Campus Zero Campus Woes

Posted on behalf of Michael Heathfield and FourSee Faculty

Campus Zero Campus Woes

FourSeeYou can’t take the context out of the college, whatever your status, you really can’t. Let’s just say life just got a whole lot tougher for Rahm’s crew at Campus Zero.  The ballot box dispatched Anita Alvarez faster than it takes for a college president to get a master’s degree!  Who knows whether the CZ crew will just double down on some disastrous decisions made of late or join with students and faculty as stakeholders with considerable expertise, opinions and power.

In my last post I asked my top ten questions.  Needless to say, there have been no responses from people with the data at Campus Zero.  It’s strange how data disappears when more challenging questions are asked of it. Of course, some is buried deep in the hope it doesn’t see the light of day. Some, if very politically inconvenient, is ignored and the PR lights move onto the latest glittery distraction.

It may also be true, since these things are rarely exclusive, that the best minds at Campus Zero do not fully understand the consequences, assumptions, and miscalculations in their policy decisions. It is very difficult to impute intentions when so very little of substance is provided for public debate and dialogue.  I get it as a political and management strategy. I really don’t get it as an academic strategy that should embed itself firmly in students, teaching and learning – these are primary drivers of all we do.

Everyone at CCC, including the CZ crew, exists on this simple foundation of students, teaching and learning.  Nothing around it exists without this trilogy. We are not a research institution; no one gets paid based on the amount and impact of faculty publications.  Postgraduate students don’t do the bulk of frontline teaching and grading work while stellar academics do the occasional star performances in huge lecture halls.  This is not who we are or what we do. So maybe I need to be clearer in my intent – when I ask questions of Campus Zero initiatives that are built upon our crucial foundations. Public education is exactly what is says, public. So private decision making and shutting down discourse is not the context in which we exist.

The Chancellor has publicly said she doesn’t care about recruitment – only retention and graduations.  Now, I have never been a full subscriber to the “logic model” approach to education, but surely you can’t have any outcomes that don’t have a relationship to inputs?  This has never been truer when you look, for example, at the quiet crises unfolding at Kennedy-King and Olive Harvey, where recruitment is significantly down over the past five years. Full-time faculty at Olive has been struggling to make load and have already been shuttling off to other campuses. I have seen nothing to convince me that, when finally complete, the new logistics and distribution center is going to lift everyone up together.

What will happen to declining numbers at Kennedy-King when Social Work and Addiction Studies transition to Malcolm X as planned?  Despite being the first-ever winner of the Aspen Award, Kennedy-King also stands as a stark rebuttal of the mantra, “If you build it, they will come”.

So tell me again why we are pulling Child Development programs from these important south side colleges?  How do we support our important colleagues as community disinvestment continues to surround them?

When the CZ crew makes a $21 million hole in the operating budget, by over-estimating how many students they can “incentivize” to become full-time, do we think budget impacts will be distributed with equity?  The differing states and fates of our vital seven colleges are intrinsically tied to broader social issues that raise Chicago’s profile on the national stage in very unflattering ways.

I live in Edgewater, very near Truman College, soon to be another north side recipient of capital and human investment as Child Development programs leave HWC and their south and west side neighborhoods. I can walk to my new 2013 library, next to my new Wholefoods, while I live right next to my new Mariano’s. What is happening here?

Chicago remains a very divided city.  The only resource that is shared with grace and equity from north to south is the lakefront.  Step away from there and you will enter different worlds that tragically demonstrate how politically controlled public resources are riddled with injustices.  Compare my Edgewater Library to the Woodson Regional Library, home to the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature. The façade of the Woodson has been surrounded by scaffolding for fourteen years. The Woodson is in the Washington Heights neighborhood. Yes, fourteen years.

When taxpayer resources are distributed with such disregard for equity, justice, and accountability – public servants must expect to be called to account. Questions and answers can be very challenging.  As Alvarez discovered, Chicago residents can deliver a very firm answer when public officials, and their decisions, are aired in public. National attention is trained on Chicago because of what elected officials and their chosen public servants are doing.  This is the context in which political decisions are being made. Public debate is essential, however painful or uncomfortable it may be. Community college policy decisions, by political appointees, are on the agenda and no amount of “business as usual” will shift this gaze.

— Mike Heathfield for FourSee faculty

 

 

Michael Heathfield Has Ten Important Questions

Posted on behalf of Michael Heathfield:

 

Top Ten Questions for Campus Zero Talent

 

In the spirit of academic freedom, openness, integrity and truth-seeking here are some suggested questions, many data-driven – all about management, to be asked of our leadership:

 

  1. What has been to total cost of the College to Careers program across all seven real campuses since its inception (personnel, branding, TV spots, etc.) and how many CCC students have acquired a $15+ per hour full-time job through the auspices of the College to Careers initiative?

