A task force at the University of Texas at Austin has called for several statues on the campus, including those of Confederate figures, to either have explanatory plaques added to the statues or to have one or more statues moved to a different area of campus, the university announced Monday. The committee, which was created by President Gregory Fenves in June, included leaders of the student government at UT-Austin, faculty members and administrators. It met six times since June and presented its findings to the president today. Two public forums were held on the presence of the statues in July, and more than 3,100 people responded to an online questionnaire about the statues. The president will review the report before making a final decision.
Three of the statues, which are all of Confederate leaders, including the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, were vandalized in June. A UT-Austin spokesman said the graffiti on the statues was cleaned off the day it was discovered and university policemen regularly patrol the area where the statues are located.
Fall begins, and the email arrives: “Dear Faculty, welcome to the 67th annual blah, blah, blah. So-and-so won this award, so-and-so had a baby, don’t forget your new copy codes (sorry they come with fewer actual copies), have a wonderful new academic year.”
There’s nothing wrong with the tradition of a fall kickoff email, but as a composition professor, the ones I’ve most often received have struck me as missed opportunities for something … more. What if, rather than transactional (dean writes to faculty members; faculty members read and hit “delete”) the messages were relational (dean and faculty members write to each other)? What if the messages offered genuine reminders of the attributes and behaviors both sides, administrative and professorial, most need from each other to accomplish their common goals?
Luckily, I was able to find an associate dean -- as it happens, my own -- who was willing to attempt this experiment with me. Here is our first attempt at a new-and-improved “Dear Dean/Dear Faculty” sequence -- the sort of thing that could be posted to a common wiki or team site and thus become a living document, not something forgotten by the time Labor Day looms.
Eek, this makes me more vulnerable than I expected!
1. I’m overwhelmed a lot. All of us faculty members are. Teaching takes a lot of energy -- sometimes I feel as though there are a million grabbing hands all over me, like I'm in a Walking Dead rerun. This is why sometimes, when I see you walking down the hall, I avoid eye contact -- it is stupid, it sets an unfriendly tone, it probably makes you feel unwanted and invisible. But I get afraid you are going to ask me to do something I don’t have time to do, and that I won’t know how to say no.
2. Treat us like the talent. You know me -- I’m the person who told a job candidate that “don’t be a diva” was my faculty mantra -- so this might sound surprising, but hear me out. Think of when we were job candidates. Think of all the efforts you took to put us through our paces, all the show-offy stuff we did to earn that slot away from hundreds of hopefuls. You were excited, then, about us -- what we could do, what we could bring. We are still those people -- competitive, vital, exciting. Remember to see us that way, even though we’ve become familiar. Don’t let familiarity breed contempt.
3. Don’t hold grudges. Nothing is more tempting when you are in a position of power, and nothing is more fatal to community. You will never hear the truth about something in your management style that is landing wrong -- no matter how often you claim to be “open to feedback” -- if word gets around that you grip onto grievances. If, on the other hand, you wipe the slate clean between rounds (mixed metaphor), nothing will earn you longer-lasting respect.
4. Be inspiring. By necessity, a lot of our relationship is quotidian. My schedule isn’t working. You need a copy of my textbook order. My request for sabbatical was approved or it wasn’t. But when you can, if you can, I’d love for you to remind me of the bigger picture. When a student writes you to express satisfaction, can you take a minute to forward that on? If a tough meeting goes well or something exciting is on the horizon, can you share that? If I know something motivating and positive is likely to come out of your mouth … well, let’s just say I’ll always make eye contact for that.
While I can imagine some of my administrator colleagues shaking their heads at me for being so naïve, your openness makes me want to take this leap with you.
1. We’re happy you’re back. Seriously, we’re like excited dinner party hosts -- all the hard work and planning have come down to this, when you and your students finally meet and the magic unfolds! So this may sound like a little thing, but when you stop in to pick up your mail this week, please don’t ask all the office staff if they “did anything fun over the break.” And if you do, understand that we’re all going to roll our eyes a little bit. Most of the staff didn’t get a break. Most of us have been here day in and day out, plugging away all summer long to get things ready for you.
2. Be flexible. Centralized scheduling put your class that in that creepy biology lab with all the taxidermy birds. Your partner’s work schedule has changed and that morning class is now going to pose some challenges. Your semester leave request was denied -- again. Believe me, I get it, and I want to help you with all of this. But sometimes the answer is going to be no. We can’t swap your room with the one down the hall because there’s another course going into it in two weeks. I already canceled two other classes so your morning section would have enough students. Your project wasn’t supported because a dozen of your colleagues also put in great proposals and there just wasn’t enough money for them all. There’s almost always a bigger picture, and very few of the decisions I get to make are simple or come without some trade-offs. So I need you to be flexible and forgiving if things don’t break your way. I promise, I’ll do everything I can to balance things out the next time around.
