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 GreenDimes.com.

If you don't want to support a local business (like BoundlessGallery.com for example :)) buying a last second gift certificate, you might consider giving GreenDimes.com 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 siu.edu and siuc.edu. 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 BoundlessGallery.com 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 BoundlessGallery.com 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 Wired.com 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 youtube.com 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.