FC4 moves to file complaint

Posted on behalf of FC4 President, Jennifer Alexander

June 17, 2016

Official Statement: The Faculty Council of the City Colleges of Chicago (FC4) Calls for an Investigation

Over the past two weeks, in an apparent attempt to justify their decision to consolidate six Child Development Programs to Truman College, the District Office of the City Colleges of Chicago has disseminated the following documents to stakeholders including Aldermen, media contacts, and the Mayor’s Office: 1) a PowerPoint Presentation, 2) a document entitled “The Facts About Child Development Programs at City Colleges”, and 3) a document entitled “Child Development Programs Information”.

Faculty researched the data presented within the documents listed above and have found them to contain misleading and erroneous information. In addition, faculty have discovered that over the past two years at least 120 Child Development Basic Certificates were awarded from Truman College to Child Development students who have not taken any courses at Truman.

The Faculty Council of the City Colleges of Chicago (FC4) is the elected representative body of all full-time City Colleges of Chicago faculty members. The charge of FC4 is to “represent and be responsible to the faculty in all matters of general academic policy such as curriculum, program development, academic freedom, and professional development in an advisory, consultative, and planning capacity to the Chancellor and to the Board of Community College District No. 508” (Constitution of the Faculty Council City Colleges of Chicago).

On June 15, 2016 FC4 held an emergency meeting and the following motion was passed:

FC4 will file a formal complaint with the Office of the Inspector General, the Board of Trustees, PACC, the Illinois Community College Board, the Higher Learning Commission, the Illinois Board of Higher Education, and the Department of Education seeking an investigation of the City Colleges of Chicago’s reporting on the number of completions for all Child Development Programs across the district, including all reports that have been submitted to ICCB, HLC, DOE and any other external agencies over the past two years.

This letter serves as a formal complaint.

Respectfully submitted on behalf of the Faculty Council of the City Colleges of Chicago

Jennifer Alexander, FC4 President

A call for an investigation

Over the past two years over 100 Child Development Basic Certificates were awarded from Truman College to Child Development students who have not taken any courses at Truman.
Based on this information, the District-wide Child Development faculty team is calling for an investigation of CCC’s reporting on completion rates for all Child Development programs.  Completion rates are used for a variety of purposes for internal decision-making, but also for external accountability so it’s important that they are accurate.
The Child Development faculty team urges FC4 and any other faculty groups to act now and call for a full investigation.

June 2 Board & Mo’ Problems with Ed Tech?

On Thursday, June 2, there was a press conference in front of 226 W. Jackson regarding Child Development and keeping it available at all colleges. I didn’t attend the press conference, but I did speak (for my new monthly activity!) at the board of trustee meeting.

There were so many addresses from faculty and students (and community members) on June 2. Kim Knutson spoke so eloquently about the new procurement bucket for city purchases and students spoke so powerfully about consolidating child development and the recently changed nursing requirements.

I provide my address below. The clip I refer to is hyperlinked in the text.

Good morning, Chair Middleton, trustees, Chancellor Hyman, esteemed colleagues, and honored guests.

My name is Kristin Bivens; I am faculty member from Harold Washington. My doctorate is in technical communication and rhetoric. And this fall, I will proudly celebrate ten years at HW.

You might remember me from last month. I spoke about the infancy of educational technology and caveat emptor; or being cautious, careful, and conscientious spending taxpayer monies on educational technologies.

Today, I want to further contextualize a framework for decision making regarding educational technology or ed tech.

I am a critic of science and technology. I imagine my mind is critical of technology because of two main factors: my grandma Bivens—who lived through the depression and modeled conscious consumption and spending money wisely; and my background and education in technical communication.

Last month, I invited you to be critics of educational technology with me and to embody, as is our responsibility, the spirit and practice of caveat emptor–let the buyer beware.

It might be that it is June, and my brain is relaxed by the sights and sounds of early summer in our Chicago, but I have been thinking about Clark Griswold a little bit.

