Thursday, May 17, 2007

If Another Dejected Idealist Comes In The Door, We're Going to Get Busted By the Fire Marshal

Dear President,

Congratulations on completing your first year. Perhaps there is hope for this university yet. After six years of community service in education, and voluntarily choosing to relinquish a six-figure package to spend time with my kids and family, I resign. I will continue to be involved in education and learning because the prostitution of our education system angers me to no end.

Rapid growth in student body and tuition revenue while increasing the layers of bureaucracy, increasing faculty workloads (see letter to Dean below), and adopting the latest greatest trends will lead to adverse selection in the student body and faculty attrition. From what I have seen you do not seem to be the kind of person who would voluntarily reduce academic standards, and pay heed to student needs to the exclusion of faculty needs; however, those around you seem to have a slightly different agenda. We are a society enslaved by benchmarks. Be careful how they are used - garbage in, garbage out. You give me hope that this institution may have better things in store.


Dear Students,

It has been a truly enlightening and a frightening experience to teach you these few years.

I have become enlightened to the challenges some of you face - some of them are challenges every student has faced, others are unique to one. Please do not forget that your teachers occupied seats in the classroom once, and that our relationship while a formal one need not be adversarial. Most of your teachers are there to guide your learning, but you must immerse yourselves in the experience to get the most out of it. It has been frightening to see the attempts some of you make at trying to work the system, the professor, the classmate. While this may be symptomatic of a wider societal issue, if only you spent of this energy more productively on task. It is not always about placing blame on someone else. Take some responsibility for your actions and choices.

Fortunately, some have brighter futures than their classmates. For the first time in all these years, it was this semester that some of you actually appreciated and believed that you could do something for which I believe you have had the capacity. Thank you for sharing your honest recognition of this fact with me using your anonymous writing exercise.


Dear Dean,

Who are you, really?

Are you the same person who was so enamored of my analogy that an educational experience should not be a trip to the fast food joint, but more like dining at a fine restaurant? An experience that one may not appreciate all at once in its immediacy. A culinary delight one pines for only after one has savored a few different meals with their exquisite blend of aroma, taste, texture, and the warm glow they impart to one's inner and external countenance. A place which one leaves richer for the experience.

Or, are you the individual who wrote me a note stating that our most effective teachers are characterized by high fill rates, low withdrawal rates and positive student evaluations?

Or, are you the individual who rapidly sided with a parent who accused me of having ridiculed his son's name with racist and terrorist undertones after I refused to discuss his son's class standing with him? Whose story seemed more believable because he was an educator who remained calm during your phone call to him?

Or, perhaps you are the leader of a college that insists that my tenure-track colleagues accept a 4-4 load with scholarship and research requirements when the rest of the University seems to be actually a bit more reasonable. Adverse selection will affect your college sooner rather than later if you keep this up. You will lose the good faculty and end up with clones of yourself - those who will do the politically needful and play the game.You have been a disappointment.


Dear Chair,

With each passing year since you arrived on campus as a corporate retiree, the department seems to have taken a few steps forward and then some backwards.

We have added programs, but then we have allowed less than qualified entrants to populate them in an effort to grow the program. What happened to quality and exclusivity? You are supposed to be a quality expert.

You lack spine to take a stand for your people. Even though you lead one of the largest departments on campus, you do not stand firm on issues. In fact, you would prefer the faculty in the department keep a low profile and not rock the boat. Why the avoidance syndrome? Of course, you may be cozy with the dean after your overseas summer trips to internationalize programs and attract unsuspecting students to this university.

As a numbers guy, you seem to have forgotten that numbers tell stories, and the stories might not always be as obvious as one might believe. Do you really believe that students who come in with below national average scores suddenly become much better students at our institution? How did we manage to attract all the "best" teaching faculty with at or below state average departmental compensation? Was it the work environment? Or, could it be that the teaching effectiveness is a result of some other phenomenon?