Wednesday, July 8, 2015

New President Interview -- Part 31 – Effective Communications

  Effective Communications

Q:  In interview 12, “Executive Communications”[1] you talked about the lines of communications in an organization help to keep customers, staff, and students more connected.  In a 2010 booklet from Towers Watson & Co., “Capitalizing on Effective Communication” [2] They report that effective communications with employees is a key indicator of employee satisfaction and institutional performance.  I have heard that “no answer” is worse than answering, “No.”  How does the College seek to improve office communications?[3]

A:  A good observation. In the College curriculum many courses teach students analysis and writing
skills.  In English and speech classes writing, grammar, and use of language are emphasized.  Rarely does one find an executive or professional in-service training to enhance professional communications.  Partly because we assume that faculty and staff already learned how to write.  The challenge is that they may have learned how to craft a sentence, but never learned why one needs to communicate. Towers Watson found that companies that invest in helping leaders, managers, and staff communicate better are more likely to deal with change.  Dealing with change is how an organization becomes nimble and able to adapt to new situations.   Communications is not just writing a good sentence, but also knowing when to write and what media should be used to spread the message.

In every organization there are managers and followers.  Places such as colleges may have the lines blurred between managers and followers.  A person may be a manager one moment and follower in another.  For example a professor is the manager and leader in the classroom.  In the college hierarchy s/he answers to a department chair and dean.  The professor may also be in charge or just a member of a committee, event or process.  Communications is about giving the right message to the right people.  A dean needs department reports so that s/he can keep the departments working, on track and have information for other reports.  The dean needs to co-ordinate efforts to prevent wasted effort and resources.  The deans need to create reports for the provost, vice-president, or other managers and administrators who supervise other College entities.  Sometimes the messages require courage to create and circulate.  Urgent messages require systems that save time, frustration or even limbs and lives.  It is better to tell people the sad or happy news than have them wondering what is going on or to hear a distorted report on the 10 PM news.

For example when severe weather is a problem, we communicate immediately via e-mail, phone, and text messages.  Examples of poor communications are:  the administrative office sends one message to the students and forgets to tell the departments involved to be prepared.  The students are then met with conflicting messages.  A friend in another city told me about the mayor of their city making an announcement about a city college that the faculty and students heard about from news reports, not official college messages. This behavior creates an atmosphere of mistrust. How do you think a professor feels when asked about a college event and needs to answer, “That’s the first I heard of it.”

Q: How does the College innovate? How do people learn about the best practices?

A: The best organizations are innovating and encourage entrepreneurial behaviors.  At the College we listen to the students and the community. We adapt our course offerings to change with the needs of the community.  Companies listen to customers and give that feedback to the employees.  In large organizations there are internal and external customers.  For example the information technology (IT) staff is in charge of keeping the computers and all technology up and running.  The rest of the College are their customers.  They need to listen to customer needs and not just supply the “latest” gadgets.  They need to give the College the tools to do their task.

The College is in the business of educating students and the employees need to understand everything they do could affect student learning.  If the rooms aren’t clean or the equipment does not perform, the prestige and trust of the College is lowered in the student or faculty eyes.  

Reaching out with social media, giant screens, signs, etc. are venues to present the message.  For example at the College we have outside message screens for the general public, inside screens for promoting events, and a presence on Facebook and Twitter.  These are ways to publish short messages.  We also have general websites and departmental websites for more information and documents.

For best practices faculty are encouraged to communicate with each other and with colleagues in other colleges with similar interests. Membership in professional organizations is encouraged and supported.

Q: In the Towers Watson booklet they talk about three aspects of communications — courage, innovation, and discipline.  This is not their original idea.  They were just making astute observations based on their organizational research.  This past weekend we celebrated Independence Day.  Is there a connection between the actions of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and excellence in communications?

A: Good observation.  Last week’s Torah portion, Balak, (Numbers 22:2- 25:9) also has a good example of powerful communications.  The story has Balak, King of Moab, hiring the prophet Bilaam to curse the Children of Israel.  Bilaam refused and gave a blessing that is linguistically and politically powerful, “How goodly are your tents O Jacob, your dwelling places O Israel.”[4]  In the Hebrew it is powerful Biblical poetry.  Bilaam spoke with courage and innovation.  He had the courage to go against his employer and say what was right.  He opened up his eyes to the situation and followed the word of God after his donkey spoke to him.

The signers of the Declaration of Independence also recognized the power of God in the creation of the world and granting certain unalienable rights – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Governments are instituted to guarantee these rights.  Governments make laws based on the just powers derived from the Creator and govern with the consent of the governed.   The signers were communicating with courage, innovation, and discipline — courage to break with King of England, innovation to write a type of document that had never been created, and discipline to believe in God and recognize a power beyond that of mortal of man. The message of the document is that the signers made sure the readers understand the effect of their words and thoughts. Their powerful words that included using the authority of the Creator gave a strong clear message to the people of colonies and England.  The colonists would no longer submit to the tyranny of the King.

While corporate communications don’t start a revolution, the communications do affect the employees and customers.  Communicators (really everyone in the organization) need to understand the organizational values and culture.  But that assumes those values are well articulated and appropriate to corporate mission.  The acculturation process is the material for a whole book. 

Q: Corporate communications is not a new field.   Arthur E. Phillips published the first public speaking textbook[5] specifically designed for business people.  His work was based on library research.  He examined the works of Aristotle, William Shakespeare, John Milton, Homer, Victor Hugo and Dante.  He didn’t do any research in contemporary businesses.  What is your take on early publication communications publications?

