Friday, December 29, 2006

Caleb Hale gives us the current SIU story today in the Southern Illinoisian.

You know, it looks like Caleb Hale gets it. In his column today he lists out the current status of what seems to be happening at SIU and even mentions this blog.

I wrote about the best and worst SIU administrators a while back and published a list of administrators who should be fired. As the end of year approaches, it is clearly time to update that list (Ricky should be worried, I think the award that he was front runner for is heading to the Stone Center).

Nice work Caleb and good reading.

Running a Software Company on Punch Cards

When I was in college we programmed the computer with punch cards. I had a student work job feeding the cards into the card reader and ripping the results off the printer. It was so cool to work with high technology.

As you analyze SIU and try to figure out why things are going so wrong, imagine if you hadn't changed the way you do business for 30 years. The world was really different 30 years ago, technology was different and our national beliefs were different. When I try to figure out what to write about at SIU for this blog, I often think about what hasn't changed since 1984 when I graduated from college and write about that.

When I think about SIU and try to come up with how poorly managed it has been, what I came up with is running a software company on punch cards. No internet, no PC's and no cell phones mind you, just punch cards. You might be able to do it, but you would never keep up with your competitors.

As we watch Glenn Poshard "replace" administrators, maybe this is what he is doing? Looking at areas where people just don't want to change to run their area like it is part of the modern world?

SIU has been a slow moving and safe place. Nothing ever really changes, no great advances are ever tried, no real failure either. There has been a slow and gradual reduction in quality when you compare SIU with other universities. Is SIU better then it was in 1984? Sure in many ways it is. But if everyone else has improved much more, has SIU improved enough? It doesn't look like it.

Your comments are always welcome.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Physical Plant and feather bedding. At least we know part of the reason the buildings are in terrible shape.

Everyone knows that there is weird stuff going on at the Physical Plant at SIU. We have heard about electrician's changing a light blub and charging $100, plugging in phone jacks for $150 or charging $250 to repaint an office they haven't repainted in 10 years. But recently, I was educated about how stupid the whole thing is and I thought I would share it with you.

If you work for the physical plant, you are owed a break in the morning, lunch and a break after lunch. This seems OK, but there is a special twist at SIU. To take their break, the people at the physical plant, pack up their stuff and drive back to the physical plant. When their break is done, they take their stuff and drive back to the work site. I have seen this happen lots of times, there are workers and they disappear for an hour in the middle of the morning, they reappear.

My guess is that out of the 7.5 hours they are clocked in, that this "system" wastes between one third and half the work time in the day. Can you imagine if everyone did this?

The other thing that seems to be happening is the physical plant can't seem to redo classrooms during the semester, so they wait for breaks to do any work. Of course, they don't do much over the Christmas holidays and there are interim summer classes these days, so there just isn't time to get in there and do the work.

We all know that SIU is down thousands of students and there are plenty of classroom spaces sitting empty. The university could easily rotate 3 classes between 4 classrooms over the course of a semester, then you could repaint and fix building problems at your leisure. It is true that they might have to teach classes as early as 9:00 am to make room for the fix up, but so be it.

The tax payers know that SIU is a terribly inefficient system, they don't want to give the university more money because of it. It is time for Glenn Poshard and his team to figure out how to do more with less. The union in the physical plant needs to buy into ending the huge waste of time they have built into their systems.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, but you need to start somewhere.

Your comments are welcome.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Can't sleep, I'm traveling today. Call for new topics for the blog.

I'm off on a trip today and I can't sleep. It isn't unusually for me to be up this early, but it is pretty unusual that I don't get 6 or more hours of sleep. Maybe I can sleep on the plane?

Have a couple of good entries coming for you in the next few days, but I'm not quite ready to do them yet.

Anyone have anything good that needs to be covered?

Restaurant Update

Real quickly -

Panera is just about to open a drive through. I bet they lost 15 to 20 parking places, which is a pretty big hit. They wiped out all of their handicapped parking when they did it and had to convert 6 places near the door to recover. Since they did away with 20% or more of their parking, does that mean that more then 20% of their business will be drive through?

The new Japanese place in Bistro 51 is OK, but I think that Kaya is better. The new place (as you can guess, I have no idea about the name) is pretty Americanized, the side stuff is indifferent and they blew our orders (switch the rice) and didn't fix it efficiently. Parking is still terrible. I give them a year.

I hear that "unnamed Indians" have bought Chicago Underground, both the building and restaurant. Closing date was yesterday from what I hear. Should be interesting to see what happens there.

Noticed the "Euro Cafe" on Illinois Ave. next to Pag's (old LaRoma spot) the other day. A friend pointed out that it is likely to be the refuge from the Mall. I don't know why downtown needs another sandwich shop with no parking. I don't think they can possibly do well against Jimmy John's and the rest of the players within a block of there.

I wonder if the food court at the Mall will every reopen and if it does if they can do something better then what they had before.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

University Excellence at what price?

This NYT article about the University of Florida is interesting.
The university's financial situation is unique: it has the lowest tuition of the flagships, $3,206 a year. In addition, the state pays 75 percent to 100 percent of tuition and fees for students with high grades and test scores, including more than 90 percent of freshmen.
I dare say this is a simple statement of the richer getting richer?
To upgrade the university, Dr. Machen is seeking a $1,000 tuition surcharge that would be used mostly to hire more professors and lower the student-faculty ratio, not coincidentally one of the factors in the much-watched college rankings published annually by U.S. News & World Report. This year, that list ranked Florida 13th among public universities in the United States.
So this fall, the university started a program covering the full cost of college, living expenses included, for students from families with incomes under $40,000, if neither parent went to college. The program also attracted more minority students, helping to raise the proportion of blacks among this year's freshmen to more than 13 percent, from about 10 percent in the two previous years.
I look at this and realize that the State of Illinois is failing to compete for the best college students and is losing them to other states. You know the drill, the best people leave and that kills future growth for the whole state.
The university is also cutting back merit aid. For years, Gainesville paid dearly to attract National Merit scholars, the students who scored highest on the Preliminary SAT exams. Scholars from out of state pay no tuition at the University of Florida and receive an additional $38,000 over four years.
As a result, the school has drawn hundreds of merit scholars, sometimes nearly as many as Harvard. But next fall, the amount of those awards will be cut to $17,000 for out-of-staters.
Seems like a simple building block for SIU. Many of the elite students I have seen in the last 5 years have been on a full ride, including dorm housing.

We know that Walter Wendler and/or the people who wrote Southern at 150 understood the economic realities of these issues, but he was choosing to spend all available money on football and administrative buildings instead of worrying about fixing them. Maybe attracting really elite students and faculty might be a better investment? Would having great students and professors bring enough prestige to SIUC to get the state to fund the football dream too?

Your comments are always welcome.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Last second present? How about

If you don't want to support a local business (like for example :)) buying a last second gift certificate, you might consider giving gift to help people eliminate unwanted junk mail. For $36 a year they help you search for and eliminate junk mail sources. They also plant trees as part of the deal. Their webpage is far better then SIU's too.

My wife and I signed up for this less then a month ago and we have received less junk mail (not email mind you) in the last week then we normally get in one day. They have some estimates of how many pounds of paper and waste you save on their site.

You can print out a gift certificate and satisfy almost anybody in America, we are all sick of the junk mail tidal wave.

Christmas Gift for SIU - analysis of their webpage.

First go and take a look at their webpages and Simply, the current websites both stink. The design is bad, the layout is bad, the color choices are bad, way to much text, no focus on that is important, they are just terrible. I haven't gone out and done a bunch of research on university webpages, but here is the Santa Fe Institute's page. See how much better it is on the overall look and feel?

SIU is trying to tell a complicated story, multiple campuses, multiple audiences, lots of text, lots of "constituency groups." First and foremost the webpage should be an advertising center for current and future customers, only then should you worry about all the internal crappola for everyone else. At we have a problem that is almost the same, we need artists to signup and list their art, but the homepage needs to be for buyers of art. We have just one link on the homepage for artists and that takes them into the artist sign up land.

Time Magazine says that their "Person of the Year" is You! SIU's webpage should have a user signup account and a reason to sign up. People should be signing up for information, contests and other junk that will allow SIU to harvest their email addresses and build an email marketing campaign based on that information. We have a direct email company in town that is run by the super smart Amy McMorrow called Innucopia. I know they are using her services out at Dunn-Richman. Someone from SIU should hire her to work on the SIU webpage, her work is so much better then SIU can do by itself.

The main goal of the webpage should be to attract students, parents and alumni to SIU and the SIU story. First, the story needs to be told with pictures and design, and not with text. The students and parents want to understand what their life will be like at SIU and after they graduate.