Do you know the movies starring Chevy Chase as the patriarch of the Griswold family: the National Lampoons movies? If you remember Clark Griswold and his family, they were Chicagoans, too, who liked to vacation in places like Wally World, Vegas, and Europe. I appreciate a good vacation, too.

In National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation, Clark Griswold takes his family to the Hoover Dam. While on the Hoover dam tour, which included getting inside of the actual Hoover dam structure, Clark wanders away from the tour group, and notices there’s a leak in the actual dam.

He pulls chewing gum out of his mouth and seemingly and benevolently, he plugs the leak with his chewing gum in the wall.

For a moment, he stops the leak. Then, suddenly the leaking water is redistributed and  more leaks emerge.


As you can imagine the scene is quite humorous, and I remember laughing quite a bit when I viewed this movie as a younger woman because Clark pulls out more gum, chews it quickly, and plugs up the latest leaks.

For a moment, again, he stops those new leaks, but yet again, the leaking water is redistributed, and creates new leaks.

Clark ends up sneaking away from the mess he has created, leaving it for someone else to fix.

Sometimes, solving one problem creates new problems.

The takeaway from Clark’s Hoover Dam scene is we should endeavor to not create more problems with our solutions.

And if we don’t know, we should ask. I am sure if an engineer was standing next to Clark on the Hoover dam tour, he could have advised him to keep his gum in his mouth.

Chair Middleton and trustees: I hope you think about Clark Griswold when educational technology “solutions” are presented to you.

Thanks for your time and attention.


“Being an Adjunct College Professor can be Awful”

If we cannot help adjuncts now, we must keep it in our minds, so that when there is an opportunity to help, we do not forget them.

It has been a long time–too long–since we reminded ourselves and administration about the ridiculous and unjust plight of adjunct faculty. Over the past year, the issues of consolidation, graduation rates, student success numbers, and the concept of shared governance have taken center stage. These are undoubtedly important issues, and I don’t mean to distract us from them. However, I confess it is shocking to me that graduation rates is talked about more, in my experience, than the plight of adjuncts. Perhaps we see it as an unsolvable issue. One that costs an enormous amount of money, and we should therefore focus our efforts on issues that we can affect positive change.

But in terms of the ways in which we, as an institution, are failing miserably and in a morally reprehensible way, the compensation we provide adjuncts is far and away our number one issue.

So, dear district administrators and fellow faculty, take this as a reminder that we, as an institution, are failing the majority of people who are directly providing our goods–education–to our students. If we cannot help them now, we must keep it in our minds, so that when there is an opportunity to help, we do not forget them.

Remember: 21792. That is the annual wage we provide our most experienced, most hard working, most highly educated part-time faculty. 4 classes per semester. PhD. 7+ years of experience. Less than poverty wages. And nearly four years without a contract, or even a fair contract proposal.


Caveat Emptor with Ed Tech

I signed up to address the Board of Trustees this week. I thought I’d share what I talked about in the four minutes I was allotted to speak:

Good morning, chair Middleton, trustees, Chancellor Hyman, esteemed colleagues, honored guests and to all those known and unknown to me: hello.

Today, I want to provide information for you to consider applying to the decision making process as the board of the City Colleges of Chicago regarding educational technology.

I am Kristin Bivens; a faculty member from Harold Washington. I teach writing there. I have for ten years. My doctorate is in technical communication and rhetoric.

Around HW, I am known as a tech-savvy teacher on my campus where I coordinate the committee on the art and science of teaching. I create videos, podcasts, and digitize content. [For confirmation, see President Martyn.]

But, I am a critic of technology. [I am also skeptical of 3-D printers. Honestly, they freak me out for reasons I cannot elaborate on in four minutes.]

For the past fifteen weeks, I have proudly and dutifully served as one of several HW representatives on the district placement team. [The fruits of the placement teams’ labor, I am told, you will become aware of soon.]

I will use two qualifiers to describe my experience on the district placement team: valuable and worthwhile.

Because of my work on the district placement team I have thought deeply about the role of educational technology in my own, my institution’s, and our district’s pedagogical practices.

And I have thought deeply about what role educational technology should have in our district.

