Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Glorious Five Year Plan

My faculty has a five year plan.

This five year plan is to double the current number of students. 500. That's the magic number.

My current average class size is 230. IN A GRADUATE SCHOOL PROGRAM.

Why? Well, the bigger the faculty, the more lecturers. The more lecturers, the more famous the faculty. The more famous the faculty, the more money it makes. The more prestigious the students.

Our Dean is focused entirely on building future faculty over 5 years to fit this new plan. Students? Well, we'll have smaller class size...in 5 years.

I shilled out $8300 this year alone for this program. I will not benefit from the Glorious Five Year Plan. I will never see these smaller class sizes.

We are customers, he says.

...glee. Somebody just shouted out their lack of satisfaction. And got an applause. The Dean is flabbergasted. He is gasted *AND* flabbered. And now he's waffling, unable to deal with an ENTIRE CLASS OF PEOPLE applauding the concerns being brought up by students. He is making empty promises.

I want red and green shades. I want my filthy assistants to set their attack wombs to terror! I want to monster this class in my black suit and my black hat, with my press pass stuck in the brim.

He is now promising a career liason officer to help us find jobs. Ladies and gentlemen, my faculty is now on the dole! "There are more jobs in the information arena than there ever were before. There are greater employment opportunities in libraries." Apparently we are being trained to be managers, not book-workers. There is apparently a huge need for us to become library managers.

...holy fuck. He just admitted that their co-op program won't actually be ready in time for our class. He just fucking admitted that there will be no co-op program for us, because it won't be ready yet.

"I want to give you an answer today, but the answer I have for you isn't availible until two years from now." Now he's lecturing us again on his Glorious Five Year Plan. He is, once again, looking at doing more recrutiment. Apparently faculty were assigned *BEFORE* they got the enrollment lists. Now those faculty members can't be moved or changed as they have...

...oh god. He just used the words "digital age" and "new media". Yup. We're back at our readings, still stuck in the 90s...

...been given tenure. They don't have a sufficient number of library teachers. Its all information studies teachers. Its all about being "new". Its all about "emerging opportunities" and "crossing domains".

There are, however, not enough grads with doctorates in library sciences. Well thank fucking god for that. That's actually some good news today. There is apparently a real gap in the demand for academics and the actual number of academics. Well. That's actually useful to know.

Ahhh...and now the rub. Someone is asking about the ridiculous degree of overlap. And the question of the paper we have where the professors don't actually know how to use the database program we've been asked to use for the papers themselves. The professors have directed us to talk to our TA about it.

The Dean is at a loss for words. It looks like the profs in that course may be about to get in shit from the Dean.

The profs and TAs are hanging their heads. They don't know how to deal with this. The Dean is getting slaughtered on stage, trying to defend why our classes are repeating information we got in high school. Now the professors are coming to the Dean's defense to try to break off this train wreck. I feel the need to monster this man by shouting up and shouting "SHOW US YOUR PLAN, DEAN! THE PUBLIC HAS A RIGHT TO KNOW!"

The Dean has now been backed into a corner. The entire faculty, plus himself, are going to come out for a townhall lecture next Wednesday from 4-6pm. Just in time for ICC, I get to monster my program. I need a journalist's suit. I need a journalist's hat. I need my old camera around my neck to capture their terrified expressions.

This cannot end well.


Blogger Derek the Bard said...

One of my classmates commented on a different post, but here's the respond:
>I am lost for words as to what >happened in class today! I am glad >you spoke first, good on ya!

I couldn't *not* speak first. He opened himself up. If he'd actually dealt with the issues and kept control of his talking points, he'd have gotten much farther. But he lost control of the room, and they ate him alive.

11:14 p.m.  
Anonymous rob said...

I'm a second year student who didn't even have the new curriculum or new dean last year, but who felt basically all of the same things that have been complained about by new students this year. I never really felt like I had an outlet for this and fruitlessly put my complaints into things list course reviews, where they didn't really belong. So that something like this happened is pretty impressive. I'm happy some of the ludicrous truths behind this department have come out and also that there now seems to be some dialogue and a forum to bring them up.

