Akademos: Have you experienced any difficulties this semester? [Update]

Meanwhile, in “Noconfidenceindistrictoplis,” our heroes struggle to even be students…

Last fall, I actually expressed to my dean how surprisingly wonderful the Akademos user interface was for ordering books.

I should have known better.

My classes are currently plagued with students who do not yet have their books. We’re in week four, and students report they haven’t received their books. On the first week, a number of students claimed they had no way of knowing what books to buy. I’m sure the information was available to them, but they didn’t know where to get it. Today, I heard two reports in my smallest class of one student still waiting on his book (though he ordered it on week two) and another student who first experienced a delay in shipping, only to receive a book for a psychology class. And psychology is not philosophy (we often get confused by people or businesses that don’t understand academics).

Maybe some of my students are exaggerating their book woes, or blaming the system when it is in fact their fault. But it can’t be true for all students.

If we had a brick and mortar supply, I would know that they had a clear opportunity to get their books. Now? We’re in week four and some students may yet have cracked the cover of principal core texts.

Is anyone else having problems with Akademos? Good, bad, or weird, share your experiences in the comments.

UPDATE: Within twenty minutes of posting this, I received a phone call from an Akademos representative. The rep told me someone had alerted her about this post. They offered to provide information for any or all of my students on when they ordered the book and whether they’ve received it or not. This feels a little creepy to me. I accepted the information anyway, confident that I’ll use my knowledge of ethical theories to justify this some way or another. Utilitarianism usually works in such cases, but I’m screwed in Kant’s categorical imperative. Anyway, I learned that a grand total of 8 of my 15 students had ordered a book through Akademos. The two students I referred to above didn’t order their books until early February, despite reporting to me for weeks that their books were ordered and on the way. The story about receiving a psychology book instead of the philosophy book was confirmed. This is no less frustrating than before, but the fact that students waited until February to order books means that they must share in the responsibility.

Julie Andrews Joins CCC Board

The following post is written by Professor Michael Heathfield

 

Apparently at the February 4th Trustees meeting faculty and press were presented with an all singing and dancing performance of Chicago style political theatre.  It was tragically evident many six-figure salary executives had toiled long and hard to pull this performance off.  A note to the scriptwriters – too many mentions of the word “confidence” betray sloppy writing and weak direction.

 

If the wonderful Dr. Cecilia Lopez had been there, she would have surely provided the performers with an exact word count for “confidence”.  Many years ago she did this to me with an over-used phrase when she observed my teaching.  After her precise note on my limited vocabulary, with the support of my students, we implemented a successful six-week program to wean me off of my rhetorical over use of, “Does that make sense?”.

 

So I won’t use it now while I comment on the tawdry performance orchestrated by a group of unelected, politically connected, knowledge-deprived cast of characters. OK, I admit Julie Andrews was not there, but for the rosy and effusive beautification ceremony of Chancellor Hyman, she should have been.

 

Can we please inject some facts into this hyperbolic exaltation of Chancellor Hyman’s heroic ride on her chariot to save CCC from the unbridled mess we had made of public education before she arrived to bless us with her corporate gifts?

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Is This Seat Taken? Don’t Mind if I Do.

In light of my post about the proposed new head covering policy, a few other people with knowledge of the proposed revision/consolidation of existing policies that there are more problems than that one. First a bit of background on the project: in an early January email to all District Presidents, VPs, Deans of Instruction, Deans of Student Services, Deans of Careers, Registrars, and 24 Vice Chancellors, Associate Vice Chancellors, Executive Directors and Directors, Associate Vice Chancellor of Academic Systems Michael Mutz, wrote:

As you know, we have reviewed each of our academic and student policies over the past few months with the following goals:

  • Streamline, simplify and condense policies.
  • Eliminate redundancy (between and within the Academic Policy Manual and Student Policy Manual).
  • Update/create new policies and delete policies that are no longer needed – focus on correcting policies with errors, that are out of compliance and/or create barriers to student success.
  • Separate procedures from policy.

