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:


The Chancellor’s Address (Yesterday) to the City Club of Chicago

In which, the Mayor reminds everyone of what a terrible job we were doing educating a student he met in 2011 (based on pretty much nothing other than his own sense of things and our graduation rate) before announcing the new Start Scholarship partnerships with 4-year schools and offering an easy, but fallacious, equivocation between improved completion rates and “improved educational quality,” before introducing the Chancellor who announces our “preliminary” (but impressive) numbers for 2015, explains the strategies of reinvention, and engages with various criticisms of Reinvention and ‘Consolidation’ using textbook examples of various fallacies including:

~”Straw Person” (26:00–has anyone made the claim that “students don’t travel out of their neighborhoods to attend one of the City Colleges”? I don’t think that’s the point that’s been made in various critiques of consolidation. That’s obviously false. The question/doubt is about whether Child Development students will travel to Truman, which is a very different question);

~”False Dichotomy” (at one point the Chancellor says that to help students out of poverty, we must choose to provide “quality over proximity” as if the two were suddenly mutually exclusive? Can’t we provide both? If not, somebody should tell Starbucks that their business model is deeply flawed);

~and more (How many can you find?) before building to a final argument that  manages to take credit for student success on account of changes and supports that have resulted from Reinvention while deriding critics for their calls for various forms of student support. Because students need to learn the lessons of tough love. They have to want it, be hungry and make it work. So, people who provide things for students that they need are “innovative” while people who criticize those plans or ask for other kinds of supports are excuse-makers. I should try this with my classes. “I have provided you with everything you need. If you say you need more than or other than what I have provided you, I will know you are a whining excuse maker. Toughen up! It’s true that I have provided you with no textbook, but I needed no textbook and so it can be done. Make it work.”


My favorite quote? Speaking of Mayor Emanuel, the Chancellor says, “Neither of us have time for complicated deliberations when decisive action is required.” (13:55). That made me laugh out loud. In truth, this Chancellor and her Reinvention have accomplished many good things; our Student Services were a MESS for years after decades of neglect and administrative impairment, and they are much improved (or at least much expanded and much more attended to). They have some significant evidence of achievement, it’s true. It is, perhaps, too much to ask that a little intellectual honesty be invited along for the ride down victory lane. Anyway, you should watch this:

Hot Take on the New Bookstore

So, I’m a fan. I helped a couple of students work through the process during registration, and I liked what I saw.

I like the look of the interface, I like that students can use their financial aid vouchers and buy their books with a click or two. As a faculty member, I like being able to snoop into the reading lists of other classes (both other philosophy classes at other colleges and across departments at our own) without having to use the clunky PeopleSoft thing. And, best of all, I like not sending our students to a bookstore that I thought was ripping them off, even for used books. I always liked Hector and found him helpful, but the prices at Beck’s were frequently outrageous.

So, in short, it seems like a big improvement. Kudos to anyone and everyone involved with the decision.

On the delta side of things, I (and another colleague) have noted that WAY fewer students have their texts in hand on the first day of class than when there was a physical bookstore. I have a theory as to why. When students have selected their books and are checking out, they get three options for shipping (Expedited, Standard, and something else) and each shows a range of dates. The range, though, is not standard. So the expedited option one might say, expected arrival 8/26-8/29 and cost $52 in shipping, while the standard option said the expected arrival was 8/28 to 9/6, but only cost $15. The student, then chose the standard option and said, “Well, it’s way less, and it’s only two days later.” In other words, she only looked at the first number of the range, rather than considering the possibility that she might be waiting for her books until almost the third week of class. After we talked about it, she said, “It all comes out of my aid, right?” and I nodded and she selected “Expedited.” I know to double check the second date of that range because I have messed up so many times on my own orders. Even though I buy a lot of used books on Amazon, even now I end up sometimes hoping to get them in a certain time frame and grinding my teeth for misreading the shipping information.

It’ll be interesting to watch how this plays out and whether (as I fear) many students, even more than usual, will have to struggle through the first few weeks of class while waiting for books to arrive.

I have also found it interesting to watch as the prices and used/marketplace book availability fluctuates from day to day. Four days ago, a book for one of my classes (one I hoped to start with) was only available as New ($28) and it said, “On Backorder 1-2 Weeks.” But when I looked on Sunday, there were copies available under “Used” and “Marketplace” that were half the price of the new one. Then today, it only shows New as available and it is listed again on backorder. So, a student who times their order right, can save a lot of money. Possibly.

That’s what I’ve noticed anyway. Anyone else?



Kojo’s Korner

Ok, Peeps. Looks like we have our Provost’s attention. How you doin’, Kojo! (You said we were on first name basis back at that FDW when you were introduced, so I’m just following your words. I’m on first name basis too, just like Madonna and Bono.)

