U of O Watch mission, in the words of Foucault...

"One knows … that the university and in a general way, all teaching systems, which appear simply to disseminate knowledge, are made to maintain a certain social class in power; and to exclude the instruments of power of another social class. … It seems to me that the real political task in a society such as ours is to criticise the workings of institutions, which appear to be both neutral and independent; to criticise and attack them in such a manner that the political violence which has always exercised itself obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that one can fight against them." -- Foucault, debating Chomsky, 1971.

U of O Watch mission, in the words of Socrates...

"An education obtained with money is worse than no education at all." -- Socrates

video of president allan rock at work

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

How sad is this? U of O news release pushes the boundaries of tragedy

The latest U of O news release reads:

"More students make the University of Ottawa their first choice for post-secondary education"

The University of Ottawa for the latest several years has been in the basement of national student satisfaction surveys, as in last place (!), despite President Allan Rock's vehement statements that it is his first priority to fix this appalling statistic. [See Macleans' university rankings since Rock started his mandate; e.g., HERE]

The Rock administration appears desperate to report positive news. This latest release is simply sad:

A university education should elucidate the fact that as a population increases so will university applications, in every category... It would be news if applications did not increase.

The other obvious point is the question of statistical significance. In those years (not worthy of a press release) when the number of applications decreases is the decrease statistically significant? And how large is the celebrated "increase" compared to the year to year fluctuations?

I know that these are statistical concepts not particularly common in press releases, but after all this is a university. You would expect it to attempt to raise the intellectual level of public discourse rather than use opportunistic devices of cheap marketing propaganda.

And of course Rock himself signs the action:

"These results clearly reflect our excellence and increased ability to make our success known to others. Students from across Canada recognize the quality of our university and want to be among our outstanding graduates,” says President Allan Rock.

OK but even if the numbers were valid would there not be other more likely interpretations of the causes?

Such as: U of O offers more and richer entrance scholarships than other second-rate universities and we are in an economic depression? (as many students have shared with us...)

Or: U of O has aggressively recruited in foreign markets (where parents don't read Macleans magazine)?

It looks like the Rock administration's solution to increase student satisfaction is to have more unsatisfied students?

Or is propaganda Rock's main plan? That would also appear to be the case.

The university has not announced any research effort to identify why U of O students are consistently so dissatisfied with their experience, compared to all other Canadian universities. Nor has it announced any program specifically targeted at eliminating the media-reported publicly identified causes of student dissatisfaction.

Addendum: This U of O press release reminds me of a 1991 trip to China where it was explained to me that the giant Chinese symbols in the message flower bed on Tienanmen Square said "Socialism is good" but that most Chinese were of the opinion that this needed to be demonstrated rather than simply proclaimed. Mao had been wiser in his youth. There is no reported evidence of this with Rock.

The President has created a "Service to the World" bureaucracy with associated cheerleading overhead but there remains a crying need for "service to the student"; something authentic in-class and on-campus experience would solve and that cannot be healed with propaganda. The Rock administration needs to discover basics and to plan beyond one or two election cycles.

Alternatively, the Board of Governors will need to consider that Mister "shit magnets in his pockets" is not doing the trick.

[Image copyright: University of Ottawa; media room header.]

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