BGSU Students Against Faculty Unionization Deliver Knock-Out Blow to BGSU Faculty Union Organizers

The BGSU faculty unionization effort populates Facebook. Public pro-union and anti-union groups are in evidence. Is one more persuasive? Let's take a look:

Hmm ... the BGSU Faculty Association group page features a nice photo gallery of images of faculty gathered around a table littered with with pens, paper, and red cups. Photo captions aren't provided, so one can only imagine what the photos depict. Perhaps these images are intended to illustrate what organizing looks like?   And why red cups? To symbolize solidarity among comrades? Support for Ohio State? Are the pictures intended to illustrate commodities undeserving of tenure?

And what is one to make of this image? Should one infer that the group has no data to support their position? That the group advocates and intends to propagate a climate of fear and intimidation? Does this image afford insight into how the group is conducting their "card campaign"? Does this image reflect a group capable of critical thought and analysis?

A wall post by David L. Jackson offers "some thoughts about the BGSU-FA, our campaign, our future, and potential costs associated with collective bargaining."  Several paragraphs of meandering prose distill to two key points:

  1.  Questions regarding what a union might do regard hypotheticals and it is "impossible to answer hypothetical questions about future decisions.
  2. A union, if deployed would require collection of dues.  The necessity of collecting dues is not regarded as a hypothetical.  The amount of dues to be collected, however, remains a hypothetical.

Absent from Mr. Jackson's "thoughts" is any reference to how unionizing the faculty will further the mission of the institution. Also absent is any indication of how students would benefit from faculty unionization.

The BGSU FA FAQ page is similarly focussed on warm fuzzies and how faculty unionization will necessitate collection of dues. The document is stunningly silent on how the mission of the institution and BGSU students might benefit. Indeed, the document is silent on how BGSU or its faculty would materially benefit from the addition of a unionized faculty beyond the impressive benefits already codified in the BGSU Academic Charter.

Collectively, these documents lead one to wonder if the BGSU faculty supporting unionization apprehend the connection between their jobs and the institutional mission of educating students and expanding knowledge.

The BGSU Students Against Unionization evidence comparative intellectual maturity.  The student group is collaboratively constructing a list of ways unionization would impact students.  I applaud the students for their open-mindedness: "Opposing viewpoints welcomed openly to comment. I believe that this should be a "marketplace of ideas" just as a university should be..  "

If these Facebook groups afford an indication, BGSU students better apprehend the purpose and culture of a university, and the impact of unionization on that culture, than do the BGSU faculty for unionization.

I'd score this a knock-out blow for the students and an embarassment for the faculty.


Cycle Werks Should Take a Page from the Ohio Department of Transportation

A friend who works for the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is proud of their mission. It is (my paraphrase):
Keep motorists motoring. 
This simple mission has had dramatic impact on how ODOT does business. For example, road construction is now scheduled at times, such as overnight, that minimize impact on traffic flow. ODOT now has motorist assist services to aid motorists experiencing a mechanical or other problem on the road way; to help stranded motorists resume their travels quickly and safely.

Today (Monday) I took my bike to Cycle Werks for service. My front dérailleur lost shifting functionality eighty-some miles into yesterday's HHH century ride (on the bright side, the chain was stuck on the small ring ... and after 21 years of use I can't complain).  So, we're talking a fairly simple repair. Most likely, the shift levers will require replacement. A 30 minute job (max) for a trained bike mechanic.

Here's what I experienced this afternoon:

"Dude, your bike will be ready by the end of the week."
"Um, what does that mean?"
"Thursday or Friday, dude."
"Um, I was hoping to ride with the group (which gathers outside your shop) Wednesday night."
"Sorry dude, with the weekend and all we're all backed up."
"Shit!" (I'm pissed and going to go blog about this) 
Let's envision an alternate scenario. How would this scenario have played out if Cycle Werks adopts as their mission: "Our job is to keep cyclists peddling":
"Bummer about the dérailleur, dude.  When do you plan to ride next?"
"Wednesday evening, with the crew that gathers here."
"No problem, dude. We'll have your 'Dale ready for you by Wednesday afternoon at the latest."  
 "Excellent. Thanks!" (imagine the resulting blog post)
 Cycle Werks the choice is yours: you can keep me peddling and blow me away with stunning service, or you can piss me off by keeping me off the road.  Your choice. Guess which I'd pay a premium for and which would increase the likelihood that I'd buy more stuff from you?


The Echo Chamber and Personal Accountability

@kyenne, a recent ONU grad, tweeted about this blog post, which was scraped from this article published by TheStar on April 30, 2010, about EduMetry's Virtual TA service. That tweet generated a torrent of reaction and calls for an email to ONU's President.Why the raised fur?  The article lists ONU as an EduMetry client.

Let's take a look at the article published by TheStar.com. Basically, it's a nice PR piece for EduMetry's newest product Virtual TA. The article includes a paragraph in which several EduMetry clients are listed.  ONU is included in that list:
A western Canadian college or university is among EduMetry’s dozen clients, but Rajam declined to identify it. The University of Houston director of business law and ethics, Lori Whisenant, is a client, as are professors at the University of Northern Iowa College of Business Administration, West Hills Community College in Coalinga, Calif., Ohio Northern University and George Washington.

That poorly written paragraph could be interpreted to imply that these schools, including ONU, are clients for EduMetry's Virtual TA service. Or, the paragraph could be taken at face value (i.e, taking "among EduMetry's dozen clients" as a clue) and infer that these are schools that have been EduMetry Clients, but not necessarily clients for EduMetry's Virtual TA service.

