Think, Know, Prove: Merit Pay–Some Considerations

Think, Know, Prove is an occasional Friday 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.

Our current contract went into effect on July 16, 2013 and includes a little provision in Article VI, Section C, as you might recall, called “Student Success Pay.” This was, shall we say, a controversial aspect of the contract. Our Union leadership at the time made the case that we should like it because, “Hey, free money!” (I’m paraphrasing). And now, one month short of halfway through our contract, I’m not sure that anyone is any closer to understanding this provision than when it was proposed. Two important considerations jump out–one is principle and one is practical. We’ll take the easier of the two first.


Website Wednesday: The Digital Quad

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.

Wright College President, David Potash, was less enthusiastic about the New York Times Education articles than I was, apparently. How do I know this? Because I check out his blog every couple of weeks to see what he’s been reading (and writing) about. In fact, you have two options! There’s The Digital Quad for his reviews and thoughts about Higher Ed and then hynagogicfun for everything else,

You’ll mostly find book reviews, though he sprinkles in the occasional essay (such as this recent one on transcripts). They are well written and thoughtful engagements with the books and brief enough to read pretty quickly. They are also consistently and deliberately structured and unfailingly fair in their presentation of the books, regardless of the quality of his views of them.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve thought about using one or another of his essays more than once as models for student writing about the books we’re reading and examples of the “They Say, I Say” approach, exemplifying how to say something about a book, present a summary of it, and then elaborate on the original thesis.

I am grateful that he’s willing to read a lot of stuff that I have no interest in reading or have interest in but not the time. It’s also interesting to see what he has to say about books I’ve read and admired (such as Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow and Edward Tufte’s The Visual Display of Information). I don’t always agree with his assessments, as I didn’t with respect to How College Works, but even in those cases, I appreciate the value of reading another view and being forced to rethink my own. The posts tend to follow the rhythms of the semester, you can expect a flurry (ok, that might be overstating it, but whatever) of new posts as semesters begin and end, with a post or two sprinkled in the middle. More in the summer and over breaks than during the semester when the responsibilities of the college press a bit harder, but it’s clear that whether reviewing or not, the reading is a constant

If I were forced to provide a criticism, either by a structural commitment or a forceful interlocutor, it would be that it’s impossible, ti seems, to post any comments on his site. I tried to once, but after writing it up and then signing in and then rewriting it and then hitting various buttons, I was faced with a prompt that rejected my attempt.

So, don’t try to talk back–these communication channels only run one way. But, all things considered, I guess that’s appropriate, in a way, too. Anyway, check them out, particularly The Digital Quad. It’s worth your time.

Food Tomfoolery on Eleven: Considerations for Consideration

On Tuesday, faculty will come together at 30 East Lake Street for HW Faculty Development 2014. On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, our excellent CAST leadership, Megan Ritt and Andrew Cutcher, have arranged (like John and Gitte in the past) for boxed lunches. Only on Friday will we have to brown bag it. And, I’m not complaining. Food is expensive.

I’ve written a few posts this year, and I’ve mentioned how grateful I am for the sabbatical I have been on and the research I have been able to undertake and write about. I am grateful for past (and current) union leadership who have laid the groundwork for the concentrated (and paid) professional development sabbaticals provide. I would not have been able to eat without earning my salary while on sabbatical.

On Monday, August 25, I, like my colleagues, will greet new students, and in my ENG 101s, I will use the course I designed two years ago. The theme of the course is food, and in it my students begin by learning about food deserts in Chicago. No, not sweet desserts that follow a meal, but food deserts–the places in the city of Chicago that Mari Gallagher made noticeable with her research.

Ever hear of a food desert? A food deserts is a place where access to fresh produce and meats, like those found in a supermarket, are miles away. You might live in one. Our students live in food deserts. Our employees live in food deserts. Regardless of access to food, or even with access, some people can’t afford it.

In 2013, the Mayor’s office released data suggesting that 400,000 people in Chicago live in a food desert with the nearest grocery store 1/2 a mile away. And still, putting grocery stores closer to those who live in food deserts doesn’t put money in their pockets to buy food. I’m sure the content of this post comes as no surprise to most, especially educators in the CCC system.