A: In 1936 Dale Carnegie published a book, How to win friends and influence People.  He offered courses and his company still exists today.  He also did not do any behavioral research.  Even without research, people claimed Carnegie books and courses changed and improved their lives for the better.  Today we are a bit more careful to do research on how people behave. However, we still depend on library research and personal experience.

In the late 1920’s, studies conducted by Elton Mayo and Fritz Roethlisberger in the Cicero, Illinois Western Electric Company Hawthorne Works plant, investigated the socio-psychological aspects of human behavior in organizations.  They wanted to discover how to improve production with physical changes to the plant environment. What they discovered has come to be called “The Hawthorne Effect.”  That is that whatever the experimenters changed helped production.  What the workers really wanted was to feel that they were important and that management cared. 

What Philips, Carnegie and Mayo/ Roethlisberger discovered was that communication is complex.  It is not just the words, but also caring about the people receiving the message.  People need to be empowered in the workplace and feel their efforts are accomplishing the corporate goals.

Q: Returning to the need to communicate correctly what are some of philosophical pressures to the process.  In other words how to people learn the “why” of communications?

A:  There is little doubt that the pace of data production is accelerating.  Back in the 1990’s a small company of 500 could produce more words in documents in one month than the sum total of all the words produced before the start of printing.  In the study of ancient texts scholars could dwell on the significance of every letter.  Today the amount of data could double in less than a year.  I use the word “data” when others may use “information” because the term “information” implies there is some order or context.  Data are pieces of that need organization and context and may become information.  Once in a useful format, one person’s information could become another’s data.  The data and information may include non-print items such as pictures and videos.  The ability for anyone to become an instant publisher using social media, blogs, and other electronic venues means that we are bombarded with too much data. We probably have a harder time making sense and creating knowledge than the scholars studying ancient texts.

In the organizational/business world managers are dealing with information streams that did not exist when they first entered the work force.   Managers need to create streams of information that help workers do their jobs.  This requires a corporate mission that is translated to everyday activities.  There are companies that send all the new employees to “boot camp” for 1 or more weeks where they learn the corporate culture, how the company is organized, and how they fit into corporate excellence.
I heard a story from faculty member in another university who was hired two weeks before the semester started based on her resume and a short phone interview.  She never even visited the campus before being hired.  She learned some of the procedures from the departmental secretary.  She was invited to a pre-semester meeting, but most of her colleagues didn’t bother to attend.  About April of the spring semester she got an urgent e-mail asking why she never filled out a form for graduating seniors.  She never had a request for the form, never knew which students in her classes were graduating seniors, and in her previous experience never heard of this type of form.  No one from the department or university indicated such a form was required.   

This is a case of poor communications in contrast to the business “boot camp.”  This professor was denied the information tools to do her job and then was reprimanded for not knowing the procedures existed.

In short we need to communicate so that the organization stays on course and follows the mission.  That also assumes the mission is carefully worded with the wisdom of experience.  Grandiose mission messages that include unreachable goals are not helpful to the creation of a clear message. The upper management must set the example and everyone needs to feel they are part of the success.  Nothing demoralizes staff like conflicting or confusing messages.  A chancellor or president who says one thing to the faculty and another to the press quickly loses credibility. 

On one hand we must keep in mind those ancient texts and how important every word is to the understanding of the message and balance that with the ability to create messages quickly and easily.  Tell the reader what they need to know and don’t give unrelated ideas.
Four communication types include business and professional communication, managerial communication, organizational communication, and business/corporate communication.  Professional communications include how we connect to others in our profession or business roles.  Methods of communication include list servs, professional publications, and professional meetings.  Managerial communications include telling workers what they need to know about the organization and keeping people on the track to complete the goals.  These methods include policy documents, e-mail communications, and face-to-face meetings.  Business communications include the process oriented messages that we send to get the jobs done.  These are the e-mails, personal contacts, and phone calls used to keep each other informed.

Q: Any final words?

A:  In 1953 B.F. Skinner published Science and human behavior [6] where introduces the idea of operate conditioning.  We can shape behavior by giving praise and reward for desired behaviors and punishing undesired ones.  I take this idea further.  We must use behaviors to set good examples.  Communications are not just the words.  Context, action, body language, and delivery give strong clues to believability and credibility. Context includes correct grammar, spelling and other language features.  A high concept movie may be great entertainment, but it will not be confused with business communication.

Q:  Thank you very much.

Part thirty-one of imaginary interviews with the president of the College. After more than 30 interviews the president is no longer “new,” but since we are all works in progress I am continuing the series as if s/he were a “new president.” Please feel free to suggest new ideas for interviews and presidential comments. This article is for your information, amusement, and edification. Everything is true, but some events have not yet happened. Any connection to a real college or president is strictly coincidental.

[1] Stuhlman, Daniel  D.  “Executive Communications.”  Kol Safran, October 25, 2012. Retrieved on July 3, 2015 from: .

[2]  Capitalizing on Effective Communication: How Courage, Innovation and Discipline Drive Business Results in Challenging Times  (2009/2010 Communication ROI Study Report).  [Arlington, VA] :Towers Watson & Co.,   c2010.  Retrieved  from:{70A3EAFB-0BDE-4359-B8FF-38FEC2E43853}

[3] This article is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to organizational communications issues.  To learn more read the book, Workplace Communication for the 21st Century  edited by  Jason S. Wrench.  v. 1. Internal workplace communication — v. 2. External workplace communication.   Santa Barbara, California : Praeger, 2013.

