Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
Inspired by this example, here is my working list of "Twelve Steps to a Better SIU." I haven't made it to twelve yet, which is a good thing -- add your input and I will consolidate a list of "steps" to make SIU better.
1. University Statement on Intellectual Diversity and Academic Freedom: What makes SIUC stand out? We have diversity statements, just like the other guys. We have months dedicated to Latinos, African Americans, Women--just like the other guys. What we don't have in the plethora of statements on the SIUC web site is a bold assertion that SIUC is committed to intellectual debate and diversity. This is remarkable because SIUC has THE BEST debate team in the nation!! We should toot that horn and work from that strength. One way is to set up a regular
2. Debate Series: college campuses have become intellectually stale refuges for scholars to pursue narrow scholarly topics, and students to pursue narrow technical degrees. "Back in the day," colleges hosted rockus debates with outside or on-campus speakers addressing the issues of the day, scientific disputes, and so on. As a B.A. graduate of the Class of 1984, I returned years later to see that debates--meaningful disputation--had vanished. Even worse, colleges spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on speakers that offer only one side of hotly-contested issues.
"The sound of one hand clapping." We need TWO points of view set off against each other, sponsored or hosted by the university, resulting in the audience clapping TWO hands and getting engaged.
Believe me, this would make SIUC stand out, even as our debate champions stand out as the best in the nation.
3. Reading benches:
Recently I traveled to a private college out of state. I was struck by the abundance of benches, with students sitting and READING. iPods out of their ears, no flicking to their cell phones, but simply reading. God knows the uncomfortable hallway seating on campus does not encourage reading. Our beautiful campus would look even more collegial with more benches. Call it the "missing bench" theory (after the "broken window" concept) but a college without benches is like a town without sidewalks: soulless.
4. Promote religious study:
As a state university, SIUC cannot promote a religious point of view. But it can promote the study of religion. Years ago, SIUC, like many major universities today, had a Religious Studies Department. My retired colleague Dale Bengston taught an enormously popular "Religious Diversity in America" course. Heck, even Harvard is requiring its incoming freshmen to take one course on the study of religion. Judging from the popularity of these courses, this would be a splendid way for SIUC to connect with many people of faith across the state (Christians, Jews, Muslims, others). Moreover, you don't need to believe in any religion to understand the importance of studying it. After all, I spent many hours reading about communism when I was a graduate student but I don't embrace the philosophy!
5. Eliminate or cut "special admits":
Our general admission requirements allow a below-average high school student to attend college. "Special admits" are those who fall below the ACT/GPA standards of SIUC. This translates into an abysmal graduation rate* and burdensome expenditures on remedial education. Are we doing these admits a favor or is this the type of "kindness that kills" the spirit of those ill-prepared for college?
*The six-year graduate rate for incoming freshmen hovers below 40%. The four-year graduation rate is below 30%. That is intolerable and it forces instructors to lower standards for students who need to be challenged.
6. Multicultural Center:
The Student Center is the focal point for mid-day activity at SIUC. Every day, faculty, staff and students head there for lunch or to study. The Center has come a long way in its offerings of food and free wireless access.
What does this have to do with a "Multicultural Learning Center?" Dr. Joseph Brown, S.J. (chair, Black Studies) noted that young black students had to congregate ("hang out") at the intersection near McDonalds. What these young people needed, Dr. Brown argued, was a multicultural center. The idea went nowhere (and I doubt it would eliminate "hanging out" at the Student Center). However, my immediate thought was that we already DO have a Multicultural Center:
Call it the "Morris Multicultural Learning Center (MMLC)" and encourage students of all races to "hang out" there to study! Remember to have benches surrounding the newly renovated, spiffed-up MMLC. That's a "multicultural" idea I can get behind.
