Where are we then after all this?

1) Undeniably closer to a mandatory five-day District Wide Faculty Development Week (DWFDW). As you probably saw, Dean Metoyer sent out an email this week announcing, as a courtesy to faculty for planning purposes, that (still tentative) plans are moving ahead at district for a week of all day activities running August 9th through the 13th, which it seems will not count toward the thirty hours of registration. I am 99% sure they will be limited to six hours per day by the contract (we work 30 hour weeks by the contract (insert snort here) and there is a clause that says faculty cannot be assigned to more than 6 hours per day of registration duties (I presume this also applies to non-registration duties during the registration period, but I’m not completely sure about that)).

2) HW faculty have been pretty clear about their feelings on this development. Our poll about DWFDW got 43 votes (out of the 114 of so full time faculty). 37 (86%) thought it was a bad idea for 2010 (for various reasons), and 4 more (9%) were unsure. Only two (5%) were in favor of it for Fall 2010. That’s pretty solid response and resistance to the idea of a DWFDW in the fall.

The resistance, it should be noted, is NOT to the idea of faculty development in general—in fact there is very strong support for local faculty development, likely attributable to the great work of our CAST committee over the last five years or so, under the leadership of Art DiVito, Jen Armendarez, Janvier Jones and Chris Sabino, and faculty awareness of the literature on effective professional development for educators (like this, “Professional development should be job-embedded and site specific.” And this, “The all-to-common failure to involve teachers in the planning and delivery of professional development undermines its legitimacy and efficacy.” (For more on research related to educational professional development check out this or this or this or this as starting points. If you have more, post them in the comments!)).

Most of the objections in the comments seem to revolve around the way this was done (i.e., the general impression is that, with little advance thought or consideration, existing plans have been chucked in favor of an ill defined “program” of “training” that faculty will have little input into given the timing of the planning) rather than to the idea itself (e.g., here).  I read the majority of the comments to suggest that HW faculty recognize the value—even necessity—of some District Wide conversation and collaboration, but decry the fact that it comes at the expense of (equally or more urgent) local conversation and collaboration.  See, for example: here or here.

The votes, on the other hand, suggest a different story. 63% of those voting (27 out of 43) say that FDW should be local only. That’s a significant plurality that should not be ignored (as a young philosopher rightly points out here), even if that position is not as clearly advocated in the comments.

(It should be noted that for this “analysis” I am assuming that all of the voters were full time faculty since A) adjuncts are relatively unaffected by this*; B) traffic to the blog had dribbled down to a handful of visitors a day during finals week (when the post went up); and C) the email announcing the post went out to full time faculty only. There may be an adjunct or two in there, but I doubt it. In any case, the point is that there is significant and widespread opposition to a DWFDW in Fall 2010. Not a huge surprise in itself, but it’s nice to have a solid sense of things outside of our subjective guesses. Big thanks to the faculty who shared their thoughts on the matter. (*There is likely to be some effect on adjuncts though. I’ve known some who went to and enjoyed Faculty Development Week at HW. It seems that the DWFDW will not include adjuncts (if the first meetings minutes are any indication), effectively cutting out a rare PD opportunity for them. I wonder what, if anything, they will have to say about it?))

3) What the faculty wants to happen in light of the reality of the situation—the somewhat delicate politics of a new chancellor’s first initiative and the scattering of burnt out faculty for the summer vacation—is somewhat less clear. There were half as many votes (21) for the “action” poll, though most of those who voted (17—81%) advocated for sending a letter of objection to someone (one of those was in the “Other” category but was explained in the comments as being a vote for the letter with an emphasis on cordiality).

As that discussion developed, Sabino got an email from Metoyer on May 19th saying DWFDW looked “like a done deal,” which launched a round of FC discussion, including the expression of hesitance from two members whose doubts/ideas included wanting to avoid creating the impression of a “judgmental and difficult” faculty, questions about who should be the signatory of the letter (FC, the HW Faculty, the heads of committees and groups, the union, other Faculty Councils, FC4 etc.), and whether we should re-discuss with faculty in light of the different circumstances (a seeming certainty rather than probable possibility).