Some ideas for things to add -
A mashup of Google Maps that shows everything on the SIU campus and how to navigate (pictures of every building and every entrance for example). Imagine you are coming to SIU for your first time to register, attend classes, see a concert or see a ball game; it is really hard to figure out how to get around. SIU could easily create a Google Map system that would tell people where to park, how to walk to where they are going, show the outside of the building with a picture.

I can see creating a section that helps students understand what kind of classes they would take in each major and what kind of jobs they might get. You could easily put great classes in there, alumni who made good with that degree, that sort of stuff. This would be best if you could incorporate it into a little gameplay somehow.

When you get right down to it the graphic design stinks and there is just to much text on the SIU page. Give the whole site a text-ectomy. There is so much visual clutter, it is very hard to see what is important on any page. Our graphic designer Annie Karayiannis (SIUC grad of course and looking for more freelance work. Drop me an email if you want contact info) reworked using color to define how the eye should move around the page. I ask myself why a little company should have a webpage that is so much better designed then SIU.

The templates for the SIUC page is particularly bad, it is impressive. I know the story that Sue Davis wouldn't let the designers do their jobs and kept changing everything irrationally. Maybe it is time to change those templates?

The main SIU homepage is a mess. It is so bad that it should be tossed and redone. Gold pillars? Little tiny menu boxes distributed around the page? Please, blow it up and start again.

One of the problems with kids design your webpages is they always make the text to small. Not only should the text be bigger almost everywhere on SIU's webpage, but there should be a control for people to make the text even bigger. Check out for an example.

At the end of the day, SIU's webpage was designed by college students, managed by people with no taste and judgment, no technical skills and little marketing skill. It stinks and needs to be redone with vigor and panache. As I have written before, SIU would be well served to outsource most of the brain work on the site to someone outside the university. Someone that isn't picked because they are related to someone important and instead is chosen because they do good work. The payback for a better website would be almost instant, because the current site really stinks.

In summary, the SIU webpage could ge worse, but it would be difficult.

It is likely I will write more about this in the future, but I wanted to get started and let anyone else weigh in if they wanted to.

Your comments are welcome.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Jon Bean on Biography Channel on Dec 26th!

SIUC History Professor and commenter to this blog will be celebrating the Christmas season with an appearance on the Biography Channel's new show "Total Excess: The Robber Barons: Pilot". It looks to be on at 9 pm ET (I'm guessing that is 8pm CT) on the 26th, according to the link. There are other times over the next few days as well, but not in prime time.

I don't have cable, but would love a copy on VHS, DVD or Digital file if someone wants to help this blogger stay up to date.

Good job Jon, hard work pays off again.

The law about attacking whistle blowers. How long until someone sues SIU and wins?

I wrote about how there was a JRB hearing because a professors was given a complaint about their promotion by SIUC's Provost at the time John Dunn. Of course, I wasn't in the room, but the rumor mill is pretty much straight up in agreement about the details.

The problem with leaking this kind of complaint is that the people who come forward with reasonable complaints will be attacked by the managers they complain about. This is all whistle blower laws and fairly well defined.

A nice person read my last entry and sent me the links with the laws -

Here is the rules about personnel files at SIU, so only if Dunn had taken action might a complaint go into someone's personnel file. If it is in the personnel file, then of course the professor could see it. But because he took no action against anyone based on the complaint, it wouldn't be in their file.

From the Illinois Ethic Acts and Personnel File Rules -
(5 ILCS 140/7) (from Ch. 116, par. 207) Sec. 7. Exemptions. (1) The following shall be exempt from inspection and copying:
(v) information revealing the identity of persons who file complaints with or provide information to administrative, investigative, law enforcement or penal agencies; provided, however, that identification of witnesses to traffic accidents, traffic accident reports, and rescue reports may be provided by agencies of local government, except in a case for which a criminal investigation is ongoing, without constituting a clearly unwarranted per se invasion of personal privacy under this subsection; and
I'm pretty sure this means that you can't identify people who file complaints. Isn't that what it says?

Generally, when you are talking about legal stuff you get into damages. For the next several years every professor that Dunn outed should get every promotion and other goodie they are up for because otherwise they can sue SIU for retaliation. Here is a summary of the Whistle Blow Act.

Here is the info from the U of I webpage, check out the "WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION" section for U of I's summary of the law.

From the rumors, it really sounds like Dunn leaked professor complaints and was clearly violating the Illinois laws if he did. The university is exposed to litigation, which is would likely lose.

The question I ask myself in times like this are why did he do it? What did he gain? Is he so ignorant that he didn't know that you can't leak stuff like this? Doesn't he know that in a small town like Carbondale that everyone knows everything? I was out with the Mrs. last night and ran into 3 professors and they all know about this.

I guess if I was running the faculty union, I might go to the Illinois Attorney General if I wanted avoid having Dunn as the next Chancellor. I'm now wondering if there is a systemic failure to follow the whistle blower rules at SIUC? Is every complaint leaked back to the manager being complained about?

Kind of reminds me of TO spitting in the other player's face last weekend. Since this is happening more and more in the NFL, eventually they will start to suspend players for games instead of fining them. At SIUC, we have seen lots of administrators ignoring the laws (rules) and no one has sued yet. The question is when will a professor sue and how much of PR damage will occur if they really start to dig? Better pray the ACLU or someone with deep pockets doesn't get into the game or you could see some real damage (for an example read "The Run Away Jury" by Grisham for how real trials work with Jury Consultants involved).

Your comments are welcome.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Is it true that Dunn leaked personal records to attack whistle blowers?

I have heard this story from 5 or 6 people now over the last few months. It goes something like this, some professors are fighting with a dean. The dean give a big job related thing to one of his flunkies and the professors don't approve (or weren't consulted or something to do with proceedure). The professors complained to Dunn (who was Provost at that time). Dunn asked them for written documentation. The professors wrote it up and gave their version to Dunn. Dunn did nothing, except give the document to the dean's pet. The dean's pet got mad and filed a JRB complaint against the other professors, which was thrown out because it was BS.

Now petty arguing at SIU is par for the course. Deans giving promotions to their buddies who don't deserve then certainly makes sense (not saying it is true, just that it wouldn't surprise me), in the merit is a four letter word that SIU seems to be. People complaining to the Provost about this kind of monkey business makes sense, in the real world they are called "whistle blowers". But the Provost releasing these complaints, that seems more wrong then the rest. I have no problem with him taking no action, I'm sure people complain about nonsense all the time.

I don't know if this is true, but it sure sounds like it might be. How could Dunn release procedural complaints? Why would he do it except to produce attacks on the "whistle blowers"? Isn't it illegal to attack whistle blowers (I don't watch "60 Minutes", so I'm not sure), I do know it is unethical and unhealthy if true.

If the SIU administration is going to attack the people who come forward and try to right wrongs (the "whistle blowers"), how can they possibly run a clean shop?

Your comments are welcome.

Outsourcing at SIU, article about IU.

I wrote that SIU should consider outsourcing everything not long ago (there are about 5 or 6 posts about it, so read everything, it is good stuff). Got a comment from someone in the wrong entry with this article about Indiana's move to outsource.

In summary, Indiana University is going to outsource its motor pool and kick a few employees off the state tit. People are complaining that those jobs will go to lower paid workers, and they will.

I guess I have two questions about this -
First, can IU use the money they save to make something of value to society, instead of funding a few petty bureaucrats? If they had unlimited money, they should keep those people on, but they don't. So, should they continue to waste that money on employees that have to produce a poor result or should they shift the money into something else? What happens if the area they switch the money into takes off and produces 100 good jobs? There is no chance for 100 good jobs out of a motor pool.

Second, where were all these complainers as the big box stores moved into town and killed all the small businesses that did retail? Don't the big box stores convert good jobs into bad jobs, but produce cheaper products? How is this different? I'm going to guess the people complaining are effected by this and got lower prices from the big boxes?

Reminds me of that World War 2 story, when the Nazi's took away the gays, I said nothing. When they took away the Gypsy's , I said nothing. When they hauled away the Jew's, I said nothing. Now they have come for me and there is no one left to help.

SIU must stop wasting money on areas that will not help them succeed and reinvest that money into areas that might help them. Indiana is a much better managed university then SIU and they have started already. There will be a little pain, but what can you do? Should SIU fail so a few transit employees and the like, who do very little to help the cause, can keep their jobs?

Your comments are always welcome.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Carbondale's Outdoor Pool

I was talking to Bill Price (coach of the Saluki Swim team) about the new pool initiative the other day and he asked why I had written against it in my blog. I think we agree that a $6M price tag, with a water park, is a crazy amount of money that makes no sense in Carbondale.

Bill asked me why people thought there would be a racial problem at the new pool. I pointed to the Boys and Girl's Club in Carbondale (I'm a big financial supporter), it is all black. Those kids need the club more and also they drive all the white kids out. There is a really good chance that kind of racial problems will occur at the pool too.