To think more deeply, I used ideas from the Roman M.A.C. Also known as Marcus Aurelius Cicero, or more plainly just Cicero [more than just a street name in our fair city].

Cicero wrote three books, essentially letters to his son, who was studying in Athens. By “studying,” I mean partying and carrying on, obviously to Cicero’s chagrin and displeasure.

Cicero wrote De Officiis or On Duty to his son as a moral treatise about decision making.

I use Cicero’s framework for decision making because I find us — all of us– at a similar stage of moving from adolescence to maturity regarding our use of educational technology.

Difficult decisions regarding educational technology are certain. Cicero reminds us of growing pains, like those I mention here regarding educational technologies:

Above all we must decide who and what manner . . . we wish to be and what calling . . . we would follow; and this is the most difficult problem in the world. For it is in the early years . . . when our judgment is most immature, that each of us decides” (De Officiis, I.XXXII)

We can make choices that serve us in the moment — expedient decisions, which tend to be costly (and sadly, wasteful) when it comes to educational technology.

Or, we can make ethical decisions — those that reflect best pedagogical practices, rooted in empirical, peer reviewed, scholarly research, not white papers, trends, and manufactured educational crises.

Decisions we make — all of us—, but chair Middleton and trustees: you approve or deny purchases that dictate practice for the 110,000 students in a city of nearly 3 million who depend on us to be critical, reflective, and smart.

And best practices in education resoundingly indicate pedagogical needs dictate the technology we use and not vice versa.

[Note: due to time constraints the *next few paragraphs were left out of the four-minute talk.]

*Although a myth, the lesson of the space pen is an important one, as told on snopes.com:

*During the space race back in the 1960’s, NASA was faced with a major problem. The astronaut needed a pen that would write in the vacuum of space. NASA went to work. At a cost of $1.5 million they developed the “Astronaut Pen.” Some of you may remember. It enjoyed minor success on the commercial market.

The Russians were faced with the same dilemma.

They used a pencil.

*According to NASA, Fisher Space Pens eventually went to space; but they were not a NASA-funded project. Although a myth, snopes.com helpfully explains the lesson of the false metaphor: “sometimes we expend a great deal of time, effort, and money to create a “high-tech” solution to a problem, when a perfectly good, cheap, and simple answer is right before our eyes” (para. 4).

I invite you to be critics of educational technology with me and to embody, as is our responsibility, the spirit and practice of caveat emptor–let the buyer beware.  Lest the we be subject to all the undocumented and withheld defects of those educational technological products.

We buy what we buy. So, let’s buy well.

A Love Letter to the Applied Science Dept.

Today, I had the honor of being awarded the “Distinguished Full-Time Faculty of 2015-2016” award. Below is my speech:

Thank you very much for this honor.

I’d like to dedicate this award to my colleagues in the Applied Science department.

I have been fortunate to work on many interesting and important projects over the years and any good work that I have done at HWC in terms of Assessment or accreditation work, any good work that I have done with students – it is all because of the solid foundation I have had based on relationships with colleagues within my department. They have taught me well and this is what I’ve learned: it’s all about the daily interactions with others – that’s what matters most.

Dr. Sammie Dortch designed this department to be interconnected. She challenged all of the instructors to think about how our fields fit together and how we can work together to serve the students. And, that’s what we do best.

Dr. Heathfield, is an internationally recognized practitioner and published author in the field of Youth Work and what I have learned from Michael is that whenever I’m stuck on something it’s always best bring it back to asking the question, “how will this help our students”?

Professor Nix, is a lawyer and Criminal Justice Professor and what I have learned from Brian is how to be patient but also firm with students to help them to be successful.

Professor Ealey, is an Addictions Studies professor. I have literally been sitting next to Anthony for thirteen years. What I have learned from him is that the details matter and that students learn a lot from focusing on specific skills in addition to the big ideas. I’ve also learned how to be helpful. In 13 years whenever I’ve asked for help on something Anthony has always been there to help until the problem is solved.

The adjunct faculty of our department are all leaders in the profession, and what I’ve learned from them is the importance of giving back to the field because if we teach our students well, they will serve the young children and families of Chicago well.