It also looks like he’s got to check with OIT about dem settings on his blog. (Makes me wonder if his academic voice is being screened. If so, I’m very concerned.) Since this here blog has no pre-screen settings and we appear to gather at this Lounge with frequency (duh!), I thought I’d introduce a post called Kojo‘s Korner to discuss matters that he can assist us with. I ain’t runnin’ it as a regular post and if any other author feels the need to run the post before I do, for whatever reason, have at it. (I felt so PhiloDave when I wrote that! Stop! Don’t think that! He be him and I be me. I only wrote that ’cause I like phD’s sense of community, which is more than I can say for our district leaders!)

So here is the first official Kojo Korner post. Feel free to share what you think is of major academic concern. He is ‘The Academic Voice’, right?

Toss a question out to Kojo. Let’s see if he comes back to reply. Maybe run contest to see how long it takes to get a reply? (Just kiddin’, Kojo. I told ya I know how busy you are, and for good reasons.)

OK. Let me start this here thang with a question:

Dear Kojo, why would you need to check with OIT about fixin’ them settings on your academic blog? Are you told what you can say? Do your posts have to be approved at the District level? Does District suggest/recommend/persuade/lobby your posts? I thought your post was independent of District’s clutches?

Think, Know, Prove: Reinvention Remediation Proposals

Think, Know, Prove is a regular Saturday 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.

I promised this topic as a TKP a long time ago to someone (sorry; I’m too lazy at the moment to search for the comment and promise), and in light of FC4 President Polly Hoover’s address to the board this week, it seems like a good time to follow through on it.

The subject is “The Reinvention Remediation Proposals.” Maybe you’re wondering what they are? Ok, here are a couple of places to go if you’d like to get informed before weighing in: go HERE (and check out pages 52-100).

What do you think? What do you know? What can you prove?


Did You See It?

A story on Inside Higher Ed about CCC was their third most viewed story this week. I found it through the Truman Lounge link, which reader/contributor Chris was kind enough to forward along to me by email.

Here’s the lede:

If low graduation and student transfer rates at City Colleges of Chicago don’t start improving, the system’s leaders could lose their jobs. That’s because the formal job responsibilities of the chancellor, presidents and even trustees include graduation rate goals.

The focus kind of shifts from there to Reinvention and yet more flaunting of teeth-grinding inducing statistics (though the author provides more context for them than any of our local “journalists”/press-release dictation specialists have over the last year), plus comments from Polly Hoover, and other stuff.

It’s worth reading. Check it out HERE.

h/t to Truman Lounge and Chris.

Sunday Reading

An update from Reinvention: as posted on the Reinvention blog, the Recommendations from the Spring have been updated (and expanded/specified).

Check out the full, current state of the recommendations HERE. And the associated “justifications” HERE.

And if you see something good, please note it in the comments; and if you see something not good, please note it in the comments.

And I have a suspicion that at some point in the near future it may be critical for us to know what the Reinvention proposals and research say so that we can A) understand what’s coming when it comes; or B) fight what comes because it’s based on bad reasoning/data; or C) fight what comes using their research and data.

When I know more, I’ll say more, but let’s just say that now would be  a good time to get educated about what’s going on. There’s no time like the present, as they say.

Child Development News (And It’s Good!)

You might remember that there’s been a bit of a thing going on with Child Development (as described in part here and here). Well, that all appears to be over now. I received this email last Friday from Jen Asimow:

Hi Dave, thought you might like to know that we had our district-wide meeting today where we were told by Alvin Bisarya that our program will not be “sun setted” and is safe.

He was also quite sincere when he told us that 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.  I think this bodes well for the future work of the Reinvention teams responsible for program review.

For the first time since this entire thing started, the meeting felt collaborative.  It is amazing what can be accomplished when people and their programs are not being threatened.  I feel quite hopeful about the future of CD at CCC.

Huge credit goes to Jen and her CD colleagues across the district who didn’t just resign, and didn’t just freak out, but gathered their resources and made the case that they know their program and know their students and do great work. They gathered statistics, talked to experts, and developed responses to the questions and suppositions of the Reinvention team (who, it should be said, were undoubtedly working in good faith based on the research they had to come up with what they thought was the best thing for our students), and they did it all over the last six weeks while running their programs and teaching their courses.

