"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

U of Memphis $5 Million Annual Giveway to Relay, Inc.: Notes from "Public Forum" #1

Tonight growing numbers of citizens, teachers, and university faculty in and around Memphis are still wondering why a highly-regarded public university plans to pay a New York corporation to run an experimental teacher education program for the poorest children in Memphis. 

In order to avoid as many confused, concerned, and angry citizens as possible, University of Memphis President, David Rudd, scheduled the first "public forum" to discuss the matter to 8 AM this morning and then failed to send out any campus-side or public notice.  

A number of faculty members, local teachers, and concerned citizens showed up, nonetheless, and offered Rudd more than an earful, even though it took an interjection by a faculty member to remind Rudd that the meeting was not intended for him to deliver one of his endless monologues. 

Here is the first set of notes on the meeting by math professor, Dr. Wierdl:
My take on the meeting: nothing essential has changed, since your breaking article on Relay in June, as far as the University's handling of the Relay program. 
1) The program was suggested by wealthy sponsors who are not educators.

2) The acceptance of the relay program was not done with consultation with  all faculty---not even with ed faculty.

3) Now that the secret is out, handpicked faculty are asked to give opinion---but only about how to fit the program with existing ones,  and not whether it should run, or who and how should run it.

4) Even now, the wide faculty is not involved.  For example, the math dept chair didn't know anything about the program, though math is one of the main target areas of teachers' prep.

5) Wider faculty needs to be involved since the program affects our own programs, students, budgets.  $5 million will be taken out from the univ budget to fund relay---starting with $1+ million this year.

6) The program is, as the President admitted, an experiment with the poorest, most vulnerable children in Memphis, so it's a human experiment, and it's run by an inexperienced 4 year old company based in New York.
It really doesn't matter what they call the Relay program now.  The important thing is that [external] sponsors decide what happens on campus, and, in particular, that $5+ million public money [each year] is taken away from the university budget and given to a private company.  The public and wider faculty are not involved in decision making.

I believe the President and Provost are afraid of a truly public meeting, and that's why they changed the original time to an early morning discussion, which they didn't dare advertise to the general faculty, but only to the Senate. 
The next scheduled meeting is February 18.  More details to come, as well as more reflections on the initial meeting.

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