Think, Know, Prove: More Stats, More Questions

Think, Know, Prove is an occasional Friday feature, where a topic with both mystery and importance is posted for community discussion. The title is a shortened version of the Investigative Mantra: What do we think, what do we know, what can we prove? and everything from wild speculation to resource referencing fact is welcome here.

Yes, yes, I know I promised a look at the college by college numbers last week, and I meant it. But in the interim, I was contacted by somebody with a request to include the system-wide completion numbers from 2015 as soon as possible, numbers I didn’t have, but which the person provided for me (with assurances of their accuracy and the suggestion that they could be confirmed through Open Book). If you watched Chancellor Hyman’s speech to the Civic Club of Chicago, you saw a preview of these, but not the breakout by degrees (a breakout, which our Chancellor told us is just a tangle of “alphabet soup,” a rather flippant dismissal of one of our concerns, especially since it comes  RIGHT AFTER her telling the story about how her own AGS degree turned out not to have prepared her well for transfer! Amazing, again!! But I digress).

Suffice it to say that the numbers were interesting enough that I decided to delay my college-by-college account of changes in degree granting for a week (or two–I have a couple posts on “Merit Pay” that I’ve wanted to do for awhile now) to give another look at the system-wide completion numbers with our most recent year included. Here they are (click on the chart to make it bigger):

Degrees--System (2015)The numbers are astonishing. AA degrees increased almost 40% last year alone, while AS degrees more than doubled! AGS degrees are still much larger than they used to be, but down 17.4% from last year. So what happened? Something must be working…I don’t see how it could be the Pathways since they’re minimally rolled out at this point. Can’t be “Campus Solutions” Course Planner, since that just rolled out last spring. So…what the hell? I know I’m supposed to just clap and say, “Good job, everybody!” but it seems rather strange, doesn’t it? I mean, it feels kind of “Enron-y” doesn’t it? What am I missing?

I would be curious to see how many of these graduations were of students who were enrolled in 2014-2015 (and how many were students whose completion was a function of having completion credits reverse transferred from the school they transferred to. I wish I could take a survey of the recipients and find out how many were surprised to find out that they’d earned a CCC degree. Maybe none. Maybe lots?

And, per Anthony’s point (in the comments on my last week’s post) the increase probably has something to do with the huge enrollment spike we had during and over the couple years following the Great Recession of 2008. I also wonder how many of these students benefited from the relaxation of the home campus requirement to just 15 hours (when was that changed, 2014? I’m too lazy to look). But even with all of that, 575 AS degrees? I didn’t see that coming. It’ll be interesting to see what the school to school breakout is on those.

Anyway, there it is–a surprising set of numbers. What do you think? What do you know? What can you prove?

Reminder: Vote for FC4 Reps

Voting is happening right now in your department office for the two candidates running to represent Harold Washington College at Faculty Council of the City Colleges of Chicago (i.e., FC4).

Just in case you read this but not emails, here are the bios of the candidates, as presented in the HWFC email you received from HWFC President Jess Bader:

Hello Faculty,

We are excited to present the two candidates who have been nominated for the district level Faculty Council (FC4). Check out their bios, and be sure to vote next week. The polls will be open from Monday through Friday September 28th – October 2nd.


Phillip Vargas

My name is Phillip Vargas, and I am an Assistant Professor and Co-Chair of the Department of Physical Sciences. I teach both general education courses and program level physics courses. I have been teaching at HWC since Fall 2010, and believe I have worked on many projects that have positively contributed to the college. What I have enjoyed most in working on these projects has been meeting and collaborating with other dedicated faculty members. After serving as a substitute FC4 representative for the last few months I believe my voice on FC4 can help to improve the dialogue between the colleges and with district office. If elected, I would be honored to represent HWC in this capacity.


Jennifer Meresman

I’ve always been passionate about public education and feel very lucky to be a full-time faculty member at the Harold Washington. I first formally studied public education as an American institution when I wrote my undergrad thesis on public schools as a site for teaching civic engagement in order to strengthen democracy. This theoretical study led me to want hands-on experience teaching in a public school, so I then taught special education middle school math in Oakland, CA for three years. Although I immediately found that I loved working with students, I realized a middle school was not the right place for me, so I got a Master’s degree with the explicit goal of teaching at the community college level. After completing a Master’s in Humanities at the University of Chicago, I got a full-time position in the English Department at Harold Washington in 2006.

