Sunday, January 28, 2007

Sheila's plans - I'm going to analyze them.

I have found that Sheila Simon has published a plan or really a platform for her campaign for mayor. It is quite a document and I'm going to start stepping through it. It is pretty short and simple, so reading it is easy. The hard thing is figuring out what she is really saying or implying in there.

You might read it yourself so you can tell me I'm wrong more effectively.

Friday, January 26, 2007

SIU - will it get worse or get better? About low standards.

I think the discussion about low standards, not just in teaching and student performance, but in all things is worth having at SIU. One of the most interesting things about walking through an SIU building is the sea of professor's doors that are shut, empty and locked. Is it low standards if you work 20 hours a week? The physical plant workers who are on break for half of everyday, is that low standards? Students who don't take notes, estimated to be over half of all students by many sources, is that low standards? Alumni who give large gifts don't get promised reports, is that low standards?

SIU doesn't advertise and doesn't really recruit, but that has been identified as a problem. Good work there by SIU's management. I think that was identified as a really important area that wasn't measuring up and management is moving to fix it.

You wonder how long it will take for SIU to realize that allowing low standards in all things is killing the university? Is this like a 12 step recovery program, the first step is admitting you have a problem?

I'm on record predicting a 10% drop in students over the next 5 years at SIUC. That was before Poshard decided to try and fix SIUC's PR and recruiting, so maybe it will not be that bad. Yes, I know they can pad the numbers with US Military, stupid tricks with graduate students taking 1 hour and the like, but we are talking about real students. I don't see how the real numbers can go up anytime soon.

What do you think? Are SIU's low standards killing the golden goose? Will enrollment go up or down? What should SIU do about people just not doing the work and still being rewarded?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

One more thing about that silly photo - The Student Story.

I wrote about this a couple of days ago, but one more thought about the silly photo that the DE found on the SIU webpage.

It was OK that the photographer took the shot. They take lots of pictures and throw away almost all of them looking for the one great shot in the bunch.

It wasn't OK that it was choosen as a good picture. It wasn't OK that it was put on the SIU webpage.

It was a good thing that the DE saw the picture and wrote a story about it. They really got the idea and wrote a constructive story about how SIU needs to improve. Good work.

The point that has been missed until now is why no one has called out the students on their complete lack of skills learning the material of the class. When you look at the students, no one is taking notes. As some of you know, when you take notes a different part of your brain is being used and you learn in a much improved way to passive listening. Of the 11 students we can see in that almost famous shot, only one looks to be taking notes. Students who don't take notes in math classes don't generally pass.

If I had to pick the one key point of SIU's downward slide, it would have to be the low academic achievement of students that SIU has allowed in these last years. The students aren't being challenged, grades are being given to students who have not learned the material and done the work, degrees are being awarded to some students who simply do not deserve them.

Should SIU give away results like the local junior colleges? Should SIU cheapen their degrees to the point that employers no longer expect a minimum level of achievement from SIU graduates? Should a SIU graduate's first manager in the real world be the first to demand reasonable effort and results? I think this has been the management message at SIUC over the last few years.

The students and SIU need to get it together and figure out how to teach the students to learn. To demand the students learn and to fail student who don't. The place is full of smart kids who need to be asked to jump a higher bar and the university is failing them. Of course, this generation of students is very happy to slide by.

The reputation that should really worry SIU is if people believe that the students who go to U of I get good jobs and the students who come to SIU move back into their parent's house and become assistant managers at Subway. Doesn't matter if you do good research then, SIU will be on the road to heck.

DE says Poshard had a bad year? I just can't agree.

I didn't capture the link, but found it on Dave's Shawnee Net News collector. Here is "Our Word" from the DE. It would be really nice if there was a date to separate the issues, but Dave has created a really cool tool.