7:40 p.m.  
Blogger Erin said...

nicely done Derek (and hi!, can't believe I haven't run into you yet)

I too am a second year too bewildered and lacking in confidence to confront the faculty last year. This transition has not been handled well, with pithy amounts of solicitation of student input and even less registering of it. I intend to be there at the town hall.

11:59 p.m.  
Blogger Derek the Bard said...

Thanks Erin and Rob.

I encourage *EVERYONE* to come out to the town hall next Wednesday at 5pm.

It is vital that you, and everyone other student you can round up, attend this meeting. I'm not normally one for advocacy, but this is an honest problem.

Please, *please* draft questions ahead of time, and build them in a constructive manner. We have time to prepare. We have time to form our arguments.

We are graduate students of the University of Toronto. We should all know how to build a point and argue it. That is where it will come down: Reasoned, logical arguments and questions brought forward in a concise, well constructed manner.

We are also, unfortunately, stuck in the rub that we have to get through this program. We aren't outside journalists or members of the general public, which unfortunately limits the level of absurd stunts we can pull. I came to that realization on the subway yesterday, and it made me kind of sad. But hey...we gotta do what we gotta do.

We need to make this worthwhile. We need to show them that we are *NOT* satisfied at how we are being treated as students, and ask them to explain the reasoning behind their choices. And then we need to bring forward constructive suggestions.

...and I need to stop now, or I'll just keep rambling on and on.

I swore I'd never get into student politics. I swore I'd never get into student journalism. I have apparently found that state where blogging bridges the two.

12:11 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh gosh...At least when Thomas taught this class he knew what the hell he was talking about. I'm also a second year student and last year we joined the Faculty of Information only to be told we were turning into the iSchool (no word as to whether or not Apple is sponsoring us...).

Most students are so angry at these changes, mainly because they have not been implemented correctly. Mainly of us want to be LIBRARIANS, and yes, a lot of the students want to be information professionals. But honestly this program is now split between a library school and a strange comm studies/cultural studies/'info technology' bag of wtf. Why don't they tell us the 'real reason' because the iSchool will be cool and make money and librarian - what a fuddyduddy word! Must cater to the twittering twits!

These new professors don't respect the tradition and have openly mocked our future profession. There is nothing wrong with progress, but only when the progress respects the tradition of the faculty and program.

Instead of upping the intake to a staggering and embarrassing number of students just to stay afloat they should hire better administration in order to make this faculty work. Heck - a lot of European schools open their programs to undergrads - why not make it an interdisciplinary school for the undergrads - info technology, knowledge management, the social issues, book history!! Instead of making us take courses with 50 other students...

I give the new intake of students major props for standing up for what is wrong - I think the second years were in a complete state of shock last year and felt helpless...

12:53 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm another 2nd year student happy that this is all coming out. Long overdue. "Helpless" was the right word for us last year. I think most of us were disappointed that the program was NOT what was advertised and that the changes were having such poor and haphazard implementation.

The best outcome of this recent event, though, is that it goes beyond just complaining about the bad theory classes. Too often last year, we complained about them without knowing the bigger reasons why they existed. Right off the bat now, the money reasons for the program's expansion and these terrible theory classes are laid right on the table for the angry students, which is at it should be. Now the debate can continue from an informed standpoint.

As the above poster so correctly put it, these "comm studies/cultural studies/'info technology'/ bag of wtf" courses really interest almost NO ONE and most of us don't want to waste credits on them.

11:12 a.m.  
Anonymous Nina said...

Thanks for this post and the replies. It is interesting that so many second year students also have concerns. Please come on out to the town hall meeting next Wednesday:

Room 3154 in Medical Sciences Building from 17:00-18:00 on Wednesday 28th of October

Unfortunately, we only have ONE hour to voice our concerns. If we come prepared with questions and comments, we might be able to get something done.

Please spread the word!

11:28 a.m.  
Blogger Derek the Bard said...

I made a post on it above, copy-pasting the Dean's email on the subject.

11:31 a.m.  
Anonymous Erica said...

I'm a second year student who just caught wind of this. If I may offer some advice to students, it is to channel your frustration and to get organized.