The great thing about talking to a real professional and knowledgeable person is you start getting educated on how things will really work. Bill started talking about what programs would grow and thrive if there was an outdoor pool in Carbondale. Because Bill is less wordy then I am, I'll enhance what he said with some logical assumptions.

The kinds of programs that would go on in a outdoor pool in Carbondale are a Summer swim team, water aerobics, and master's swim team. I'm sure there are more uses, but can't come up with them right now. If you have ever examined a public swimming pool's schedule, the "free swim" time is very, very small. The mental image from Caddy Shack and the caddies going to the pool just isn't allowed much, because there are adults running programs in the pool most all the time.

I'm still very much against a $6M pool and a $250k to $500k operational loss every year. I don't like the Carbondale Park District (or their slag name, the Carbondale Pork District), they run their other assets poorly. But, an outdoor pool would allow Carbondale a venue for many positive workout and sport opportunities. If the organizers weren't so darn stupid about the message they are sending to the public and were sensitive about the tax payer's concerns (price and how to handle the racial problems that are going to come with it), an outdoor pool might get built.

You are allowed to point out there are racial problems in Carbondale aren't you?

Your comments are always welcome.

Monday, December 18, 2006

A good piece of PR out of SIU? Is this the first one in 5 years?

Was reading the front page of the Southern Illinoisian this morning and came across Caleb Hale's piece on SIU. Not only did Caleb write a nice piece, but it has a marketing story that can be believed by any reader.

Notice the beginning of the end for Southern at 150 and Saluki Way in this message. Of course, there are many good things in Southern at 150, but the major milestones are stupid and destructive. As soon as you include the opinions of people on campus, you are going to see the end of these programs.

Hopefully this is the new direction and quality we can expect from the Glenn Poshard's new team in the PR area at SIUC. We know the Wendler/Davis team could never tell the truth is such a compelling way.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Can you change the world with a blog? Bono at the prayer breakfast.

I was at one of the kid's swim meet and caught this on CSpan right after the fact (I have linked to this before if you are a longtime reader). I have seen Bono (of U2) trying to change the world for many years and in particular trying to help on the pressing issues in Africa. For many years I have wondered how he does it, the guy is effective (Time Person of the year for example) and getting things done. If you haven't seen this man speak, you should. Go to and search for him, listen to his rap in the U2 concerts. What a great speaker, what a great writer.

As a failed angel investor and economic developer in Southern Illinois, I was still looking to make things better. Just a few months ago I started to write this blog about the conditions here in Southern Illinois, just to make a difference. I figure if I can write as well as Bono gives this speech, then I can change things for the better.

My goals are often bigger then my skill set and I often fail, but that is OK with me. I have to wonder who is going to push themselves to write about improving Southern Illinois when I'm gone? I'm not talking about reporting the news, but instead figuring out what the news means. Looking at SIU and asking for more. There is a chance that my successors will fail worse than I have, but maybe they can make a difference. I wonder who will take the journey, who really has the freedom to take a few arrows and laugh at the little people trying to drag them back to mediocrity?

It has surprised me to have lots of people reading this blog and telling me that I can really write. When I started, I wasn't at all sure that this was true. I was sure I could really think, but not as sure about my ability to write. I'm going to go on and write more somewhere else, about something else very soon. But this has been a satisfying place to start and my results have been more then I ever guessed they could be.

I wonder if I will ever write with the power of Bono's speech? Seems like a worthwhile goal doesn't it?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Sue Davis takes the hook. Tip of the hat to Glenn Poshard.

Looks like Glenn Poshard is serious about cleaning up SIUC. Sue Davis has been fired from her job and pushed off the side like an old can of beans (she is in charge of myspace?). Poshard put one of his smart guys in to clean up the mess while they look for someone competent to take over.

They seem to be looking for suggestions on how to fix the PR problems. Sounds like a cattle call to me.
Mike Ruiz, communications director for the Office of the President, said he will temporarily take over all of Davis' duties except as spokesperson. "If anyone within the university community has an idea or a suggestion, they shouldn't hesitate to contact me," Ruiz said.
His phone number is 453-5404, and other contact info on this link. They list his cell phone number, are they crazy?

Hey Mike, how about outsourcing the whole webpage project to an outside company? For half of what they pay now, an outside company could give them a world class webpage. That is how kids shop for a college now and SIUC's really sucks.

Integrity, Responsibility and Opportunity

I have been waiting for Sheila Simon to start showing her cards and talking about her goals if she becomes mayor. Looks like she has figured out how to get front page coverage for at least the first plank of her platform, so maybe not saying anything earlier works? I don't think I have ever seen a candidate that appears to have so little in the way of day to day beliefs about the job that they can roll out a platform without anyone knowing what they are going to say ahead of time.

Here is the DE's story about this. I'm not sure I'm smart enough to know why she thinks she is better then the other candidates in the areas of "Integrity, Responsibility and Opportunity" based on this story. I wrote up a little thing in the community blog about Sheila's behavior at city council meetings of late as an example.

I have been wondering how long she is going to run a campaign based on $50 campaign contributions. It would be so easy to move on to getting a real dollars from some big fish (like Mike Madigan or another one of the statewide bigshots). The conspiracy theorist of Carbondale have been trying to figure out where the left over campaign fund of Paul Simon is stashed and how soon those dollars will appear in this race. Sheila told me that she doesn't have access to those funds, so I think we will not be seeing them.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Time Mag this week - How to bring schools into the 21st Century

Here is the link to the overview of the story in Time. I'm going to the library to read the whole story later.

I was kind of wondering how SIU could adapt to the challenges they list.
Know more about the world
Thinking outside the box
Becoming smarter about new sources of information
Developing good people skills
Actually, these skills are the province of the B/C students like me who go on an change the world and not professors or what professors are capable of teaching. I was thinking about Jon Bean's Business History class and realizing that he is building the knowledge base that is needed for students to do the Time list, which is the think I liked about his class.

If SIU decides to do anything beyond fail, it would be smart to integrate the "Time" items into the students education. Clearly, this is not in SIU's education priorities now and it should be.

Anyone get Time anymore? What do you think?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

On free speech by employees - SIU vs. the real world

From a comment in the last entry -
On free speech: Academics have more leeway then people in industry. I hope someday all employees are free to publicly criticize their employer's actions. Be great for the environment!
In the real world, if the management of a company is screwed up really badly, the first thing that happens is all the good people quit. Then all the bad people screw it up more and the company starts to do layoffs and eventually goes out of business. Because the good people aren't worried about their tenure or pension (they don't have either), they tell management exactly what they think. If you are screwing up, you hear about it in real time in my business. Just walk down the hall and people tell you what you need to do better. What do they care if you fire them, there is another job just down the street and a pay raise to boot. Managing in this situation is like herding cats, you have a feed to the truth as the employees see it.

I will give you that nothing is Southern Illinois works like this because it is so economically depressed. If you lose your job here, there is nothing else. That is why almost all the good people move somewhere else as soon as they can.

At SIU, all the good people leave or just stop caring very quickly. The BOT and administration have been killing the golden goose for years, but with the silent support of the professors. No one tells the truth, no one chews out their management. Sure a brave few say true things about upper management, but professors can't have a real effect there. The problem is the chairmen are allowed to kill your organizations by being terrible managers and/or doing nothing and no one says anything.

The reason SIU professors think they can get away with this is they think that SIU and the state of Illinois will pay them forever, even if performance of SIUC becomes even worse. My question for you is what happens if this isn't true? What happens if SIUC's enrollment drops 25% and the students you lose are the good ones? There is a fairly good chance this is going to happen in the next 10 years. What happens if the state turns off SIUC's water completely? What happens if SIUE goes its own way?

I guess you might fool yourself into thinking that SIU's system of management allows for real truthful discussion, but that would imply that SIUC's system of management is better then capitalism and that is clearly false.

As always, your comments are welcome. Even the self serving ones.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Interesting comment about - Most effective Administrator at SIUC? I would fire him for this.

From an old entry of mine, got this late reply - Most effective Administrator at SIUC? I would fire him for this. was my original post.

Here is the reply received today -
Anonymous said…

So what I hear everyone on here saying is that if you work at SIU you are not allowed to disagree with ANY decision that is made by other administrators. That being an employee strips you of your personal and professional opinions? The statement, "Ask yourself: if the kids who got suspended were white, would Bryson have even cared, much less made a public stink?" just proves my point. If the kids would have been white, they WOULDN'T have been suspended. But to answer your question, YES he would have spoken up. The policy IS flawed and any self-respecting person, employee, community member, etc. would recognize that and speak up even if they are disagreeing with an institution that you have been deeply involved in for nearly 40 years. Did you hear me? 40 years this man has given to this University and if you think that he doesn't deserve a 24% or 50% or 100% raise, I would like to see you do a fraction of his job for one day. Diversity is not a black and white issue it is a human nature issue and the comments posted on here just prove why a position like Dr. B's is needed at this university and every university across the nation.