If you are looking for a how-to article a good one, “10 Essential[s] of Effective Communications.”  may be found at this link:
[4] Numbers 24:5.  Original: מה טובו אהליך יעקב משכנתיך ישראל.

[5] Phillips, Arthur Edward.  Effective Speaking : an exposition of the laws of effectiveness in the choice of material in speech …   Chicago: The Newton Company, 1908.

[6] Full citation for the edition that I used:  Skinner, Burrhas Frederic. Science and human behavior.  New York : Free Press,  [1965, 1953].

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

New President Interview -- Part 30 What is Leadership?

New President Interview -- Part 30 What is Leadership?

Q: The word “leadership” is commonly used in business and politics, but you seem to have a different understanding of the concept. Are leaders and managers the same people?  

A: Not every good manager is a leader and not every good leader is a manager.  If you refer
back to my definition of management quoted in part 29 of this series, management is business process.  Everyone in the organization can have management tasks and roles.  Likewise everyone can have leadership roles.  This is based on a concept from the Mishnah of Sayings of the Fathers (2:6), “In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.” [1] This can be interpreted to guide everyone to take a leadership role and accomplish the task at hand.  One does not have to be the “official” leader to step “up to the plate.”

The educational process seeks to teach students to expand their understanding of themselves and the world.  In this process they need to become experts in something.  If they become experts in understanding themselves, this is a satisfactory accomplishment.  After looking into themselves and discovering their strengths and weaknesses, they can find how they fit into the world.  

An official leader is one appointed, elected or otherwise authorized by the organization. This person sets the goals and is the force to encourage the members to do their tasks.  A manager is the person who deploys and manages the time, human and financial assets needed to achieve objectives, and measures the results.  This may be the same person and it may be two or more different people.  For example the CEO may set the goals and philosophy of the organization while the president is the manager who allocates resources to accomplish the goals. 

“Leadership” is not limited to leading people.  A student learns how to lead his or her life. Taking that “first step” is a leadership role.   Taking charge of a process is a leadership role. This thought seems contradictory to some.  They say the definition of “leadership” means that people follow you.  Before you can lead others, you must learn how to lead yourself.

Q: What does it take to be a good leader?

I can tell you some of the qualities of a good leader, but I can’t give you an exact answer.  Leaders need to authority to take chances and make mistakes and learn for the betterment of the organization.  If one is always afraid of losing one’s job, prestige, or reputation, you can’t find the path to greatness.  If one is making foolish mistakes and not listening to the good advice of others, no one will believe or follow you.  Leaders have to balance risk and prudence.  Good leaders know when to listen and when to talk. Good leaders know how to use the talents of the people around them. 

Q:  The education process has many dichotomies and conflicting goals. What is the difference between education and training? 

A: Education is the process of teaching students to be productive citizens and part of society.  One challenge is that everyone is a member of multiple societies.  The society may be based on geography, ethnicity, belief systems, gender, profession, religion, or anything else that makes individuals into members of a group.  Education is helping the student to understand the role one plays in society.  That means one has to understand the language, history, sociology, law and other aspects of society.  One needs the tools such as reading, writing, mathematics, and science to master living in society.  Education inspires students to be curious, to think, to learn about the world around them, to plan and to act when the situations change. 

Training is task oriented learning.  One gets training to operate a machine or know the office procedures.  Education provides the context for fitting the machine into the world.  Education is cumulative and never ends; the tasks learned in training will some day be obsolete.

Part of the schooling process at the K-12 schools and college level is vocational.  Many employers want graduates who are ready to work and master the job.  The educator wants students to become life-long learners who are able to understand the world and meet new challenges. Teaching the thinking process is part of the teacher’s goals from the youngest to the most senior of students.  Each step of the learning process prepares one for the next.

Q: Last week I read an article, “It’s time for every student to learn to code,” by Alice Steinglass. [2]

A: I saw the article. Learning computer programming can be a way to understand logic, consequences of actions, project management, and how the world works.  I spent many years as a computer programmer.  It taught me many skills that are applicable to other areas.  One peeve I have with surveys and questionnaires with multiple choice answers is that creators don’t always have an option for “other” or “none of the above.”  In computer programs with options every option must have a consequence.  If the program asks for numeric, input, the decision tree must include provisions when 1, 0 and negative numbers are input or the program may crash.

Too often we see students and adults who have limited understanding as to the consequences of an action or decision. This process of action leads to a consequence is part of the scientific method. Too often I read about people with such a strong belief system, that strong evidence to the contrary is just not believed.

Q: Any final words?

I am never sure of the right course for people who are supposed to leaders. Politicians are elected to leadership roles. College presidents, deans and administrators are appointed, hopefully based on their abilities, experience, and strength of character, but everyone has to walk a fine line between failure to thrive, reckless decisions, and progress that will put the organization “on the map.” Without a systemic program of total quality management, someone will always feel the president or other leader is stepping on toes or making reckless decisions.

Part thirty of imaginary interviews with the president of the College. After more than 20 interviews the president is no longer “new,” but since we are all works in progress I am continuing the series as if s/he were a “new president.” Please feel free to suggest new ideas for interviews and presidential comments. This article is for your information, amusement, and edification. Everything is true, but some events have not yet happened. Any connection to a real college or president is strictly coincidental.


[1] The original Hebrew: מקום שאין אנשים השתדל להיות איש..
[2] In : Eschoolnews  May 14th, 2015

Sunday, May 17, 2015

New President Interview -- Part 29

Is TQM Connected to a College Education?

