Panel of Big Shots

See the big shots, give ’em a piece of your mind, or see if you can find theirs!

It’s free, it’s close, it’s at an inconvenient time, but it’s free!

From your email:

Attention: all City Colleges students, faculty, staff and administrators

Lt. Governor Sheila Simon will be making a CCC stop on her Complete College Listening Tour at Malcolm X College.  As Lt. Governor Simon tours all 48 Illinois community colleges, she will be promoting the state goal of having 60 percent of all working –age adults hold college degrees or certificates by 2025.

Simon will participate in a panel discussion on how the state-wide completion goal relates to CCC’s Reinvention strategy.  All City Colleges students, faculty, staff and administrators are invited to attend.

Tuesday, October 4th at 10 a.m.
Malcolm X College
Bruce K. Hayden Performance Center
1900 West Van Buren

Joining Simon on the panel are:

Alexi Giannoulias, chairman of the Illinois Community College Board
Gery Chico, chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education
Perry Buckley, president of the Local 1600, Illinois Federation of Teachers

On the tour, Lt. Governor Simon is learning what each Illinois community college is doing to improve completion and how the state can help schools overcome barriers to the completion goal.

All City Colleges students, faculty, staff and administrators are invited to attend and participate in the discussion.

On Negotiating

I thought this was an insightful and interesting piece on negotiation and the views of it from outside the negotiating room (which often affect what goes on inside).

I want here to look at what universities can learn from legislative paralysis, particularly the gridlock stymieing Washington. I start from the assumption that universities, more than most organizations, emphasize achieving consensus in decisions. At times, many of us in academe take pride in our commitment to consensus-based decision making, aligning it with such positive values as involving people in the decisions that affect them and favoring persuasion over coercion. At other times, however, even the most forceful advocates of consensus-based decision-making, among whom I count myself, get impatient. Our frustration leads to familiar complaints about herding cats, never getting another accomplished, and enduring interminable meetings that only complicate problems instead of resolving them.

Our commitment to consensus waxes and wanes for many reasons but primarily because we are ambivalent about compromise. Compromise is almost always essential to achieving consensus in higher education. A proposed major change in a university – for example, a revision in the academic calendar or curriculum – typically attracts a core of supporters and an equally vocal group of naysayers. Between these extremes lies a not yet committed, more or less curious group, sometimes a majority of faculty members, who need to be brought along if the proposal is going to succeed. I say “succeed” rather than “pass” because without sufficient support, even a proposal approved by the majority can still be sabotaged or at least stalled. Tenured faculty opponents of the change can continue their dissent with impunity. Lukewarm faculty members can maintain their disengagement, refusing to staff key committees that may be necessary to implementing the change. Although unanimity is neither essential nor realistic, sufficient consensus, not just a majority vote, is crucial.

I particularly liked this paragraph:

Listening is especially important to fostering constructive conversations. When people feel unheard, they clam up or shout. It is hard to listen to someone else when we ourselves feel unacknowledged, when we are stewing over our own bottled up thoughts and feelings instead of expressing them to a responsive audience. The best university leaders show how we all can move from monologues – venting to friends, lecturing to subordinates, complaining to a spouse or partner – into learning conversations with the very people we want to avoid.

There are other good ones, too. Read the rest HERE.


Economic Distributions

This one comes via recommendation from Adriana Tapanes (Humanities):

The 5 percent of Americans with the highest incomes now account for 37 percent of all consumer purchases, according to the latest research from Moody’s Analytics. That should come as no surprise. Our society has become more and more unequal.

When so much income goes to the top, the middle class doesn’t have enough purchasing power to keep the economy going without sinking ever more deeply into debt — which, as we’ve seen, ends badly. An economy so dependent on the spending of a few is also prone to great booms and busts. The rich splurge and speculate when their savings are doing well. But when the values of their assets tumble, they pull back. That can lead to wild gyrations. Sound familiar?

Personally speaking, I’m not a big Robert Reich fan, but it’s definitely a thought provoking piece. You can read the rest here. Thanks for the suggestion, Adriana.

Reading While Grilling

I’m not sure I’d recommend it (Safety First!), but, no matter when you read it, this one will give you some interesting things to think about if you’re cooking today.

I teach a class on the philosophy and politics of food. Taking off from the dictum “You are what you eat,” the class examines how our relationship to food—mediated by politics, economics, ethics, and aesthetics—influences who we are as a species and as individuals. We examine what it means to cultivate and digest other living things and how that experience of conquest helps form ideas about identity and power.

Given that food is implicated in those relations of power regardless of what one eats, a primary aim of the class is to get students to think about why we tend to talk about food as an issue of individual choice. In an age in which politics and consumerism are often conflated with exhortations to “vote with your dollar,” the class strives to develop a vocabulary for food politics that is not reducible to consumer choice.

I’m sure I’ll think about it at some point as my big ol’ dry rubbed pork shoulder smokes over hickory and oak. Happy Labor Day!

