19.2.14

ALLOCATING RESOURCES EFFICIENTLY.

A dissident professor at Chicago State University notes what goes wrong at a dropout factory, and what ought be done about it.
Now the administration is cutting budgets on the academic side, which is leading to a spiraling downward in enrollments. Students can't get into the courses they need. They simply go somewhere else or drop out altogether. Meanwhile the giant administrative staffs are untouched.
No doubt, the faculty attempt to add students to closed classes, or suggest that the students gripe to the deans about the lack of classes, and the deans suggest that the students or their parents gripe to the legislature about the lack of state funding.  True enough, the students often get trapped in the pissing contest between university and legislature over funding.  Sometimes, though, you simply have to provide the capacity, or the university melts down.
If we faculty were to be honest with ourselves, we would admit that part of the problem is poor teaching. We have a few professors who:
- Administer multiple choice and true-false tests that are rigged so students can pass them without really learning anything.
- Never bother to learn their students' names. Treat students with contempt and disrespect.
- Don't bother to stay current in their fields.
Use Power Points that are half a decade old or are downloaded from the "instructors materials" from the textbook publisher (I've been guilty of this myself).
False productivity measures. And yes, at least make the effort to recall students' names. If you can recall it on a chance encounter a few years later, it makes some of the sting of the C minus the student earned go away.
Worst of all, the administration doesn't seem to give a damn whether teaching is any good or not. Sometimes poor teachers are rewarded with administrative positions where they are supposed to "evaluate" the rest of us. The faculty get evaluated to death, but it is mostly bean counting. And now that there is so much antagonism between faculty and administration, the lousy teachers aren't going to listen to the administration anyway. President Watson was reported to have criticized the faculty before he arrived on campus, but it was about how lazy we are and how we don't teach enough classes. He hasn't been in front of a classroom in years and has never to my knowledge taught a course at CSU, which I find unconscionable.
It's up to the Chicago State faculty to take back decision-making authority over curriculum, admissions, and teaching conditions.  That's the salutary message of the Illinois - Chicago informational strike.
Many of our problems are similar to those facing higher education as a whole, especially in our sector, which educates first generation college students. These students are being lured away by the for-profit online schools that promise an easy degree without leaving the comfort of your home.
That college-in-your-pajamas snare will consign more poor people to a life of poverty, deprivation, servitude and ignorance than the brick-and-mortar retention ponds have.  The task for faculty, whether at Chicago State, Illinois - Chicago, Northern Illinois, Illinois - Urbana, or Northwestern is to first stop enabling the high schools' continued production of Distressed Material that has to be remediated, and to second offer intellectual challenges to matriculants, whether they arrive with the life challenges of the projects, or the life challenges of Winnetka, or anywhere else.

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