Structural changes have been made.

  • Consolidated the policy content from the Academic Policy Manual and Student Policy Manual and created a new CCC Academic & Student Policy document
  • Revised policy content to achieve the four goals, above

Sounds like a good project! I like the clear parameters/goals. (Though, it should be noted that any policy manual ought to have a clear audience, and that a policy manual that has been streamlined for students would not include sections on “Faculty Program” and “Tenure Process” and a manual streamlined for, say, faculty and academic staff would probably not include information about sections on “Financial Aid Eligibility” and the like, which suggests that this project is really an effort to make things easier for Administrators, but whatever–no one but administrators reads policy manuals until they need them, so I’m willing to be open-minded and forgiving about this aspect.)

I do think it’s a bit strange that among those reviewing the only people who could possibly represent a faculty viewpoint are those who would do so through their imaginations and those administrators who, like Armen, for example, are former faculty (No CCC Union leadership? No FC4 leadership? Not even a nod? Puzzling), but perhaps that happened indirectly (i.e., someone on the list understood that they would pass this along) or by other means like administrators sending the link to faculty or something. Or, maybe, just maybe, they (AVC Mutz, the VC to whom he reports, or all or some of those at Campus Zero) concluded (or assumed) that this kind of project is an administrative one and so within their sole purview (a.k.a. a “Make-It-Work” Initiative). But that stuff, for now, is neither here nor there; I do not want to focus here about why faculty don’t (seem to) have a seat at this table, even in the review stage–to restate for absolute clarity: this is not a complaint about process–but instead seek an answer to whether there are substantive problems with this proposed set of policies that are going unaddressed or unconsidered (or, maybe, under-considered) on account faculty absence at the “table.” So I’d like to focus your attention here, on substance, at least for now.

Why limit the focus in this way, when process is such a big part of the current concerns? Because regardless of the process issue, I think faculty perspective on that third goal in particular (“Update/create new policies and delete policies that are no longer needed – focus on correcting policies with errors, that are out of compliance and/or create barriers to student success.”) might have some things to say that might be helpful and while the process discussion is important, we won’t get to the substance if we don’t temporarily bracket the process problems.

So, what is the substance of which I speak? Well, there’s good stuff, for sure! For example:

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The willful illusions at the board meeting

There are many things to say about the vote of no confidence and the following board meeting.

By every account I’ve read and heard, the board meeting today was packed with about two dozen non-faculty who voiced support of the chancellor. This included US Representative Bobby Rush, who claimed that we shouldn’t even be discussing a vote of no confidence, and that the Chancellor has been doing an outstanding job. An international student spoke and claimed he was fine with the enormous tuition hike. The chair of the board voiced his support. And after the vote was dropped off at the mayor’s office, the mayor’s office issued a letter of support for the chancellor.

Look. If you were on the board and you wanted to cling to some evidence that the chancellor is doing a good job, then you clearly found it. But it is the shakiest foundation for evidence. Not to get snarky about it, but I’m one of your logic professors, and this looks really really bad. If a student made a case with the same strength of induction as was demonstrated here, I’d need to talk to him about whether they’ve been doing their exercises…or even paying attention to the basic principles of induction.

Do you understand what the faculty has done to voice their opinion? They did not simply ask a couple dozen people to speak against the chancellor. This time, they brought their big guns. Thanks to the heroic efforts of Phil Vargas and Jeni Meresman in conducting local and district wide surveys, we know where the faculty stand thanks to them, and all the faculty who supported them. In the past week, conducted a thorough vote with 97% participation from the faculty. This way, we know the what the faculty overwhelmingly, and nearly unanimously, are claiming.

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The press turns out for the board meeting

Update: A fifth article was published, by “Substance News.” This one comes out clearly on the side of the faculty. Link below.

