Monday, September 28, 2015

A Simple Call

I took on being chair of a special program curriculum committee.  The special program is interdisciplinary, but doesn't have department status, and so depends on the willingness of others to serve on its committees and teach many of its courses.  I'm not a specialist by any means, but I'm interested and willing, so here I am.

In tight budget times, special programs are easy to cut down or ax altogether because there's no one with real power and utter commitment to speak against it, especially if the alternative is "my" department (any of the departments with interested folks).  And so, the special program needs to look seriously at its course array, several of which serve as vital courses in general education, and see if it can condense some things, do some things a bit less without totally making a hash for the students.

And the curriculum committee is an obvious place to start this discussion (which then must go to a wider body).  And in order to start the discussion, we need to have a clear sense of what's been happening.

So I asked for a couple of things.

First, a list of our courses and enrollments for the past several semesters.  What have we taught, and how many students have we taught in those courses.

I asked the program leader if we could get that information, and was told that no, the only way would be to go through the computerized class search and search for each course individually and copy out the numbers.  Hmmm.  But surely, someone knows how many students have been in each course, especially when those courses serve major GE needs, right?

The curriculum committee is also responsible for curricular review; every course on campus is supposed to be reviewed every five years, and a review filed with a college committee. Early last week, so, second, I asked the program leader and last year's curriculum committee chair if they had the information, and the previous chair said she'd send it right away.

That was early last week, with the leader finally emailing me some information (and the no about the other) on Saturday afternoon.

So this morning, I called the office staffer over in the college office, since they get our reviews and tell us what is due for review.  Within ten minutes, she emailed me the information (and also emailed the chair from last year, who almost as quickly sent me an email to tell me that there was special information I needed to know about the late reviews so we need to meet urgently!).  She also told me that while she didn't have the enrollment information, the person to talk to in the enrollment office would. 

So I called the enrollment office, and the person there directed me to an online request form, and by the time I got back from teaching, she'd given me the full information.  And also sent me a not quite snarky email that the program leader already had access to the information.

I'm sometimes a bit of a bull in a china shop, if you know what I mean.  But I know the effective office staffers in enough offices that I can call and get help, and voila, I get information.  (This isn't highly classified stuff at all.  This is stuff we should have easily to hand.)

So here's the thing.  This program is pretty low priority for most of us most of the time.  It would help a lot if someone else would do the work.  And that really shows.  You know?  But if the program is to survive, then we actually have to make it a priority.  And if that's not worth doing, then we should let it go. 

That sucks, but that's how things are in tough budget times. 

The previous committee chair complained a lot about how much work she had to do, so I offered to take this on.  I'm pretty sure it's a fair bit of work, but I'm also pretty sure that I'm reasonably efficient about the sort of work involved.  Unfortunately, I can also be a bit of a bull in a china shop, and I need to rein that in to work with this committee as effectively as possible.

1 comment:

  1. I sympathize. I've had similar problems getting basic information from people who ought to have it, and I've often thought that sometimes faculty members offer the kinds of excuses that they would never accept from their own students.