In 2011 I joined Reinvention, and I focused my time there on the redesign of the tenure process. I was passionate about this project because I see tenure as both an incredible opportunity and responsibility that both enables and obligates faculty to participate in shared governance, directing the course of public education. Through the two-year redesign, I got an opportunity to work with both administrators and faculty across the seven colleges, and became committed to strengthening relationships between all of these parties, ensuring that we are working together towards a shared mission.

The End of the Summer Session (and so much more)

“It is with a heavy heart that I write you this message today” began the email message from our FC4 President, and Child Development faculty member from Daley College, Jennifer Alexander.

Here’s the rest of her message:

In the interest of time, I will only speak briefly to this matter.

Last Thursday, July 16th, the Presidents of the 6 City Colleges that currently offer Child Development classes (all except Wright) and any faculty who happened to check their email (sent at 6 pm the evening before) participated in a very short conference call with district officers.

In this conference call, we were informed that the Child Development programs at all of the colleges will be closed and are “consolidating” at Truman College for the Fall of 2016.

This notion of “consolidation” completely undermines the mission of a COMMUNITY College.

Further, the conference- call delivery of a top-down decision that significantly impacts faculty and students at 6 colleges, with no faculty having ever been included in the decision-making process, is the OPPOSITE of shared governance.

There is so much more to say about this and so many other issues that have arisen this summer: tuition hikes, registration changes….. If I wrote to you everything I want to say, this email would be 10 pages long and not ready until next week. And so I decided to send out this shorter, quick communication just to make sure you knew this is happening and also how it happened.

More to come, soon. Take heart though: we’re taking action.

Perusing a recent Chronicle summary of “How Great Colleges Distinguish Themselves,” four areas were identified as contributing to collegiate greatness: leadership, communication, alignment, and respect.

I’ll just leave that there.

Highlights from the Board Report: February and March 2014

Highlights from the Board Report is a monthly irregular feature that highlights what one person finds to be important from the most recent Board Report. We read it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

(UPDATE: Apologies if you tried the links and found them less than helpful. I believe they are fixed now. h/t to Jenny Armendarez for the tip.)

So it’s been a long while since I’ve done one of these, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to know. As we swing into budget season, I thought it might be worth doing again. Not only that, but there’s some great news that I want to highlight on the Intertubes for perpetuity.


~Congratulations to our colleagues who earned tenure (Samar Ayesh, Luke Belz, Tony Florez, Janette Gayle, Joe Hinton, Sarah Kakumanu, Erica McCormack, Megan Ritt, Ray Tse, and Phil Vargas) and contract renewals (Cynthia Cerrentano, Amy Rosenquist, LaNisha Thomas)! The tenure group is a really amazing class and not least because they are so unfailingly collegial with each other and everyone else. Almost as amazing as the class of 2003 (here and here). I’m excited to see what they will have done at the end of their tenth year. And congratulations to our colleagues at other schools, too, though I’m left wondering what in the world is going on over at Kennedy-King? Out of 21 candidates, there were 3 resignations, 2 non-renewals, and an extension. Something isn’t working over there.

~There were some changes to VP approvals for cross-college assignments and overtime (related to CDL, no doubt). Now both VPs have to sign off instead of just the home college VP. Have fun with that!

~Some hiring happened, including a new IT Director at HW. Remember when District saved us all that money by consolidating all the IT jobs on Jackson? And now each college has Directors, Managers, and all kinds of stuff. Fascinating.

~Presidents hired consultants.

~Our Faculty Council President reported that she got a new one-way email up and running. yay.


