
    the General Assembly. The Board shall have the authority to
    define relevant terms and timelines by rule with respect to
    this reporting.

  2. Ryan, you aren't suggesting that Alan Karnes is misleading or not telling the truth, in order to stifle conversation, smash dissent, and scare everyone to keep our mouths shut? No, I guess that would be I who is suggesting that....

  3. Is that why Dave's previous two attempts to open up a conversation about this topic have failed? Is everyone afraid to talk?

    Here, I'll try to break the ice.

    I am concerned about the "Complementary Practices and Academic Efficiencies" section of the document. That section applies to ALL departments, not just the ones with few students or high costs. Almost none of it is necessitated by state mandates, but it is at least as scary as the first part of the document.

    The process for these Complementary Practices is not clear to me. As far as I can tell, the efficiencies are to be found by a Task Force and selected by the Provost, rather than coming from departments themselves. (It's written in the passive voice with the statement, "The Task Force will explore the recommended efficiencies." I'm not certain where the recommended efficiencies are coming from. The report itself? Departments? The Provost?)

    Even if you aren't in an "underperforming" department, your department could be administratively combined into another department.

    If efficiencies are created in a department, supposedly the department will get to keep the money, but no mechanism for ensuring that this happens is provided. As one of the proposals involves on relying on a different department to teach classes, it isn't clear which department should even be credited for the efficiency. The recent history is that any leftover money anywhere gets taken from above, so I'm skeptical that creating an efficiency will do a department any good.

    The 120-credit hour requirement also is troubling. Unless your accrediting body explicitly gives a number higher than 120, your department could be forced to revise its degree requirements. Apparently "efficiency" isn't about how well we devote our resources to our mission. Instead, it's how quickly we can get students in and out, regardless of whether they have attained sufficient mastery a field of knowledge or have completed the educational requirements for a particular career.

    1. Others on the FS UEPC (undergrad ed committee) observed this problem--the complete lack of clarity regarding the process to be followed in the second half of the report--and it is in the committee's report. I think the FS committee did a decent job of getting out the basic message that we need a far clearer process to guide both the state-mandated program review process and the internally driven "efficiencies" stuff, which could indeed affect any of us.

      I *think* faculty and administration are on the same page at least to this extent: the current draft needs to be revised and resubmitted for further faculty review. The process in the first half of the memo is very unclear, and the process in the second half is hardly even sketched. Of course we don't get a veto on the final process, but if we don't like it--or if they try to claim that this level of review of a draft meets their requirements for shared governance--we can and should raise a stink.

  4. When I was on the Faculty Senate years ago the Exec asked Wendler and Dunn to keep their comments brief. They should not be allowed to dominate the meetings. It is the FACULTY Senate.

    "The Chancellor & Provost stressed the bright side of enrollment numbers; for the fourth term running we have more new students entering campus." Universities make money on freshman and sophomores since they are in big lecture classes or being taught by TAs. Junior and senior classes cost more per student but we foolishly charge the same price. Hence there is a perverse incentive to fill up on freshman and then hope they go away.

    1. But the performance based funding stuff will penalize us for retention problems, so this incentive may go away--to be replaced, perhaps, by equally detrimental ones to graduate anyone and everyone.

    2. It is ridiculous to suggest that there is an effort to get rid of juniors and seniors. I don't think that our administration or faculty want any student to "go away".

    3. Dave: The performance based metrics are rather weak. I think we will continue with the same scam. Real performance standards would force us to have real admission standards.

      Anonymous: I take it you haven't been here very long. We are admitting students whose ACT scores are in the mid teens. They are never going to graduate. We have lots of special programs so that they are retained through the freshman year so that we can suck money out of them and the state for one more year. Our six year graduation rate is between 40-45%. It is just cruel. There is a shortage of skilled labor but a big glut of people with "some college". Of course this is not just happening at SIU but is a national phenomenon and of course the administrators and faculty who do this are mostly blissfully unaware of what they are doing. They have all kinds of rationalizations.