 

  1. What was the total cost of the Campus Shuttle busing program since it began through to the end of 2015? During that time, how many individual student journeys took place? Were the taxpayers of Chicago or the State aware that they were funding transportation for students twice, once through the UPass system and again through the shuttle system?

 

  1. What has been the total expense (loss in tuition income, branding, PR, personnel time, etc.) at each of the real campuses for the re-invented Star Scholarship Program since 2014?

 

  1. In which City office did the idea for the 2015 $30,000 bonus for Chancellor Hyman originate?

 

  1. With the implementation of the new administrative system, CS9, how many students across the district had their financial aid delayed and how many students had their degree path erroneously changed?

 

  1. What has been the total cost in personnel (administrative, clerical, technical) time in correcting the mass of problems created by CS9 and who is accountable for the choice of a system which was so incapable of connecting and cooperating with our other well-established, functioning administrative systems?

 

  1. What has been the faculty participation rate, over the past five years, for attendance at the new, bigger, branded, too long, too early graduation event at U.I.C.(More info HERE, HERE, and HERE)?

 

  1. Who in Talent Acquisition at Campus Zero believed a college president with only a bachelor’s degree was the right academic choice for the third largest community college system in the U.S.?

 

  1. Who exactly at Campus Zero imagined that filling in a form to identify your religious affiliations for wearing a head covering should even be an agenda item for a diverse city college system?

 

  1. Why are college administrators now cutting college courses implying budget cuts are to blame, when Campus Zero over-estimated student income from an influx of full-time students by $20 million? (See this Board Presentation staring at Slide 20)

 

Many of the answers may confirm how much CCC believes in data driven decision-making, academic freedom and local government integrity for taxpayer dollars. The answers may also help everyone get at the philosophy behind some of our important fiscal and academic decisions of late. Our very risky financial environment is unlikely to change for the better any time soon. So management and fiscal decisions are very important to all of us.

 

Please use these ten questions as starters – be creative in your own follow up questions and do share the responses you receive. This is what democracy and dialogue looks like, right?

 

Depending on your level of assertiveness, tenure status, belief in democracy and organizing skills, you can ask these Top Ten questions in numerous ways:

 

  • Ask your own Alderman or Alderwoman to ask some or all of them to the appropriate people at the City.
  • Ask your Cook County or State Legislators to ask these questions to appropriate people at the City.
  • Ask the Governor of Illinois to ask the Mayor of Chicago, since they are wine and moneymaking friends.
  • Ask the Mayor to ask the Chancellor.
  • Ask students to ask their Student Government Association to ask whomever they want to.
  • Ask the Board of Trustees to ask The Chancellor.
  • Ask your friendly local media representatives, investigative journalists, the Medhill School of Journalism at Northwestern, NBC Investigates, or the Better Government Association to ask whomever they want to.

 

Whatever you choose to do, please ask and be persistent. We need to know the facts. Tough decisions, tough times, accountability and responsibility – we are all grown folks here – we can take it! No harm in asking, right?

Mike Heathfield

 

 

 

How Bad Policy Gets Made: Hats and Headcoverings

As you may know, the masters of the universe are busy revising and consolidating policy manuals in the name of simplification and clarity. If you just cringed, or even flinched, involuntary, prepare yourself for worse. If such a project were proposed as the central theme of an episode of The Office or Bob’s Burgers or something, one would expect hilarity to ensue; unfortunately, this is real life, and so the outcome is closer to abject stupidity, if not horrifyingly and stupifyingly bad decisions and more, imminent embarrassment for the colleges that we love and to which we dedicate ourselves.

You may recall the hootenanny about hats from 2010 or 2011 (can’t remember exactly when the “head covering policy” and the inconsistent enforcement of it became an issue on campus; I thought I wrote about it, but can’t find it now. Anyway, it was a big enough deal–specifically, the lack of enforcement–that it was turned into a “scenario” question for the VP Search Committee that led to Margie’s hiring a year or two later). As I recall, word came down, rather suddenly and without explanation (surprise, surprise) that the policy had to be enforced and universally. This led to a couple of unpleasant confrontations on different campuses between students wearing various kinds of hats and headcovers for various reasons and the security guards who were following orders. The policy–long as obsolete as it was futile with respect to deterring or affecting gang activity, and about as culturally arbitrary as banning sneakers would be–seems to be a zombie element of the Policy Manual. The current version (see Page 77) reads like this:

Headcovering Policy
Students entering City Colleges of Chicago buildings are required to remove all head coverings unless such coverings are associated with religious beliefs or documented medical conditions.