~Love the looks of the new Maternity/Paternity Leave policy. It only applies to non-bargained for employees, though. Hopefully it will make it into the new adjunct contract, if they ever get such a thing. Speaking of, when will that union get one? They’ve been teaching all year under an expired contract, yet, not a peep. Does their leadership not realize that 2/3rds (more actually) of our faculty are adjuncts? What did they say at the State of the College? 287 adjuncts? That’s compared to 120 or so full-time faculty. That’s a lot of potential disruption. Granted, they’re not all unionized, but still. A glance at The Adjunct Project tells the story of their pay relative to others who do their work (and it’s embarrassing).

~Concealed carry may be legal in Illinois, but it’s still not allowed on campus (which I’m personally happy about, lest we have to seek an answer to this puzzling question).

~Speaking of things related to “pay” and “embarrassing” there was hiring in March, and we have another new $100,000 Associate Vice Chancellor–this one is the Vice Chancellor of Decision Support (I swear I am not making that up). It’s a “new position,” too. (This suggests two things, immediately: 1) I want to have a contest for coming up with the most ridiculous VC or AVC title to be created and filled in FY15, with a pie of your choosing going to the winner; and 2) did anyone attend the “Meet the Vice Chancellors” gig (other than administrators)? And if so, how many were there? Was the two hour meeting taken up by introductions? Did some of them have to stand in the lobby so there was room for an audience? File your report in the comments if you went. In happier news on the hiring front, Tasha Williams, who was always great here, has been promoted to Dean of Student Services at Malcolm X. Congrats to her.

~The board approved a big contract for new furniture system-wide. The vendor is “responsible for working with CCC to design classroom furniture layouts, purchase, assemble, and install selected furnishings, and dispose of existing furniture district wide.” The first deliverable listed is, “Design classroom furniture layout for each classroom with faculty input.” We’ll see what that means, I guess. Anyway, I’m interested in this. I’ve been looking for info and research on classroom arrangements fo a year now and found very little.The only thing I’ve found is this from a book called Participatory Workshops by Robert Chambers that I borrowed from our CAST room.

~Various other things were purchased by Presidents who aren’t packing for Vermont.

~According to the Provost, GradesFirst is a big success. They also gave us a look at “a day in the life of academic affairs.

~Pathways are an amazing success, too, we’re told, though if I’d seen this pathways presentation, which has to be one of the worst examples of PowerPoint usage that I’ve seen, I would have been struggling to stifle my giggles while thinking of THIS (called “Dear Presenter, Please Don’t Drive Me to Suicide During Your Presentation;” the language is salty, but right on in my humble).

~The Inspector General is on the job, too. More complaints, more investigations, more punishments (though only 32 of 256 complaints were sustained; in baseball language, that’s well below the Mendoza Line. I know that’s not really their fault, but one wonders at the wisdom of so much money and time and effort going to an office with a 12.5% success rate. Oh, is that an unfair measure of what they do? Does that fail to take into account the inputs? Join the club. But I digress.

~Faculty Council President Cristina Aguila said something, but I don’t know what because it hasn’t posted yet. I’m guessing that it was about how much communication has improved, and the IRB, and distance learning. That’s just a guess, though,

Cognitive Dissonance: Offensive Team Names Edition

Cognitive Dissonance is a regular Monday feature in which a post is presented that, if read, may provoke “a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.” I hope these pieces will provoke thought, if not conversation.

Given that it’s the Monday after the Super Bowl and there are still lingering football conversations to be had and this one has a history of some controversy on this site, I thought I might toss this one out there today:

Did you see it? Do you care? Do you have any interest in the team’s activities to preserve the name? Or in the origins of the name?

Would you like to see a nuanced explanation of one somewhat-ambivalent Native American man’s analysis of the term and the controversy that makes connections to African-American culture and history?

I thought you might.

Tragic News: HWC Student Shot Yesterday

UPDATE: Kevin Baker died early this morning. He wanted to be a veterinarian.

Awful. From the Tribune article:

A 19-year-old college freshman handed over his cell phone to an armed robber and was still shot in the head as he walked home in the Chicago lawn neighborhood, according to police and a relative.

The robbery happened about 4:15 p.m. Thursday in the 6200 block of South Campbell Avenue, police said…

The 19-year-old, described by the relative as a studious freshman at Harold Washington College, was hit in the head and the assailants fled.

The teen was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center and listed in critical condition.

Think hopeful thoughts.