Our University – Killing Integrity, the Seven Deadly Sins

Last in a series of eight on integrity

Killing integrity is a slow, predictable process.  Here are seven deadly sins.

One – Lower standards to increase the perceived desirability of the university and grow enrollment.  Treat students as commodities and get the dough.  Nobody really understands higher education; people can be fooled, most of the time.  A suit filed against the State University of New York claims the university lowered admission standards to generate enrollment and revenue, according to Inside Higher Ed, December 2, 2009.

Two – Encourage trustees and regents to engage in business relationships with people who bid for work on the campus.  This is one of the benefits of serving the university as leaders.  A property right if ever there was one.  Interference in operational matters is old news according to a story in the Chronicle of Higher Education  on December 19, 2003,” Grambling Regains Its Accreditation; Auburn Put on Probation for Trustee Meddling.”

Three – Hire friends who do not have the qualifications, experience, skill, disposition, or passion to work at the university. Return political favors. In a New York Times story from April 4, 2006, “Report Finds Patronage Rife at a University”  David Kocieniewski says that,  “Patronage hiring was so pervasive at New Jersey’s State Medical school that job applications were marked with a numeral indicating the potency of the applicants’ political connections, according to a report released on Monday by a federal monitor.”

Four – Countenance double- and triple-dipping in hiring and re-hiring retired people.  (I am not talking about a faculty member who comes back for a designated period of service.)  Employ people already the beneficiary of over-promised, under-funded, bankrupt pension systems for government employees.  “Washington state’s higher education system is hurt when well paid administrators game the system to receive their pensions while still working and collecting a salary”, suggests Ryan Blethen in a Seattle Times editorial on July 6, 2010.

Five – Barter pay raises for union faculty to avert the challenges of tenacious bargaining.    Have union contracts that never mention quality or excellence.  Progress in universities may be defined as making sure someone else doesn’t get what you don’t have.  In a June 2008 piece entitled “Faculty Unions Versus Academic Legitimacy – Unionization Sends Schools into Academic Mediocrity” in The Freeman, Charles Beard, an economist makes a damning observation about the California Faculty Association, a faculty union, “… and academic standards at the College had been allowed to decay in favor of keeping nonproducing faculty happy and quiet (that is, not filing complaints with the CFA) and boosting student enrollment.”

Six – Have no plan for the future that holds out excellence and positive change as the measure of all things.    If there is a plan, do not promulgate it as it may require accountability.  In a report for the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents, Kathleen A. Paris offers this insight, “Strategic planning can be risky in that deliberate decisions are made to focus or refocus the organization. This means that ‘something has to go’ or at the very least, ‘something has to change’.”

Seven – Be bullet-proof.  Make sure political ducks are in a row so that any storm can be weathered. Hunker down. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “hunker down”: “Squat, with the haunches, knees, and ankles acutely bent, so as to bring the hams near the heels, and throw the whole weight upon the fore part of the feet”. And World Wide Word makes this observation,  “The advantage of this position is that you’re not only crouched close to the ground, so presenting a small target for whatever the universe chooses to throw at you, but you’re also ready to move at a moment’s notice”. If accused of impropriety, make sure to stack the deck to get the desired response.

These seven sins kill integrity.

The frail nature of university work, the development of human potential, ideas and creativity is so delicate, that nothing matters more than a sense of integrity in the execution of our duties at our university.

7 thoughts on “Our University – Killing Integrity, the Seven Deadly Sins

  1. Right on! Teacher evaluations are a great source of misinformation. The common impression is that great teacher evaluations imply great teaching.
    Some years ago, my chairman called me in and told me that my teacher evaluations were terrible. He said that I had to bring them up in the following semester. I grinned and said “Sure, no problem” At the end of the next semester I was called in again. The chairman beamed. He said “These are good–what did you change?” I answered “the tests”.
    If one wants only great teacher evaluations, convince the students that they have learned a lot, and learned it effortlessly. Most chairpersons are too dumb to understand that.
    The highlight of my career was when a really good Asian student came to have his picture taken with his teacher.

  2. Dr. Wendler:
    Excellent articles on integrity. You are right on with your descriptions of whether or not a University has the right goals, is student oriented, and striving for academic excellence. As a holder of a Master’s Degree in School Administration, and twenty years of administrative experience, I have several career experiences that tell me SIU is a bit too much on the political side of the educational equation. I certainly hope several individuals are studying your articles, and are re-evaluating their choices for the future direction of SIU. After all, results are directly bound to the choices we all make. You are to be commended for your tireless effort to improve “Our University”.

  3. I take some exception to point Five on unions. The Administration at SIUC has been so bad for so long that I felt a union was needed as a counter weight. The faculty unions here have protected members and departments for arbitrary attacks. The NTT union has really gotten a better deal for the term faculty. But unions do have a down side: they consume faculty and administrator time and unions tend to be for across the board raises instead of merit based raises.

    Faculty Senates should be the voice of the faculty, but here and at most universities, they have no real power. The basic reason for this is that they have no money. If faculty paid a dues assessment to the Faculty Senate it would have resources and could hire a legal firm or an accountant if needed. More importantly, faculty would take Senate elections seriously. Then I would not see the need for faculty unions.

    Currently at SIUC the faculty unions do not address quality education issues because they are not in their purview and the Senate doesn’t because it is too weak.

  4. Lower standards do not always work. Indeed, in many ways SIU illustrates the failure of sleaze when it is poorly applied. Despite lowered standards, SIU still has a declining enrollment. Sometimes the good guys do win – or at any rate the bad guys lose.
    Lowered admission standards illustrate what I think of as the Chairman Mao fallacy. Mao thought that opposing birth control to increase the number of Chinese workers would increase prosperity. What he forgot is that while more people may produce more they also need more food, more schools, more hospitals etc.
    Lowering standards may increase the pool of applicants for a university. However, it also increases the number of competing institutions. When I first came to SIU it was the second ranked state university academically. Yes, really, I am that old. Today SIU rates behind many other state universities. By lowering standards SIU has not only opened up competition with other state universities but increasingly with junior colleges.
    Another example is the brain-dead way in which SIU has handled sexual harassment. In its obsession with pushing political correctness, SIU has accused several people of sexual harassment without following proper procedures. Consequently, instead of being hailed as a haven for female education it has ended up the recipient of several lawsuits that have generated massive bad publicity. And it still has a relatively low female enrollment.

  5. Higher Education needs to replace our NCAA with University & campus College Presidents and like educational personell. Now is the time. Ask if you want help.
    Lou

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