Developments in Developmental Math (Part I)

Do you know what’s going on with Developmental Math courses? Lots, apparently.

On February 10th, our math faculty received an email from Dean Metoyer informing them of a mandatory, all day meeting of all district full-time math folks at Malcolm X.

The meeting will feature a presentation and workshop by John Squires whose “Do the Math” project won the 2009 Bellwether Award given by the Community College Futures Assembly. Since this meeting is scheduled during a class date, faculty who teach math will need to schedule alternative educational activities for their classes. If faculty choose to schedule a quiz or test for this date, please consider how the College can assist faculty in finding appropriate proctors.

Needless to say, the math faculty members were not overjoyed. One colleague wrote back, saying, “This term, M/W classes already have TWO holidays not shared by Tu/Th classes. How, in the name of quality education, can you force us to be away a THIRD day? There must be another arrangement that can be had.” He also asked for a little background on the presentation and cc’d Perry Buckley, President of Local 1600.

And so there are clearly two issues here: the scheduling of the meeting and the content. The scheduling is the simpler of the two, so I’ll cover it first, here. Apparently Truman faculty have been aware of the meeting for a few weeks, and raised the same issue (regarding the Wednesday schedule). Once everyone else heard about the meeting, they echoed the sentiment, and Perry describes them as “universally furious.” He said that he spoke with (Interim) Chancellor Lewis about the meeting and that she had not realized that students would miss a third class. She promised to “look into it,” and Perry trusts her to do so.

On the same topic, in an email to local Faculty Councils, Keith McCoy, the President of District Wide Faculty Council, addressed the Board on February 11th and raised the issue with them, proposing the alternative of “obtaining faculty volunteers from each college who would attend, as well as, those who do not have teaching obligations at the time of the meeting.” In an email accompanying his address, he wrote to the Faculty Council representatives that he had spoken with Vice Chancellor Angela Henderson, who told him that it was not the intention of District to mandate the meeting, but that that request had come from the ODs meeting (Officers of the District, i.e., College Presidents). As for why it has to be on Wednesday, March 10th, Perry “was told” (he said the passive voice was purposeful) by someone that it is the only day the speaker is available, a point which he, understandably, doubts.

Perry goes on to say, “As these matters are primarily academic they are more the [purview] of Faculty Council rather than the Union. There is no contract language whereby we can grieve a mandatory class cancellation. I would advise all math faculty to consult with Faculty Council President Keith McCoy (Wright) as he is also a math faculty. He may, combined with the unity of math faculty and the Union’s support, be able to find a better date for this meeting.” Both he and Keith McCoy reminded faculty of the rule that always applies to unsavory administrative directives, “Comply.” Tenure does not protect any of us from punishment for insubordination.

If I were in Vegas and could find someone willing to take my bet, I would lay down a big stack of chips on the meeting taking place on March 10th and being mandatory for all Math faculty, which seems to me like a classic case of administrative short-sightedness, guaranteeing an aggravated, hostile audience for what would, under the best of circumstances, be an extremely controversial and challenging proposal. If I were a conspiracist (Ruggeri!), which I’m not, I might even think that it was intentional to create a negative atmosphere so that they could paint faculty as intractable and obstructionist, thereby dismissing any germane academic objections to the proposal. For the life of me, though, I can’t figure out what they were thinking, except to say that they weren’t.

A Preview of the Proposal (and Responses) in Part II coming up this afternoon.

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