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…)

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.”

Amazing.

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?