 

This week Mike Davis contacted me about the revised version of this policy. Apparently, he’s among those reviewing and commenting on the drafts. The draft form of the new policy reads as follows:

Dress Code Policy

CCC students are expected to dress appropriately while on campus as a demonstration of their seriousness of purpose, out of respect for their peers, faculty and staff, and to model behavior that is consistent with their chosen career pathway and what will be expected of them in the workforce.

(a)      Head Covering Policy

The wearing of head coverings can cause undue attention and distraction and may interfere with the educational process for all students.  Students should not wear baseball hats, caps, hoods, and other head coverings while inside CCC buildings and facilities.  Students will be asked to remove their head covering to comply with this policy.

Religious or Medical Exemption – This policy does not apply to head coverings associated with an individual’s sincerely held religious beliefs or a documented medical condition.  If a student wishes to wear a head covering which is associated with his or her sincerely held religious beliefs or a documented medical condition, the student must request such an accommodation at the College Student Services Office by completing a Religious and Medical Head Covering Exemption Form.

(b)      Clothing Policy

Students should not wear clothing in an indecent or improper manner.  Examples of inappropriate clothing include clothing that exposes undergarments and/or indecently exposes body parts.  Shirts/blouses, pants/shorts/skirts, and shoes must be worn at all times.

Failure to adhere to the dress code policy will be considered a violation of the Standards of Conduct and a student may be subject to discipline.

I can’t even deal with that first paragraph, so I’m going to completely ignore it, lest I get lost in it. I also cannot and will not deal with the B section, but except to say that in 12 years of teaching, I’ve never experienced a situation that requires this policy. Maybe I’ll find people running the hallways barefoot in their underwear tomorrow, but somehow I doubt it. Let’s talk about the headcovering section. Mike’s response was much kinder than mine would have been; when he saw the draft, he responded writing,

“Someone better re-think this immediately.  All students who wear head coverings (and Truman has a lot of people in hijabs (employees and students)) are going to be required to ask for permission to continue doing so by filling out a form at the Student Services Office?!?!?  Headcoverings are not an issue, and this targets Muslim students.  This is extrememly dis-respectful and doesn’t belong in the manual.We’ve had a ‘no hats’ policy for a while.  In winter, people wear their winter hats in class (because many times its still cold in there), and it doesn’t bother anyone.  Seeing hijabs only adds to the diversity of the school.  Making people register for them is really just awful.”

Truman’s VP, Pervez Rahman, responded with wholehearted agreement and proposed dropping the second sentence of the exemption section. That was a Thursday. The response from VC Michael Mutz that arrived on the following Monday begins by saying, “We need to finalize this language.” (The ol’ ‘Here’s your hat, what’s your hurry!’ treatment, as John Hader would refer to it). Why? My guess is that they’re trying to get this ready for approval at the February Board meeting. Impressively, it gets worse from there.

Mr. Mutz then wonders how security will know who is exempt if the students don’t fill out the form? We need a process, he suggests, or we’ll have to stop everyone or no one. (Nice framing, eh? He’s already ruled out any consideration of abandoning the policy.) He explains that students will follow the process so they can receive a sticker on their IDs, which they can then show to security to prove that they are exempt from this policy. I’ll let that sink in for a minute. Without a sticker on an ID how could a security guard working at an educational institution possibly judge whether a head covering might be worn for religious reasons and distinguish a yarmulke from a ski cap?

My reaction was something like this:

A sticker. On their ID.  A form to get a sticker to prove themselves exempt from a policy that explicitly does not apply to them. We’re going to make students fill out a form to publicly declare and affirm their religious affiliation–a requirement that is beyond the requirements of some of the religions themselves! Anything leap to mind? Any historical associations out there that jump up and bite you? What color do you think it should be? What shape?

I mean, I guess it would be worse if there were a climate of intolerance toward some  of the religions likely to be most affected by this policy…oh wait. I guess there’s this and this and this and this and this and this. Surely our fearless and thoughtful leaders considered these concerns. They even say, multiple times, that they understand the concerns, but in the end, nothing can be done. VP Rahman’s proposal to keep the policy but delete the part about the form and the sticker won’t work, they say. Why not? One person, Beatrice O’Donnell, states that without the sentence in question, security staff would not know where to send students to fill out the form for their exemption!

