Letter to the Editor: Cheng, SIU don’t ‘get it’

Submitted by Carbondale Times on

Dear Editor,

In a recent story about move-in day for students at SIU, Chancellor Rita Cheng was quoted as follows: "I think there’s a renewed spirit on campus. I think that everyone is starting to get it, that it’s about the student being successful."

There are several things wrong with this statement. First, it's hard to credit her observation of "a renewed spirit" in the context of the pervasive unrest on campus among faculty, staff and students (especially graduate students) that has been widely reported in the local press, notably the Carbondale Times. (Reading the Southern Illinoisan coverage of the university is like reading the Pullman Gazette on the Pullman strike, but even there it's clear that the place is full of unresolved grievances and unhappy people.)

Second, her thought that "everyone is starting to get it, that it's about the student being successful" is both wrongheaded and breathtakingly condescending. What "it's about," as any faculty member worth his or her salt knows, and has always known, is providing the student with the opportunity to be successful, by means of diligent class preparation, availability to students, fair and challenging evaluation and keeping up one's own scholarly commitment to one's field. This is not a wheel that needs reinventing, and to suggest otherwise is to ignore the on-going efforts of hundreds of SIU faculty and staff who do their work here with professional pride and dedicated effort.

Sad to say, shoveling $1.5 million out the door to a Chicago public relations firm in return for yet another new logo and "branding" adds insult to injury and has nothing to do with the substantive identity of SIU. In a time of severe fiscal exigency, this decision suggests that it's the upper administration that doesn't "get it."

Charles Fanning