Friday, January 19, 2007

Quality and the Annual Report

I was perusing the colorful annual report that was sent to everyone last week. I am struck by the real contradictions in what the administration says and what they are actually doing.

In particular, if you read the Provost's letter, one would get the impression that academic quality was important. He stresses four new administrative efforts to raise quality.

If you look at the statistics in the back, the situation is much bleaker. How can you have a quality institution that has 8.5% percent fewer faculty, who are being replaced by academic staff (up almost 16%)? Even this doesn't seem to cover the needs of our campus, as student faculty ratio has gotten worse by 15.8%, teaching loads have increased, sections offered have decreased while tuition and enrollment has grown.

Student quality has basically remained constant over the time period, but it is hard to see how that can continue as we drop in all the relevant teaching statistics.

Why is there no worry about the basic function of our institution in the statements from the administration? Why are we worrying about administrative initiatives when we should be filling the myriad of vacant positions and increasing the size of our faculty?

The brochure is glossy and well-produced, but the data within paints a bleak picture for the direction of our institution.


Anonymous said...

The Northwestern wrote a story about this today (I assume the reporter got a copy of the brochure):

Jut said...

I wasn't able to email you this, but I though it was something that you would post on your site:

We're all in the wrong business..


Lake Winneblogo said...


I agree with you that Div. I athletics are out of control.

You encouraged me to check about it here at UWO. The coaches here make about what the rest of the faculty does.

Div. III seems to me to be the right way to balance an athletic program with an academic one, but that is a discussion for another day. . .

squanto said...

All isn't for naught: we got us a parking ramp! Yep, we are spending million$ to build a ramp when several hundred yards away, an existing lot goes virtually unused during the academic year. And don't forget we got one of the country's only BA degrees for firefighters. Too bad we weren't able to start that degree program in marina management that is so sought after!

The problem, from the inside looking in, is how and where money comes from to pay for everything from parking ramps and faculty salaries to under utilized student unions and Bob Dylan concerts.

Right now, we have more emphasis (from Dempsey) and money suppporting the growth of everything NOT related to faculty and teaching.

To quote one of the greatest Americans of out Generation, Alfred E Neuman: What, Me Worry?

lammers said...

Squanto wrote:
>>Right now, we have more emphasis (from Dempsey) and money suppporting the growth of everything NOT related to faculty and teaching.<<

This is a reflection of a key characteristic we see in anyone in a position of leadership, whether in academia, government, business, or whatever. Leaders naturally want to "leave their mark" on whatever it is they are leading. (Would it be inappropriate to mention that this phrase conjures up images of delinquents carving their initials in a desktop with a switchblade, or a dog relieving itself on a fire hydrant?) The same personality traits that prompt a person to take on leadership roles usually drive that person to want to do things or create things that will be associated with them in their constituents' minds -- a legacy, if you will.

You can't blame them. It's society's fault, really. We demand patently obvious indicators of ability from our leaders when we evaluate their leadership, because we are too distracted or lazy to give much thought to such things. No CEO is going to get very far if his or her primary claim to fame is, "I kept the company solvent." They need big, splashy, obvious things to point at and ballyhoo.

To you and me, being able to say, "I got the student:teacher ratio down to 18:1 and the tenure track:academic staff ratio down to 80:1" would be a great thing; in most circles, sadly, it would elicit mostly yawns.

Anonymous said...

As usual, Tom, you hit the nail on the head. But I would extend your comments just a bit. If you think about it, Rick is doing what he can. He can talk kids into building a third gym and a parking lot. It is their money, not state money.

A classroom building takes state money, hence the eons that pass between building efforts.

As for curricular efforts, do you really want ANY chancellor messing with that? Look at the results.

So let him build some buildings with student money. They don't mind, and it creates the impression that things are improving here.