May 17, 2015 (new material added May 26, 2015)

Q: Recently I read about a game from the 1990’s called "Guns and Butter." [fn 1] In the game players pretend they are in charge of a country’s economy and have to decide the investment balance between armaments, food and infrastructure. If the player spends too much on arms, the people starve. If the people starve, they won’t be able to support an army. How does this balance play out in the college? What is the connection with Total Quality Management (TQM)?

A: “Guns and butter” is an economic theory that is based on a concept of how to best build a strong nation. Does the nation build arms or feed its people? Dictatorships frequently choose to build a strong army and use external threats as a justification for actions against the good and prosperity of the people. Dictators make excuses for not spending resources to create a nation that is strong in the promotion of peace, intelligence, and happiness. For example look what happened to the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. After the war Germany and Japan with the external threats removed, they built strong economies.

In an organization such as a college or business “guns” are the quick fixes and “butter” is the investment in infrastructure. Infrastructure includes the physical resources such as buildings and tools, training of personnel, and business processes that promote the smooth running of the organization. Also needed are control systems for resource management such as procurement, spending, inventory, income, scheduling, time management, and personnel. An organization that presents a strong public face, but has weak products and support will not succeed. Support systems have to encourage staff and faculty by having the tools so that they avoid wasting time on tasks not connected to their jobs. Since these words seem to be circular reasoning, let me give examples. One should not have to waste time searching for proper procedures and policies. The staff in charge of equipment set up should keep equipment running so that faculty members don’t waste time asking for help. The building should be maintained for optimal classroom use. A directory of people, places and responsibilities should be available to all faculty and staff. One should not need an information network to figure out who does what.

Every organization has economic pressures. No college can exist without paying attention to the financial bottom line. However, the accountants in a distant office can not be allowed to rule the classroom. Some academic programs may lose money, but they are worth keeping. Reasons to keep a money losing program include the program supports a community need or is important as a component or precursor of another program. For example: Imagine a small program with 30 students that is the only school in the area teaching that discipline. If there are no other schools to enable students to be prepared and trained, then that profession or industry may suffer. The community needs the program. Another program such as a MBA program may be one of 20 in the area. If that MBA program closes because it is not financially viable, the community will not suffer.

Q: What kinds of quick fixes should be avoided?

A: A quick fix is anything that looks good, but does not solve the problem. Of course in building maintenance sometimes the quick fix is good enough. That kind of quick fix may last until a better solution can be devised. For example if a pipe breaks a quick fix may be to use pipe repair compound until a plumber can be called to replace the pipe. However, if the whole plumbing system is broken, a quick fix will just postpone the inevitable and not solve the problem.

W. Edward Deming is credited with starting the movement called, Total Quality Management (TQM)[fn 2]. Every aspect of the business from how the phones are answered to the
sourcing of raw materials and creating the final product is dedicated to quality. One of his examples is a company that makes white marbles. Early in the manufacturing process the marble machine was making 85 white marbles and 15 red marbles for every 100 marble batch. The quick fix would be to ship 100 marbles and charge for 85, letting the customer throw out the defective ones. Another quick fix would be to have a selection or inspection process to remove the defective ones. The Total Quality solution would be to figure out why the defective marbles are being manufactured and fix the whole process. Embracing quality and constant improvement are important part of Deming’s philosophy.

Q: What does this have to do with education?

A: Colleges need to have success metrics. Two metrics in vogue throughout the country are retention and graduation rates. The logic is seemly simple -- the goal of going to college is to graduate and launch oneself into a career. However, as we learned graduation is not always the goal or the planned outcome. Higher education, once only for the well-to-do, academic elite, or the extremely motivated, became a national priority with the National Defense Act of 1958. [fn 3]  The act begins with the reason for the law.
The Congress hereby finds and declares that the security of the Nation requires the fullest development of the mental resources and technical skills of its young men and women. … We must increase our efforts to identify and educate more of the talent of our Nation. This requires programs that will give assurance that no student of ability will be denied an opportunity for higher education because of financial need…

The National Defense Act gave opportunities for financial help to millions of students including myself to attend college. The act did not even refer to graduation and retention. Most students in those years were highly motivated to finish. It was the student’s responsibility to complete the degree, not the college. Then as now not everyone who started college, finished. Many students left because they were not college material (either self discovered or the college asked them to leave) or had financial pressures. Personal and financial reasons are still the main reasons students don’t complete programs. Economically for the college it makes sense to retain students until they graduate. As in any business it is better to keep a current customer than find a new one.

If the metric is to measure retention and graduation rates, the institution changes behavior to increase the rates. This endangers lowering the bar to graduate. I heard a story from a colleague who told me his son just got an A.A. degree from a community college. I congratulated him and he responded, “My son hasn’t been in the college since 2005.” He had already graduated with an undergraduate and masters degrees and has been working full time for 7 years. It seems that someone in the administrative office of that college was looking for students who were close to the 60 credits required for graduation. Students received letters asking them if they took courses after leaving the college. If so, the office requested a transcript. If the credits were transferable, the students were sent a diploma. This meant nothing to the students. It was just to make the graduate rate higher.

In 2004 Vincent Tinto in an article [fn 4] for the Pell Institute wrote about retention and graduation. Without an interpretation of the student’s attainment of goals only 10% of students who started in a community college completed a bachelors degree within six years. [fn 5] Compare this to a 58% completion rate for those who started in a four year college or university. There are many factors involved such as income above $70,000 and parents who had completed college also had higher completion rates. Confounding all our statistics and measuring of graduation rates are those students who have no intention to graduate. They may want to update their skills, complete pre-requisites for a career change, or just learn to satisfy their curiosity. [fn 6]

The common reasons that students don’t complete their degree include lack of academic support, family support, and financial. Many low income students are not prepared for academic life for many reasons. Tinto suggests that the ways to increase graduation rates are to increase financial aid and academic support systems. The Federal and State governments need to remove the disincentives to serving low income and first generation college students.