3. We play for the same team. Almost everyone at the college -- the janitors who reset the classrooms each night, the admissions staff and advisers who field countless questions from students and parents, the managers of the bookstore, the staff at the testing and tutoring centers, the administrative assistants and everyone in between -- takes great pride in the role they play in the educational mission of the institution. I know you know this, but sometimes you seem to forget. Be respectful of your teammates: respond to communications in a timely manner, meet key deadlines and be gracious when people ask for your assistance.
4. Keep me in the loop. I know you’re overwhelmed, and that your focus is often on just getting through the next bit of grading. But the more you can keep me informed about your plans -- and potential problems -- the easier it will be to find ways to support you. I’m always going to try to find a way to make things work, but you’ll increase the likelihood of our collective success if you give me time to plan, so give me a heads-up whenever you think something has the potential to come my way.
5. Be excellent. It sounds both simple and grandiose, but it’s really the bottom line. No amount of hard work and planning on anyone’s part matters at all if you and your students don’t excel. My job as an administrator is to nurture and support this success in all the ways I can, but often it’s simply going to come down to your own passion and drive to do extraordinary things. If this is going to work, we both have to bring our A games, and we’re going to have challenge everyone around us to be the very best they can be, too. Let’s do it!
In a higher education landscape in which administrators and faculty are too often posited as enemies -- or at least not as natural friends -- a simple exercise like this can promote mindfulness, connection, empathy and reciprocity. And that, we’d argue, is the best way to start the year.
Nicole Matos is a Chicago-based writer and associate professor of English at the College of DuPage. She is the author of three chapbooks of poetry: Oxidane (BlazeVox Books, 2014), The Astronaut’s Apprentice (Dancing Girl Press, 2015) and Skate/Glove (with Carlo Matos, Finishing Line Press, forthcoming 2016). Follow her on Twitter @nicole_matos2.
Sheldon Walcher is associate dean of English and academic ESL at the College of DuPage.
Amid calls for his termination, Central Connecticut State suspends professor who's had skirmishes with the law -- even though none of the crimes and alleged crimes relate to teaching or publications. When professors break the law, what should a college do?
Submitted by Paul Fain on August 10, 2015 - 3:00am
Apollo Education Group said Friday that it is being investigated by California's attorney general, Kamala Harris. The inquiry relates to the University of Phoenix, which Apollo owns, and students who are veterans or members of the U.S. military or California National Guard, according to an Apollo corporate filing.
The investigation follows a broad information request last month from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which is scrutinizing allegations of deceptive marketing by Phoenix. That investigation also includes the recruitment of military students.
Apollo last week released a written statement by retired Army Major General Spider Marks, who is executive dean of the Phoenix's College of Security & Criminal Justice. "The university’s practices relating to compliance, training and student support services for military students should, we believe and hope, serve as a model for all institutions, organizations and companies," Marks said.
The University of Minnesota's athletic director, Norwood Teague, resigned Friday after two university employees filed sexual harassment complaints against him. The harassment, which included inappropriate text messages, occurred during a university-sponsored dinner. Teague said in a statement that the incidents occurred after he consumed too much alcohol, and that he will seek treatment for his alcohol use.
"Norwood's resignation follows the report of two recent incidents of sexual harassment of two nonstudent university employees, based on unwelcome sexual advances and verbal and physical conduct of a sexual nature occurring on the same evening," Eric Kaler, Minnesota's president, said in a statement. "I have spoken personally to the employees and expressed my sincere regrets that they experienced this behavior. Sexual harassment at the University of Minnesota will not be tolerated. We need to be vigilant in our efforts to ensure that those who experience harassment can access the resources available to them and know that the university takes this issue very seriously."
Beth Goetz, the university's deputy athletic director, will serve as interim athletic director.
Vanderbilt University's football program tweeted an image Thursday declaring that its players "don't need your permission," prompting a backlash on Twitter. Earlier this year two Vanderbilt football players were found guilty of gang-raping another student. The trial was later ruled a mistrial on a technicality, and the case will go to trial again at a later date. "We are relentless, tough and intelligent, and …" the since-deleted tweeted read, followed by an image that stated, "we don't need your permission." Users on Twitter criticized the tweet as tone-deaf and upsetting. The university later responded, apologizing for the tweet.
"It's not a comment about sexual assault," the university stated. "Sex without permission is always wrong and not accepted. Sexual assault is not acceptable at Vanderbilt University, Vanderbilt athletics and Vanderbilt football."