7. Home school outreach:
Kudos to President Poshard for acting swiftly on my proposal to reach out to home schoolers. SIUC Admissions is now ready to process applications from home school students. SIUC was named one of the most "Home School Friendly Colleges" in the Midwest. The next step is to reach those students. Misconceptions abound: many people home school for religious reasons but many do not. The assumption is that bright home schoolers migrate to Christian colleges but many wish to remain close to home, or cannot afford an expensive private college. Remember: Home school families make a real sacrifice in income when one spouse quits her job to educate the children. SIUC's affordability and rating as a "home school friendly college" are selling points.
8. Law and Order:
I have the highest respect for the SIU Police but they have never received the backing they need. We should not exaggerate the crime problem on campus but it is real and it keeps many students--particularly women--from attending SIUC. Nationwide, the ratio is 55% women:45% men. Here at SIUC the numbers are reversed. If SIUC had the same ratio of women, we should be 3-4,000 students "richer!"
There is no sidestepping the race and crime issue. Gangs follow students to SIUC. Indeed, last year a bright young black man with high grades came to me for advice on dealing with his former gang--now targeting him (and by "target," I mean "target"). This student had "escaped" from one of the worst schools in Chicago and was flourishing at SIUC. Here was an instant reminder that crime VICTIMS come in all skin colors. Alas, when "diversity" and crime conflict (as they did in a high-profile mugging two years ago), the crime victim is forgotten. Be consistent, forceful and do not "go wobbly" on law and order (or, if you prefer, "campus safety").
9. University 101:
SIU students vary greatly in their readiness for college, an understatement given that half will never graduate. Currently, SIU offers a University 101 course on how to succeed in college. These courses discuss the basics, such as notetaking, organization, time management. Because SIU relies on faculty/staff volunteers, the course is largely limited to our least well-prepared students. As an instructor, I know that even the average-to-above-average students need training in notetaking and in asserting themselves with instructors, who sit during their mandatory office hours waiting for students who never come for help. (I date myself by referring to these as my Maytag repairman hours). Recommendation: Student interns earn academic credit for staffing these primer courses. They may be graduate students (who need one-on-one teaching experience if they wish to enhance their teaching portfolio). Or they may be our best and brightest undergraduates. Other schools require a University 101 of all incoming freshmen. To limit the staffing and building space requirements, waive the course for graduates of community colleges. They have already "made the cut" and have a much higher graduation rate.
10. Reduce Legal Liability:
SIU Legal Counsel has lost several major lawsuits in recent years. Even worse, those cases involved high-profile media publicity that did not reflect well on SIU. Many cases get farmed out to firms that later hire former SIU staff counsel ("revolving door?"). How well does the office perform when audited? The public has a right to know because we taxpayers are footing the bill.
Don't ask Legal Counsel to be "yes men" and women. Case in point: When the Supreme Court handed down its "Michigan decisions" on affirmative action (2003), staff lawyer Peter Ruger and Vice President John Haller proposed mild, sensible changes to SIU's statement on affirmative action. As a member of the Affirmative Action Advisory Committee, I supported the Ruger recommendations. Apparently, however, Ruger told the diversity office what it did not want to hear. SIU refused to change anything. Ruger left for Tueth, Keeney, one of the firms on retainer to SIU. Two years later, the U.S. Department of Justice slapped SIU with a complaint and the university made the headlines by being forced to sign a consent decree agreeing not to discriminate. It didn't have to happen but the top brass ought to demand straight shooting from legal counsel and not let the Diversity Establishment interfere with their work.
Those are my first ten, more to come, but feel free to chime in with your own ideas, or call some of the above just downright wrong. Beware: I may debate you, or I may admit I was wrong.
"He that refuses correction despises his own soul" (Proverbs 15:32)
(To be continued)
Saturday, September 27, 2008
With regard to reforms of SIUC’s sexual harassment policy proposed by the Office of Legal Counsel:
SIUC constituency groups have been asked to comment on the proposed changes to SIUC’s policy, even though Legal Counsel offers no insight into the problems that both complainants and respondents experienced with the administration of the previous policy. These problems caused constituency groups, in 2006, to propose reforms that Legal Counsel saw fit to ignore in its new proposed policy. Let me admit that reforms to the policy, even were they to remedy the destructiveness of those proposed by Legal Counsel, will be of little effect, since SIUC administrators consistently ignore policies when it suits their interests. But further context might be helpful as the community responds to current proposals by Legal Counsel that lack context.