Here are additional articles that support Tinto’s conclusions by Ann M. Gansemer-Topf [fn 7] and John F. Ryan [fn 8]. Doug Shapiro and Afet Dunbar suggest in chapter 13 of Handbook of strategic enrollment management [fn 9] traditional measures of success give a limited understanding students’ path to success. They say that existing studies on graduation and retention use flawed tools and metrics. They conclude that colleges must understand their student pathways, including where they come from, how and when they arrive, and why they leave. Colleges must devise and implement policies that lead to increase the number of successful students and (getting back to total quality management) institutional effectiveness (i.e. excellence.)

Based on this research, here at the College we are trying to measure success with metrics that relate to student success. Before I even started, the application included questions concerning student goals. Students who are attending without a desire to graduate are not included in retention and graduate metrics. We marketed the summer session to visiting students whose home town is here, but attend college in other cities. This led to more students attending summer session classes and we were able to offer courses to fill their needs.

We marketed college readiness courses for the summer session to high school seniors wanting to attend in the fall. They enrolled and by fall most were ready to take college level courses. When the summer session concentrates on readiness skills, the outcome in the fall was much better. The students got to the work of learning soon after high school graduation rather than waiting 2-3 months until the fall. The college readiness program is a dynamic process. We are always learning how to best serve the students with academic, personal, familial, financial and other needs.

Q: How does this relate to TQM?

A: In a previous article “New President Interview -- Part 24 Culture of Excellence” I talked about excellence. Now I am trying to find metrics to measure quality and excellence. So far I am having a hard time coming up with answers that both the faculty and the accountants can agree with. If we find out students are dropping courses we try to examine the reasons. If problems exist that we can correct, we take corrective action. If staff and faculty report processes that are not optimal to meet our goals of excellence we work on ways to correct them.

A first step is trying to define the products the College has to offer. TQM is about listening and understanding as much as acting to make change. We have to measure behaviors, not just gather numbers.  The many areas of social science research have learned about polling and statistical analysis and that knowledge can help create a better way of educating our students and community.

A future article will deal with leadership.

Q: Thank you very much.



Part twenty-nine of imaginary interviews with the president of the College. After more than 20 interviews the president is no longer “new,” but since we are all works in progress I am continuing the series as if s/he were a “new president.” Please feel free to suggest new ideas for interviews and presidential comments. This article is for your information, amusement, and edification. Any connection to a real college or president is strictly coincidental.

I was reminded that I should define management.  In 2006(revised many times) I defined in my article, Knowledge Management Terms what is management.
 Management is the organizational process that includes strategic planning, setting; objectives, managing resources, deploying the human and financial assets needed to achieve objectives, and measuring results. Management also includes recording and storing facts and information for later use or for others within the organization. Management functions are not limited to managers and supervisors. Every member of the organization has some management and reporting functions as part of their job.

“Quality” has a subjective definition that is many things to many people. One part of the definition occurs when quality goods and services are produced with an outcome that is predictable and complies with standards either internally developed or externally imposed. These standards, publicly identified, produce some kind of uniformity in the product. Part two is the production of a product that the user, consumer, and/or community perceive as a reasonably and/or fairly priced. Part three is the product is continually improved and the consumer continues to desire use the service or purchase the product.

Quality in educations has some of these dimensions:

1. Consistency – Standards are followed and outcomes are predictable. Limitations, strengths, and human diversity are recognized.

2. Fitness to goals – Personal, institutional, and community goals are defined and met. Customer and stakeholder satisfaction is examined and improvements are implemented.

3. Value – Financial goals are met. That means the student and community get a fair return on their investment. Resources are spent efficiently and effectively.

4. Transformative – Education is always preparing someone for the next step in life. The student is empowered to advance and acquire life-long learning skills. The customer and the stakeholder experiences are enhanced with the education process and results.[fn 10]

[1] The Wikipedia article on the topic explains the concept and its history. For this article, it is just important to know the model is a balance of goals – infrastructure vs. armaments.

[2] Deming had 14 points in his management theory. See “Deming's 14-Point Philosophy A Recipe for Total Quality “ for details.

[3] 20 U.S. Code Chapter 17 - National Defense Education Program Public Law 855-864. Note the program was only for students of public or non-profit regionally accredited institutions that granted bachelors degrees or 2 year programs that transfer to bachelors degrees and graduate programs. Up to 50% of the loan would be forgiven for teachers in public elementary or high schools.

[4] Tinto, Vincent. “Student retention and graduation facing the truth, living with the consequences” Washington, DC : Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education July 2004 Available via ERIC or

[5] Ibid. p.5.

[6] I know one person who took a course every semester in a community college just because he liked to be academically challenged. He was even on the board of the college. He had to stop when he retired to another city. He then enrolled in the local community college and took courses until he died at age 91. I never asked what courses he took. He had more than 60 credits required for a degree, but refused to take a math course so that he could never graduate.

[7] Gansemer-Topf, Ann M. and John H. Schuh. “Institutional selectivity and institutional expenditures: Examining organizational factors that contribute to retention and graduation” In: Research in Higher Education. September 2006 Volume 47, Issue 6 , pp 613-642.

