Another Voice from the Wilderness

More discussion about Reinvention from another anonymous critic.

Here is the author’s own summary of her/his effort:

The upper echelons of the bureaucracy that runs the City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) are in the midst of a drastic transformation of the historical mission of the CCC. This mission, like that of most community colleges across the U.S., has been to provide a path for millions of working class, poor or immigrant students to access a university education which offers personal intellectual enrichment that has long been recognized as one of the important foundations of democracy as well as professional advancement. Behind the façade of Reinvention the CCC hierarchy is moving away from these goals and instead narrowing the mission of the CCC to that of job training centers. In service to the Obama administration’s initiative to track students into associate degrees and certificates as their terminal degrees, they have invented the Reinvention. Corporate Chicago is steering this process under the guise of pro bono consultants and advisory councils. The result is the full adoption of the business model for the administrative structure of the CCC.  This has also allowed for the merging of political and business cronyism bloating the CCC headquarters with business positions, heaping on more than $5 million in additional annual salaries in the first nine months alone. This has all occurred since Cheryl Hyman, a businesswoman lacking prior educational leadership experience, was anointed chancellor. The impact on students, faculty and staff have begun with the loss of jobs, the reduction or elimination of services and the smothering of academic freedom.  The specifics of the Reinvention indicate that these attacks are just the beginning. Students and faculty have begun to air frustration, resentment, and opposition to the abuses of the Reinvention. An organized opposition to the masters of Reinvention is required in order to secure quality education, decent working conditions, and bright futures for all of those who work and study at the CCC.

Read the rest HERE.

15 thoughts on “Another Voice from the Wilderness

  1. Where, specifically, has “the smothering of academic freedom” ocurred? Please be specific. Also, is anyone else getting tired of anonymous critique?

    Carrie

    • (raises hand)

      To be fair to the author, though, s/he does explain her/his reasoning for that claim in the essay, suggesting that the recent software installations are an imposition on Academic Freedom. I don’t personally find it to be very persuasive, but it is a specific point provided…

      • I understand the point about the computers and agree it was specific, but I do not agree that this has impacted decisions I make about student learning, curriculum, grading, subject matter, teaching style – the kinds of things I tend to think about when I think about “academic freedom”.

    • Carrie,

      Apparently you’ve been away. So, let me tell you that:
      – Faculty Development Week was pulled from the local campuses
      – There will be a common Districtwide graduation
      – The campuses no longer have their own catalogs
      – We cannot use our campus logos anymore
      – All of the colleges’ presidents have been fired
      – Someone is checking to see whether faculty are putting “measurable student Learning outcomes” on their syllabi
      – The District now has a Provost, NINE?! Vice Chancellors, and counting!

      Pretty amazing, isn’t it? … Well, at least pretty “smothering,” no?

      • All true–except some will claim that the presidents haven’t been “fired.” All regrettable–except, in my view, the common course catalog (its many errors notwithstanding) and the “measurable student learning outcomes” (why shouldn’t they be on syllabi, and why shouldn’t they be verified?).

        But to Carrie’s original question, at least as I understood it, how is any of this “smothering” the academic freedoms faculty have in the classroom?

      • I’ve been here.

        I agree that your list is full of problems and I’m concerned about them. I disagree that they have to do with academic freedom and I’d like to start a discussion about what academic freedom means so that I understand how we are defining it, as a faculty.

        The way I see it:
        As content specialists and folks with higher degrees in the disciplines we teach, faculty should make decisions about curriculum, class activities, assigned readings, personal teaching style, assessment of student learning, grading, scheduling, field trips, group discussion, lecture, multi-media, writing assignments, testing,whether or not to accept late work, how to handle various interactions and behaviors in the classroom and online, how to counsel students about their learning, etc.

        These are the things I think of when I think about academic freedom.
        Let’s discuss.

      • Measurable outcomes are required by our accrediting body, HLC. Including SLOs on syllabi has been a requirement for years – well before reinvention.

        The mandatory professional development week was a mandatory meeting, but it was not mandating how we teach.

  2. Perhaps it would be helpful to define academic freedom.

    IMHO, the ink on the union contract pertaining to this matter doesn’t count as a starting point.

    How do y’all define academic freedom?

    • Here’s the AAUP’s “Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure”: http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/pubsres/policydocs/contents/1940statement.htm

      Some of the highlights:

      1.Teachers are entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results, subject to the adequate performance of their other academic duties; but research for pecuniary return should be based upon an understanding with the authorities of the institution.

      2.Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject. Limitations of academic freedom because of religious or other aims of the institution should be clearly stated in writing at the time of the appointment.

      3.College and university teachers are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations. As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.

      And their “Academic Freedom and Electronic Communications” report: http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/pubsres/policydocs/contents/electcomm-stmt.htm

  3. I do agree with your statements. Sometimes, we, the perceived victims of bad judgements, just have to have a forum in which to vent. It is all too human to do so. On the other hand, all comments made are true and serve to identify shortcomings in an administration that has not observed, communicated with or even sought out different opinions. The hiring and making up of positions in the District needs to be addressed, and I, for one, am happy to see others’ frustrations. At least we now have a safe place to vent. You younger people may not understand the need to be able to speak out.

  4. Academic freedom far more extensive than what you do or say in the classroom. It seems to me that there is plenty of confusion about what academic freedom is. The faculty contract is very limited in its defense of academic freedom. The AAUP has a decades-long history of defending and clarifying all sorts of issues regarding academic freedom. I think that we should invite them to our college to speak to this question.

  5. Well stated Sherry all of these events have been like the earthquake or Tsunami that just swept over the system.It is true that faculty have seen a gradual erosion of the contract that has reduced our ability to have input in academic matters related to teaching and learning.The rapport that faculty had with administration was civil to say the least.
    “You younger people may not understand the need to be able to speak out” might be related to “You don’t way where you are headed until you know where you have been”.
    History teaches lessons and CCC has had a history of many success stories of alum and yet there is no acknowledgement or recognition of these facts.Is it not nicer to use positive reinforcement for productivity and change.My students feel empowered when I commend their efforts or tell them them what they have done is good but they could do better.
    Even animals respond well to positive reinforcement. So why the gloom and doom stories by way of statistics from hell.If I were a student I would much rather go to an institution that looks and promotes success and pride not one that has to be “reinvented”.This must be business speak for “reorganization” and “restructuring” and “revitalizing” of previous decades.I think they have run out of appropriate “RE” words better that than using the “DE” or “Dis”prefix.

  6. Sorry I did not review my work prior to hitting the post button “you don’t know where you are headed until you know where you have been.”

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