translated from the Aramaic by Neal A. Raisman, PhD
All was rather calm at the College of the Garden. The ground crew had again done an impeccable job of keeping Garden as beautiful as the founding trustee had designed it. The trustee had set aside the land for Garden as a bequest “to all mankind”. (The trustee would have had to say “peoplekind” today in the mission statement but, well, they were different times.)
The administrators and faculty were allowed to study and do as they wished to learn and teach. The pay was not much but the benefit package was outstanding. And the job came with an extremely generous housing and food allowance. They could eat all the chocolate and bonbons they wanted and never gain any weight. It was heavenly. The only stipulation they had to comply with was to focus on teaching. Oh yes, they were also not required to publish or perish. They could do some research and publish of course. That would help them teach it was believed. Tenure was extremely generous at the College.
Then one day an administrator got the latest copy of the Universal Schools News and Report listings of colleges and found that his school was considered really divine but not as blessed as Celestial University. So he fumed and envied as well as coveted his neighboring school’s reputation. It was also reported to have more luxuriant grounds and facilities. (Computing power was not an issue since it was all housed in the cloud.)
So the administrator wandered the campus of Garden wondering how to boost the school’s reputation. Then he bumped into a faculty member who was waving a copy of the USNews and Report listing in the administrator’s face. “This is an outrage! Celestial better than us. And it is your fault. Do something about it or I will lead a move for a vote of no confidence.”
“Wait. We need to be unified in this if we are to succeed moving up in the rankings. This is not something we should let divide us.”
“Okay. But can we vote about something negative in the future?”
“Sure” the administrator said. “In fact, I need a vote. There are some who think I am too faculty-oriented and wasn’t tough enough in the last negotiations when I agreed to summers and it's the only season here.”
“Okay. Got any ideas?”
“Nope. I’m stumped. Faculty senate come up with anything.”
“Yes. We found a punctuation error in the last senate report. An ad hoc committee is studying it now. Let’s try just walking and talking. See if we come upon something.”
And before they could take two steps, a sibilant snake (aren’t they all?) sidled up and sincerely said “Sssssssssay. I have a ssssugesssstion. See the ssstately shhhhrub ssssstanding to our ssssouth….Uh, can I drop the sss thing? We get the idea and it is getting a bit ssssil…I mean silly?”
After a discussion and the decision that no decanal-level study committee would be needed, the administrator and faculty joined in a rare quick and unified “yes”.
The snake continued. “Look, the tree over there is the one the trustee’s mission statement does not really mention much in favor of all that palaver about teaching and learning and students when we get some. Well, that is the shrub of Real Education Society Esteems And Rewards Heartily. It is what you should eat of.”
The faculty member went over to study the tree while the administrator devised the acronym from the first letters of the name of the shrub.
“It does look tasty and juicy" reported the faculty member. "Like a fruit I would really enjoy rather than those from the Tree of Educational Activities Causing Healthy Intellectually Noticeable Growth. That fruit is getting tough to prepare and succeed with. Takes a lot of time and effort too. I have to grade over ninety berries a week just to see if the seeds of knowledge are being prepared properly. The stuff here looks like one of these juicy fruits could keep me busy and well taken care of for a while. No need to grade those other…..What did you guys come up with as a name for that by the way?”
“The Tree of Educational Activities Causing Healthy Intellectually Noticeable Growth? OH, yuh. We came up with TEACHING.”
“Yuh, yuh TEACHING! Lot of work for that. Not many rewards. Maybe a text book but no patents or prizes or rewards there. But with this shrub, the shrub of….”the snake turned to the administrator for a catchy title.
“Shrub of RESEARCH. Used the first letters from each word in the name. Pretty clever huh?” The snake and faculty member looked at each other, smiled slightly sardonically and nodded.
“Yah, that’s it the Shrub of Research. Eat of it and you’ll soon be number one.”
“Wonderful” the faculty member and administrator said in what would be the last statement on unanimity for a while.
“Just take a bite of the fruits of research and you’ll not worry about the bitter berries of teaching much more. Hey, I can even get a few hungry animals who need a job to come in and take your place professor. You know, part-time profs. They can even bring in some expertise you might really want in the classroom like tool use to get ants out of holes in stuff. Got a great chimp whose dissertation was on that very subject. Got an extended family to feed so he’ll take the work for a banana or two. No need to feel any guilt at not teaching much anymore. Besides, you’ll love research and think of the prestige. The national recognition. Almost as good as a winning football team….”
“A what?” the administrator asked.
“Oh yuh…Don’t worry about it. I won’t get you into that until there is some real dough in alumni donations and TV appearance money…”
“Alumni? TV? Are they trees too?”
“No” the snake said. “They’ll come later but don’t worry, their roots will go real deep into the campus. Uh, take a bite of the fruit over there. I’m telling you, you’ll really go big with it.”
And the administrator and the faculty member pluckethed a fruit from oft the shrub and found it was much to their liking. And they declareth research good. Very good. Then from their work they resteth. And this was the last day of the College for the next it was renamed Garden University.
Also on the next day they complained about students, degraded teaching in the tenure and promotion process, invented release time, developed Centers of all sorts of stuff, gained dominion over the adjuncts and made research the aim of the University while leaving the words about teaching in the mission in case the trustee asked if they tasted the shrub.
And to this day, the trustee has not kicked them out of the University. In fact, he gives away the Teacher of the Year Award at graduation each year and actually believes the University still focuses on students and teaching.
The end..........to a real focus on students and their success I fear.
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The author of the fable (?) is Dr. Neal Raisman the president of AcademicMAPS. He is the leader in training, workshops and research on increasing student retention, enrollment and revenue through academic customer service solutions for colleges, universities and career colleges in the US, Canada, and Europe as well as businesses that seek to work with them.
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Neal is a pleasure to work with – his depth of knowledge and engaging, approachable style creates a strong connection with attendees. He goes beyond the typical, “show up, talk, and leave” experience that some professional speakers use. He “walks the talk” with his passion for customer service. We exchanged multiple emails prior to the event, with his focus being on meeting our needs, understanding our organization and creating a customized presentation. Neal also attended and actively participated in our evening-before team-building event, forging positive relationships with attendees – truly getting to know them. Personable, knowledgeable, down-to-earth and inspiring…. " Jean Wolfe, Training Manager, Davenport Universityinfo@GreatServiceMatters.com
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