As of May 20th, three members were on record as being in favor of sending the letter, with one suggesting that it should go to VC Henderson. Two members did not weigh in, but followed along. One member was opposed to sending the letter (unless it came from HW faculty, but even then generally opposed), and one member was in favor of circulating the letter informally among HW administration, and other groups such as the Union, etc., to build “a base of resistance” and consensus for addressing future situations of this sort.  Later that same day, after more discussion, the latter agreed to sending the letter, though not without lingering hesitance, and with the suggestions that we 1) let John (Wozniak) know what we are doing; 2) inform the other FCs and invite them to join; and 3) develop a position statement on PD.

That same day, Loos reached out to Eason-Montgomery to find out where FC4 is on the whole thing, and her response suggested that, though aware of the proposal, FC4 Executive Committee did not have plans to address it until after the fact. They definitely did not address it at their last meeting (which was not attended by most of the mighty powers due to a conflicting budget meeting; Cecilia was there, but encouraged by the FC4EC to go to the budget meeting instead.). “[W]e are aware of the FDW plans (but don’t know the details). We will resume the discussion when the District Faculty Council resumes session in the Fall,” she wrote.

So, with four of seven HW Council members agreeing to a theoretical version of the letter, I expect one to go out from HWFC (at least the supporting members) to someone (TBD) this week or early next week at the latest, and I am guessing that we’ll honor the suggestions of our colleague to circulate the letter to HW administrators (who likely already know of its existence, but it’s an important courtesy) and other FCs. I will post a copy of the letter here once it is drafted and signed, so you’ll know what we said.

Like others, I don’t expect the recipients of the letter to read it and suddenly see the clear light of reason illuminating the error of their ways causing them to suddenly revise the plans they are so busily engaged in crafting. Instead, I hope it is one piece of the ongoing, committed effort  of all faculty to make sure that we do all we can to prevent what is bad in bad ideas while being part of the solution to the real and numerous professional problems and challenges we face, remembering all along that we face most of these challenges shoulder to shoulder with our administration. Like many of those in the comments have said (Realist, Alchemist, et. al.), I think it’s important for all of us to remember that we are not at war with anyone, and the vast majority of our administrators want the same things we do and are motivated by ideas not entirely at odds with our own (which I write as if I can speak of the faculty as a monolithic whole–itself a dangerous idea).

Some of you may remember the great email war of April 2007  that I waged with Art DiVito and Mike Ruggeri about over The Academic Freedom Newsletter and their preemptive criticism of those (admittedly, mostly awful) Faculty Development Seminars. As awful as some of them were (I got to watch a PowerPoint presentation on “Active Learning” in the one I went to—I never get tired of telling people that), I was reminded as this debate went on of a point I made then, made again by Kamran Swanson in the comments—that we should not turn our backs on opportunities to learn, since that position undercuts the very point of what we’re committed to, professionally speaking and should instead get involved to make them better. This situation is different in a lot of ways than that one (primarily that those seminars did not replace any local, better endeavors), but similar enough to raise some of the same considerations. I’ve also been somewhat persuaded by the arguments of those who say we would all benefit from a little more cross institutional time, especially at the discipline (or at least department) levels and broader awareness of the strengths and challenges of the other schools in the system. In any case, there are a lot of questions in play here, and I think it’s important that we keep thinking about how to carefully untangle them so we answer all of them to the best of our ability.

I guess my point is that where this goes from here—after the initial discussion and flurry and the letter and the like—is up to you, the person reading this, and I encourage you to think about your own ideas regarding Faculty Development and what it ought to look like. I encourage you to express your personal dissatisfaction (by letter or email or whatever), if you have any, to our administrators, as well as district (actually, I think now that maybe we should have encouraged that from the start even as we worked to develop a more formal response. So it goes) and attend the planning meetings to try, at least, to mould the offerings in a better direction than they might otherwise take. If nothing else, do what you can to make sure that our one day at HW (likely, Monday August 9th) is a valuable, impactful one.

Or, if you’d like, express your support for the idea. Volunteer to present or at least attend the planning meetings or  start thinking about how to approach (and win over) those of us who will be resistant to the idea.

And all of you should think about how we might be able to use this situation (all angles of it from start to finish) as a learning experience. Some of your colleagues have already started making such suggestions as here and here and here and here. Sign up, speak up, or act up—your choice. Just don’t drop it here, at least not completely. My final request is that you keep the rest of us informed about what you’re doing or planning so we can help, argue, or stay out of the way.

I’ll have another update in the next few weeks as things develop. In the meantime, let’s keep talking and thinking about it…