Bryson decided to hold a meeting and complain is no problem, but he did such a bad job organizing it. He didn't secure the commitment of people who he wanted to be there and then called them names in the paper. If they accepted his invitation to come to the meeting and didn't show, that would be different. Are they supposed to cancel the classes they teach and abandon longstanding commitments at the drop of a hat? They sent people from their organizations because they couldn't be there. Bottom line, Bryson did a bad job organizing that meeting and tried to cover his bad job by calling innocent people names in the press.

I was thinking about how it would have gone down if the assaulted student was black and attacked by three white guys and witnessed by 9 other white guys who did nothing. You are looking at a lead story on CNN aren't you? It would have been selling paper coast to coast. You are thinking those students wouldn't have been suspended? Bryson would have held a meeting, but not to support the suspended people's rights. Think about this before you write crap?

The biggest shame of being black in the USA today is the feeling that everything that doesn't go your way is because of racism. When you are white and fail, you assume you have to work harder. Let me tell you, everyone is failing from 15 to 30 because they are inexperienced, that is the circle of life. Let me suggest that if you are black that you get the heck out of Illinois and move West. My experience on the West Coast is they people are judged by merit instead of skin color.

Now about getting a 24% pay raise. If SIU granted huge pay raises to everyone who deserved them and worked hard for many years, who were underpaid, and were about to retire, they would be looking at paying off many, many people. Good for Dr. Bryson, he got his. To bad everyone who deserves a raise just as much doesn't get one. Never hurts to be an administrator at SIU (best paid in their class) instead of a professor (worst paid of any research university).

I think I will stick to my original writings, if Bryson was in the real world, he would be fired for this. Period. Has Bryson done good things at SIU, yes. Would he be fired if he wasn't in a privileged position? I'm not sure, this is SIU. Applying real world ideas to SIU or any state of Illinois employee doesn't work. Should he retire and let someone else have the job? Most likely his time is almost done. Should he have been fired over the DOJ mess and ignoring the SIU Legal Team's advice, most likely, that was a bad deal for SIU's PR.

Let me give our commenter a little homework problem. Has Bryson publicly supported a non-black student in the last 20 years? How many times has he supported a black student publicly? Has he supported any other protected class beside black in public (For example, gay, Hispanic, woman, etc.)? For example, the students who wrote nasty anti-gay stuff in one of the dorms this year. Did Bryson protest publicly about their suspension and the attack on their rights by the SIU's stupid rules?

I think my job performance might measure and exceed Bryson's for any job, under any conditions (but maybe this commenter wasn't attacking me? SIU administrators are the worst people managers and I'm a good one, it is almost impossible not to do better.). I agree that compared to most SIU administrators he does a better job accomplishing his objectives. I'm not certain that his objectives are good for SIU though. As I wrote in the original title, "Most effective Administrator at SIUC?...". You noticed that SIU isn't really doing well, so this might be damning him with faint praise.

I write this blog is pointing out how poorly managed SIU has become. SIU is very inefficient compared to a company. Dr. Bryson as a major power broker at SIU shouldn't be excused from SIU's poor performance. If I was in charge I would be firing administrators until things turned around. I have called for a majority of the chairmen to be fired. The whole place is a bunch of bad managers in a unmanaged bureaucracy, heads should be rolling.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Illinois: Largest Pension Debt in the Nation at $42.2 Billion

Holy crap, that is a bad thing. Here is the link to the full report and here is the short version of the text -

Illinois: Largest Pension Debt in the Nation at $42.2 Billion

After decades of neglect, Illinois now has the greatest total unfunded pension liability in the nation. The debt affects everything from the revenue available to fund public services like education and healthcare, to the state's bond rating and ability to pursue capital improvement projects.

Illinois state government's funding of, or more accurately stated, failure to fund, its required pension contributions has generated significant interest lately, even receiving the attention of some candidates for public office and the media. This new found attention is welcome, because after decades of neglect, Illinois now has the greatest total unfunded pension liability in the nation. As Figure 1[see website below] below illustrates, Illinois' unfunded pension obligation dwarfs the next worst state, Ohio, by more than $11 billion, is significantly greater than the state of California, which has three times the population, more than three times the state budget and 310,000 more public employees than Illinois. Illinois unfunded pension liability is almost six times greater than the national average.

Retraction of early rant/mistake

I wrote a while back that I was looking for the Dean of Engineering to be fired. Unfortunately, one of my kids woke up and I published with a different Dean in my writings. I had seen the other dean the day before and maybe that helped me write the wrong thing? Someone sent me mail and I fixed it a couple of hours later, but still I regret it.

I'm ramping up for a entry on the College of Engineering. There are lots of good people over there, but for the life of me I can't figure out how it can be so screwed up. I'll do my best to back up my call for the Dean to be fired at that time.

In the meantime, there are few people I regret ripping here. No one has bugged me about it, but I try not to point at the good guys by mistake. For that one post, where I pointed to the wrong Dean for a few hours, I apologize.

Found a college class I wish I had taken and the one I took of great value. Tip of the hat to Jonathan Bean.

I'm trying not to blog as much as I used to, it takes to much time to write a good entry. Today as a special "treat" I'll do two or three even.

I gave a talk to one of Dr. Bean's history of business classes (maybe Jon will give us the real course name) on Monday and I wish I had taken it when I was in school. The students are studying failed business plans and the history of business. For my money every business student should be taking this class and certainly, every entrepreneur student should be taking it. It is a great high level approach to looking at business or starting your own business. Time after time, being a student of business history and business management methods has saved me from failure.

The one class outside of computer science that I valued taking was Harold's Design class. It was really a class about how to be innovative, taught out of the design department. I don't know if it is still offered, but my project to make as many things out of bras and umbrellas was a great one for me at 19 years old. I liked the bionic trap shooter too.

Business history and innovation would be great building stones for all SIU graduates. I wonder why they aren't mandatory for all students?

SIU University Housing and Social Security - what they have in common

I was thinking about SIU's on campus housing problems and realized that the best thing to compare it to was Social Security (at least financially). SIU built the dorms with Illinois and State backed bonds back in the 60's and 70's. A real landlord would have paid off the loans, kept maintenance up and been enjoying the fruit of their paid off loans by now, but not SIU. What SIU has done is bring the extra money into the general funds and play games with it. Now, the buildings are getting to the point of needing a total refresh and SIU doesn't have the money.

This is exactly what is happening with Social Security at the national level. Congress has blown the money and someday, they are going to have a real problem on their hands.

As some of you have guessed, I like to do real research before posting this kind of thing. I have gone out and asked a number of people who are in the building rental business or housing rental business in Carbondale if they would take over University Housing. I told them they could have the buildings, the same budget and revenues, layoff anyone and use anyone to do the job. One said, "yes!" The others asked if they had to take Evergreen Terrace and Small Group Housing, I said yes. Everyone likes the dorm business and the forced occupancy, but no one really wants the surrounding buildings. The thought is that if you rid yourself of the wasteful bureaucracy around University Housing that you would do well with Thomson Point and the Towers. You would have to borrow money against the buildings to do a referb, but that would work. Every businessman knows you have to pitch the wastefully SIU overhead or you are dead.

What do you think, if they gave you University Housing, would you take it? Could you make money?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Sunday Chicago Tribune article lays out the SIU situation

A number of people sent this article to me and you should read it if you are interested in SIU.

One of the problems with having a university full of bureaucratic managers is that they aren't very original. The always do the same thing as everyone else, they are lemmings. Here is a quote from the article
"They are never going to dislodge these uber-wealthy institutions from their perch," says Kevin Carey, research and policy manager at the Education Sector think tank. "This is a fool's game they're playing. But what's the alternative? There's no other playing field. You're caught."
Certainly, you aren't going to catch anyone by trying to outspend people with deeper pockets. SIU is never going to dislodge the uber-wealthy. But they can still do a much better job. You need to be smarter, work harder and try new things. I like Caleb Hale's piece about this in the Dec. 1st Southern, he is suggesting SIU do something new, better and different to get ahead.

Vedder thinks Southern should go ahead and let its research slip, allowing its ranking as a national university to fall. "Southern's goal should be first-class education of undergraduates," he says. "The reason they don't do it is because nobody would know it if they did."
I don't know the right thing to do for SIU, but we all know the options aren't very pretty. This is a well written and thought out article. I'm going to read it again and try to take in more of it.

