Given the lack of transparency on campus, we faculty are left wondering how eCompanion was selected and why some of the basic elements of an LMS (workable email, ease of use, you know, the points we raised at the open session last year) were not included in the “must have” list.
This absence points to a larger concern regarding the lack of research and full engagement of all teaching faculty when decisions are made which effect learning.
On this campus, the accumulated years of experience of tenured faculty is ignored. We have been marginalized – or only a chosen few are continually consulted – and the results are an impoverishment of ideas and lack of foresight that could easily be remedied by including experienced voices. It’s like the college is continually reinventing the wheel.
And why? Why start over? By many measures, we were a thriving community of students and teachers. In fact, the same consulting firm suggesting we remake the college asserted that our student retention and learning were some of the best they’d seen. Why, then, the wrecking ball? It’s left tenured faculty disillusioned and disheartened. I cannot blame them. And while the lecturers may present smiling faces, they share many of the concerns of tenured faculty: they have been trained not to show them.
We want the college to move away from years of stagnation and hostility and work as a team to improve instruction.
What we now need to see is a shift to a more inclusive approach that instead of merely paying lip service to faculty concerns, acts on and learns from them.
As a starting point, the college needs to move away from an agenda based on undefined change and administrative growth and refocus on academics, which means more independent (i.e. tenured) full time teachers in the classroom, and less reliance on part time and unprotected workers who can be dismissed if they dare to disagree.
How is this connected to eCompanion? I believe direct lines can be drawn from decisions like the debacle of the Japan and China initiative, the technology in Gateway, and selection of eCompanion to an active disdain of faculty concerns.
The strength of a knowledge industry, such as a college, lies in those with the expertise and knowledge: its educators. If OCC wants to be a successful “business,” it needs to return to its strengths. In a recent article extolling the merits of shared governance, Allison M. Vaillancourt, Vice President in Human Resources at The University of Arizona (an administrator!) noted
When we’re making policy, for example, we have an established and methodical process for gathering and assessing campus opinion. It’s not unusual to receive a few hundred messages when we advance a new idea and many are quite helpful. Comments tend to be thoughtful and many are accompanied by relevant research studies or references to other models we ought to consider. I think of it as crowd sourcing our way to better administration.
As this shows, not all colleges stumble blindly from failure to catastrophe. Some still look to their brain trust (faculty) and thus avoid later problems.
There’s a word to describe what working with the faculty will result in: competence. The problem is that competency just doesn’t have the sexy ring of “disruption.” It’s rather dull. That’s okay, OCC could use a little dullness.
Looking for real solutions to the problems at OCC? To start, reinstate tenure (which fosters independence of thought and the safety to challenge poor ideas), reinstitute true shared governance (which allows a thorough vetting of plans, policies, and initiatives) and offer a fair contract (which will lead to what the college desires: a “nirvana of workplace joy and success“).
How do we begin to get such changes started? By showing that we’re serious and tired of being taken for granted.
In other words, see you at the October 1st Rally.