So my department lost a classroom.
Not physically lost, mind you. It’s still there (kind of). Rather, it was taken away from us, along with the other classrooms. Let me explain.
Since I’ve been in the Department of Applied Foreign Languages at TransWorld, and even before I came here, we had three classrooms: HS302, HS303, and HS304. They were nothing special, but they were on our floor and it worked well for our students. Eventually, the classrooms were upgraded with “smart carts” (small lectern with attached computer), which is another rant in and of itself. HS304 was upgraded with a smart whiteboard (another rant in and of itself). However, these three classrooms have now been taken away from us, and our department has been assigned to HS305 and HS306 across the hall, classrooms which previously belonged to the Department of Cosmetology.
You see, recruitment numbers are down for our two departments, and the founder of the university is not happy. Keep in mind, that the recruiting department does no actual recruiting. They only make calls and set up recruiting schedules. It’s the teachers who must go out recruiting, often to Kaohsiung, Taichung, or sometimes further. So the recruiting department sets up the schedule, the department chair approves and assigns people to schools, and then the teachers go out and try to recruit, something that they are not trained for. As you can see, recruitment numbers have very little to do with teacher influence and are mostly a result of a) your school and its name recognition, b) your department and its reputation among other like departments and in your school, and c) prospect students’ (and their family’s) financial ability. Of course things like grades/ability and geographical location factor in as well, but the point is: teachers have very little control over which students actually join your school and your department, yet the blame mostly falls on them because they are on the front lines.
So the founder decided that the best way to punish the department chair and us was to take away our three classrooms and reduce us down to two. Similarly with the cosmetology department, they had HS305 and HS306 taken away and replaced with… nothing, I think. They’re just flat out of two classrooms. Meanwhile, the department of tourism was given our three classrooms because their recruitment numbers are through the roof.
In switching from three classrooms to two, we lose only space and convenience. All the classrooms have the same, dated desks. They have the same “smart cards” and technology. But this rant is not to bemoan our department’s loss; rather, I wish to shame the administration and the founder that made this happen.
If a department is struggling with recruitment numbers, which makes more sense: 1) Funnel funds, training, and material to that department for 2-3 years and see if numbers can improve; call it an experiment. Or 2) Punish them by taking away classrooms, space, and enticements for prospective students, thus making recruiting harder?
If you’re an educationist like me, then obviously the first choice is best. If money, training, and attention can’t improve numbers in two or three years, then clearly there is something else at work that needs to be addressed. However, if you’re a Taiwanese administrator, the right choice is clearly to flex your power and punish the department chair and teachers for something that is largely beyond their control and thus make future recruiting harder. This downward spiral is hard to pull out of, and impacts the department, the teachers, and the students. One fewer classrooms means more difficult scheduling. It means less space for student activities. It means less to impress prospective students with. And this in a department with one computer lab (with about 20 computers that isn’t even open to students and never gets used), one former computer lab which is currently defunct (another rant for that), and where a department of 8 people includes 2 administrators – the chair, Stanley Lee, and the newly-appointed Assistant Chair, Mark Lai. That’s right, 25% of the department is administration because in Taiwan, if something goes wrong, make more administrators.
Taiwan sure does like to make life difficult for teachers that actually care about students and want to make a difference.
Shame on the administration and shame on the founder for punishing the students and the department instead of helping us!