Talk about missing the point! But that’s enough for VC Mutz who says that it seems to be “very important text” and follows that with a plea to finalize the language (exactly three hours after his first response).  Mike Davis, perhaps accustomed to this kind of inanity from his time in meetings on Jackson, responds, more patient than I would have been, writing,

This policy is a mistake, and should be reconsidered.  Wearing a head covering for religious purposes is the individuals right, and it is not dependent upon CCC’s acknowledgement or permission.  Requiring students and employees to individually get permission to wear their religious head coverings is unnecessary at best.  The whole reason we’ve had a policy was mostly about hats.

I’ve looked around and I found no other places that require students wearing religious head coverings to register.  There is no need for such a policy.

That said, I saw this statement in the security memos:

1. If the individual advises the officer that the head covering is for a cultural, religious, medical, or for special needs, the officer will NOT question the requested exception.

2. Safety and Security Officers will NOT probe for further information.

A third step asked them to proceed to the correct CCC office, presumably for the form.  Just eliminate that step.  That would be fine.  No need to individually mark IDs.  No need to make people sign forms to practice their religion.  This is unnecessary.

Which is when the General Counsel, Eugene Munin weighs in, which I quote in full:

Thank you for your comments and I appreciate your concerns.  As you know, we have had a policy prohibiting head coverings (not hats) for many years.  The policy also included an exemption for those with religious beliefs or medical conditions.  The reason that the most recent change was made is because the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) demanded that CCC have some clearly outlined process by which those with sincerely held religious beliefs could be assured that they were approved for this exemption.  OCR directed that we make this change, reviewed the precise language, and approved the change.  This was part of a settlement in a case that we had with a student from Daley College and we are not in a position to unilaterally modify the language at this point.

As I said, I appreciate your concerns, but this was a settlement of a case with the federal government and we cannot change the language.

Yes. We cannot change the language. At least not as long as we keep the policy. And we’ve had this policy for years! (So, who are we to change it? Is that the point? Really? WTF?) Which raises the question–if they really shared Mike and VP Rahman’s concerns, why not at least consider eliminating the policy? I’m no lawyer, but I know what words mean and I’m pretty sure that such a move would make the OCR issue a moot point. If there is no head-covering policy, there is no need for students to be assured of their exemption from it. So why do we need this policy again? To tell Crips from Bloods on the streets of 1980s LA? Hats are not signifying anything that isn’t communicated in multiple other ways and this policy will do more to cause “undue attention, distraction,” and interference “with the educational process for all students” than it would if I walked in wearing Carmen Miranda’s fruit basket on my head.

I’d love to hear how this policy contributes to the four Reinvention goals. I’m sure it allows for savings that come from consolidating resources. Doesn’t everything they do? More than anything, though, I’d love to hear them talk about how they can fit the CCC commitment to diversity with their preference for a policy that makes people register their religious beliefs so that students aren’t wearing caps in class. THAT is a speech I’d buy a ticket for, even if it were at some fancy downtown club filled with people whose imaginations end at the tip of their egos.

Mike encourages anyone with feedback on this policy to voice their issues to Michael Mutz (mmutz@ccc.edu) and Eugene Munin (emunin@ccc.edu). The next board meeting is February 4th.

Singling Out Jenny McCarthy: What Autism, CPS, and Ethos Have in Common

A few weeks back, I was aimlessly reading FB post updates, and I noticed Jenny McCarthy (an actress and comedian) was being skewered, once again, in the media and on Twitter, for her views on vaccinations and immunizations and the autism-vaccination hypothesis. You may recall, years ago, McCarthy using her son as evidence for the validation of this hypothesis. People listened to Jenny McCarthy, which was odd to me.

I remember watching the MTV show, Singled Out. The Nerdist himself, Chris Hardwick, (and current host of Talking Dead) and McCarthy co-hosted the show. It was a dating game, and while I wasn’t interested in dating at the time, I was interested in anything MTV. I remember McCarthy and Hardwick being funny, and in retrospect, I probably didn’t really understand the humor on the show, but they were funny: they were comedians.

Around the same time, a British physician, Andrew Wakefield et al. (1998), misanalyzed data from an Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) study and misreported findings that included a supposed link of MMR vaccines to autism. His study was reported in The Lancet, and eventually, after severe outcry from the medical community because of a lack of rigor in the analysis among other problems, the article was retracted. The message was clear: Wakefield (and the other authors) were out of line and off the mark: there was no link between MMR and autism. (For a more thorough account, read the Harvard Health article.)

