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by Jeffrey Ross
Freelance Quality Consultant

[Based on characters introduced in the book College Leadership Crisis: The Philip Dolly Affair.]

Despite heavy criticism from rival Global Corporate Menace Group, the Ruinous Foundation released early results of a five year study today which revealed that emphasis on mission statement rewrites, strategic planning and quality initiatives have no direct bearing whatsoever on student learning or program completion.

Professor Cynewulf Allworthy, team leader of the controversial study and adjunct professor of Argentine Philosophy at Copperfield Community College, paraphrased the research project in understandable lay terms for reporters from The Cronk of Higher Education, Outsidehighered, and The Chronicle of Post Secondary Ed, who were gathered at his press conference outside RFHQ.

“We did a longitudinal-latitudinal five-year study on ten ‘comprehensive’ community colleges. Five institutions represented the control group and five others represented the experimental group. We had some guys from the Ruinous Foundation run Pearson R’s, valediction equations, ANOVAs, the heavy metal analysis as prescribed by the well-known scholar Dr. Generic Smyth, Chevy Novas and a multivariate F Ratatouille Test.”

“At the control group institutions [No Plan Institutions—NPIs] all strategic plans, organizational studies, mission statement rewrites and quality control committee work activities were pulled, ceased, removed, bludgeoned, discarded, ignored, then sealed and buried for five years. Student completion rates for two-year AA degrees? Just nine years.”

“At the experimental group institutions [Too Many Plans Institutions—TMPIs] we encouraged constant mission statement rewrites, sustainability policy development, hired consultants to streamline strategic plans, created and duplicated feedback loops, retained additional administrators in important quality control areas and constantly asked for evaluations from internal and external stake beholders and steak eaters. Student completion rate for two-year AA degrees? Only ten years.”

“Our point? There is no significant difference in program completion for the two college groups. H—, it doesn’t matter what your strategic plan says—things have minds of their own!”

“In other words, our researchers discovered that the difference in completion rates between the NPIs and TMPIs, although proving statistically insignificant, demonstrates the power of students as an input variable. Our heavy metal analysis discovered a single statistically significant input variable—the student. None of that other stuff made any difference.”

“The research team also identified the following statistically negligible variables—which were determined to be impossible to define accurately:”

  • Sustainability Committee on Accountability Measures (SCAM)
  • Blue Panel for Science Planning Institute Leverage (BP-SPILL)
  • Theoretical Institution Theme for Transfer Articulation Team (Tit-for-Tat)

“But the TMPIs did have much larger payrolls because of all the extra administrators required to organize meetings, travel to Las Vegas or Parisian conferences and to manage the whole feedback loop bureaucracy, so local economies received a quantifiable boost.”

Finally, we also learned that the TMPI staff and faculty knew much more about crisis management and organizational theory. The NPI group, in their old-fashioned student- centered way, just celebrated academics, student success and teaching. Crazy. Oh, by the way—what’s a completion agenda?”