Professor Eason-Montgomery, is professor of Criminal Justice and also Child Development, and what I have learned from Ellen is how to do everything with loving kindness; everything.

Professor Jones is a Child Development professor and what I’ve learned from Janvier is how to stay eternally curious about the teaching and learning process. I’ve learned how to be deeply reflective about pedagogy and how to laugh, a lot. And eat chocolate. I’ve learned a lot about the powers of chocolate.

Professor Asimow is a Child Development professor and longtime coordinator of the program and what I’ve learned from Jen is – basically, everything I know! She has been my mentor since the moment I was hired and I have learned from her every single day. There are too many things to list here, but overall she has taught me to be diligent – to keep pushing myself to learn more in order to be of service to our students and to the community. The greatest compliment I receive is when people confuse me for Jen.

All of this work has been anchored by a calm presence in the Applied Science office that was established for many years by then Department Secretary Latonya Henley who continues to be a massive support to our department even after being promoted, and that has been carried over by our current Department Secretary Sherri Hayden. The Secretary is the first person students often meet in the department and the quality of their interactions with students and with faculty is like the social and emotional glue that holds everything together!

These people in this department have influenced my life and the lives of so many students. It’s impossible to measure, but if I try to understand how this has worked over the years I have to say that it has to do with all of those everyday interactions – the many small moments between people. Put together, this is what makes a life.

So, thank you Applied Science Department for enriching my life and for providing a trusting, welcoming space, which has allowed us to do our best for students.

In the end, that is what matters most.


award 2016.jpg


The Wizards of Oz


Posted on behalf of Michael Heathfield

I am still trying very hard to get my head around what is happening to us at CCC.  Since we are approaching the end of semester, I felt the need to do a little post-modern lifting of the curtain. So the first wizard I encounter is Dr. Josh Wyner, who has a wonderful “four domains framework” on which he believes community college excellence must be based.  It seems eminently sensible to me and the same thinking was clearly behind CCC’s reinvention goals.  For us to be “excellent” we must drive changes in four domains:

  1. Completion
  2. Equity
  3. Learning
  4. Labor Market

It is very difficult to argue with this and Dr. Wyner should know what he is talking about.  He wrote “What Excellent Community Colleges Do: Preparing All Students for Success” (Harvard Education Press, 2014).  Wyner is Vice President and Executive Director of the College Excellence Program at the Aspen Institute.  Unsurprisingly, his text uses extensive data drawn from the finalist colleges in the first two years (2011-13) of the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. The word “reinvent” is used to describe what colleges will need to do if they are to meet the challenge required of them in the 21st century. He uses the word without any of the branding ballyhoo it acquired in Chicago.  You can take a look at Josh’s profile here.

The second wizard behind that curtain is Dr. Davis Jenkins, a senior research associate at the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College. He is a prolific researcher and publisher on Community Colleges.  He is the originator of the pathways approach to community college education. There is a very strong workforce and employment emphasis to his work, strongly evidenced by his role as Data Coach for the Achieving the Dream Network.  This organization makes no small claims about itself and the change potential it represents:

Achieving the Dream—the national, nonprofit leader in championing evidence-based institutional improvement—has seen firsthand what happens when there is a long-term, sustainable commitment to improving student success. Achievement gaps close. Momentum builds. Lives change. Neighborhoods flourish.” See here.

There is no disputing completion and labor market issues are the primary drivers for this organization, alongside the grandiloquent claims about significant community development and change. Dr. Davis is clearly a metric guru and makes a good living from using numbers to make things happen for other people.  You can find his profile here.  I will provide a pint of Boddingtons or Smithwicks for anyone who can be bothered to scour Board Reports to see if CCC has paid him anything for his expertise in our reinventions – one through seven.

This is entirely possible since Dr. Jenkins lives in Chicago. A lot of his research and writing confirms much that I know and have experienced about higher education and student learning on both sides of the Atlantic. Some of his writing shocks me though. I hope it does not signal the future direction of CCC. As many of us know, Chicago reality if very far from a dream for the majority of residents. Dr. Jenkins is clearly the main wizard writing the script for Chicago and, unfortunately, my gut tells me he may remain so. Since Campus Zero has zero academic leadership, how could anything else be in the cards? Brace yourselves.

