It has been a bit frenzied, as it always is, the last week of a long week before the semester starts. For faculty, in addition to getting materials, plans, etc. ready to roll out next week, we have a load of meetings ranging from a college-wide convocation to a school-wide meeting to a Department meeting. All designed to give us the latest on budget issues, campus stuff, and of course the obligatory Rah-rah encouragements that are, apparently, mandatory for such things. So each was filled with the usual combination of really good information and really boring stuff.
The good news, for me at least, was that it appears – operative word “appears” which is frighteningly subject to change – that the Dean will let the Lighting Techniques class go ahead even though it does not officially meet the new enrollment requirements and the potential students now trying to work through waivers to get into a class for which they are qualified though have not had out specified requisite courses, are running into a new and completely revamped procedure that is pretty much calculated to avoid the whole issue and send them away in frustration. Late “adds” are no longer allowed and delays caused by system complexity are not deemed a sufficient rationale to allow the late add when the process drags on past the nominal start date. So it is a problem with, as usual, the big losers being the students. Well, and potentially adjunct professors get screwed as well since if a full-time faculty member, like me for instance, has a course cancelled, I am required to bump an adjunct from a course assignment in order to fulfill my contracted amount of workload. I hate that and feel terrible when it happens. It happened to me once when I was an adjunct and it utterly destroyed any real economic stability for that semester. But no one consulted me when designing the system.
On Friday there were a number of presentations given for “Professional Development” points for faculty. I was part of one given by the “Strong Workforce” committee concerning helping to prepare students for working in the real-world facing them post-graduation. This particular session, based on the panel, seemed to emphasize the issue from the standpoint of those students in more creative and vocational disciplines. Perhaps that is because those following the academic pathway toward transfer to a 4-yr school are not seen as quite so vulnerable to the horrors of real-life work… or perhaps there was no interest in revealing to them that some of their chosen academic pathways, enlightening and oh-so-sensitive as they might be, were likely to lead nowhere vis-à-vis meaningful employment, especially in the next 10 +/- years.
We had a very good panel. All of the faculty participants had a long list of solid real-world experience in their areas plus we were able to bring in a couple of folks now working in those areas to talk about their experiences vis-à-vis what the college can do to better prepare students for entry into that workforce.
For my own needs and interests, I thought it was an extremely good discussion. I actually think this panel, slightly expanded, ought to meet regularly to help each other with ideas to share ideas and to make our offerings better prepare students for heading out into the real world. At the encouragement of the President I’m preparing a proposal for a program restructuring to help students in media and communications better able to get the courses they need and avoid the turf and ego issues we’ve run into in the past.
The disappointment was in the very sparse attendance. Every faculty member in our areas should have been there. In fact, I think every faculty member PERIOD should have been there but that is because I do still think one of the major objectives of education is to prepare students to thrive in the real world. Alas, that opinion apparently dates me and relegates me to some fossil from the past with minimal relevance to today’s world.
As I put in my book, in this impending world defined by a huge “useless” class, i.e. people who, despite even prodigious skills or knowledge or education simply will have no work for them to do, as faculty I think our objectives should be to do all we can to make our students able to be part of the dwindling “useful” class. And if we are not doing that then how do we justify our positions?
The good news is that when that grim future is being more specifically defined relative to work possibilities, it does appear that there will still remain a constant need for communication, especially visual communication, if for no other reason than marketing of products and services more and more dependent on visually driven material as reading skills (and interest) continue to fall. So my discipline, commercial photography, both still and video, may turn out to be one of the safer areas to explore.
And yet, not one faculty member from art, graphic art, photography, Television and Film, or Music was there in attendance. I think that is a travesty. If trying to determine what we can do in our classrooms to better help our students survive and thrive in the changing “new world” rushing at them is not of sufficient importance to come and spend an hour and a half listening to ideas and suggestions on that topic, then maybe it is time to turn in their educator’s badge.