SIU needs to find a path that allows them to do a great job, without being very worried about being in the top 75. The article points out the university that is number 75 now has twice the research funding of SIU. Doing the same thing as the people ahead of you, when you are behind is really stupid.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Friday, December 01, 2006

Comment to make fun of, more on SIU killing the local economy

A comment from this post -

Peter, you're very unrealistic on much of this. You would have to renegotiate strictly worded union contracts to do a lot of the outsourcing you suggest. No way is that going to happen. Also, there are state regulations that cause a great deal of the purchasing to occur as it does (Logan, as a comm college, does not have to follow these laws and has reasonable union contracts-yet another advantage). Other state university communities face the same issues. Yes, some outsourcing could be done and in the long run would be helpful. Btw, there is no way that private landlords would be a better alternative to dorms. One reason why some students chose Edwardsville, paraphrase their comments, "as soon as I walked in the dorm I knew I wanted to go there." Yes, brand new dorms and food services made the difference. We need better dorms to compete, not less. The belated Grand Ave complex is a start.
Can you do anything at SIU or organizations like this in just a year or two? Well no. Can you set a management direction that will eventually improve the place? Well yes. You are right of course, they would have to renegotiate a contract or two, or maybe not, I bet a management change would do most of it. These contracts only last a few years, plan for the change and next time the contract is up make a move. Of course, this would mean that some jobs would be eliminated at SIU, but that would be a good thing. They would have to act responsibly with the taxpayer's money. They would have to spend money effectively and not waste so much. They would have to remove under the table grease and chip away at some administrator's empire, but that would be a good thing.

You know that SIU employees know that everything sucks and most would like to do better. If there were better jobs in the area, I dare say a majority of SIU employees would have gone to work somewhere else given the chance. Like the professors, SIU only gets people who can't find a job somewhere better.

If you don't think that private landlords are better than SIU, you aren't paying attention. Grand Ave apartments will be great (if they ever open, you have checked the prices?), what about the rest of SIU housing? The market is providing the correct housing for the students, but it isn't an instant process. New apartments are being built all over the place as students have become willing to pay for them. Maybe SIU should remove the Freshman dorm requirement and see if enrollment goes up? SIU's dorms suck, as do almost every space that SIU houses students. Let's list them - high rises, Thompson Point, Evergreen Terrace, what is that dump on Wall called and the other dump on Wall they just bought too. They all suck. First you tell me SIU is better than private landlords, then say students are going elsewhere because SIU's dorms suck. Which is it?

If SIU did away with their dorm requirement, you would see competition in that space fairly quickly. SIU is so easy to beat in the open market, even paying property taxes and not having state bonds to borrow with.

Of course, everyone in Illinois has these issues. Illinois is a corrupt state and is on the road to ruin. Every big bureaucracy has issues like this, but few places waste as much, on a percentage basis, as SIU. Good Universities and good organizations are reasonable efficient. Would you give SIU more money if you were a tax payer, knowing they are going to spill about half on the ground because they are to lazy to fix their systems?

You may not like Capitalism, but it is a better system then the kind of Socialist thing that SIU has going on. For that matter Capitalism has been proven to be better then every other system (anyone want to argue about this?). That is what this comment was about, how the SIU/Illinois socialist system is better then capitalism isn't it?

Don't drink the SIU and Illinois state socialist kool-aid, it is possible to do better. It will be just a little hard to start, but everyone will feel so much better after they do. Everything SIU controls instead of outsourcing is done badly and for the benefit of some empire building administrator. If SIU's administration truly was here to serve the students and the public, they wouldn't be having these problems.

Could SIU outsource everything (yes, I mean everything) and spend the same amount of money and get a better result? Well, yes they would. As a matter of fact, it is hard to believe that you could get a worse result then SIU given the budget continues at the same level, year after year after year. As an offer, I'm willing to take any part of SIU's business and do better with the same money.

Thanks for teeing me up. You did better then a link to a local paper.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Can SIU win by being paying the professors the least?

One of the interesting differences between hiring with professors and hiring in a company is a public universities salaries are public knowledge. What we know about SIUC is that they pay the least of any university in their current rankings, pay way less then universities they would like aspire to be equal to. You know the Southern at 150 deal about being top 75? In salaries for professors, SIU is something like 250th. At a private company, there is much more deception possible, so the employees never really know what anyone else is making (this is a good thing BTW).

A little more management theory for you from Peopleware (a seminal text about managing people in my business), the best people do 10 times more work then the average people and the average people do 10 times more work then the bad people (or words to that effect). This is the kind of thinking that drives Southern at 150's "super hires" initiative (I'll get into what a stupid management move it was calling out this obvious hiring practice another time). Basically, you want to hire all superstars and not hire losers. Of course, once you get the superstars, you want to keep them and get rid of the losers.

If you were a superstar, would you come to SIU today? In the Morris years, they could and did hire superstars. Today, SIU hires only people who don't get a job offer from a different research university. To say it a different way, every research university is a better place to be a professor then SIU.

How do you fix this? My three step plan would be
  • Hire earlier then everyone else and make the good people accept when they have no other offers.
  • Improve management.
  • Pay competitive salaries.
The worst thing is that some professors develop into superstars at SIU, but many of they leave for greener pastures soon after. After all making $25,000 less each year, forever is a very bad thing.

SIU can't pay the worst salaries in the industry and win. They can afford to pay industry average and they should. It is both ethically right and the right decision if they want to improve the university.

Your comments are welcome.

How SIU would change if you followed my plan.

I wrote about how SIU is killing the local economy yesterday and the comments are interesting. I know most people know about how big companies work (by big, I mean every company over 250 people), but let me spell it out here. Here is the comment that tee's me up.
If everyone could make minor changes on their own, you'd have a real mess after a while. But, the SIU union "craft" workers charge a lot and do as little as possible.
Like every big organization SIU would still have it's bureaucracies to prevent real stupid things from happening. I thought this was self evident, but let me spell out would work.

In the teaching areas, the budget would rest with the department chair or for bigger items, the Dean or the upper administrators. Every year there would be a budget with estimates of how you would be spending your money for the whole year, just as there is now. If you wanted to recarpet your office and there was money in the budget, the chair could sign off on it. The chair could use the stupid SIU system or just go get it directly and pay less then half. Bigger items or out of budget would go up the line to Deans and upper administration, this would be no different.

There are lots of audit trails in a big bureaucracy, at SIU the bureaucracy also forces a much, much higher price and doesn't develop local business, which would help SIU by keeping the money locally and develop a vibrant local economy. I can go into why this would be helpful to SIU more, but imaging if there were 20 people like me in town (don't read that before bedtime, you will get nightmares).

You want to guess why the business people of Carbondale aren't pounding the table to get SIU more state money? We can all see the system, we know the results and waste levels (you can't miss it). The SIU people know the system too, but how do you fight city hall?

As always, your comments are welcome.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Are Students Ready to Work

I caught a wiff of this on and did a little searching to find this report. It is about how industry views the students once they start to work. I wonder if there is a report that shows the same kind of survey results from 10, 20 or 30 years ago?

Nothing like comments to prove the point - more about SIU killing the local economy.

From the comments of the last post -
After my experiences with outsourced photocopier and printer services at SIUC, I know it's possible for private industry to do worse than SIU. If you tried to use a photocopier at Morris Library before this year, you know what I'm talking about. My understanding of that particular situation is that local businesses are too small to provide what SIUC needs, but SIUC is too small and too far from St. Louis for major companies to invest the energy it would take for SIUC to get decent service.
Local businesses are too small to provide what SIUC needs? What a pile of crap! Giving this kind of work to a local company is exactly what SIU should be doing. That local company will work like heck to make it work. SIU will get great service. The SIU money will be in the local economy, instead of pumping it off to Atlanta (or some other remote location).

I'm now wondering if the little local company can't provide the under the table grease to make the deal happen or what? We are talking about copy machine for goodness sake.

I think this comment is exactly what I was writing about. This is exactly that SIU is doing wrong.

Is SIU stifling the economic development of Southern Illinois?

I can't remember where I read it anymore, but there is this idea that I have held onto -
There are two beliefs about making yourself rich, either you believe that all the wealth in the world has already been created, so to become rich you need to take wealth from someone else or you believe that you can create new value and become rich.

When I apply this idea to SIU and the State of Illinois government, I find that SIU and the state act to take wealth out of the private sector and do not create new value themselves. Basically, ever available dollar SIU jumps on (like a linebacker on a fumble) and keeps, where often investing that dollar would bring back 20 dollars later. For example, one of the biggest problems SIU has is the lack of surrounding industries for them to interact with. But SIU is creating this by eliminating money making opportunities and turning those opportunities into petty bureaucracies.

Think of the blossoming of productivity, tax base and entrepreneurship that would happen if SIU started to outsource to local companies, instead of using state bureaucrats.

Why is SIU spending so much of their management attention to supply marginal services, instead of allowing the local business to thrive? We know they aren't doing a good job running their core business. Surely they should be spending 100% of their time trying to figure out how to educate kids and build football stadiums and the like.