Davis believes that speed is essential, as are restricted workforce proscribed choices.  Indeed, general education courses are very much in the way of his imperatives.  According to a 2015 article by Anya Kamentz for NPR Ed (here), serving as PR for his new book, his solutions to increase completions include:

  • Getting rid of remedial courses and moving students straight into credit-bearing classes with support for those who need it.
  • Getting rid of general education and creating a small number of exploratory majors that require all students to choose a distinct path right away.

Sound familiar to anyone? There is much to commend in Dr. Jenkins work, but there are also some startling omissions and assumptions.  He is insistent on the ingredients required for success to happen “to scale” and he appears untroubled by the requirement that students must complete 30 credits in one academic year to be “on plan”.  He is honest about the lack of any real research evidence to support the effectiveness of his strategic imperatives.  Dr. Jenkins appears very happy to use evidence provided by key administrators in HE institutions already onboard with the initiatives he recommends.

The whole discourse seems circular, self-feeding and staggeringly instrumental in the simple worldview of student lives.  Not one sniff of sociology forces its way into this version of change.  Students are certainly not agents of anything, simply objects to be structured, guided, and supported by those wiser than they.

Remedies to the ills of community college education are written about as if before “Pathways” there were no such things as degrees, certificates, and programs with required pre-requisites, course sequences or indeed any idea of levels, sequencing or cumulative learning.  This is hogwash.  It is also, primarily, a political discourse.  For students, in K-12 public education, the strategy for unsatisfying and inequitable results is more choice, through as yet very unproven Charters.  Magically, for community college students, the answer for unsatisfying and inequitable results is less choice through as yet, very unproven Pathways.  There is nothing data-driven about any of this.

For sure there is much that is good and useful in these expert analyses and strategies.  There is emerging evidence that highlights the strengths of these ideas in action. There is hardly any evidence of the downsides, as yet. Both these national wizards are very clear that successful change must happen in partnership with faculty. So how does this wizard expertise and wizdom play out in Chicago?

Curtain down, lights up. Intermission. Who will be the first Campus Zero wizard to be revealed?  Coming soon…

Mike Heathfield for FourSee faculty


April Board Meeting

Hi all,

I am a terrible videographer. However, if you are interested in April’s Board meeting, you can find it here,  CCC April Board Meeting. 

Also, Rasmus Lynnerup, was kind enough to forward me the Powerpoint from that meeting. I was going to put this together with the actual video but I have poor time management skills. The presentation of the Powerpoint material attached below begins around the 19 minute mark on the video.

April Board Report PP

There are faculty speeches at about the one hour mark. Jennifer Alexander delivered another great speech asking for more communication between Faculty and District. I hope that her message is being heard and that she can meet with District leadership.

There is another Board Meeting on Thursday at 9am at District. They are instructive and I would encourage all of you to  attend at least one in your career at HWC/CCC.

Happy 15th Week of School,

Mic Drop Armendarez out

Tuesday Teaching Topic: Considering the Value of Student Learning Objectives

In the past few weeks, a number of articles have been published that question the value of Student Learning Outcomes (a selection of articles is linked to below). For example, the report that spawned the discussion presents its thesis as such:

“This report takes a look at how government officials have pressed college accreditors to focus more on “student outcomes”—quantifiable indicators of knowledge acquired, skills learned, degrees attained, and so on. It then argues that it is not these enumerated outcomes that are the best way to hold colleges accountable, but rather the evidence of student engagement in the curriculum—their papers, written examinations, projects, and presentations—that holds the most promise for spurring improvement in higher education. Furthermore, this engagement is also a key factor in keeping students in school all the way to graduation. The report concludes that reformers seeking to enhance college performance and accountability should focus not on fabricated outcome measures but instead on the actual outputs from students’ academic engagement, the best indicators of whether a college is providing the quality teaching, financial aid, and supportive environment that make higher learning possible, especially for the disadvantaged.”