[8] Ryan, John F. “Institutional expenditures and student engagement: a role for financial resources in enhancing student learning and development?” In: Research in Higher Education, March 2005, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 235-249

[9] Shapiro, Doug and Dunbar, Afet. “New context for retention and persistence.” Chapter 13 pages 249-265 in Handbook of Strategic Enrollment Management / edited by Don Hossler, Bob Bontrager. San Francisco. Josey-Bass, 2015.

[10] For more on the implementation of TQM see: Murad Ali and Rajesh Kumar Shastri, “Implementation of Total Quality Management in Higher Education” in Asian Journal of Business Management 2(1): 9-16, 2010 (Feb. 2010) p. 9 -16.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

What’s a Book?

Here is a picture of a library patron holding an object. Do you know the name of the object blocking the student’s face? There is no doubt that most English speakers would call the
object a “book” and the person is holding the book is in a library. “Book” has synonyms such as codex (from the Latin meaning a tablet for writing), volume (from the Old French and Latin meaning scroll or to roll) or tome (from the French), however, those words have more specialized meanings than book. In the library world “codex” is a type of book with a cover and pages as opposed to a scroll. A scroll is book that has pages rolled up. “Tome” is used as a $50 word for book or for a large, valuable or very special book. “Volume” is used for a one out of a collection of books such as one volume of a series. “Volumes” are individual books while a multi-volume set has one title.

What if another language speaker was describing the object? In Latin it is liber which is the root the French livre which gives us our English word library. In Italian or Spanish (libro) and other romance languages the words are similar. However, the Latin word for library, bibliotheca, is from the Greek word biblos (meaning book). In French (bibliothèque), in Spanish (biblioteca), and German (Bibliothek), the word for library is from the Latin via Greek. The Greek biblos is the root for bible, bibliography, and bibliophile. The German Buch is the source for the English book. Don’t you wonder why we don’t use “biblioary” or “bibliothek” when we want to visit a home for books?

To visit a book store in German you would look for a Buchhandlung. In France you would visit a librairie. I am amused when students confuse the library with a book store. Are they thinking in French or confusing the role of the library and bookstore? Libraries acquire, store, and help patrons retrieve knowledge. They don’t buy book for resale as a business. (Don’t tell me about used book sales. That is not the primary activity of a library.) We don’t charge directly for library materials. The library is supported by the fees paid by students and other stakeholders.

To the Yiddish speaker the object could be a bukh or a sefer depending if it is a secular or religious book.


April 27, 2015  I fixed two minor typos that readers pointed out.  Spell checker does not find all the mistakes when using so many languages.   The /v/ and /b/ sounds are very close.  Sometimes the same root is expressed in one language with a /v/ and another with a /b/.  In French libre means "free" and is the root for the English "liberty" and "liberal."  It is not the root of "library."  In Hebrew the /v/ and /b/ sounds are expressed with the same consonant bet ב.  The only way to differentiate between the sounds is the dot (called dagesh) inside the letter.  There are grammatical rules for when the letter has the dot and when it does not.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Calendar

The Calendar

Do we take the calendar for granted or are we totally dependent on it? Over the past few weeks several calendar related questions were asked of me. In the last blog article I stated that the reckoning or changing of the date of the year varied by time and place. Someone
asked me to elaborate. Since the holiday of Pesah is coming and Nisan is the first of the months, someone asked me why is Nisan the first month and Rosh Hashana at the beginning of the seventh month. Another person pointed out that some units of time are natural (i.e based on astronomically observed events) and some are human convention. The calendar is designed for societal needs. There many kinds of calendars. Some list only holidays or events and others list every day of the year. As long as the calendar meets societal needs and it is consistent in the following of its own rules, it is accurate. This article attempts to seek out the common basis to answer all these questions.

A full calendar is marker for time that we use to keep track of the days of the week, the days of a month, the months and the year, but did you ever consider that some measures for time are natural and some totally artificial? A day is the rotation of the earth on its axis. A month is the time the moon rotates around the earth and a year is the rotation of the earth around the sun.

How did an hour become 1/24 of day and an hour divide into 60 minutes and a minute into 60 seconds? Hours, minutes and seconds are human conveniences. In today’s number systems we use base 10 which is commonly thought to correspond to ten fingers. In other systems such as ancient Babylonia and Sumar, they used base 12 or 60. Twelve is the number of digits (also called phalanges) on our fingers when not including the thumb. The thumb could have been used to count the digits. Hence 24 is both hands and 60 is five fingers times the 12 digits on the other hand. This is speculation as we have no documentary evidence.

The first clocks were sticks placed in the ground to act as a sundial. A refinement was to add marks to measure and calibrate movement of the sun. The time between sunrise and sunset was divided into 12 parts. In the ancient Jewish time calculations this was a halachic (legal) hour. Twelve parts or hours are either from the base 12 finger counting system or from the twelve yearly cycles of the moon.

This was the same way that the ancient Greeks and Romans divided the day. Noon, when the sun is at its greatest height in the sky is halfway between sunrise and sundown. The length of the hour varied with the season. In the Middle East the number of daylight hours varies less than in Chicago. For example the range from the most hours of daylight to the least in Chicago is about 6:05 hours and in Jerusalem it is 4:09 hours.

The exact measurement of time was important for religious rituals. The ancient priests in the Middle East had rituals that were time dependent. For example the very first chapter in the Talmud, Berakhot discusses the correct time for reciting the prayer, Shema and the morning prayers. Ancient Egypt and Babylonia also had time dependent rituals.