The difference, I think, between McCarthy’s anecdotes and Wakefield’s bad science (and that’s an understatement) is that the audience in Wakefield’s case new better: they knew that in order to continue to build knowledge, they would need to be critical, and they were. So, what is it with celebrities? McCarthy is a comedian and actress, but why was she given so much press, and why did so many people believe her anecdotes? What made McCarthy a better source of information than Wakefield?

I don’t think the answer is simple, but I do think it is ingrained in the culture where we reside here in the U.S. We don’t mind getting advice from celebrities, on the whole, and I think we encounter this each and every day in the classroom. For some reason, our society and our culture of celebrity have merged and confused popularity and fame with ethos (credibility) and value. In fact, in class, when we explicitly discuss logic and reasoning, I show a clip of an interview Matt Lauer conducted with Tom Cruise (2007).

In the video, Cruise discusses Ritalin and post-partum depression with the enthusiasm and the expertise of a professional. But, he’s not an expert; he’s an actor. I usually remark that if Cruise wants to discuss what it’s like to dance around in his underwear while filming Risky Business or being Suri’s dad, he’s more than qualified to do so–he has that expertise and ethos; however, if I want to know about post-partum depression, I’m probably going to talk to an expert (and definitely not Tom Cruise). Discussing an appeal to a false authority (which is what I try to exemplify by showing the clip), is a good reminder for me to beware of where I get my information.

Recently, Adriana Tapanes-Inojosa shared a Sun-Times letter to the editor, “Under Emanuel, principals have no voice.” I read the article, and as an educated reader, I know I intrinsically look for clues to evaluate the credibility (and ethos) of the author. The author is a principal who provides his credentials, including his experience as a teacher and his experience as a principal. While I can’t speak to the experience of being an educator or principal in the CPS system, I can speak to the issue of appealing to false authorities, like Jenny McCarthy and Tom Cruise.

And Troy LaRaviere is an authority. He has the experience, which isn’t anecdotal–he is a professional educator. I encourage you to consider the underlying issues LaRaviere is pointing out, implicitly, in the article: a lack of appreciation and value for those who are in the classroom and a de-valuing or undervaluing of experience and expertise. I am not suggesting to merely accept credentials at face value (remember Wakefield?).

I am strongly suggesting maintaining a critical and thoughtful framework. And I am strongly suggesting valuing the expertise and experiences of educators after they successfully navigate your critical and thoughtful framework.

(NB: The most succinct response to an attempt to de-value or undervalue expertise was on Fox News. You can see it here.)

 

 

 

What a President Reads

Wright College’s President Potash was busy over the break, posting five interesting reviews on his blog. I’m particularly interested in the one on garbage in New York.

Since reading Dom Delillo’s Underworld (reviewed here; academicized here; blogged about here) garbage has been a different for me in the way President Potash says it became different for him after his conversation with the author of the book he reviews many years prior to her writing it. Then a couple years ago I saw this and this and, though I’m not a big fan of Zizek, his brief bit on garbage has popped up in my own experiences, more than once.

Also there, a review of a book about Chicago neighborhoods, a pair of books about/for those interested in community college leadership, and one on how Chicago real estate has played a role in institutionalizing inequality.

Check ’em out.

Tabula Rasa Sunday

The summer break is officially over startin’ tomorrow. So says the contract. The new contract.

Me, I’m gonna keep squeazin’ more summer activities into September and October (to make up for April and May).

Care to reflect on what you did/accomplished since classes let out in May? Seems like more than three months ago, right?

Did you do some travelin’ or stayed home and watched your garden grow?

Saw some old friends? Made some new ones?

Broke from your summer routine? Started a new one?

Lookin’ forward to the start of the Fall semester?

Got some new ideas you want to try out in your classroom?

Decided you’ll post more than just your syllabus on Blackboard?

Introducing a new text or book in a class? Thinkin’ about Kamran’s games for your class?

 

Have your say…

Thoughtful Tuesday

This may be the last, or next to last thoughtful Tuesday question for the summer, so I’ll try to make it count.

You may provide literal, metaphorical, whimsical, or philosophical answers to the following question:

What in the name of academic integrity does it mean to think outside the box?

For a bit of history on the phrase, go here. To quote the opening line from the web page:

‘Think outside the box’ originated in the USA in the late 1960s/early 1970s. It has become something of a cliche, especially in the business world, where ‘thinking outside the box’ has become so hackeyed as to be rather meaningless.

I hesitate to use the phrase for the simple reason that it has become a cliche in my book.

Your thoughts?