Pension Reform Shennanigans

Forwarded from Mike Ruggeri, posted by request:


Please spread the word to every member on your campus. We need an all out blitz to stop this attack [by enemies of teacher pensions;] they now appear to have the support of Michael Madigan, Speaker of the House. Our futures hang in the balance. We need every member to call, write, and e-mail their legislators. Tell them that you are a Local1600 member. Tell them that you have never missed a pension payment out of your paycheck. Tell them that the problem is not overly generous benefits. It is the failure of the state to make their required payments.

As Ty Fahner said, “You know what’s at stake.”

Bill Naegele, Legislative Representative
Cook County College Teachers Union
Local 1600-AFT, IFT, AFL-CIO
208 West Kinzie Street
Chicago, Illinois 60610
fax 312-755-1030

You may be wondering, as I was, who Ty Fahner is and what he has to do with faculty pensions. That information is included in an email from the IFT:

—– Forwarded Message —-
From: Steve Preckwinkle <>
To: IFTEXECUTIVEBOARD <>; Department All IFT <>
Sent: Thu, April 28, 2011 3:43:44 PM

The following message was sent this morning to a large email list from Ty Fahner, president of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, one of the most influential business groups in Chicago:

“You know what’s at stake — now we need to get to work. We’re just weeks away from a potentially historic vote on pension reform legislation that could save our state from financial disaster. I’m writing you personally, one Illinoisan to another, to ask for your help in sending a powerful message to our leaders in Springfield.

“We don’t have any time to waste. Our state is being crushed under the weight of $140 billion in retirement-related debt– that’s $30,000 in debt for each and every household in Illinois.

“We need to urge all our state legislators to vote “yes” on pension reform and begin to dig Illinois out of the giant hole we’re in.

For the future of our state, please take three minutes to write your legislators and tell them to support this bill.”

This morning we learned more about this bill, which would apply to every active member of SERS, SURS and TRS (Chicago Teachers are excluded at this time but could be added before a vote is taken). The bill will likely offer 3 choices for participation in the plans going forward (all benefits earned to date would be unaffected):

Choice 1. Stay in the current plan, but pay up to twice as much as current rates. For TRS, that could mean anywhere from 14% of pay to 18% of pay.

Choice 2. Go into the plan for new hires, which means you will work until age 67 with a lower benefit and decimated COLA to look forward to after that.

Choice 3. Go into a 401k type plan, in effect freezing current pension credits and putting your fate in the hands of the stock market. For most of our members there would continue to be no Social Security safety net provided to them.

There are no other options for you to choose under this legislation.

At this time, we don’t know about who might be grandfathered into their current plans based on being near retirement age.

This bill will be initiated in the House, and presumably have the support of both House Speaker Michael Madigan and House Republican Leader Tom Cross. If it passes the House, it must still be voted on in the Senate and signed by the governor or overridden if vetoed. We could see the actual bill as early as next week.

Starting tomorrow, the IFT along with our labor coalition partners will be responding. Lots of helpful information will be posted on our website by Friday afternoon, a blast email will be going to all members on Monday, worksite flyers are being prepared, and Dan will be recording a robo call to all members. In addition, we will be using click-to-call lawmakers software, continuing with our in-district meetings, and initiating a new “virtual lobby day” for our members statewide.

TV ads begin early next week airing statewide on broadcast TV, part of a million dollar effort in conjunction with other public sector unions and the Illinois AFL-CIO.

I realize this has been a long year already for our members and local leaders, but we are asking for a few more weeks of effort to defeat these mean-spirited and harmful proposals.

If you have not yet committed to sending a delegation to lobby day on Tuesday, May 3, it is not too late. If for any reason that is not possible, please make sure every one of your members communicates one way or the other with their lawmakers on this subject which is vital to the future of all IFT members.

This is a winnable fight, but we have to outwork our opponents. Please let me know if you have any questions. The communications staff is busy working up the updates, print materials, robo calls and web content. You will receive additional information as it becomes available.

Steve Preckwinkle
Director of Political Activities
T: 217/544-8562, ext. 12
F: 217/544-1729

Illinois Federation of Teachers
700 S. College St.
Springfield, IL 62704

New York Experiment Ends Poorly/Well: A Matter of Perspective

A few regular readers sent in a suggestion that this news get a post–it’s the sad, sad tale of a business woman, with no educational leadership experience and a fairly unpolished public speaking approach, being appointed Chancellor of a huge school system and promptly alienating parents, students, and teachers to the point that the Mayor who had appointed her basically demanded her resignation less than three months into her reign:

New York City parents are celebrating the resignation of Schools Chancellor Cathie Black and her Deputy, John White. Black, who served less than 100 days, was a bizarre appointment by NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who, like Chicago’s mayor, runs the schools. Black’s previous experience was in the publishing world (Hearst Publications, USA Today); she needed a waiver of all education requirements from the state legislature to become chancellor. (Of course, our legislature waived any and all CPS CEOs from such requirements in 1995.)

Black almost immediately alienated NYC parents when she suggested “birth control” as a remedy for overcrowded classrooms. Things went downhill from there.

Here’s another link (to the NY Times) with the full story.

h/t to the loyal readers. You know who you are. (I didn’t know, however, if you’d want attribution on this one so I’m erring to the side of caution.)