Sun dials were fine when the sun shined. At night people needed to use marked candles, oil lamps, or dripping water clocks. People needed to know time more precisely than in hours.

What is week? There is no natural reason that a week is seven days. The 354[1] days of a lunar 12 month cycle and the 365 [2]  days of the solar year are not evenly divisible by 7. One theory is that 360 is close to the number of days in a year. 360 is evenly divisible by three and six (i.e. no fractions or remainders) unlike 10 or 100. The Bible gives us six days of creation and the seventh day of the week is the Sabbath, the day of rest. That is our week.

What is the first day of the year?

There is no straight forward answer. The first chapter in Talmud Rosh Hashana discusses the four new years, Nisan for the liturgical year i.e cycle of holidays; Tishrei for counting of years and sabbatical years, Elul for animals; and Shevat for trees. I am only concerned with the first two. The Torah tells us that Rosh HaShanah of Tishei is the seventh month and Nisan is the first of months. We change the year of calendar on the first of Tishrei. The counting of Pesah as the first holiday of the year really makes very little difference in keeping track of time or dates. The interesting question is why January 1 is the beginning of the year. Tishrei is connected to fall and Nisan with spring. In the solar/secular calendar fall is a natural beginning because the summer harvests are over. We start our school year in the fall. Spring is natural for a new year because the plants that were dormant over the winter start to grow.

Without getting into a prolonged discussion, the winter solstice is associated with the constellation Capricorn. In astrology this period is December 22 to January 19. Capricorn is ruled by the planet named for the Roman god, Saturn. Ancient Rome had a holiday, Saturnalia.[3] This was a festival of lights. Originally the date was December 17, but because of the Julian calendar corrections, the day became December 25 [4]. Seven days later is January 1, which is Kalenda.[7]

In Talmud Avodah Zara 8a is a description a pagan festival called Saturna which occurs eight days before the winter solstice. It is followed eight days after the solstice with a festival called Kalenda. The Talmud ascribes the origins of this festival to Adam, who saw that the days were getting shorter and thought it was punishment for his sin. He was afraid that the world was returning to the chaos and emptiness that existed before creation. He sat and fasted for eight days. Once he saw that the days were getting longer again he realized that this was the natural cycle of the world, so made eight days of celebration. The Talmud states that this festival was later turned into a pagan festival.[5]

The darkness gave Adam what we call winter depression. Adam did not know the cycle of the year is to have days that get shorter and after winter solstice they get longer. Saturnalia became a festival of lights to conquer the darkness. Note the connection to lights on the Christmas tree and the lights on the menorah. The lights of Hanukkah increase each night to match the increasing length of daylight. The winter solstice can not be assigned an exact Hebrew date that will work every year. However, since Pesah always falls in the spring, we can count the days until Kislev, making Kislev correspond to the beginning of winter. In the cycle of the lunar months, the 14th or 15th of the month is a full moon, the day with most moonlight. The last week of the month is the darkest as the time is before the new moon. The new moon is the first day the moon is visible. Hence, Kishlev 25 is a good choice. A celebration [6] on that begins on Kishlev 25 that lasts eight days will include the new moon or rosh hodesh Tevet.

In the Roman calendar, Kalenda (Kalendae), would make a good choice for the new year because it was the 8th day after the start of the winter solstice holiday. Just as the days stop getting shorter, there is a holiday to celebrate the new year of longer daylight. Saturnalia and Kalenda were legal holidays in Roman times when no business was conducted. Perhaps this is an explanation for a “natural” reason for a January 1 new year?

We already have a fall and a spring new year date; why should the winter date be any more reasonable? The information on the Ancient Roman calendar is limited. We do know that the year had 10 named months. That is why September means seventh month and December means 10th month. Bernard Allen , referring to O. E. Hartmann, [9] suggests that the 10 month year corresponds the ten month vegetation year and is analogous to our 9 or 10 month school year. The 60 days for the months of winter i.e. January and February were not numbered. Hartmann speculated that farmers did not do much in the winter months. That would indicate that March 1st [10] is a “natural” choice for the first day of the year and that was the date for new year in pre-Caesarian Rome.

Janus was the two faced Roman god of change and new beginnings; one face for the future and one for the past. January was named for Janus and the first day was a celebration. January 1st was the 8th day after December 25th. January 1st was the date the Roman consuls began serving their term. In the Catholic liturgical calendar January 1 was the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus, but this is confusing two time periods. Europeans celebrated the new year on December 25, March 1, March 25, and Easter.[11]

In medieval Europe, however, the celebrations accompanying the new year were considered pagan and unchristian like, and in the year 567 the Council of Tours abolished January 1 as the beginning of the year and forbade celebrations. At various times and in various places throughout medieval Christian Europe, the new year was celebrated on Dec. 25, the birth of Jesus; March 1; March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation [12] ; and Easter.

H. J. Rose [13] suggests that what we know about the calendar before Julius Caesar is speculation. The early Roman calendar, unlike the Jewish calendar, was not connected to the seasons. The early Romans did not seem to care. Since the 10 month year of either 295 or 304 days depending on how you counted was not even close to the solar year, November was not always in the fall. Eventually to correct this, an extra month was added about three times in eight years to keep the numbered months in the correct season. Few Roman days had special names. The Jewish calendar has named holidays associated with a particular day of a particular month. However, in the Torah the months don’t have names.