You need to be strategic, unified, with a clear message if you seriously want the Dean to consider/make changes. Consensus is CRITICAL. Or else you risk presenting yourselves as a group of spoiled and whingy grad students who need to be "managed" rather than respected. Students' concerns are valid - don't let that validity get lost b/c of a poor communications plan.

Simply expressing frustration and making a PR mess out of the school is not going to benefit anybody. Disrespecting your Dean is NOT going to help anyone and only makes you look inexperienced.

I would highly recommend organizing a group meeting PRIOR to the town hall so that students can present a strong and unified front. Do neglect to do so would be very, very risky. One should NEVER enter an important meeting like this w/o goals and a clear strategy. You also need to be able to present alternatives and solutions, not just arguments and attacks. You need to show that you are willing to work towards resolution, else why should anyone listen to your concerns? Focusing on criticisms and your feelings of betrayal will seriously damage your chances of making lasting changes.

Personally, I would push for a postponement of a meeting so you can more adequately prepare. One week is not enough time and the Dean can make time for a conflict as serious as this one.

Be more STRATEGIC. Who has the most experience in organizing and working in these types of political structures? Find someone w/experience or YOU may very be the ones eaten alive next time. Remember, someone like the Dean will have had a great deal of experience handling these types of conflicts - the class caught him off guard, but he will be VERY prepared to speak with you at the town hall.

I'm concerned that students are not going to maximize this meeting. e.g. Have you considered who are the most credible people that the Dean will respect and listen to? These persons should deliver your concerns, not a group of random first year students with questions. Such ppl could be the president of student council, well connected students working in the information field, OTHER FACULTY MEMBERS, etc. Just one example of how you can be more strategic about the meeting. You might just have only this one opportunity. You don't want it to result in having it blow up in everyone's faces - you'll lose the support of those who are not directly involved. And you yourself will damage your own credibility.

Finally, are student council members already involved? They will lend more weight and credibility to your cause, even if it is mere formality.

I apologize if I have misjudged the situation, and I hope the message is received in the manner in which it is written: to assist students in reaching a satisfactory outcome and resolving conflict w/i the faculty. I'm glad students felt like they could speak out!

Erica Sum

12:32 p.m.  
Anonymous Erica said...

p.s. I'm not suggesting that alternative student voices be silenced - it is a town hall afterall - but those who are already connected and in agreement could benefit from greater organization.

1:21 p.m.  
Blogger Kate J said...

Hi, I'm a second year who has also felt frustrated with the iSchool and fully sympathize with the First years on the roller coaster they are on being the test year with the new curriculum.

I also completely agree with Erica that organizing and coming prepared with constructive criticism or a plan is CRUCIAL for this townhall meeting to be effective. If it ends up an angry mob - which happens so easily when emotions and frustrations running high even if justified - it will not end up being effective even if people get the relief of venting.

Erica noted that Dean will come prepared for this and she's right... he will be calm, professional and strategic in this meeting. If students approach the meeting in that way, they will be taking seriously. If not, their input can be pushed away as dramatic hysteria. Come with specifics, constructive criticism and suggestions for the faculty to take away to consider ... things that they can actually consider.

This is a really really frustrating thing to go through, Erica and I know because of our involvement in petitioning the Dean for children and youth courses last year. There was no one to teach them and administration could not tell us if there would be any courses in 2008-2009. So the student group Children & Youth Advocacy got vocal and attacked the problem so administration would take us seriously (formalized report, testimonials and petition). It wasn't easy but we now have 2 brand new courses, a sessional instructor for 2009 summer semester, and a search committee for a new faculty member dealing with youth and new media starting up.

I heard that the Dean referred to the students as his customers. Well, think about the kind of customers that a response when complaining - Are you more likely to listening and work with the ranting rude customer to find a solution or someone who clearly communicates their complaint about poor service/product and calmly negotiates for the best solution?

Again, I realize I might not have all the facts so my apologies if I'm off base but I really hope you area able to use this town hall meeting to be heard clearly by the administration, let them know what changes need to happen and what role the first years are willing to take on to make it happen.
cheers, Kate Johnson

2:11 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope the meeting went well...

