Monday, May 21, 2007

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

Experiment to see if we can get comments going on this thread. Repeat of May 18th post. Works here, have at it -

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.


Anonymous said...

OK, well you finally put a comment link on this missive and now I'm sure you'll hear from people. Looks like I might be the first. A long, misguided post, Peter...I can't get to all of it, but I will share my thoughts on some of what you wrote, maybe that will spark more dicussion...maybe more than you can handle, eh?
Well, no you can't discuss much of anything with professors. My experience is that since they have doctorate degrees, they think they know everything about everything. Crazy, I know, but that's the vibe I get from a lot of these guys. Plus, their world is so confined to what happens at the university. That's true for most people in Carbondale. They pretty much wear blinders when it comes to the rest of the region. Same goes for you, Peter. There are school districts in this region that compete with the best in the state. Carterville and Marion come to mind.
I've lived around here for a long time...more than 30 years...and I've seen lots of progress and development outside of Carbondale. It is hard to believe the way things were back in, say, 1975. However, Carbondale hasn't changed much, nor SIU. Pretty much the same.
Well, I guess the professors gripe alot more these days. They want more money, better students, etc. Maybe it is more fun for them to stick around and bitch and moan and sound like they're oppressed rather than move on. Or is it that they just can't get hired somewhere else.
So, ideas for change? How about a professor exchange program? Send some our people off to other universities for awhile. I think they'd find there really isn't too much difference between institutions. Maybe they'd come back here with an attitude that it ain't really so bad here and start doing their jobs. I mean SIU does have alot of good students. Yes, there are bad ones, too. But at least they were given an opportunity where no one else would. SIU, and its professors, should be proud of that.
Professors should also quite constatly bad-mouthing the "evil" administration. Get over it people. Leave if you don't like it. People outside Carbondale probably don't want the help of whining professors...don't want 'em around...they're downers, man!!!
Hell, I don't know what else to say, Peter. You probably won't post this anyway...just a long rant. One thing's fer sure Peter...things would be better if you were in charge. But you're leaving...where I come from that make you a quitter...I guess we'll have to muddle on without your vast wisdom.

Peter in Carbondale said...

I can't understand it, if my post was long and misguided, why do you agree with almost all of it?

Marion schools are better then Carbondale? Maybe we should check test scores?

Thanks for writing in.

Anonymous said...

I would wholeheartedly support the University offering an early retirement program for faculty. They need to get rid of everyone over the age of 50. Too many of these people hate the Administration of this University, regardless of the people actually running things.

The idea of 'shared governance' that the Faculty Association continues to trumpet is a joke. Actually, the Faculty Association itself is joke.

Mark said...

So what's the next step? Do we fire everyone and start over?
And how is this radical fear of change you speak of any different than Carbondale or the rest of Southern Illinois? As I see it, most every little town on So Ill is afraid of change and afraid of bucking the system.

So what should SIU do? Should Poshard run for mayor? Should it recruit new, progressive professors that will affect change everywhere? Niether will happen. There are too many of the old guard dug in deep.

sthorne said...

For what it's worth, I have a friend whose wife was pregnant a few years ago. He was looking to buy a house at about the same time so decided to do some research as to where the best school district was in terms of test scores. Among the school districts around here, and somewhat to his suprise, he found that, overall Carbondale had the best test scores and average GPAs. He, his wife and the kid now own a home in southwest Carbondale.

Scott said...

Interesting that you'll call me out by name, Peter, but won't post my reply.

Peter in Carbondale said...

Mark -

I'm moving out of town, that is my answer. I think the problems at SIU are going to go unsolved. The older professors are bitter, but the young ones are lower quality and lazy in comparison. Take your pick. Management is terrible, just terrible at SIU, so complaining is the right thing to do.

sthorne -
Giant City is the best k-8 school district, followed by Unity Point, in the area. CCHS is the best high school. Moving to SW Carbondale was a mistake, if test scores are important to you.

I have written about this in detail quite a few times, but in summary, it isn't the teachers, it isn't the students, it is the parents who make or break a school district's results. But a great Superintendent does really help.

Peter in Carbondale said...

Scott - I have no reply on this thread (in its several variations) from you.

Scott said...

Funny, Peter, I've sent in a reply at least three times under my name and received the "comment saved." I don't believe you're so technically unsavvy given your former occupation. In any case, I'm not typing the whole darned thing out a fourth time.

I'll say this about your reply,

"The older professors are bitter, but the young ones are lower quality and lazy in comparison."

Hogwash. You cling to this fiction like Linus to his blanket, but its such a sweeping generalization that its a baldface lie. As I've said before on this blog, if we're also lazy and stupid then why is it that I see my colleagues in the office on the weekend, in the summer, and getting hired away by more prestigious universities (only to be replaced by someone of the same quality). I have no doubt that's not the case every where in the university, but its also true that "all young professors are lower quality and lazy."

Sam W. Clyde said...