Bottom line, the DE's staff doesn't see what Poshard has done well in his first year in power. What I see he has done is fire the biggest problem people in positions of power at SIUC (he has canned my top 3 and hopefully will move on to the next few soon). He has kept the faculty union contact discussions from being front and center in the press. He has put water on the "gang of 9" suspension problem. But mostly, he had started to analysis SIUC and started to try to move it in the right direction.

I have talked to a couple his consultants and they are doing exactly the right thing. They are looking at the structures of administration and trying to figure out how to fix them. They are backing away from Southern at 150 and Saluki Way in a reasonable and orderly fashion (note, when you need to raise a whole bunch of money and you haven't raised about half when you announce it, you aren't going to raise that money).

I think Poshard's only big misstep is his need to be "KING!" of SIU. Where it might have worked for Morris, this is a new age. His handling of the Joan Friedenberg discussions and his public attacks on her were really stupid (whistle blower lawsuit anyone?). I suspect that this high handed behavior, based on ego, is going to make it harder to do what he needs to do. If you weren't driven by ego, maybe you wouldn't be dumb enough to take the SIU President's job?

One of the big problems that Poshard has is analyzing and replacing the losers who hold so many jobs in all levels of SIU. Because of the contracts and tenure, the replacement cycle at SIU is very slow. In the private sectors, SIU would be having a massive layoff to flush the losers and then rehire to the right level. I suspect that you are looking at a 20 year fight to reload the university with the right kind of people.

Moving SIUC forward is going to be a many year cycle. This isn't like dropping a class, writing a research paper or changing majors. Poshard is going to have to figure out what to do and start to do it, the results are likely to be years down the line. That is the way it works when you are managing large systems. The good news is that someone has started, has recruited expert help and that person isn't as clueless as Wendler.

Hopefully, we are going to see many more "retirements" and other management movement at SIUC. Hopefully, the university will figure out how to stop the feather bedding and waste in their ranks. I suspect that Poshard ties to unions will prevent much of this and derail the SIUC turnaround, but time will tell.

In summary, I think Poshard has had about as good a year as anyone could expect. It could be better, but there are glimmers of movement, hope and intelligence that bode well for the future.

Poshard has taken a hard job and I wish him luck, but man does he have challenges.

Moe's is pretty marginal - new restaurant review.

As a real Mexican food fan, I was excited about the possibility of a good chain coming to town. After eating a Moe's a few times, I think we can call them an OK restaurant, but nothing special.

The first thing I have noticed is that beef is much worst then chicken. Everything at Moe's is better with Chicken. Everything is on a flour tortilla and they are like wonder bread. Since all they do with the tortilla is steam them, they just don't taste very good.

The mild salsa is pretty good, but the medium and hot are just bad. All the hotter spices are just pepper, there is no real complexity to them. The hot sauce at Taco Bell is better.

As long as we are talking about spices, Moe's puts no spice in their food, none! You can add salsa yourself after the food is made, but that salsa really isn't very good.

Bottom line, Moe's isn't bad. If you compare it to Mexican chains that are direct competitors, it is at the bottom of the pack. Best chain I have been to is Cafe Rio in Utah. Baja Fresh has many outlets and is way better then Moe's. It is better then Taco Bell. Still a welcome addition to Carbondale, but I don't think they are better then Don Taco.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Sometimes you read something and you think you have contributed.

Our Word: SIUC's marketing strategy a snooze - Our Word had a really great marketing professional, Stan Hansen a couple of years ago. He left us to chase his GF (now Wife?) up to Chicago. I'm on the road and likely would have missed this one if he hadn't sent me the link.

I feel like I have made a little contribution to SIU through this blog, look the DE gets it! Marketing and PR are one of the drivers that SIU is failing. The Dean of Business said something about how marketing is both the message and the product. I think that if SIU gets the marketing story together, they still have a product problem. One step at a time.

It is interesting how many good people we have lost at because their GF/BF/Wife/Husband/True Love/whatever couldn't find work in Southern Illinois.

No, this is not the beginning of this blog being active again.