ONU contracted with EduMetry's D-Cube service to facilitate development of rubrics to operationalize ONU's new general education learning outcomes. I worked closely with EduMetry in 2008-2009 in my role as co-chair of ONU's General Education Implementation committee.  Thanks to the power of EduMetry's web-based D-Cube collaboration system, faculty teams efficiently developed the general education rubrics that have been adopted for application starting Fall 2011, when the ONU's new General Education program is deployed. (Details about ONU's General Education program, and the rubrics themselves, are available here.)

Given the alternate interpretations of the paragraph in TheStar, I spoke with Chandru Rajam, EduMetry's Co-Founder and CEO, on May 4, 2010. In that phone conversation, Chandru expressed his frustration with the article. While thankful for the PR it provided for EduMetry's newest venture, he was concerned about how the paragraph quoted above portrays EduMetry's clients.  Specifically, he expressed his regret that Lesley Ciarula Taylor, the article's author, conflated EduMetry's Virtual TA clients with clients for other EduMetry services. Chandru expressed his concern over any misunderstandings the article might create. Our conversation then shifted to discussing the cultural forces buffeting EduMetry's Virtual TA service.

Those who have recently discovered TheStar article now have the facts: ONU is not an EduMetry Virtual TA client.  It is your responsibility, not the University's responsibility, to spread the facts. You have an ethical obligation to use your personal networks to set the record straight.


Bartleby the Scrivner Lives on at Verizon Wireless: "Unfortunately I can not."

Perusing the VerizonWireless website this morning, a chat dialog popped up:

"May I help you?" it asked?

Hmm ... I do have a question. OK, I'm game. Here's what ensued:

Please wait for a Verizon Wireless sales representative to assist you with your order. Thank you for your patience!

A Verizon Wireless online pre-sales specialist has joined the chat. You are now chatting with Jonathon

Jonathon: Hello. Thank you for visiting our chat service. May I help you with your order today?

You: why does the 'new every two' date on my phone not match when I acquired the phone?

Jonathon: I'd be happy to assist you.

Jonathon: When did you purchase your phone?

You: i believe it was january 2009

Jonathon: May I have your 10 digit mobile number to better assist you today.

You: xxx-xxx-xxx

Jonathon: Thank you.

Jonathon: Can you please verify the last 4 social on the account for me.

You: xxxx

Jonathon: Please hold on while I check that information.

Jonathon: That is because you are getting a bigger discount on your phone. But I can provide you with customer service number for a early upgrade today.

You: could you clarify that for me?

You: are you suggesting that my corporate discount yields a 'new every two' window that is longer than two years?

Jonathon: You qualify for a upgrade up too $100 dollars off your new phone. And that upgrade is eligible every 23 months. But we will let you upgrade early at regular discount prices. I can provide you with customer care number to better assist you that today.

You: why does the upgrade window not align with the acquisition date of the phone/initiation date of the contract?

Jonathon: Unfortunately I do not have access to that information. May I assist you with customer care number to better assist you with that today.

You: can you confirm the start date of my contract?

Jonathon: Unfortunately I can not.

Jonathon: May I provide you with customer care number to better assist you with that information.

You: sure

Jonathon: 1-800-922-0204 Customer Care. May I assist you with anything else today?

Rather than Bartleby the Scrivner's infamous line, "I would prefer not to," VerizonWireless equipes their customer service reps with the variation, "Unfortunately I can not."

In response to the repeated, "May I provide you with customer care number to better assist you?" my Bartlebian response is: "I would prefer not to."

VerizonWireless: Can I charge you for the 20 minutes wasted on that unhelpful chat session?


URoomSurf's Questionable Marketing Tactics

uRoomSurf.com offers a roommate matching service targeted to high school students anticipating their freshman year in college and college students. The concept behind uRoomSurf is a sound one that has the potential to deliver value to room-mate seeking students. This post by Brad at BlueFuego tipped me off to uRoomSurf.

I'm less enthusiastic about uRoomSurf's marketing tactics. Justin Gaither volunteered to me during a phone call today that uRoomSurf has tasked an intern with creating Facebook groups using this naming template:

University Name Here Class of 2014.

This naming convention, designed to deliver near-top listing in search results, intentionally creates the impression that the group is affiliated with the university. uRoomSurf us leveraging university brand awareness to create awareness of their service. In my opinion, this marketing tactic is unethical. It may also infringe on the institution's trade mark.

Yesterday, I tweeted:
Is Uroomsurf.com a scam? The anonymity of who is behind it fails the sniff test. I'd avoid. More background: http://bit.ly/8eDxNB

This morning, I received a phone call from:
Justin is the other Co-Founder of URoomSurf.com. Justin is a Class of 2008 alumnus of the University of Miami, graduating with a BBA in Finance with a minor in Marketing. While at the University of Miami, Justin served on the undergraduate student government executive board as Treasurer. Justin is a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity, does not like bugs, and is really good at basketball!
Justin was curious why I had concerns about uRoomSurf.com. I explained to Justin that I have no issue with uRoomSurf.com. However, I do have serious concerns with their marketing tactics.

Justin's primary responses to my expressed concerns about the ethics of creating Facebook groups with university names were: "But it works" or "I don't see an issue."

I suggested to Justin that contacting universities first, before using their name, might head off a lot of potential grief later. Justin dismissed this approach with, "we talked to some people who tried that, and it didn't work." Exactly! Schools aren't thrilled by organizations seeking to leverage the university's brand equity.

Justin also asked my opinion on uRoomSurf joining organic "class of" groups and pimping uRoomSurf via those platforms. I have fewer concerns about this approach, assuming (a) it is appropriate given the rules governing the FB group and (2) it is made crystal clear that uRoomSurf is unaffiliated with the institution in question.

To his credit, Justin did offer to take down the "Ohio Northern University Class of 2014" Facebook group created by a uRoomSurf.com intern. I just checked and it appears that Justin acted on his promise and removed the group. Thank you, Justin!