Giant City is the best school based on what? The White Bread mentality. No real world interaction with children of other races. Serious lack of technology in their building. Yes, parents to volunteer there. I think that Unity Point volunteerism is at about 90% or higher, great and soon to improve technology in every class room with a staff to teach it. Ethnic diversity, cultural arts program that is good, could be great. A new Superintendent that is GREAT!
Peter your kids were home schooled how much can you really know about GC & UP. I know of your battles with 95 based on your rights as a property tax payer. I know they have their problems and they would benefit from more parent involvement. Probably should require it. Liz Lewin and Nancy Stemper have retired I would think you would be happy.

Anonymous said...

“I'm moving out of town, that is my answer. I think the problems at SIU are going to go unsolved. The older professors are bitter, but the young ones are lower quality and lazy in comparison. Take your pick. Management is terrible, just terrible at SIU, so complaining is the right thing to do.”

Well said and true, however these are symptoms of a deeper problem. I go back to my comment in a previous entry here in which I not-so-subtly implied that the administration of SIU, including Mr. Poshard, and the faculty do not know what their mission is. They have no over arching goal or objective. (I challenge anyone to even find a statement of such on the SIUC website). And certainly, based on the evidence, its unstated purpose must not have anything whatsoever to do with contributing to the local community. Rather, the evidence indicates that administration and faculty see the community indebted to the university.

This lack of conscious purpose is partly due to the fact that in our current civil realm, an over arching mission is really not possible in a public institution. These institutions tend to simply operate on an enormous inertia that is purely self perpetuating, and self serving. The momentum of this behemoth is very difficult to counter by any one president or administration. The unstated goalin such a situation is very clear. More students…period. It does not matter what the caliber, where they come from, how many majors it takes, how much money must be spent on needless brick and mortar, etc. Whatever it takes to get more students. Because afterall, without the students, where would all of these faculty members and administration staff be? More, and bigger...more and bigger. But to what end?

It will take a radical change to alter the landscape with respect to SIU and Carbondale. This car needs an engine overhaul, not a pretty paint job.


fastsaluki said...

What is SIU's mission? The first time I saw it, 47 years ago, it was in bold letters on the wall at the end of the the corridor of the main entrance. A bright shining promise.To seek wisdom and light. Clear and filled with promise to all who believed in it. Has the Mission been changed to the sign by the rest room? Out of order?

Peter in Carbondale said...

Scott -

One of the great things about dealing with me is that I will not lie about BS. You are quite correct that you have named you anonymous persona and I'm quite willing to let you respond. I'm not getting your comments and I don't know why.

Your ideas about hard work are interesting. You need to find some 75 year old professor and ask what the old days were like. Imagine, the professors actually when to talks by other professors back then!

Peter in Carbondale said...

For economic development purposes, the test scores are the thing that matters. The professors children out of the SW are legion. The problem lies elsewhere.

I have written about this many times and you can go check the archives for my full opinions.

Anonymous said...

I read the papers and listen to reports at meetings and feel little optimism that SIUC has found its focus or is about to turn the corner.
Yet, when I drive down East Grand I see new apartments springing up like mushrooms. Someone seems to have faith that SIUC's enrollment troubles are not permanent. But why? Do these investors know something that rest of us don't? Or, are they going to lose
their shirts?

Julie said...

Southern at 150 lists a mission for the university.

As I recall, the statement at the end of the corridor in the library will still be there after the remodeling is done.

Peter in Carbondale said...

I have to admit, I just rejected Scott's latest comment. He is such an idiot and doing another round of his stupid logic is more than I stand. Go away Scott, find someother forum and waste there time.

Don't you have to understand statistics and logic to have a PhD anymore?

Peter in Carbondale said...

To Anonymous about apartments being built. There are two things going on, historically low interest rates and perception of a problem with existing housing. If you were an apartment building company and believed that college students (and their parents) have more money to spend on rent (which they do), and the existing housing stock sucked (which it does), you might see this as an opportunity. You will notice that the student have completely filled all the nice apartments and left the sucky ones empty?

I think this is a statement of market opportunity and not a referendum on SIU's management. It is happening everywhere.

The USA is the richest society that has every existed on the face of the Earth. We have so much money we can waste it in SIU, Iraq, on gas, roads and buildings. When a well known, national movement is supplying every child on the Earth with a laptop computer, this might tell us that we have lots of money to spend.

fastsaluki said...

Re: "SIU behind the moat".

SIU went "behind the moat" on one night in May 1969 and has been behind it ever since. The night the University shut down was day one in the decline of the of the institution that was Southern Illinois' hope for the future. It was the day that the University said to the people of Southern Illinois "we are not you" and the slow rot began where people began to lose faith in the promise of the only thing that could turn Southern Illinois away from the malignant rot that charicterized it for most of the 20th century.

After the Civil War, Anna got the nut house and Carbondale, much to its dismay got the "Normal" School. Turns out both were losers.