PS: Given the NY Times’ new online subscription policy, I’m going to try to be mindful of it and limit my links (or, whenever possible, provide an alternative link to the same news). I mention it here just to remind you all that if you don’t subscribe, there is a monthly limit to the free reading you can do on their site. Carry on.

Illinois Education Reform Package

A link to this page arrived in my email yesterday, via my State Senator, Illinois Democratic Majority Leader John Cullerton, featuring news about ongoing work to build Illinois’ Education Reform Package.

Since January, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Kim Lightford has led a series of intense negotiations meetings aimed at crafting a substantial education reform bill for Illinois.  Throughout the process, education stakeholder groups have worked through the finer details on a number of issues that will ultimately affect teacher performance and school accountability.

Lightford, who will be conducting another meeting on Thursday, April 7, provided the media with a briefing of the progress that has been made and the disagreements that she hopes to resolve quickly.

So far, the group has agreed on reforms affecting teacher tenure, giving school leaders more flexibility in filling teaching vacancies and making sure that every class is taught by good teachers.  In addition, Lightford says, other reforms to increase accountabilty for school administrators and potentially school board members are part of the discussions.

What was the topic of that “meeting on April 7th”? The right to strike…

State Pension Developments

Our retired colleague and former Chapter Chair, Mike Ruggeri sent out another email this week to his list-serv from a few years ago, which not everyone is on, in the hopes of drawing everyone’s attention to an interesting development down in Springfield.

According to this article, House Speaker, Mike Madigan has signaled his potential openness to changing the pension rules for CURRENT public employees (and not just the future ones, crossing a sort of line that was heretofore uncrossed. Here’s the article:

Last April, the Democratic-led Legislature and Gov. Quinn raised retirement ages and lessened benefits in a major pension-giveback package that pertained only to new state hires. It was estimated the move would save the state $220 billion in future pension outlays.

Since then, with the state’s five pension systems underfunded by more than $85 billion, statehouse Democrats have faced calls for deeper pension cuts from Republicans and business leaders who want to freeze existing pension benefits for existing state workers and transition them into an all-401(k)-type retirement program like many companies offer.

“You’ve already changed it going forward,” Madigan said of the pension changes for new hires. “But now we are working on bills that would change it midstream. A state worker would be told, ‘All right, you have a state benefit package up to today. Starting tomorrow, it’s going to be a different deal.’”

The comments may have been a sort of weather balloon to turn up the heat on anyone even thinking of supporting such changes, or they may have been a warning flare of sorts that change is coming to the state employee unions. I’m not sure, but a day or two later, this article followed, suggesting that the state constitution would have to change before any such thing could occur.

Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) told reporters a day after Madigan’s comments that tinkering with the taxpayer-funded pensions awaiting nearly 279,000 active state workers, teachers, judges, lawmakers and university employees likely would lose if challenged in court.

“I think the public should know, and anybody who thinks that’s a solution to the problem, that it clearly is unconstitutional, and it won’t be available to us to solve our pension problems,” Cullerton said.

Regardless it is a development to watch in the Spring session.

h/t to Mike Ruggeri

Higher Educational Reform Elsewhere

Have you been following the higher educational controversies over in the United Kingdom? If not, here is an argument for why you should be aware and engaged.

But in the end it is the commonalities that are most striking. The Coalition’s plans cuts to higher education are joined with cuts to social services and housing support; here Arnold has insisted on reducing (in some cases eliminating) support for the most needy. The drive for austerity has its roots in a political mindset left over from the 1980s—when in the face of the downturn of the Anglo-American capitalist systems, the assault on government and the notion of a public realm was proposed as a solution for the economy. Today, we can see the even more devastating downturn produced in large part by those 1980s policies. But as we see daily in the US and in more dramatic fashion in England, that assault is once more being trotted out as the solution to our problems.

Perhaps that is why Browne and his comrades have so little faith in the humanities and social sciences; they treat the historical record with evident scorn. We cannot do more than express our solidarity with those in the England. But we need to do at least that; and we should refuse to follow the Brownes and their compatriots in the US in their selective remembrance of the history of the last several decades. Focusing on STEM as the answer attempts to treat our economic ills as a technical problem and ignores the policy and historical roots of the economy’s collapse.  If we don’t find effective ways to refuse their history we will be unable to refuse the future they seek to create.

via Leiter Reports

A Voice Against Some Who Are Against Intellectuals

Check it out:

Thomas Sowell, the conservative economist and writer who hangs his hat at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, gives it a shot. Sowell is a rare being, an intellectual who makes his life half in the university and half outside it. He has taught on several campuses, writes a syndicated column, and produces a book almost every year. As a black conservative, he occupies a visible perch, and has not been shy in advancing tough critiques of busing and affirmative action. Sowell gets noticed. With a nod to his provocative ideas, Bates College established an endowed chair in economics after him. Now Sowell turns to intellectuals.

And Russell Jacoby, the author of the piece, turns to criticism of Sowell’s arguments. Read the rest.