Fortunately, the SIUC Faculty Association described two cases in which complaints by women faculty against male administrators were ignored by supervisors. I know of another in which a woman faculty member filed a “hostile environment” charge against her chair. Being apprised of it, the Dean of the College, Shirley Clay Scott, immediately commiserated with the chair and indicated that legal advice to fight the complaint would be provided—all this without knowing the specifics of the complaint. [Diversity Chancellor] Seymour Bryson, upon advice of the Office of Legal Counsel, declined to investigate the complaint, the existence of which was, far from being kept “private,” announced in the departmental newsletter (sent to alumni around the world) as part of the Chair’s campaign of harassment against the faculty member, who was named as the complainant. So much for Interim Chancellor Goldman’s interest in “privacy.”
During 2005-06, I served on both University committees that recommended reforms to the policy. When the Sexual Harassment Subcommittee of the Affirmative Action Advisory Committee forwarded proposals for reform to Seymour Bryson, he demanded a rationale for them. What follows is the response that the committee provided him in 2006. While it is very long, it should add significant context necessary to an intelligent discussion of reform proposals.
[MODERATOR: Last year, coauthor Leonard Gross and I posted a link to this report in the Daily Egyptian but the advantage of the Internet is that you can click below for the full report and Schneider's final letter to Diversity Chancellor Seymour Bryson]
Readers mights be particularly interested in the case study that begins with the bracketed [***] inserted by the moderator (p. 2). If "war is the continuation of politics by other means" [von Clausewitz], the warfare here is based on a sexual harassment code twisted for political agendas, or so it would seem. No names, no report--who can tell?]
The Committee report: click on this link.
Schneider's final letter to Diversity Chancellor Bryson: click on this link
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Enrollment is down, SIU is being sued, but "take me out to the old ballgame."
As the t-shirt says, "life is good."
Ms. Valle began feathering her nest down here in Carbondale last year after having been a short term "enrollment manager" at the San Francisco Art Institute. She also spent time at SIUE, Mudelein College in Chicago, Penn State, UC- San Diego, Spelman College in Atlanta, Loyola University - Chicago, Elmhurst College, and Cal State Sacramento. According to our count thats 10 institutions. One thing about the management geniuses at SIUC, when you find someone like Victoria Valle who has made more pit stops than Kyle Busch, then you just gotta get her on your team.
So our peripatetic Ms. Valle has been studying the enrollment issues. She's got big ideas. For instance, she was quoted in the DE saying that she wanted this place to be called "Southern". "We feel that 'SIUC' kind of puts us in a place we don't want to be". And she has another groundbreaking idea: a full colored brochure extolling the wonders of "Southern".
Ms. Valle, this is called putting lipstick on a pig.
The news you may have missed is that the decline in enrollment happened among students FROM Southern Illinois. In other words the people that already know us. Maybe no one told you but here are some more factors in the enrollment decline that your brochures won't help.
(A) 6 acting/itinerate/interim/fired Chancellors since 1999.
(B) A plagiarism scandal that swooped back and forth between SIUC and SIUE before ensnaring the President of SIU, Glenn Poshard. You probably didn't see it, but the Chicago Tribune (which may be read by potential students and their parents) called for the resignation of President Poshard. Luckily we have expert faculty like Peggy Stockdale, a psychologist and Faculty Senate President, who investigated and came up with the felicitous phrase, "inadvertent plagiarism". We understand that Dr. Stockdale is now listed as an expert on sexual harassment and is advising on the new guidelines. No doubt there will some more English language barriers broken. But I
(C) A bizarre Marxist Dean of the College of Mass Communications, Manjunath Pendakur, who drove off some of the best journalism faculty in the University and replaced them with lunatic deconstructionist/jargonist "theoreticians". Aside from a revolt by alumni who withdrew millions of dollars in donations, the entire network of SIUC journalism was enraged by the actions of this Dean. Which means fewer recommendations to students to attend SIUC.
