Nothing New Under the Sun: ID Policy Edition

So, just the other day as I rode home on the train, I was thinking to myself how nice it is not to have to be fighting about paper and copiers anymore, a thought that came to mind as I walked out of the building and saw the signs taped to the doors saying students would not be let in without their IDs. “This again,” I thought as I walked by, which drew my mind into other policy battles of the past (e.g., the Great Copy/Printer battles of 2012). Happily distracted by thoughts of gratitude I didn’t think much of the new ID policy, knowing that our active and effective Faculty Council was on the case and, surely, this wouldn’t be a thing again.

And then, just yesterday, I had a student show up at the very end of her class’ first examination, in the last two minutes of class, actually, apologizing and worried. She remembered having her ID with her at home in the morning, but somewhere between that memory and her arrival at school, she’d misplaced it. Unfortunately, she didn’t have ten dollars with her, nor a bank card to get some, so she had to go back home, get a check, get to a bank, cash it, return to school, pay the ten bucks, get a new ID and then find her professor and hope that she could get a make-up (which, as you surely can imagine) is not a guarantee for any college student.

In other words, this young woman could easily have lost the chance to pass the class (while, nevertheless on the hook for paying for it because she misplaced her ID one morning and goes to a school that refuses any other means than $10 to verify that she is in fact a student at the school. Had she been allowed to log in to Blackboard or MyCCC.edu on her phone or on a computer in the lobby, the security guards could have easily verified her status and purpose.

Talking to her, I had a tremendous sense of deja-vu. This policy is a policy that creates problems for our students by solving a problem for…whom exactly? Security? Administrators? Who? And then it hit me. We’ve seen this one before. And I wrote about it before. So I went back and found my post about the last time this happened, and re-read it, and found that EVERY SINGLE CRITICISM  applies now. Was SGA involved? Was Faculty Council (hint: No)? Is there data supporting broad HWC community desire for this policy (or some other reason–legal, safety (has there been a spike in thefts by unidentifiable visitors?)? Is this the plan to make up for the service-sucking state-budget-created black hole of a problem one Hamilton at a time? What problem is it solving and for whom? Who knows? So, why now? Good question.

Last time, in September of 2014, Margie “postponed the implementation of charging $10” for people without their ID. I guess that “postponement” ended the first week in February. But it’s not any less of a stupid policy. My student got her make-up exam and an apology from me for a school policy that made an already difficult and challenging day much much harder. That seems like the opposite of what our HWC values and aims are.

I just don’t get why this is a thing.

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

NOTE: This post has been updated in a new post with a correction about the third paragraph.

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:

(more…)

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.

Website Wednesday: Chicago and Guns

Website Wednesday is a (mostly) weekly feature in which we highlight one (or a couple) of sites from the Billions floating around the Intertoobz that just might help you with your Herculean task of educating inquiring minds. Any and all suggestions for future editions are welcome.

When fall rolls around–and I mean real fall: crunchy leaves, frosty ground, 40 degree mornings–I get excited about going hunting. Growing up that way, and continuing to do it (and love it), give me a little different perspective on guns than most of the people with whom I share political commitments (somewhere between hippie and pinko, according to my father). But guns and gun usage are undoubtedly a problem in Chicago and in the United States.

Four pieces for your consideration:

~”America’s Mass Shooting Capital is Chicago

~And it’s not just your imagination–it really is worse this year

~But it’s also true that some of the most notorious, recent mass shooters got guns that they shouldn’t have been able to get if the current laws were enforced

~And it’s not clear that an outright prohibition would be better

And sometimes it’s hard to know what exactly is going on, since crime data (like all data) isn’t exactly (ever?) truly raw data.

 

 

 

Child Development Reruns: Haven’t We Seen This Movie Before?

And no, I’m not referring to this:

If you were around in 2011, you might remember that this proposal has been floated before, and the last time it was, it ended with good news for those who opposed it and the then-Hand of the Chancellor (Alvin Bisarya) saying they “learned a lot from working on the Child Development program, specifically that faculty need to be involved from the beginning, the recommendations should NOT be presented as “a fait accompli” and that faculty should be considered  “experts” in their respective fields.”

(sigh) I guess the new leadership needs to learn the lesson for themselves?