If they did away with Dunn-Richman, wouldn't the local bankers do a better job? If they got rid of the motor pool, wouldn't Enterprise rentals do a better job? If they go rid of their ride services, wouldn't the local taxi companies do a better job? If they didn't build apartments, the local landlords would do a better job. If they replace the electricians with local companies running those electricians wouldn't they get better work for less? How about the phone department? The SIU website? The PR department? I'm not saying outsource the professors or other people really doing education, but does anyone think that private industry wouldn't do a better job? Is it possible to manage anything less efficiently then SIU does?

Your comments are welcome.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Interesing Chronicle article about how Higher Ed has changed in 40 years

Check it out. Guess I need to figure out the rate of inflation over the last 40 years so I can do Apples to Apples on the money.

Being happy and a life of accomplishment

When I list the nice things about living in Southern Illinois, it is calm, quiet, smog free, people are nice, commutes are short, many of the frustrations of big city life are minimized, every commercial good you might want to buy is available easily. I guess if all you want to do is live a happy little life, this is a great place. A question I have been asking myself of late is can you live a life of great accomplishment here? If you can be happy, but not have great accomplishment, is that enough?

I have found living here one of our greatest challenges in trying to do economic development in Southern Illinois is that our most motivated people leave. As a matter of fact, one of the great pleasures of living the West Coast is hiring the Midwestern engineers who have moved to try their hand at the big time. Like an actor going to New York, almost all the people who are going to try to make their mark on this world move to be a little fish in a big pond, then work their way up.

SIU moves professors here to jobs that are pretty high quality based on quality of the work. If you are going to be a high school teacher, this is a fine place to do it. A few people have started companies that are very interesting and fulfilling. I certainly don't want to imply that being a librarian isn't a good life and worth living, but you have to decide if that life is enough for you.

As you know from reading my little blog, I see the world differently then most everyone else. In 1984, I was 21 years old and I left this place to go to Silicon Valley. I wasn't always happy, I was often stressed out and over worked, I got laid off or quit a number of jobs, but I was trying to live a life of great accomplishment and I was surrounded by people trying to do the same. There is joy to sharing the struggle with like minded people that I have missed for the last few years. I have my allies and friends, but we are the counter culture here. Maybe I'm just sick of being called lucky?

The rural economic development experts say that we aren't going to be able to attract big factory or corporate headquarters to places like this, we just don't have the money to pay for the blackmail/tax cuts required. It is cheaper and more possible to support and encourage your local entrepreneurs to create new business then steal them from somewhere else. Maybe Southern Illinois doesn't have a culture of entrepreneurship and might think about developing one at the local government level? What we are doing now isn't working well enough, we don't have enough entrepreneurs.

Your comments are welcome.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

SIU's Golden Age and trying to get it back.

If we talk about SIU's Golden Age, I think we can all agree it was in the years of 1950 (or so) to 1970. You will notice, that I don't really know when it started, but I do know the date it ended. The Golden Age ended with Delyte Morris left the university and the Old Main building was burned down.

When I start thinking about managing a fast growing organization over 20 years, I start to think about the people. In those 20 years you can hire great people or lay a ground work of bad management, either way the legacy of those hirings will continue for many years. The Morris years were good years to be hiring a large faculty, the professors still remembered the hard years of WWII and the Great Depression. The USA was assuming the mantel as a Superpower, expectations were that if you worked a whole lot harder, you might make a great life for yourself.

If you were to start thinking about the management difficulties of turning SIU around today, instead of trying 8 or 9 years ago, there is no one left from the Golden Age on the entire campus. When Jo Ann Argersinger was Chancellor the back bone of the senior professors were hired in the Morris years, they still had an idea of what the university was like when the buildings were new and the university was on the way up. Today, all the professors from the Morris years are retired.

One interesting idea from the Golden Age idea is what maybe the only person who remembers them on campus is Glen Poshard. He was here then and he seems to understand the power of events and symbolism that were so important to Morris. It could be that he wants to return SIU to a new Golden Age, he seems to be putting the trappings of the Morris years back together.

When big companies get into a situation like SIU is in today (poor performance, bad corporate culture, poor employee morale) they execute a massive reset in the form of a layoff. That really gets the attention of the employees and often does a reset in values that is needed for the organization to survive.

I wonder if Glen Poshard is brave enough and has enough power to make a new golden age. I wonder if he did have the power if he would use it for good and not evil. If he did start making changes, I wonder if the BOT (and their owners in Chicago and Springfield) would allow him to do it.

Your comments are welcome.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Let the revolution begin - Illinois Power Rates.

I would put a link to the Illusion's story about these things, but they are taking the weekend off at the website (or they could be down in the line at Best Buy trying to get one of those cheap laptops). Everyone should know by now that power rates in Illinois are about to go up 40% or more on January 1.

We all know the state government of Illinois is corrupt. Lots of under the table payments, unlimited giving to political campaigns, patronage jobs everywhere (filled by the unqualified), boondoggle spending on hometown projects, etc, etc. My question for the peanut gallery is if this stupid management of our power utilities will be the last straw? Is this the one big event that will make Illinois voters stand on their feet and vote all the Bozo's out of office? Is this were we demand clean government and accountability? Do the voters demand a change in the system were only 5 politicians make all the rules and have all the power?

I don't think there will be any changes? But, if the "Pol's" don't stop this rate increase, people are going to be really pissed.

Kind of makes you wish the Green Party had won the election. Their platform is naive, but at least they have their hearts in the right place.

Your comments are always welcome.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

U of I Criticized for low minority enrollment

Little article from yesterday's Southern (no link that I have found for the story, but here is a link to the source), the story was opposite the comics. They are claiming that U of I doesn't enroll enough minorities. Their numbers are 12.8% of the students are minorities and 27% of Illinois graduating high school seniors are minorities. I liked the quotes at the end of the story, "Chancellor Richard Herman (of U of I) took issue with the report, saying it should have compared the school's minority student population with the percentage of high school graduates qualified enough to be accepted to the campus." Also "If you look at the minority population in the state ... the simple truth is that not all of them go on to college, " Chancellor Richard Herman of U of I.

I got a kick out of the little source report that I provided a link to and their comment about UC Berkeley "received high marks for attracting low-income students." I'm not sure about the other universities they list with good access to minorities or low income students, but Berkeley's low-income students can be directly attributed to California's large number of Asian immigrants. Those Chinese and Vietnamese parents produce kids that are great students while working as janitors and cooks. But those immigrant kids aren't counted as minorities, I guess because they are doing to well?

I have written this before, but don't you wonder what would happen if all the poor kids in Southern Illinois had Jewish, Chinese or Vietnamese parents? They would be reading by the age of 5, blowing out the school GPA's and going to the best colleges within one generation. It is all about the parents. We see the immigrant Asian parents here too, and their kids are kicking butt and taking names. I guess we can't train them when they are adults and it is all hopeless? Anyone know, can you train poor parents to do this?

I also wonder if we aren't seeing lies, damn lies and statistics from "The Education Trust" people. They must know the problem is in the parents and preK-12 system, the universities are using reverse discrimination to help more minority and poor kids into the schools with better financial assistance. What exactly can you do about parents who don't have enough self discipline or cultural roll models to push their kids to success?

Return of Civility to the Classroom?

Interesting story on about managing the classroom. I have been wondering about the media has been claiming this generation of college kids can multi-task at new and historically levels, yet we all know they can't learn anything hard that way (just like everyone else).

This story seems to be simple and clearcut. If the professor is letting people do cell phones and instant messenger in the classroom, they have lost control.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Two tough issues for the Carbondale City Council - Smoking and CVS

I think the Carbondale City Council is facing a couple of really tough issues in the vote to ban smoking and rezone the corner of Oakland and Walnut for CVS this meeting and next.

We saw the first vote last night on banning smoking, it was a tie 3-3. Personally, I'm for banning all smoking in all public buildings. But, the anti-ban group did a really poor job selling this ban. They should go back and find the economic impact of a one city ban, like the one they want, on the businesses in town. For example, find a Midwestern city that passed the ban a year or two ago and see what the effect was on restaurant and bar revenue. If the economic effect was positive or neutral, I bet they could get the ban though.

Personally, I think the right place to get this passed is at the state level. That is where the health costs really rest and where the most level playing field can be established. Yes, I know that would be harder to do.

Clearly this is all about money for the local business people. The argument that their employees smoke and it is their right to cause cancer in others is really stupid. Because the pro-ban people didn't do their homework on the money, they let the businesses off the hook.

CVS going in on the corner of Oakland is really interesting. I have written that I'm against it, but I'm now really on the fence. You are talking about a bunch of really crappy homes. I have seen the map of where they would like to build now and CVS has offered as part of the deal to keep the traffic and noise on the Oakland side and have a blank wall facing East and a green belt too. The homes that will be effected are already really the homes on the South side of Walnut at the Oakland corner. Those homes already are on the busiest street in Carbondale and next to a fire station. There is noise and light there 24/7 now, I'm not sure I'm buying that CVS is really a great burden on the local houses. I'm certainly not buying the selling booze BS being thrown around.