I was introduced to the idea of SLO’s soon after being hired at HWC. After hearing the description, I immediately became skeptical. It struck me as a thin and abstracted means of measuring the value of a whole class. But in my own experiences, the great lessons I learned had almost nothing to do with the neat set of skills that the course was supposed to be about. My lessons were more about understanding the sorts of problems that a discipline engaged in, the limits of those problems, how to utilize the structure of those problems in different spheres. My teachers’s greatest lessons were always larger and grander than what could be captured in an SLO. And I wanted to be that kind of teacher.

But others around me have defended SLO’s. What is your take? Join the conversation here or on the CAST Faculty Lounge on Facebook (and if you are not a member of the group, I invite you to join. I will approve all educators).

Some other recent articles critical of SLO’s:

A reflection on the value of the article, generally supportive.

“Ten Theses in Support of Teaching and against SLO’s.” Thanks to Jeni Meresman for this one.

CASTaway: Brown Bags and Facebook Faculty Lounge

I’d like to announce two big changes to the operations of CAST, effective at least until my term expires in November, and then I’ll explain the motivation for these changes.

The first of these changes concerns the Tuesday meeting time. From now until the end of the semester, we will meet in 1046 on Tuesdays from 1:00pm-3:00pm for a brown bag lunch. All faculty are welcome, without RSVP or reservation, and there is no formal topic of discussion. It will simply be an opportunity to meet with your fellow faculty and talk about classes, teaching, your academic discipline, and so on. We will perhaps occasionally have specific discussion topics or workshops, but now these will be special events rather than the default form.

The second change is more of an addition. We now have a Faculty Lounge on Facebook. Currently, we have 52 members. This mostly includes HWC full-time faculty. But it also includes a number of adjuncts from the Humanities department and a couple administrators. I hope to see more adjuncts there in the future, but I’ll need your help for that: I can only add adjuncts who I know exist, and I only know adjuncts within my own department, with only a couple exceptions.

So why the change? 


Tuesday Teaching Topic: The Final Stretch

As we return from Spring Break, we face seven more weeks before the end of the semester. I find that the timing of Spring Break changes a lot of how the semester precedes. You may have remembered a few years ago when Spring Break took place after week 13. I felt that everyone was exhausted by the time we got to Spring Break, and when we came back, there wasn’t enough time to reignite the course. It was one of the most frustrating three weeks of teaching I can remember.

This year, we have almost half the semester. In my opinion, this is perfect timing for Spring Break. Everyone had a chance to to mid-terms, even if some classes held them slightly after the half-way point.

Yesterday, my classes still needed a bit of a warm up. I gave some problems to my logic students, and predictably, even the best students pre-break struggled with some basic problems. By the end of the session it seemed that everyone had gotten caught up to where they were before. We’ll see how today goes.

What particular problems do your classes face when returning from Spring Break? Is it business as usual, or do you use the temporal break to make some pedagogical or ideological shift in your classes?

As a side note, CAST now has a Facebook page: the CAST Facebook Faculty Lounge. I’ll post shortly about the purpose of the new page, but please join us at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1699185250329859/

I will approve all requesters, assuming they have some loose connection with pedagogy. If you wish to remain anonymous to the Facebook world but would like to join, just send me a note about who you are and I’ll admit you to the group.

Credit where credit is due

Posted on behalf of Professor Michael Heathfield. 


Huge credit is due to Dr. Margie Martyn and the team that pulled together an excellent State of the College meeting on Friday of last week. I loved it. It is good for all of us to communally listen to the authentic and diverse voices of our students sharing how they navigate their own particular journeys of success.  As was beautifully articulated, they do this with vital support from the many stellar employees at HWC.  It’s good to know we are also doing impressive things to reduce our carbon footprint.