If you’ve read your CCC e-mail recently, you may have noticed the announcement regarding stolen lunches on the 11th floor. In the e-mail, it states, “Please be aware that theft is an offense punishable by termination,” and while I agree with the e-mail, I found myself wondering, or better yet trying to understand, why someone would steal food from the break room?

If whomever is stealing food is hungry, then stealing the food isn’t the crime. If a member of our HW community is hungry, what can we do about it? What should we do about it? What can we do about it? We can be complacent, and we can enforce rules that deny the nuances of the situation, or we can see this for a problem that plagues our city and our college and strive to solve the problem. We can start in our own community at HW.

What I Love About Ephrem

UPDATE: So, I don’t know where I went wrong, but as you can see from Ephrem’s statement in the comments, I clearly have. Somewhere along the way, I came under the impression that today was Ephrem’s last day. Not the first time I’ve been wrong, and certainly not the last. And despite that error, I stand by the rest. What’s wrong, after all, with a little celebration of a good man, even if it is a bit premature…nothing, says I, not a thing.

Today is the last day of Ephrem’s second career at HWC.

There are many, many things that I love (and will miss) about Ephrem Rabin, but number one among them is the warmth and kindness and good cheer that he continuously spreads through the hallways and classrooms of our building. He is a one-man morale boosting, joy-sprinkling carnival of kindness. Every time I see him, he shares a compliment or a nice story or a kindness of some sort. Every time I see him see someone else, he does the same.

I will miss you a lot, Ephrem, and I am so very very grateful for the ten years of kindness you have shared with me and others.  I hope your new grandchild is just one of many, many blessings that await you in the next phase of your path.

May there be many a summer morning when,/with what pleasure, what joy,/you come into harbors seen for the first time“.

Please Pardon the Construction

For some reason unknown to me, the site started to display differently yesterday. My guess is that it has something to do with making the site (or the theme I was using) more mobile-friendly. I’m pretty sure it was unrelated to the union hoo-hah, but one never knows. Anyway, I’m trying to find a new theme that I like and that will display the site better. My theory at this point is that I have to shrink (or eliminate) the blog roll to do so.

More on the union stuff later this week.

In The News

You may have missed it amid the finals hoo-hah, but Hector Reyes (Physical Science), Rochelle Robinson-Dukes (VP, CCC faculty and professionals union), Dolores Withers (President,  clericals’ union), and Floyd Bednarz (President, adjuncts’ union) wrote a letter that garnered some national news coverage. The comments section of the latter is particularly interesting, I thought. There’s even a cool image on the HWC union website that you can print out and put up somewhere if you’re of a mind to do so.

In other news near and dear to Hector’s heart, AAUP investigators issued a report condemning the President of Northeastern Illinois for retaliation against a professor there (coverage here and here).

Saturday Morning Musings

Saturday Morning musings is a semi-infrequent post consisting of complaints, critiques, questions and concerns paired with tips, lessons learned and happy thoughts.  Really, the author has a few minutes and a few things to say and hopes that others will find it worth reading.

On Midterm grade posting

Question:  Why is there a lag when we enter in a letter grade from student to student?  Why must we pause for 2 seconds while the grade inputs before moving onto the next? Why can’t this be more like grade entry in excel of Bb?

Happy thought: It’s so nice being able to actually not turn in paper ADW’s and paper grades despite a few hiccups with the ADWs.


On Blackboard

A tip:  For the last few years, I’ve been frustrated by the fact that in the upper left hand drop down toggle menu (the one that toggles between your courses), my most recent courses were not my most recent.  In fact, it seemed like the Bb gods had chosen the most useless, arbitrary combination of courses to display thereby making my search for my current courses an adventure every time.  But I got an answer from Bb after waiting for nearly 2 years.  Here it is if this affects you.  It works.

Go into Settings (you can get there by clicking on your name).  Then click on Personalize my settings and enter a number of days for which you want to see courses.  I did 365 and that seemed to work.  Now you’ll only those the courses you’ve accessed in that period of time.


