Friday, May 18, 2007

Wasting time arguing with professors - what is SIU's mission?

I'm going along on one of my Joel stinks thread and I'm having someone who claims anonymously (Scott) to be a Poly Sci professor arguing with me. His argument is that he just disagrees, no logic, no details, just he disagrees. All of a sudden, I realize I'm debating with someone who is part of the vocal minority in Carbondale (500 votes less in the last mayor's election) and who's place in our society is being marginalized by the bad attributes their behavior attracts. In addition, he is playing the silly liberal art professor debate game. What a waste of time.

Let's go over once again, why people who have to survive on this side of the moat, shouldn't be discussing much of anything with professors. Through hiring practices and tradition SIU has accumulated a majority of management and professors, who are killing the university. They earned their PhD's, got a research job and now they are tracked in for a set financial compensation for the rest of their lives. Change is their enemy, prices might go up faster then their raises, someone else might do research and undermine them, economic success of the town could be changes in real estate pricing, traffic or restaurant mix. In economic terms, almost all changes in town, will cause a neutral or negative economic effect on them.

The test scores of the local elementary system are below the mean (and far below if you are on the free lunch program), but the professors aren't doing much of anything about it. The professors of 30 years ago were pounding the table for better education and the school system was one of the best in the state. So, we know their interest in their feeder systems isn't there. Professors were so different in Carbondale in 1970 and so much better. Might be a lesson there?

Many of our Professors identify with "the little man," like our friend Kyle the progressive. Of course, there are no jobs for any of the little people in Carbondale outside of the confines of SIU. One of the rational thoughts about "the little man" is that they aren't capable of creating their own jobs, they need help from someone. Because of our lack of jobs, our most capable and ambitious young people leave the area. But, why make a pro-business city government that might create an environment that might create good jobs? The professors have theirs and it might promote change, which can be only bad for them. Let them eat cake.

Social services for the poor and disadvantaged? Not the professor's problem, the business people have funded our new local initiatives to help the poor. Boys and Girl's Club and Woman's Center remodel have been the two big campaigns in the last few years. Professor giving is essentially zero. Professor volunteerism is essentially zero. Like the elementary schools, it is someone else's problem. Sounds like social leadership to me. Let them eat cake.

Change is my friend, the more Carbondale changes, the better I will do economically. More jobs means more success. Better schools, lead to better workers. Less abused and under educated children, more smart people to create wealth. If there is opportunity, I have the time and money to exploit it. My future isn't locked in, I have no idea what my economic horizon is (if I'm careful, things look good no matter what). I have spent the last 6 years trying to help. Giving large amounts of money. Spending lots of time working on changing Carbondale for the better. It is the only way to help the little man, build companies that will provide them with a well paid job and benefits.

Our anonymous poster Scott, Joel and Sheila are all enemies of change in Carbondale, as are most SIU people. It is in the economic interests of SIU employees to throw tacks under the wheels of economic progress in Southern Illinois. It is a waste of time to discuss economic things with most of them, only their own best interests are truly considered. Thank goodness they are only a solid minority or there would be no hope.

Maybe it is time for SIU to change their objectives? Maybe if the health of Southern Illinois were considered as part of SIU's mission things would be different? This is exactly the way that Delyte Morris framed SIU mission and we have seen Glenn Poshard starting to try to move the mission of SIU back to the historical mission of being a resource for Southern Illinois. No one who works at SIU remembers the Morris years and the success of SIU now, but the people were better, the feeling was better and the results were better.

What happens if professor salaries become tied to the economic success of Carbondale, Southern Illinois or Illinois? The tax payers have no real interest in funding universities in their current self satisfied missions to nowhere. Maybe it is time for public universities to serve society in a trackable way? Would it change SIU if the local business community could get behind higher funding? Would it change SIU to have a mission to service society first, instead of serving the employees?

I guess what we know that it is silly for a Southern Illinois business person to have a discussion about local politics with a professor. Their interests are opposed and in the end, there isn't really much middle ground. Maybe Scott's anonymous argument is the right approach, no thoughts, no logic, no wasting time. He is arguing for his economic interests and they are opposed to mine. Why bother doing details?

Joel is a bad city council member and Lance and Haynes are equally bad. All of them aren't really prepared or active, the question becomes which one votes in your economic interests. Joel is a creature of SIU and Lance and Haynes are creatures of business. I like the way that Lance and Steven vote and don't like the way the Joel votes. When Joel is up for reelection, I hope the same silent majority vote him out, that just voted Brad in.

Maybe someday, SIU's employee's positive economic results will be tied to Carbondale's positive results. The professors of the "Great Depression" era, made this happen, by working for the common good. It is a shame that those professors are dead or retired now, they were much better for Carbondale then the crop we have now.

This is about management decisions. SIU has chosen to reward professors for not working in the community. In the Morris years, you got job credit for working the community. I asked Wendler about this 5 years ago and got blown off. He told me he had no power to change anything, I should talk to the faculty union. I knew then he would fail, he wasn't a leader.

Carbondale and SIU's future together is so much worse than I thought it might be 6 years ago. SIU might succeed and Carbondale might succeed, but unless Poshard can change the culture at SIU, it will be separately. It would be much easier to work together, but that is the way it is. For a number of years, I have referred to SIU as being behind "the moat." It is really true, it is a fortress, standing apart from the community around it.

Thanks to Scott for doing his comments yesterday and making me realize that writing to him was a waste of my time. This is much more interesting.

Of course, your comments are welcome.