Just imagine if Jim, Gabrielle, Anna and Nanmin were asked to share their real stories with the Board of Trustees and Chancellor Hyman.  My doctorate is in Educational Research and in qualitative research, authenticity of voice is very important.  You can get people to say all kinds of things, even in life and death situations, sometimes clearly against their own interests, but the authentic voice is the gold standard; “world class” if you like.  In the criminal justice world, the verbal confession used to be the gold standard of evidence, but it is no more.  DNA evidence has swept all before it and released numerous wrongly convicted men from jail despite their earlier “confession” of guilt.


I noticed Executive Vice Chancellor Laurent Pernot was there briefly, feverishly making notes, but my guess is that his notes will not capture the pride and confirmation that this State of the College generated in the hearts and minds of many in the room.  Of course, these student stories were a reinvigorating reminder that this is the quality work HWC has been doing for decades.  We should all be very proud of the longstanding work we do together in providing transformational opportunities for our students.  HWC is an exciting and innovative place to work and we rightly guard this downtown gem with much passion and love.  This is, and will remain, a very special place to work.  Passion and love are very hard to capture as data, so it is of little interest to Campus Zero and their world of mythical metrics.  So let’s give our HWC Administrators the first ever Aspen Award2 for knowing that in times of great challenge, we must frequently be reminded of the strengths, gifts and capacities that public educators use for the greater good. Political narratives use dirty data to spin stories of triumph or disaster and should have no place in public education.


Since we are moving heavily into the zone of less easy to capture phenomena, I wanted to share with you what happened in my new Social Science 105 class.  I have just graded their first assignment in which they told me a little of their lives and then explored three American social issues. They had to connect broader social issues to their own individual experiences. A full half of the class chose to write about the cost of education and the recent rise in the cost of their tuition. Got to love our students, using opportunities of choice and freedom, to tell it like it is.  We have yet to reach their textbook chapter on “Education”.  What a lovely lesson in the difference between book learning and life learning.


When love is in the air, it always is wrapped up with challenge and vulnerability.  Love has never been an easy ride.  So as a challenge to all those I love at HWC, I would like to offer the prize of the first ever Aspen Award3 to the first HWC employee to correctly identify which, if any, of the wonderful students sharing their success stories at the State of the College is, or will be, a contributor to our much-lauded IPED’s graduation rate?  You will need evidence – we don’t give these awards away without proof.  Love bites!


“When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.”

Jimi Hendrix


Mike Heathfield


Akademos: Have you experienced any difficulties this semester? [Update]

Meanwhile, in “Noconfidenceindistrictoplis,” our heroes struggle to even be students…

Last fall, I actually expressed to my dean how surprisingly wonderful the Akademos user interface was for ordering books.

I should have known better.

My classes are currently plagued with students who do not yet have their books. We’re in week four, and students report they haven’t received their books. On the first week, a number of students claimed they had no way of knowing what books to buy. I’m sure the information was available to them, but they didn’t know where to get it. Today, I heard two reports in my smallest class of one student still waiting on his book (though he ordered it on week two) and another student who first experienced a delay in shipping, only to receive a book for a psychology class. And psychology is not philosophy (we often get confused by people or businesses that don’t understand academics).

Maybe some of my students are exaggerating their book woes, or blaming the system when it is in fact their fault. But it can’t be true for all students.

If we had a brick and mortar supply, I would know that they had a clear opportunity to get their books. Now? We’re in week four and some students may yet have cracked the cover of principal core texts.

Is anyone else having problems with Akademos? Good, bad, or weird, share your experiences in the comments.

UPDATE: Within twenty minutes of posting this, I received a phone call from an Akademos representative. The rep told me someone had alerted her about this post. They offered to provide information for any or all of my students on when they ordered the book and whether they’ve received it or not. This feels a little creepy to me. I accepted the information anyway, confident that I’ll use my knowledge of ethical theories to justify this some way or another. Utilitarianism usually works in such cases, but I’m screwed in Kant’s categorical imperative. Anyway, I learned that a grand total of 8 of my 15 students had ordered a book through Akademos. The two students I referred to above didn’t order their books until early February, despite reporting to me for weeks that their books were ordered and on the way. The story about receiving a psychology book instead of the philosophy book was confirmed. This is no less frustrating than before, but the fact that students waited until February to order books means that they must share in the responsibility.