Carbondale is completly dependent on our sales tax revenue to fund our local services. You are talking about a length of street that has a fire station, 24 hour grocery store and strip mall and a video store and pizza takeout already. It is the busiest street in Carbondale. I'm pretty sure that everyone within a reasonable distance from the proposed CVS site has purchased their house since 13 went one way.

I don't expect that you will see the kinds of people who hangout at Walgreen's late at night, because they aren't near the Northeast.

As I wrote before, I feel that it is going to be very difficult for the "Arbor District" (which is shaped like a snake) to fight off the economic reality that the property around them is worth more as retail and rental then residential. The traffic noise and speed on 13 and the state of School District 95 make it unlikely that families will move in to the area. They are already surrounded by rooming houses, frat houses and flop houses. If something like CVS doesn't happen now, it is very likely to happen in the future.

CVS is a very tough call. I'm pretty sure I would vote against it, if I was voting. But, I'm not sure.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I'm wondering if Poshard is serious or if he just hated Wendler.

Now that Uncle Walt has been put out to pasture, the next question about SIUC's future must be asked - Who else will be fired in the administration? I have written that I feel that over 50% of the department chairman should be fired. It looks like the Dean of Engineering (sorry screwed this up and had to change it) should be gone as soon as possible. I have published a list of others who should be fired. All these people I figured out should be fired from several miles away in my office. If I can name that many, there have to be more, many more. (editor's note - most of these people would just become professors when they are fired and not lose their jobs, but the educated readers of this blog know that already)

I have some data that Poshard has put the management of Dunn-Richman to work cleaning out the layers of admins and deadwood that Ray Lenzi stacked up out there. That seems like a good omen.

If we look back and no one else has been fired that needs to be, we can say that Poshard is a POS and just had it in for Wendler. If Poshard goes in and really cleans house, then all this crap in the papers about Wendler's anti-gay comments will be proven to be just crap. Wendler really was a poor performer, maybe no worse then the losers before him, but still poor.

So, is SIUC going to be turned into a meritocracy it will be because Glenn Poshard has stepped up and put down some mighty pink slips on the turkeys in key positions. Now, we wait and see what he does. I figure there will be good blogging either way.

Your comments are welcome.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sheila Simon's two worlds.

I was reading the Southern Illusion's editorial page yesterday and came across this "Cole has the support of the business sector" editorial. This should come as no surprise, Brad showed up with a plan and has really improved the business environment in Carbondale. He has done better than should have been possible in his first term. He has figured out what could be done and is doing it (note to the Southern at 150 boys at SIUC, this is how you do a plan). I like to think that it was impossible to do business in Carbondale before Brad and now it is just difficult.

What really surprised me was this quote from the article -
Simon attended Cole's speech Tuesday and was not one of the audience members leaping to her feet.

She was surprised the mayor talked about problems with gangs and truancy in his State of the City address.

"It's an illustration of our focus and the two worlds we live in," Simon said. "I have not heard anyone talk about gangs or truancy as a major problem in Carbondale. It's another undeserved, bad rap for the Carbondale school system. I will point that out, and other differences, as the campaign goes forward."
Sheila is now on the record saying that there is nothing wrong with School District 95 (that is Carbondale's K-8 grade school)? Here are my posts about District 95 from way back in July and August -
Post 1
Post 2
Post 3
Here is a link to get all the statistics, test scores and other numbers. Click around on the tabs at the top.

Turns out it doesn't matter what skin color you have, it just comes down to students from poor families do poorly at school in Carbondale and students who aren't poor do well. The test scores are terrible. We have seen a dramatic increase of private schools and home schoolers (in both numbers of schools an enrollment in existing schools), and a general drop in numbers of students in District 95. It isn't white flight, it is almost every educated and non-poor parent running the heck away from District 95 with their kids.

When you have populations of kids in high school that can't pass the standardized reading tests in 8th grade, you are heading for real problems. Over 50% of the kids the state calls poor, who attended District 95, failed the 8th grade reading test. Just a little research shows that black men who aren't functional literate have greater then 75% chance of serving time in jail. The kids who can't read cause almost all problems with violence and truancy. They don't publish the dropout rate that I can find, but it has to be way to high.

If I had to bet lunch on the "gang" part of Brad's plan being sound I would. It could be that the Mayor has talked to the Police Chief about this? Since the Mayor has made about 30 distinct calls like this in his State of the City speeches and been able to act in a positive way each time, I'm thinking he has done his homework this time as well.

I'm looking forward to hearing about Sheila's different world some more, I wonder what else she thinks. How about a published document Sheila?

"The Woz" good stuff.

I was reading Guy Kawasaki's blog about his 10 reason he loves the Woz, clicked through digg, found this article about how the Woz carries $20k with him at all times.

I have been thinking about buying very expensive computer of late, sounds like the Woz would just pay cash while shopping in Japan. Need to think that one over.

Southern Illinois Economic Development a quote from Milton Friedman?

On Jobs
Proposed economic policies tend to be judged in terms of jobs "created." That is the wrong criterion. The economic problem is not creating jobs. That is easy: Hire people at minimum wages (or lower) to dig holes and fill them. True, raising taxes to finance that project would destroy jobs, but the jobs destroyed would be high-wage jobs, the jobs created low-wage jobs, so for each job destroyed more than one job would be created--a net gain of jobs.

The real problem is to establish an economic environment in which there is a demand for workers at wages that those workers not only regard as satisfactory, but are qualified to earn: Better qualified workers and better wages--not simply more jobs--is the real problem.
--from "Better Workers, Better Wages: The Real Issue," June 1, 1993

When I look at Southern Illinois economic development this pretty much sums it up. In particular this is what I see in Marion and their tax incentive based method of attracting jobs. Also, any program involving the State of Illinois seem to be more about driving state soft money then real, good jobs.

This has been the one big problem I have had trying to doing economic development here. Carbondale/Southern Illinois based businesses seem to have completely given up, we take fairly high quality new college grads and under pay them. Everyone knows they are going to stay for a short time and move on, then the cycle starts again. This guarantees that you never develop an educated local workforce of experienced people. Owners never get good employees, both because they lose everyone who was good to better paying jobs, also there is no shared ownership (via stock) and no wealth creation through the ranks that might make the local environment bloom.

The funny thing is that our method is pretty much exactly the opposite of the areas that are doing well economically. To much short term thinking has lead us to where we are now, not enough of an educated and motivated workforce to build the high growth and high pay companies the area really needs.

Thanks to Todd for sending me the link.

I changed my will - I'm leaving my dog to the Park District!

Before I started reading about the park district's problems selling off Hickory Lodge, I started realizing you could give anything to the Park District and take a tax deduction on it. Then they would maintain it and never sell it, even if they didn't need it anymore.

The stupidest thing I could come up with as an example was my dog. I take a tax deduction, and they feed him until he dies. Then they have to stuff him and keep him in the lobby of their main offices. If they don't, I get some friends and collect a bunch of signatures. If they don't need him anymore, that is their problem. I want to look at his stuffed body every once in a while, so they need to maintain the body for me.

Carbondale politics are a trip.

Friday, November 17, 2006

"A man who has no moral consistency between his private and public lives."

I would give you a link to the "Voice of the Reader" in today's Southern Illusion, but they didn't put one up.

The letter in question is from "The Rev. Nathan Brunaugh" of Elkville and the title of this post is his closing line of the letter. He writes that Walt "has been on Poshard's hit list ever since the anti-gay remarks" in July 2004. This is clearly wrong, he has been on Poshard's _hit list since he fired Poshard when he used to work for him. "The Rev." goes on to say "I know Dr. Wendler. I have worshiped with him..."

I have written this before, but if you are not going to toe the line, your boss is going to give you the sack. Walt didn't choose to toe the line and now he is gone.

In his last line "The Rev." writes about how Poshard just wants a puppet and
a man who has no moral consistency between his private and public lives.
One of the things that I find truly offensive about "born again" groups in Southern Illinois is this business accusing anyone who doesn't pray with them as being morally unfit. There are lots of great people out there who want to be Chancellor of SIUC. John Dunn for example can't do worse than Walt and I dare say he is just as morally fit.

If you want to blast Poshard that is great, but please none of this crap about how the next person (not man, it might be a woman - Gasp!) will not be morally fit. At least the next Chancellor will be smart enough to read the organization chart and figure out who is above him on it.

I bet you that Sam Goldman isn't morally fit either according to "The Rev." either. That blanket immoral stuff just hits me wrong.

Preaching to the choir here, I know the hardcore right wingers of Southern Illinois aren't going to read this little blog.