It is such a shame that what could be such an excellent program often fails to deliver.

BUT there are silver lining courses and professors. As I'm a second year student, I'm not familiar with the new first year course codes - but have faith that Cox's cataloguing is worthwhile and that there are a lot of profs teaching great second year courses.

This is a professional program which is why it differs from your undergrad and from most graduate programs. I noticed this immediately - it can't compare to my other graduate degree, but it is not supposed to really - we're learning to BE something, not lofty contemplation and research (unless you do your PhD)

Hopefully, the faculty is eventually able to discern their ass from their elbow and get the program back on track.

I'm glad to see my "comm studies/cultural studies/'info technology' bag of wtf." was met with approval haha.

Erica and Kate make really good points. Kate is an excellent public speaker and commands attention - she would be a good ally for the first years. Sorry Kate, not trying to throw you under the bus ;).

-Emily S

3:00 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a 2nd year student, I think that this is not just a "first year" problem. Last year we were never informed about how this new curriculum would affect us.

We did not know what degree we would be getting and some of us had not finished our core courses, would there be classes offered for us outside of the new core classes?

This issue of transparency has been ongoing here. The Dean has been here less then a year. Many decisions were made before he arrived by faculty whose classes we all sit in, but I agree that there are issues that the Dean is deeply involved in. As the new FIS students move forward it will become blatantly obvious which faculty members care about the students.

I, and many of my fellow second years, will be at the town hall mtg. We will be there because we want answers about the end of last year, and we will be there to support the first year students who are demanding change. We are impressed with your passion and motivation to make change. It is refreshing and I believe we all have a chance to change the way this faculty is run for future students.

See you Wednesday!

7:46 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I caution those who diss the "strange comm studies/cultural studies/'info technology' bag of wtf". Ignore that at your peril. God help us all if our librarians have that kind of attitude! Librarianship is connected with social justice work. So it's not only arrogant, but it's highly dangerous for budding librarians to dismiss the theoretical side of "information work". You can get a "practical" technical library degree from a college. Many of you probably have this work/education experience already. So why are you here if you hate theory? Is it just to get a job? Then you probably have more in common with the dean than you think.

Be organized and thoughtful and prepare your arguments carefully. Connect with the 2nd years and the student councils. The school should be a place that supports student learning goals. This will require reasoned and level-headed advocacy and fighting.

12:38 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous,

Most of us, including those who posted here I'm sure, aren't 'dissing' the theoretical side of information science. Most of us excel at such studies. The problem is not in the courses being offered, the problem is in the ridiculousness OF the courses, and the ineptitude of the faculty. They are barely upper year cultural studies courses at any decent university. Some professors shine - Caidi for one, but others are unable to discern Foucault from Said. Others ask if Marcel Duchamp is the latest fashion designer out of France.

It is arrogant of you, dear classmate, to be so condescending. Of course we want jobs! Most of us are so highly educated we NEED practical skills. That does not mean we cannot learn the theoretical side, and most of us YEARN for decent courses. Perhaps all this theory is new to you. For most of us, it is not. We want something new, fresh - something that makes us think!!

I think the poster meant - they need to bring the two together. There needs to be cohesiveness between the practical and the theoretical. They need the faculty that can actually TEACH these courses. I wish you luck getting a job in the 'real world' without any practical skills.

Yours anonymously,


2:49 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear 2nd anonymous person whose post was at 2:49a,

THANK YOU. The point is not that we don't want or see any value in theoretical classes, the point is that THESE ones are ridiculous, derivative, poorly planned, overlap with each other, and, in some cases, feature some fairly inept professors. Most of us have an understanding an appreciation for the theoretical side of things. It's what we did our 4 year BA in. We are now a little angry that our ability to take a wide variety of interesting-sounding more practical courses is hampered by the fact that so many credits are taken up with fairly poor theoretical classes. If they were GOOD, there would not be such widespread frustration over them.

Anonymity Cubed

1:39 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm actually genuinely sorry that I came of as arrogant, anonymous squared. Given your high level of education, what would cohesiveness between theory and practice in an information studies faculty look like to you? -Anon1

12:38 a.m.  

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