Big credit, too, goes to the Reinvention leaders for, it would seem from here, being reasonable and persuadable, rather than merely digging in to get a Pyrrhic victory. As frustrating as the central administration has been at times, I think we have to give them credit for (seemingly) learning from their mistakes and (at least in this case) playing by their own rules. For example, our first DWFDW was awful; the second was better and clearly responsive to the complaints about the first. This first go around with Reinvention Proposals has been varied, but I trust Jen when she says that the outcome felt collaborative (even if it was a bit late in coming). We may all have to defend our programs at some future time. I really don’t have a problem with that. It’s good to know that if we make a good case for our program, we’ll get heard. Let’s all make sure that we know our areas as well (and are doing as good of a job running our programs) as the CD people.

And when you see them, you might want to say, “Well done.”

Tenure Process Proposal Feedback

As I mentioned yesterday, this semester’s Teaching and Learning Reinvention team is working on the tenure process, and as many of you may remember, this is an issue that is near and dear to my own heart and it’s come up a few times in the last couple years, too, like here and here and here and here.

Jennifer Meresman (English) is working on that team and wrote asking if I could post the following for her (which I’m delighted to do):

As part of Reinvention, my colleague Michael Maltenfort posted a “conversation starter” about tenure to the Reinvention blog. We are in the process of fleshing out the plans created by last semester’s task force, but we have left the questions very open ended to allow people to share any general (or specific) thoughts. We would love to hear more voices from the HWC community.
If anyone would like to share thoughts with me directly, please feel free to email me:
I look forward to hearing from the HWC community!
Jeni Meresman
And that’s not the only place you can and should give some feedback–the Provost’s blog is featuring a discussion on the tenure process, too (along with discussion about the Post-Tenure process) and there are five comments already, as of Thursday afternoon.
I have met a lot of people who have been associated in one way or another with our tenure process, and I have never heard anyone, not ANYONE describe it in even mostly (as in 51%) positive terms, and typically people had five to six negative things to say to any ONE positive and the most common positive comment was, “It’s over.”
This is a great opportunity–Alicia Anzaldo (Wright) and Franklin Reynolds (Truman) did a great job putting together an initial proposal with lots of really great stuff in it, and Jen and Michael are undoubtedly capable of improving further upon their fine starting point. So please, I’m begging now, take a minute to talk online about your own (or someone else’s) experiences going through the process or making some suggestions about what the process could look like. This is a real chance to change something about our work life that was awful for almost all of us and is awful for many of our current colleagues (faculty and administrators alike), and will be awful for future colleagues unless we seize the chance to change it.
Please do.

Tolle Blege!

You’ve heard the words Tolle Lege, meaning, ‘Take up and read’ (Correct me if I’m wrong PhiloDave).

Well, after going to Don’s blog and Kojo’s blog, I say “Tolle Blege!”, Take up and blog! (In case ya ain’t noticed, The Lounge is notorious for play on words and coining new ones.)

I believe we (faculty) have been hesitant to comment on blogs ’cause the powers that be told us in a round about way that we could get ourselves into a heap ‘o trouble if we used our computers for anything other than “educational purposes”. I believe the fear set in when it was stated at a union meeting last semester that we were being monitored. Big Brother, or in our case, Big Sister was watching; tracking our every click from one site to another; as if an alarm would go off at District if we found our way to fb or yahoo or some other “non-academic” site. The amount of visits to The Lounge declined along with the comments.

Fear: 1, Faculty: 0

I’m here to tell you that it’s OK to get back on your computers and at the very least, hit a few blogs with passion. Why? WHY?, you ask? Here’s why:

  1. I don’t believe District is monitoring EVERY SINGLE CLICK! I know our computers keep a history of where we’ve been. However, a few settings in Firefox and your browsing and cookie history can be, well, history.
  2. Our president has a blog! Do you really think a mice-chancellor or some admin is going to arrest you ’cause you were reading Don’s blog? Doesn’t Don want us to read his blog? Doesn’t he want feedback?
  3. Our Provost has a blog! Do you really think a mice-chancellor or some admin is going to arrest you ’cause you were reading Kojo’s blog? Doesn’t Kojo want us to read his blog? Doesn’t he want feedback?

The way I see it, scare tactics were used to keep us from building any momentum. I won’t get into the why; I’ll just leave it at that. However, since that announcement, we’ve had CCC employees recognizing blogs as a means of communication. Heck, CCC folks have fb pages. Reinvention went WordPress! The Chancellor has a Twitter account! They’re beggin’ us to use these ‘non-academic’ means of communication!

This is why I say forget about the past! The silver lining to Reinvention has been the adoption of technology to reach out to students and… to faculty! Fear, along with the old regime of mice-chancellors and tenured presidents, was shown the back exit on a moving train.

Get out there and blog (and fb). Give Don some input! Give Kojo some feedback! Reshape Reinvention! Tweet the Chancellor! (Like a few CCC related pages on fb.)

Embrace technology and Tolle Blege!