So we have a “new” proposal of a previously proposed (and rejected) idea. What’s changed? Well, last time their proposal was aimed at the degrees being offered, rather than the location of the offerings, and it was rationalized on the basis of market-place requirements. These elements are still part of the current proposal (despite the fact that what amounts to a curriculum change is (or should) STILL be an area of faculty purview and so subject to their approval). This time, though, that bit isn’t the rationale–investment efficiency is, and “the pooling of talent.” They want to spend more on Child Development, it seems, but they just can’t (insert tear squirting emoticon) because these programs are all spread out…with this move they’ll be able to provide computers and space upgrades and, and…equipment! Like what, you may ask? Swings? Robot children? MRI machines? I don’t know. I’d like to know what equipment that CD faculty want but can’t get without “economies of scale” that will magically exist within one college but not across the district as a whole. What could it be? And never mind that Child Development faculty are probably the most collaborative group of educators in the system! Is there any other discipline that has worked as much or as well across college lines than them? None that I know of. So what problem does this solve? Seems to me like it solves a management problem (“A place for everything and everything in its place!“); never mind the problems that it creates for the others.

Imagine if the Cubs announced that instead of having their talent scouts and instructional coaches spread out around the country and world, they wanted to “pool their talent” in one location to “improve their investment” by giving them more equipment like “computers and space upgrades” (which means what? I don’t know–unfortunately that is not a question frequently asked, apparently). Would anyone think that the team’s ability to find and develop talent has been enhanced by such a move?

What if a company with seven subsidiary companies said, we need to pool the seven sales (or HR or legal or whatever) teams, even though they serve different regions and have different histories and markets , into one department, forcing employees/customers/whomever to travel long distances to get help. Does anyone genuinely believe that such a move would enhance the experience for the people who actually need services? Whom would it help other than the management whose job would be simplified at the expense of those who actually need services?

I mean the argument they have offered is so bad, that I genuinely can’t believe that THEY believe it. I hope not. So, is Rasmus just going through old files of his predecessors to finish what they started? Has this Zombie idea been walking around 226 W. Jackson for four years waiting for “the right moment”–when everyone was annoyed and distracted by other, even more broadly damaging initiatives, like the (deliberate?) discouragement of part-time students? Are they running out of ideas?

What the hell?

Policies that Cause Rather than Solve Problems

Today I received an email from a student in my 9:30 am class. it read:

“Forgot my id. I will be late. I’m in the front but they won’t let me in.”

This particular student is a student with special needs, and so this student has a note-taker. The note-taker was there at 9:30, but the student was not. By 9:45, the student had not arrived in class. Unfortunately, I checked my email early this morning, but did not check it in the time between my arrival at school and first class, and so, following policy, the note-taker left.

 

About 20 minutes later, just under the halfway point of the class, the student came in to see a board full of notes and material on Categorical propositions. The work we did in class today laid groundwork for the next three weeks worth of material. Students who were there experienced a huge and important front-load the second major unit of the class. Students who missed it will be scrambling to catch up  right up until the mid-term exam.

Her email was sent at 9:04 am, by the way.

So, this student did everything right except bring her school ID with her, and now her success in the class is imperiled. All for a policy that is ostensibly aimed at “improving student safety.” Do we really need to say that most of the college shootings of the last 10 years have been carried out by people who had IDs? Do we need to point out that our college is objectively safe–relative to other colleges and other City Colleges, based on the Clery Report data? Do we really need to point out that the last time we did a security survey, there was much more concern among faculty about students than about strangers? About being alone in stairwells and hallways and offices than about people without ids wandering in?

If a few students can bring about a policy change (that was the reason provided at the State of the College address, right?) with major potential implications on student learning and work and the rest–without consulting Faculty Council or anything else–then perhaps a few faculty belly aching about a stupid policy that creates problems without solving any can get a similar result. Let’s say my bag is stolen with my wallet and ID in it. Let’s say further that I don’t have cash on me (typical). I suppose I could borrow some, but let’s say I arrive at a time and day where the people I see that I know are, like me, without cash or access to their ATM cards for some reason. Should I take a sick day? Should I send a note to my students to wait, ride the train home, scrounge up some quarters from the couch and laundry room and my kid’s bank and return and pay $10 so I can work?

“Of course not,” someone will say. You will see someone who will vouch for you or loan you the money or whatever.” And they’d be right. I would be slightly and probably only temporarily inconvenienced by the situation, because I’m white, I’m old, I’m male, I’m employed, I’d be in professional (or semi-professional) dress and so on–take your pick of possible reasons I’d have it easy.

My student, however, and likely many students, does not live with the same privileges. My student was sent home on a day that she needed to be in class, on a day when she arrived 30 minutes before class was to start, only to return to find that, because she had been sent home to get a piece of plastic with her picture on it, she had not only missed important material but missed out on the chance to have her special needs accommodated. And for what? To what end?

I am hopping mad right now.