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.


Sthorne said...

If top management at SEMO worried less about hitting a number like becoming one of the top 75 researach universities and more about doing a top notch job, the university owould have a better chance of achieving it. I've alwasy found if I do a good job and use my past performance as a benchmark, I get better. It's when I start worryig about other peoples opinions that I get in trouble.

Don said...

The money problem affects higher institutions at all levels, not just at SIU. Here at Rose-Hulman, our department met with the new president last week, and most of the discussion concerned raising money for the institute, along with ways to best spend the money. Our department teaches and has offices in one of the oldest buildings on campus, the chemistry labs are in desperate need of upgrading, and the list goes on. Of course, it will be several years before a lot of these matters are properly attended to.

On the other hand, unlike SIU, we're a small private school that charges each student tens of thousands of dollars per year to attend, and a lot of the alumni have deep pockets, so our goals are feasible. I like what Vedder had to say -- rebuild SIU from the ground up on a pedagogical level, making it a top-flight undergraduate school first, then worrying about graduate programs, instead of trying to be Urbana-Champaign South.

Jonathan Bean said...

I agree with Vedder and the other writers:

It's all about undergrads number 1, 2, and 3. They go on and become the successful alums of the future. Too many programs at SIUC treat undergrads as a "necessary evil" while they produce clones (Ph.D's) of themselves. This not only shortchanges undergrads but makes the successful ones less likely to feel great fealty to the institution. I've preached this since I got here and I either get a) a "deer-in-the-headlight" look (what? we have no clothes?!); or b) "but we're a RESEARCH UNIVERSITY!"

Please. Many of us enjoy teaching here but it's the Peter Gregorys of the world we should be producing not replicas of ourselves (as ego-satisfying as that might be for some people).

Jonathan Bean

P.S.: I have yet to produce a Ph.D. after 12 years but many successful undergrads who stay in touch. Whatever they choose, I'm happy if they find their "calling." Academics should remember "it's not all about us."

Peter in Carbondale said...

Hey, two of my favorite commenter's in one place.

I think this kind of money problem exists in all levels of life, with the possible exceptions of Microsoft, Google, and the Federal Government. Life is about trade offs and not getting everything at once.

I'm really sure that SIU should be teaching more about innovation, interdisciplinary studies and learning habits. Where people take the skills is up to them, but the current methods aren't good enough.

Fraydog said...

The ironic thing is that if they focused on undergrads, the Top 75 thing might be a lot more feasible. You need good undergrads to be donors in the future to fund the fancy schmantzy graduate research programs, so in that regard I think SIU is putting the cart before the horse.