Knowledge mapping in 3-D

I have this idea that as you learn you might be able to map knowledge in 3 dimensions. If you learn a lot about a very limited topic, you can view that as drilling a well about 12" wide and goes into the ground (I say into the ground, because no one that isn't a specialist can see the shaft). If you learn a lot about lots of things as a college student, maybe it is like scraping all the top soil off a square mile.

My belief is that the volume of your knowledge while mapping in 3-D grows the more you know and the harder you work. So assuming that you aren't lying on the couch watching TV a whole bunch as you get old you should grow your knowledge base, maybe even multiply it as you get older?

I was on a SIU search committee a couple of years ago. I realized that I have hired and managed more people then everyone else on the search committee combined. Looking back I'm not sure how I did it, but in each of 1997 and 1998 I phone screened around a 1000 people each year, interviewed 250 or 300 in person and hired over 100 people. In 1996 I did about half that number. I never intended to become such an expert on resumes, but there you go. Made a lot of money hiring all those people, but I wouldn't want to do it again. I can't tell you have incredibly valuable this is on a day to day basis.

I caught the show about one vs. the mob or something like that on TV. Is every question about TV or pop culture on that show? Normally, I'm pretty good at the TV quiz shows, but I was amazed how trivial all their questions were. Had to switch the channel, it was a waste of time.

A question for the peanut gallery, what have you learned today, yesterday, last week, last month, in the last year? Are you writing down goals to learn new things or have you found a better way to learn?

As always, your comments are welcome.

Of Luck and Timing.

I now find myself comparing the West Coast to Southern Illinois and attempting to find answers and insights into my life. A statement that I wasn't ready for when I first moved back to Southern Illinois was "how lucky" I am. I figure I have been told I'm lucky, by maybe 200 people in Carbondale since I moved back to town. Never have I been told I'm lucky on the West Coast. Kind of interesting isn't it?

One result of writing this blog as been that I am not longer told I'm lucky. After reading my ideas about management of SIUC, I guess you guys have figured out that I know a lot about management. I'm fairly sure that if SIU was managed by someone with my skill level it could be turned around, to bad almost no one with my management skill level has a PhD and is looking for a job.

I was on a SIU search committee a couple of years ago. I realized that I have hired and managed more people then everyone else on the search committee combined. Looking back I'm not sure how I did it, but in each of 1997 and 1998 I phone screened around a 1000 people each year, interviewed 250 or 300 in person and hired over 100 people. I never intended to become such an expert on resumes, but there you go. Made a lot of money hiring all those people, but I wouldn't want to do it again. So, if you can interview, hire and manage over 100 people a year and make money while you do it are you lucky?

We were lucky at my little Seattle based company, but how many people on Earth could have done it in the same situation? Almost none.

One of the really lucky things that happened in my life is that I had the good fortune in 1998/1999 of being offered a buyout of my little company and having partners who I hated at the same time. I sat down and figured out that my little company was in great danger of getting squished like a bug, because of a number of factors. This is what great timing is about, imagine realizing that the "dot com" stock bubble was about to burst, owning a bunch of stock riding the bubble and having time to sell it? Of course, my timing was good, but how many other people were smart, lucky or strong enough to sell? Almost no one it turns out.

If you were investing over 100% of your net worth in a house in a boom market today, would you sell? Would you be smart enough to know the right answer before it was to late? Smart, lucky or good timing?

I been back on the West Coast again of late and have found that no one tells me I'm lucky there again. My brief description of who I am makes people smile and I think they suspect I'm smart. I'm not sure there is a lesson there for you, but there sure is one for me.

Of course, I don't want to lose everything and start again from scratch. But, if I did I'm fairly sure I would do well again. I like the work and I'm good at it.

Let me leave you with this quote, "The harder I work, the luckier I get."

Your comments are always welcome.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

What do Wendler and Jim Muir have in common?

I'm just jumped off the couch and ran over to the computer. I was reading "the southern" and worked back to page A4 and Jim Muir's column. In answer to the title question of this entry, both Jim and Walt have no clue about how to manage a business. Today we got a whole eye full of this cluelessness in the paper. Let me explain.

Jim writes that the reason SIU isn't doing well is because of the ultra liberal/communist professors. He wrote about Jon Bean's academic mobbing by the clowns in history. Let me say here for the first time, shame on Robbie Lieberman for being the leader of that unethical mess. Where this is a big problem for the ultra-far-right that Jim represents, it is just a bump in the road in SIU's results.

SIU has one traditional problem and one problem that Wendler introduced. The traditional problem is that since Morris left in 1972, the university has been poorly managed. From that poor management almost all problems flow. The people who are managing the professors and staff really don't care about the results, only power. If you fail, you are never removed, never. The second problem is that Wendler changed the management focus of SIU from students to research and sports. He raised tuition and fees to around twice what they were when he arrived and didn't increase the quality of anything the students care about. I call what Wendler did "breaking the marketing story of SIUC."

An example of Walt's incompetence as a manager is the survival of Sue Davis and SIUC's refusal to recruit students the way everyone else does it (no advertising, brochures, press releases, you know the standard drill). How can you still have your job if you don't have recruiting literature in high school guidance councilor's offices?

Walt doesn't understand what people in Illinois are about (note, they are different then people in Texas). Just like all architects, he didn't listen to his clients. He refused to look at what SIUC did well and try to build on it. He had people who really stunk as direct reports and never fired them. His new boss didn't like him and he didn't figure out to survive he had to kiss Poshard's ring. How stupid is that? That is why I start companies, but if you don't be prepared to pucker up. Bottom line, he didn't get it and his results are terrible.

Here is Walt's spin from today's Southern. He really thinks that he is being replaced because of something beside his results? Totally clueless. He could be driving a car with anti-gay bumper stickers if he was doing a good job otherwise.

What parents want is to send their kids off to a place where they are wanted and they are safe. At the end, they want their kids to graduate with a meaningful degree and get a good job. This isn't much different then an Army recruiting. If you aren't playing the PR game in America's education system today, you are saying you don't care about the students.

Good for Poshard for firing him in public. Now he needs to fire about 20 more people. Fire the admins who are doing nothing but hiding behind the civil service rules, instead of passing them on to the next office to do nothing. Fire the administrators who stink. Fire the chairmen who are terrible leaders. I would say fire the Deans, but they are all new. Punish the tenured faculty who aren't working hard by giving them terrible classes to teach and bad job reviews. The problem with SIUC is that management has allowed people to do nothing for over 20 years. The no work culture has to change, the politics over results has to change. SIU needs to change into a meritocracy instead of a political quagmire.

I haven't seen Jim write it, but I bet we agree that discrimination based on intelligence and effort is good (this is called capitalism), but not if you base it on skin color. I do agree with Jim Muir that SIU needs to hire better professors who have a clue about the real world, but that will be another long blog entry. I certainly don't agree with his spin that this one little anti-conservative issue is that makes SIUC sub par, it is but one example out of thousands of what is wrong.

Firing Wendler for cause was a great first step. Finally, SIU has a President who cares about results. Go get them Glenn, you haven't done enough yet.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Carbondale Park District Pool Survey - What are they thinking?

I was reading through the Southern Illusion today and came across the article about the Carbondale Park District meeting yesterday and wanted to comment a little.

I enjoyed how the meeting minutes didn't mention this pool idea or the survey, guess that is a good way to ram it through without complaint? I also like their web page's lack of agenda, I guess if you just post it in the back bulletin board where no one can see it, you can cloud the issues pretty well. From the minutes on the webpage -
It was moved by Commissioner Kang and seconded by Commissioner McDaniel to approve the sell of $540,000 in bonds for park purposes. Upon roll call the following Commissioners voted aye: McDaniel, Kang and Heck. Abstained: Flowers. President Heck ordered this motion passed.
Wonder what they are going to spend an extra $540k on?

The Park District sent out a really stupid survey that guaranteed the result they wanted. First question from the survey, do you think a really cool pool that was free would be good for the city? Yes from 80% according to the Southern. When asked how many were interested in paying for the pool, 33% were interested in paying. Sounds about right.

The survey is of worse quality then a one week class project from a sophomore class in Business. Didn't anyone with a brain look at it and figure out you just can't get a real answer if you write a survey like that?

If they mentioned that it was going to cost $6M and have losses of $250k per year, I bet the survey would come back greatly differently. Yes, that is what it is going to cost for a water park. Maybe more.

As I have written in this space before, Carbondale is a city of around 11,000 (if you exclude SIU students) in the metropolitan area (Carbondale, all areas served by Giant City, Unity Point and DeSoto schools) . Of those 11,000, a fair guess is that half have access to the REC Center at SIUC. The property owners are going to end up paying for this (if it happens), so I guess the SIU students will get the burden in rent increases.

There is no way the voters in the Carbondale Park District are going to vote for a huge tax increase to pay for a fancy water park. Given the Park District's history running their golf course, it is doubly certain the voters will never vote for this stupid pool. A complete waste of time and energy.

What a shame.