Since the board meeting this morning, four articles have been published by the Chicago Tribune, Crain’s Chicago Business, Chicago’s public radio station WBEZ, and the Chicago Sun-Times.

If you only have time for one, my personal recommendation is WBEZ’s article.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-city-colleges-no-confidence-vote-met-20160204-story.html

http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20160204/NEWS01/160209881/city-colleges-faculty-call-for-leaders-ouster

http://www.wbez.org/news/city-colleges-faculty-votes-no-confidence-chancellor-114713

http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/7/71/1303829/city-colleges-faculty-confidence-chancellor

http://www.substancenews.net/articles.php?page=6112&section=Article

90% of Harold Washington full-time faculty vote “No Confidence” in Chancellor Hyman, 0% claim confidence.

Dear HWC Faculty,

Background: 

Last week, District Faculty Council (FC4) decided to pursue a vote of no confidence in the City College’s chief executive, Chancellor Hyman. The principle charge is, to paraphrase, the sustained and stubborn lack of shared governance between district administrators and college faculty, and that this has been the primary cause for a host of other problems, including the consolidation and relocation of academic programs, closing of programs, unfair adjunct compensation, and the unjust and uneven increases in student tuition. HW Faculty Council, and HW delegates to District Faculty Council, moved to conduct an official faculty-wide vote of no confidence among full-time faculty. Part-time faculty were not asked to participate in the vote. We did not want part-time faculty placed in awkward positions or pressured to either vote or abstain. Over the past week, HWC faculty council and HWC members of FC4 conducted a vote of no confidence in Chancellor Hyman including all HWC full-time faculty. The vote concluded today, and the results are as follows:

Results

97% of the full-time faculty voted, or 114 of 118.

Of the 114 votes:

106 faculty, or 93%, checked “Yes” for the Vote of No Confidence.

8 faculty, or 7%, checked “Abstain” for the Vote of No Confidence.

0 faculty, or 0% (for the math nerds), checked “No” for the Vote of No Confidence.

This means that a total of 90% of all full-time faculty, including non-voters, claim “No Confidence” in Chancellor Hyman.

Security Procedures

As all voters saw, we had a number of measures in place to check security. Whenever anyone submitted a vote, there needed to be two witnesses. The voting faculty member initialed their name on the primary roster, to ensure that no one voted twice. The ballot was folded, stamped with the date, and then initialed by two faculty observers. The voter then witnessed their ballot submitted into the lockbox.

We received a few proxy votes via e-mail from some faculty on sabbatical. This was always verified by multiple faculty members viewing the e-mail.

Because of the roster, we knew that 114 faculty reported that they voted, and expected 114 ballots. 114 ballots were present in the box.

The lockbox remained sealed until today, February 3, at 12:30pm. At that time we opened the box and counted ballots. Jennifer Armendarez video taped. Erica McCormack recorded the tally. Kristin Bivens and Jeni Meresman observed, while Jeni also placed ballots on their respective stacks. I (Kamran) removed the ballots from the box and read the result, one by one.

After the vote, all ballots were placed back inside the box, and the box was locked. The box is currently located in my office, room 311a. If anyone (including administrators) would like to perform a recount, inspect the ballots, and/or review our roster and signatures, please contact me at bswanson1@ccc.edu or kamranswanson@gmail.com.

New FC4 Page at the Harold Lounge

For the faculty across the seven City Colleges:

Note that the Harold Lounge now has a page devoted to the district-wide Faculty Council, commonly known as “FC4.” If you look at the tabs above, you’ll see it among the other pages. From there, you may either click on the button or select an option on the pop-up menu. You can read board reports from the FC4 president, the FC constitution, short biographies of our FC4 officers, and pdfs of the excellent faculty-wide surveys conducted in the Fall 2015 semester by HWC’s Phil Vargas and Jeni Meresman.

You will also see an option on the drop-down menu titled “open survey.” You can use the survey to voice your opinions to the FC4 leadership.