The Good Service Conundrum

Last week I was trolling around looking for something related to the City Colleges and I came across the Yelp ratings for the colleges (Kennedy King, Malcolm XWright, and Harold Washington are the only ones I could find with ratings).

Just in case you’re thinking something like, “I don’t know why we’re doing a new routine for registration; the old way worked great for me!” you might want to take a few minutes and read through the reviews posted about HW on Yelp. Not surprising (to me), they are uniformly complimentary of teachers (the same was true for the reviews of the other colleges for the most part), with a few snipes at the (fellow) students, particularly those who are unprepared and/or disruptive. By far, though, the harshest and most vitriolic reviews were directed at the college staff, which is an absolute puzzle to me.

For anyone who was around in 2005, this is not exactly news. One of the most definitive and actionable findings of the Assessment Committee came from the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) in that year, which showed that students were pretty highly engaged with their classes and instructors and strongly dissatisfied with the school’s services, leading to an overall dissatisfaction with the school despite the appearance of valuable and satisfying academic experiences. Those findings, corroborated by a later “Customer Service” survey and surveys done during registration led to all kinds of changes including a year or two’s worth of meetings about how to change registration (which led to clear, even if incremental, improvements), a reorganization of Student Services, and a big “customer service” initiative (all documented in the NCA Self Study).

What you might not know is that in 2009, HW students retook the CCSSE. HW scores were even better than in 2005 with respect to the Academic Student Engagement (HW was ranked significantly better than our peers in Illinois and even nationally in multiple categories that correlate to student success), and, though students were still less satisfied overall than average, they were less dissatisfied than they’d been in 2005. Still, they were a long way from singing the praises of the institution.

That might not seem like a puzzle to you, but in all honesty, it has been YEARS since I’ve seen a staff member be openly rude or even unhelpful to a student. Now, I’ve seen faculty be both of those things, and I’ve probably been guilty of each myself on more than one occasion, but time and again–during registration, waiting to turn in paperwork to the registrar, walking through offices, etc., etc., I’ve only seen our staff be patient, friendly, accommodating, and  helpful to students, almost without exception. Yet the bad reviews pour in.

I just don’t see it, though. Am I missing it? It’s possible, I suppose, but I know people who work in nearly every single office in the college, and I like ’em. I find it hard to believe that all these nice, dedicated, funny people turn into monsters when I’m not looking.

But then over the weekend, I started thinking, again, about Don’s presentation on Friday, and his conclusion from the One-on-Ones that “we need to fix our core processes,” and wondered if the student dissatisfaction isn’t with the process more than the persons but vented on the persons because they are more easily identifiable. I wonder whether, if our process is better, students will have the impression that they were better served, and conclude that the people were nicer and more helpful?

Anyway, I’ll be curious to see if the new version of registration makes some more headway than the other new versions could. If you get the chance, tell the rest of us how the new version is working…

CCC Makes the Reader

I was a little puzzled when the Chancellor said, in her speech yesterday, that some people are afraid that CCC will become a trade school or something like that. I had to go back to HWC at lunch to get something from my office, so I did and, while there, picked up a Reader for the train ride and stumbled on an article all about Reinvention and came across this paragraph in an article on CCC and Reinvention:

And that’s what’s making some people nervous. “Economic engine” seems to run counter to the long-time mission of the City Colleges of Chicago, which will celebrate its hundredth birthday this year and has been, since its founding, a gateway not just to a job but to broad educational and intellectual opportunity, regardless of social or economic status.

The question of whether the “People’s College” (its original name) should be a vocational school was chewed over at its birth by the likes of Jane Addams and William Rainey Harper—and discarded. In America, and in Chicago, city colleges would ensure a democracy of the mind. Vocational training was eventually added without changing that principle, at least in theory. But there’s a new, results-oriented trend in education that looks like it could turn community colleges into glorified job-training centers, providing a skilled workforce but “tracking” low-income students into dead-end jobs. These institutions would be run like businesses, with the decision-making power in the hands of executives rather than academics and an emphasis on efficiency. Serendipitous intellectual inquiry and academic autonomy would be luxuries and scarce.

And then it made sense. Read the rest HERE.

Today’s Key Note Speaker: Robert Pippin

Like my colleague Kamran, I am a bit puzzled and tickled to see that the big Kahuna coming to speak to us on the first day of DWFDW, Higher Education Day no less, is a Philosopher (who says Philosophy is dead?). Though I wish it were Martha Nussbaum (no offense to Professor Pippin), I understand how her message might not have been such a great fit for the “new vision”; regardless, I’m excited to hear Professor Pippin speak.

Maybe you don’t know him? Check out his web site here and poke around a bit. He’s a philosophical rock star of sorts who does work on some of the most challenging (and influential) philosophers of modernity (Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche), especially regarding the psychological and political ideas and implications of these giants, and a thinker who is doing really interesting contemporary work in the areas of philosophy (political, in particular) and film, as well as philosophy and literature.  He’s written 15 books and hundreds of articles and given lectures around the world. He’s the real deal. Check out this or this or this or this or this or this for some accessible (i.e., not overly technical) examples.

So, what will he say to us? Well, that is something of a puzzle. I’m guessing that it will have something to do with “Conceptual Change” with the administrative idea being that we are all about to undergo one (or maybe need to?) and so will benefit from an understanding of the way our concepts form and limit our knowledge (and, by extension, how our old knowledge will lead us to resist new concepts). But I’m not really sure. I couldn’t find anything in a quick perusal of his writings regarding his thoughts on conceptual change.

I am most curious…