On copies

I’ll save this for another day.  Enjoy this lovely brisk fall Saturday.



UPDATE: Rendered moot in the same day! I am both impressed and grateful for our administration’s responsiveness, even as I feel somewhat guilty for putting them on blast (without warning). I wrote this on a day I was frustrated and then scheduled it and then pulled it (or so I thought), thinking that I should send some notice upstairs first. I guess I my effort to de-schedule it was inept, though, and I was somewhat surprised to find it posted today. I’m glad the manual is under review, but I am sorry that I didn’t give our hard-working administrators a chance to do something about it  before turning it into a public spectacle. That was my bad. Thanks to Don and company for the fast response.


Is anyone else troubled by the fact that there are no instructions for what to do in the case of a lock-down in our Emergency  Manual and that somewhere around half of the people identified as having some sort of responsibility are no longer employed at the college and that the Emergency Manuals might be some of the least user friendly documents produced by the college (at least until the new “Pathways” are released), which is saying something?

(Poor Dean Blair–his fellow escalator monitors are Cecilia Lopez, Anna Blum, and John Metoyer (p. 33). Not only that, but apparently John Wozniak is our Emergency Director!)

I know, I know…the names aren’t really that important (and, truthfully, I don’t really care about that; I’m just playing). During the last fire drill, there were plenty of monitors and help for clearing out the building; everything seemed to be working smoothly and well, for evacuations anyway. I don’t know how the “Safe Haven” card things are supposed to work for anything other than drills. I taped mine up near my door on the Tuesday before the drill and it was gone by Thursday. A few people have them up in their office windows, probably having interpreted their meaning according to the broader social and K-12 usage of the term. I just don’t see how it would all work. Maybe I’m dense.

I continue to think that the biggest dangers and threats any of us might face, as identified in a Faculty Council survey a couple of years ago, continue to exist, largely unaddressed, but I also know that a certain amount of risk is inevitable and that our risk for something awful happening is (knock on wood) low. Still, I have printed out and laminated this sign for posting in the classes that I’m teaching in. I won’t be able to lock my door from the inside on Thursday for this drill, but at least with the new biometrics system, they’ll have a way of identifying me if something goes really wrong some day.

So we’ve got that going for us. Which is nice.

Any contact with the contract?

I gots this nagging concern about our new contract. I’ve had it since the day I voted. That was months ago.

We are now days away from the expiration of our current contract – July 15, 2013.

I’ve yet to see or hear what changes, if any, are being made to the new contract that will go into effect July 16, 2013.

Has anypeep heard anything about the AGREEMENT Between Board of Trustees of Community College District No. 508, County of Cook and State of Illinois and the Cook County College Teachers Union, Local 1600 AFT, AFL-CIO, Chicago, Illinois (Faculty and Training Specialists)?

I know union reps are busy in Springfield, but it shouldn’t be an excuse to put this matter off. It’s been kicked down the road one too many times.

There is No Food

Don’s post reminds me of this video.

No, I dont mean no harm or any ill towards our Don. I totally understand why he made this decision. I’m glad he’s givin’ us a heads-up. If the state is broke, then so be it. We’ve worked around other shortcomings before and I’m sure we’ll find our way around this one. Food bills add up in a hurry and if it means I have to pay for doughnuts and bring enough for 6 peeps instead of 5, then I got the coffee covered too.

I’m declaring the upcoming school year as BYOFaD (bring your own food and drink (and leave your whine at home)) year.
I can live with that. Can you?

Happy Administrative Professionals Day

Take a moment today to thank the professional members of the college and your respective departments to wish them a Happy Administrative Professionals Day. For more information on the day and the week-long celebration, click here.

Today, there are more than 4.1 million secretaries and administrative assistants working in the United States, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics, and 8.9 million people working in various administrative support roles.

That’s according to the website.

As a faculty member, I’ve relied heavily on the assistance of our professionals. First it was Latonya in Applied Science. Now it’s Shirley in Art and Architecture. Along the way, Seneca and Virna have provided their share of assistance. I know I’m missing a lot of names. Feel free to mention them.