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Letter to the Editor: A “plan” with no plan

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Letter to the Editor: A “plan” with no plan

Yenitza Melgoza

Yenitza Melgoza

Yenitza Melgoza

By Patrick Dilley

I attended the meeting Chancellor Carlo Montemagno called with the Faculty of the College of Education and Human Services on Monday, January 23.

I would like to convey, in this letter, both the content and the tenor of the questions from the Faculty and the answers, and other information, provided by the chancellor.

The chancellor began his presentation/conversation by including a statement that the proposed restructuring was not about saving money. “I wish people would stop bringing up the $2.4 million,” he said. “It’s a sideshow distraction – fake news.” He implied that were it not for department chairs having fiduciary roles in the current FA contract – chairs who had abused their roles and acted in their own self-interest – there would be no need for a reorganization.

He stated that the reason he proposes doing away with chairs is because of the collective bargaining agreement. I pointed out that this statement contradicted his statement at the Board of Trustees business meeting in December, where he said his proposal was to work around the collective bargaining agreement’s designation of “departments” as the organizational unit. I do not believe he responded to my comment.

The chancellor told us that his plan for the reorganization of our units had changed, as he learned that SIUC had started as a normal school, training teachers; consequently, details of his “plan” for us had changed, including nomenclature of the administrator who would be in charge of this new “School of Education” as well as units within it.

The chancellor said he wanted to return “faculty lines” back to the head of this school, to the “programs.” He stated his expectation was that Faculty would decide which programs needed to be kept and strengthened, and which needed to be cut.

The chancellor posited that the remaining faculty in this school would create its own operating papers, its own rationale for voting and system of governance, on its own; he confirmed that the administration would have no role in creating this system. He stated directly, however, that his expectation was that faculty positions would be eliminated through this process.

I asked him, as did others, repeatedly, how such a system would work, indeed, a “one faculty member, one vote” would give one “unit” – Curriculum and Instruction, in our current organization – the ability to override the votes of all of the remaining faculty in other units. He said we should work out those issues on our own.

This “hands off” doctrine seemed only to extend to inter-school struggles for survival, sort of an academic version of Survivor. Nonetheless, whatever the faculty would decide would only be advisory to him; if he did not agree with our decisions, he could overrule them.

The chancellor went on to say that “I write your paychecks,” and that we all worked for him. The chancellor claimed he wants to return control of hiring lines and program funding to the new school, but the implication was clear: resources and self-control, such as it would be, would only come from conforming to the chancellor’s plan.

That plan was scant on details, as it has been in every setting in which I have seen or heard the chancellor speak of it. I, and other faculty, asked for more information about specifics of his proposal; I asked him several times to explain, precisely, operationally, what he was proposing; at one point, I said, “I’m not trying to be an ass; I don’t understand this.” The chancellor seemed unable or unwilling to respond with specifics.

I specifically asked him how his administration was prepared to deal with the State educational accreditation bodies and licensure agencies. He stated that there would be “no problem.” I responded that while I am no expert on the issue, I am aware that the State currently requires programs to be approved in advance.

Assistant Vice-Provost Chevalier responded, saying she would be pleased to meet with me about accreditation questions; when I spoke with her after the meeting, she stated that she would be so busy with the Faculty meetings about the proposed reorganization, she would not have time to speak with me “for weeks:” in other words, after the Contractually-required “vote” on this proposed change.

When faculty asked the chancellor about how programs with fewer faculty than curriculum and instruction would survive, the chancellor stated that such faculty could teach service or other courses for other programs. When I pointed out that we would not necessarily be qualified to do so – nor desirous to abandon our professional affiliations and training – the chancellor spoke eloquently of rising above our personal interests. “You should put the interests and needs of the university, and the school, and the programs above your personal interests.”

The chancellor said faculty needed to become “responsible citizens of the university,” so that if we “finished our work” in a given week, we would go do more work in another area. He stated that we needed to do more “research” (not scholarship; all of his examples were of producing marketable processes or products). He stated that he wanted faculty to become more responsible in shared governance, which he said “means more than telling me ‘No.’” He told us, “Trust me.”

As someone who annually assesses and evaluates future postsecondary administrators in presentations, I could not say that the chancellor would have passed this assignment. The faculty were no less informed than prior to the presentation; our questions were not answered, and, if anything, what we had previously had been told was contradicted.

We were depicted as irresponsible academic citizens, shirking our duties and doing little to nothing to help the university. I, at least, felt insulted: the chancellor does not know what our programs are, what they do, what they need for accreditation for our students, nor what our college faculty has done (and given up) to stay functioning.

How can I trust a plan with no details, crafted for reasons that vary weekly, promulgated by an administrator whose ethics I question?

As always, I stand ready to respond to questions for information that the board might have.

Patrick Dilley, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Higher Education and Qualitative Research, and Associate Professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Southern Illinois University Carbondale can be reached at [email protected]


2 Responses to “Letter to the Editor: A “plan” with no plan”

  1. gerry king on February 15th, 2018 9:56 am

    As an Alumnus, I cannot and will not support SIUC’s current administration. That said, clearly SIUC is on a death spiril that cannot be pulled out from. Further, with the faculty trying to govern, clearly the inmates are gurading the institution.

  2. Victor E. Roy on February 15th, 2018 1:19 pm

    The College of Education and Human Services was to reorganize and reduce the number of departments several years ago. However, many of the faculty objected to this plan and revolted, because of their attachment to the departmental system. Based on that history, it would appear that asking colleges to reduce departments would not work. I think this recent history is one reason for the drastic measure of eliminating departments .

    Essentially departments are being eliminated or becoming mega-departments or super-departments called schools. Faculty are concerned with losing their professional identity that a department title provides them.

    Years ago when the Department of Special Education merged with the Department of Educational Psychology to become the Department of Educational Psychology and Special Education (Now Department of Counseling, Quantitative Methods, and Special Education). The Ph. D. in Education concentration in Special Education was eliminated some time after the merger and the department only offered a Ph. D. in Education with a concentration in Educational Psychology with un-transcripted sub-concentrations in human learning and development, counselor education and supervision, educational measurement and statistics (quantitative methods), and special education.

    The point is with mergers there is a risk of other programs being absorbed or lumped together into other programs. As a result, students may be highly specialized in their sub-concentration, but this sub-concentration may be un-transcripted, because of their sub-concentration or specialization is only a pseudo-program operating under another program at the doctoral level .

    Curriculum and Instruction is a department that offers the Ph. D. in Education with a concentration in Curriculum and Instruction. The faculty in this department offer many un-transcripted sub-concentrations as part of the larger program. Curriculum and Instruction is a large interdiscipliinary department is in many ways similar to what a school would look like. I am sure that there are faculty in the department of Curriculum and Instruction who would like to have a department and program named for their specialty or sub-concentration (e.g., Department of Literacy. Language, and Culture and a Ph. D. in or at least with a concentration in Literacy, Language, and Culture).

    If SIU goes to the school system, which I really think is mega-departments or super-departments, faculty must fight to make sure accurate degree majors and concentrations are transcripted. SIU could do better at offering trasncriptable cerrtificates, doctoral minors or cognates, etc.

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