(D) Most recently there has been the issue of John Simon and Cal Meyers, long time faculty who were driven off campus by the sexual harassment secret police. That has led to the US Grant Association taking its archives elsewhere, many lawsuits, and non-stop, inane comments by the interim Chancellor Sam Goldman. Just today Goldman said that Simon was not fired, even though he received a notice of termination from the university. Goldman's analogy? "You know the line, until the fat lady sings nothing happens". What in God's name goes through Goldman's mind before it passes his lips?.
So you've got a terrific environment to pursue your work at your six figure salary - you can put out all the full colored brochures you want - and the rest of the university will be driving students away. You may have found lifetime employment after all.
I am a law professor here at SIU but I write strictly on my own behalf and as chairman of the local chapter of the ACLU. I agree with Professor Bean that the proposed sexual harassment code does a very poor job of defining what constitutes various offenses. As a result, there is a risk that people will not have adequate notice of what is an offense.
I also am very concerned that the proposed sexual harassment policy does not accord accused individuals due process rights. Individuals accused of sexual harassment do not have the right to learn the name of their accuser. They do not have the right to cross examine either the accuser or any other witnesses. The right of cross examination is considered fundamental to our system of justice because it is believed that is the best way to learn the truth. Accused individuals do not even have the right to counsel. Furthermore, at the appeals stage, they do not even have an absolute right to present evidence on their own behalf.
This process contrasts sharply with the Judicial Review Board process (I am a JRB member). For grievances that are subject to the JRB, grievants can present evidence, cross examine witnesses and have the assistance of an advocate. The SIU Law School’s Honor Code also provides a better model. We pick a neutral outsider to conduct hearings to determine whether a student has committed an honor code violation. If a student is found to have committed an offense, a sanction is recommended but the final decision as to the appropriate sanction is up to the Dean. Students have the right to counsel, the right to cross examine witnesses and the right to present evidence on their own behalf. Discipline can be imposed only if there is "clear and convincing evidence," unlike the lower standard of "preponderance of the evidence" under the proposed sexual harassment code.
Individuals may rightly feel that the proposed process gives them so little opportunity to be heard fairly that they have no recourse but to resort to filing a lawsuit in federal court as Dr. Meyers has done.Professor Leonard Gross
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Ten years ago, Professor Patai spoke at SIUC campus to a packed University Museum auditorium. The topic was her book Heterophobia: Sexual Harassment and the Future of Feminism (1998).
In Heterophobia (pp. 29-30), Patai mentions SIUC as representative of the problems with then-current codes:
"In their voluminous writings, the proliferating group of experts in this new field blur major and minor infractions, conflate gross offensiveness with a mere word or gesture that made someone--perhaps only a bystander--"uncomfortable," and even suggest that rape is implicit, if not inherent, in every unwanted touch or look. The connection is made explicit in a typical brochure, distributed at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, which states, 'Sexual harassment can be as subtle as a look or as blatant as rape.' And even lawyers specializing in sexual harassment write without embarrassment about the difficulty of defining the offense. . . ."
[Patai summarizes sexual harassment lawyers' view that "they know it when they see it"]
"The power of the charge of sexual harassment is, at the present moment, enormous. It can unleash formidable institutional forces against an alleged harasser, often with a complete absence of due process. Institutions, which, . . . are required by law to take allegations seriously, go into action as soon as the words 'sexual harassment' are uttered. Southern Illinois's brochure, for example, contains not a single word of warning about filing false charges of this extremely subjective offense. To the contrary, it promotes vigilantism: 'All members of the university community are encouraged to speak out when they see, hear of , or experience incidents of sexual harassment.''"