    4. I've been here as long as you have. Are you seriously suggesting that if the administration had a choice of keeping students here 2 years or 4 years, they would opt for 2? That is nonsense.

    5. If we wanted students to stay for four years we would not admit students with ACT scores in the teens. We'd recruit and admit students who have a reasonable chance of doing college level work. But that is not the choice we are making.

    6. I fully agree that the admissions standard is far (far!) too low and that we are admitting students with little chance of success, but that is still not the same as a concerted effort to only keep students for 1-2 years. The administration is desperate to get students enrolled. If they could find a way to keep them longer, they would.

    7. Let's say that we increase our standard of admission. That certainly will bring the enrollment down. Are you willing to accept the situation that the faculty line is also going to shrink? (including term faculty positions). But it seems to me that most people would prefer to protect the faculty positions. I am not convinced that we can do both.

    8. Some people only can teach students with great SAT or ACT scores. Everyone wants to have good customers. I understand.

      However, if you think the students you are teaching are your own kids, then you won't feel they are too weak to teach.

    9. Anonymous 8:01 PM:

      You don't understand. You misinterpreted what was written above.

      The statements are not that the students are too weak to teach but that students with low ACT scores have a difficult to impossible time succeeding at SIU.

      The amount of work that these students have to do to catch up is huge, and there are limits on how much the university can help make that happen. For each low-ACT student who manages to succeed, there are more who leave with disappointment and debt.

      SIU students are legally neither kids nor my own. Parents actively preventing their minor children from going outside or watching TV until the homework is done is called good parenting. College professors actively preventing their adult students from going outside or watching TV until the homework is done is called kidnapping.

    10. I concur 100% that there is a trade off between increasing (or enforcing) our admission standard and losing faculty lines. This is often overlooked.

    11. Thank you for admitting I am correct. Some of you (I don't how many of the anons are distinct) have just admitted that you are willing to admit students who are unlikely to graduate because you fear the loss of your jobs. This is what I am talking about. You might read Sinclair's "Babbitt" to see how people rationalize things.

      I have been at meetings with various administrators over the years where I bring up the fact that many of the students we bring in cannot do college level work and will not graduate. They shuffle their feet a bit, glance sideways and mumble, " Yes, yes, but ... we need the money."

      However there is not a 100% trade-off in raising standards and recruiting students. Many good students don't come here because they prefer to go some place where the bulk of the students are serious about getting an education. And many of our better students transfer out. If we raised standards gradually and changed our recruiting practices we would likely become more competitive in time. But it is risky and layoffs are possible. If the only way you can keep your job is to scam the public then maybe you shouldn't have it.

      If I had a kid who did poorly in high school I would not waste my money sending him or her to a university. I'd look into vocational training programs and other opportunities that better fit his or her interests and abilities. But in today's culture almost everyone thinks their offspring are geniuses. That's way they are such easy marks. See "Beyond College for All," by James Rosenbaum.

    12. Wow. Does Paranoid really think kids wanna watch TV instead of doing their homework.

      Too funny.

      Talk about out of touch.

    13. I did not agree that you were correct. Please read my response again.

  5. Are the senators not in control of their own meetings? Why can't senators mandate chancellor and provost reports be limited to a certain timeframe....maybe 2 minutes, or maybe 5? If senators allow lengthy reports, its their own doing. Talk about a circular firing squad.

    1. Why don't you just tell the chancellor and provost that they can only have 2 minutes for their report?

    2. I agree--in the sense that I didn't mean to claim that the Provost or Chancellor are using filibuster type tactics to grab all the time, but merely that most of the meetings I've been at consists of reports form them and some Q & A with them. That's not all the senate does, by any means, but it could do more, I think.

  6. I note the reference to "customers" in Anon. 8:01, a demeaning term used by Poshard. Students are not "customers." The ACT scores shpuld be higher and we should not admit bad students especially those who turn violent when they do not get their A value for money.

  7. The ACT like all other standardized measures is biased. Why only consider these?

  8. Agreed! Then let us have entrance exams before we admit any students as in some European universities as well as papers being graded by outside examiners as in the UK.


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.