NOTE: This was a year before the U.S. Supreme Court laid down the "severe, persistent, or pervasive" standard which is lacking in SIU's new (proposed) code.
Dr. Patai has granted me permission to post links to
1) her critical analysis of SIU's code ten years later; and
2) her essay "Women on Top" (a lengthier read; readers strapped for time might scroll down to the last two pages where she describes a typical witchhunt at University of Wisconsin and the forces that sap the accused, even if found innocent, of the will to fight universities that go back to doing what they did before.
For other independent women against sexual harassment codes, see the Independent Women's Forum (http://iwf.org/) and search for "sexual harassment" stories.
Regarding your editorial, "Perspective is Important":
You write that we should not let "past experiences" or "preconceived biases" inform our "perspective." But the Working Group is stacked with EIGHT-- ALL EIGHT -- members who have a vested interest in the old code (see list below).* They managed it, and made a career out of it (in some cases). If they are not biased, then no one is "biased." (There is nothing wrong with "bias"--an informed person ought to be biased one way or the other. Balance is lacking here).
I read the models SIU Legal Counsel said they relied upon:
U of I: see code
Princeton: see code
NYU: see code
ALL three codes state that the legal standard is "severe, persistent, or pervasive." Very clear language.
Like a good reporter, I carefully reread SIU's new draft policy, which you say provides a "solid foundation" for the future. There is no mention of severe, no persistent, and no pervasive. Those three little words would help guide conduct of everyone on campus, including those who investigate. Believe me, no one has a clue as to the standard unless it is stated by the university, investigators are trained according to the standard, and it is hammered into them that anything below "s, p, or p" is NOT a "hostile environment." As it stands, there is no standard to guide conduct and investigations.
Moreover, the definition of terms like "sexually explicit" is extremely broad ("sexually explicit" is an entirely new category to the code). Wal-Mart censors music, is that the model for SIU? What is a "sexually explicit" song? Image? Object?
You say the draft policy is a "good start" but you made no recommendations for any changes. Be realistic: With a month to go, what could "constituency groups" do to improve the policy before the BOT votes on it in November? "Constituency groups" already offered input through one of the high-level committees of two years ago. None of their major recommendations are reflected in the "draft policy." At this point, "what you see is what you get."
My "preconceived" understanding of this area of law and policy led me and the ACLU president to warn that the code was a "ticking time bomb" before it exploded ("Can the Code"). The ACLU president and I see nothing in the new code to prevent further abuses or, even worse, a "chilling effect" on student and staff behavior. We were also right on the religious freedom case (SIU lost and had to pay $100,000 settlement plus legal expenses). We were right about the DOJ case (SIU signed a consent decree). Our "preconceived bias" has produced a good track record. How is SIU Legal's track record these days?
With all due respect, you gave Legal Counsel far more credibility than they deserve. If they say they based their model on x, y, or z, then read x, y, or z and see if it is true. In this case, they blew smoke all over the Daily Egyptian.
President, Illinois Association of Scholars
Professor of History
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901
jon.bean AT inbox DOT com
*From the Working Group:
Sexual Harassment Information Advisor representatives
Jill Adams, Associate Professor, School of Law; also teaches and researches sexual harassment policy
Dave Dilalla, Associate Dean, College of Liberal Arts
Joan McDermott, Director, Women's Studies
Michelle Hughes Miller, Director, UWPA
Carmen Suarez, Director, Office of Diversity and Equity
Sexual Harassment Scholars
Peggy Stockdale, Professor, Psychology and Faculty Senate President
Cheryl Anderson, Associate Professor, School of Law
Affirmative Action representative
Phyllis Khaaliq, Assistant Equal Opportunity Officer, Affirmative Action Office
The Committee will be facilitated by University Women's Professional Advancement and report its activities to the Associate Chancellor (Diversity).
Monday, September 22, 2008