The calendar that Julius Caesar enacted with names for the months and fixed numbers of days per month is pretty close to our current calendar. This is the Julian calendar. This calendar modified by Pope Gregory in 1582 with the addition of ten days to correct the shift of dates and realign the solar year to the date on the calendar. By 1582 the vernal equinox was March 11 not March 21. The vernal equinox sets the date of Easter. The Gregorian calendar was immediately adopted in Catholic countries. In other countries acceptance was slowed by political or religious reasons. Russia only accepted it 1918 after the revolution. Greece was the last European country to accept it in 1923.  [14]

Perhaps you are wondering how 16th century scientists knew the exact date of the equinox, solstice or length of the year? After all Galileo Galilei first pointed a telescope to the sky in 1609. 16th century observations used a room sized camera obscura. The room was a darkened church and the pinhole in the roof made a lens that focused the sun’s image on the wall. The wall had a map with a metal line that charted the movement of sun at precisely noon. The extremes of the line made by the sun were the winter
and summer solstices. 


The calendar was created for the convenience of society. In an agricultural society, people needed to keep track of seasons. Agricultural holidays commemorated the change of seasons. When society needed times for religious ritual a system of time was invented based on solar observations. For example the times for morning prayers and the times to start and end the Shabbat and holidays needed to be predictable. Since the length of a day and month are not evenly divisible into the length of a year, some compensation needed to be made to keep seasonal festivals in their proper season. The adjustment is a leap month, leap day or leap second.

Each of the dates for the new year, fall, winter and spring are based on the movement of the earth around the sun. Since the new year automatically starts at the moment the old year ends, this article while it ends here, never will be completed. 

Postscript for April 1

The origin for April 1 as "April Fool's" is not certain.  In today's Time Magazine Daily Brief is an article by Jennifer Latson (  suggesting that it started in 1582 after France adapted the Gregorian calendar. In many places new year was celebrated on March 25. If there was an eight day celebration, it would end on April 1. Those who celebrated New Year on January 1 called the March 25thers  fools.  This theory is suspect since Chaucer mentions a new year in the Nun's Wife's Tale

   Whan that the month in which the world bigan,
   When the month in which the world began,
   That highte March, whan God first maked man,
   Which is called March, when God first made man,

   Syn March [was gon], thritty dayes and two,
    Since March had gone, thirty days and two

Thirty-two days after March 1 is April 1.


[1] The Jewish year could have 354, 355, or 356 days depending on how many 29 and 30 day months.

[2] The actual length of the year is usually rounded to 365.25 days, requiring a leap day every four years.  More precisely the length of the solar year is 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds. The Gregorian calendar corrects this by making years ending in 00 a regular year except when the year is divisible by 400.  The Jewish calendar corrects the lunar/solar cycles by having seven leap years within a 19 year cycle. An extra month is added before the spring in a leap year. The one prayer that is totally dependent on the solar year is the recitation of “Tal Umatar” which is supposed to be recited 60 days after the autumnal equinox.  For a full discussion of the date see:  “Regarding the Date to Begin Reciting Tal Umatar”

[3]   For a fuller discussion on Saturnalia see:  “Saturnalia” in Wikipedia The holiday’s customs changed over the years. 

[4] December 25 was a pagan holiday long before it became a Christian one.

[5] See Menachem Leibtag’s article,  “Chanuka - its Biblical roots - Part Two” where he discusses this Midrash.  The Talmud describes observances of the Roman holidays of Saturnia and Kolenda that are very close to the Romans sources described in the above Wikipedia article.  The legend also appears in Ginzberg, Louis
Legends of the Jews, (Philadelphia; Jewish Publication Society, ©1937) v. 1 page 89. 

[6] There is a musical play, Celebration, book and lyrics by Tom Jones and music by Harvey Schmidt that opened on Broadway in January 1969 and closed after only 109 performances. The title song has the theme of the sun setting and never rising.  When that doesn’t happen they want to “make a celebration.”

[7] Also spelled Calenda and it is the root for the English “calendar” and German “Kalendar.”

[8]  Allen, Bernard Melzar. “The Early Roman Calendar” The Classical Journal, Vol. 43, No. 3 (Dec., 1947), pp. 163-168.  Retrieved from Jstor: Another  article on the Roman Calendar talks about chronology and is not totally relevant to this discussion :   Johnson, Van L.  “Early Roman Chronology and the Calendar” The Classical Journal, Vol. 64, No. 5 (Feb., 1969), pp. 203-207. Retrieved from jStor:

[9]  Hartmann , Otto Ernst. Der Römische Kalender.  Leipzig : Teubner, 1882. pages I0 -I4.

[10] The “ides” is the middle of every month i.e. the 15th.  In a lunar month this would be a full moon.

[11] To read more see: Brunner, Borgna.  “A History of the New Year : a move from March to January”  Infoplease Old Tappan, NJ :  Information Please® Database, Pearson Education, ©2007. I do not totally agree with Brunner’s analysis.
[12] I’m not going to get in a Christian liturgy explanation of the Feast of Annunciation.  In England the day was called Lady Day. You can look at the article, “The Feast of the Annunciation” in the Catholic Encyclopedia . The important aspect for my analysis is that the day is close to the vernal equinox and it was the end of the quarter for the tax year.

[13] Rose, H. J. “The Pre-Caesarian Calendar: Facts and Reasonable Guesses” In: The Classical Journal,  Vol. 40, No. 2 (Nov., 1944), pp. 65-76. Retrieved from Jstor: Stable URL:
 [14] The Wikipedia article “Gregorian Calendar” has a chart when each country adapted the calendar and when they start changing the year on January 1. Great Britain and its colonies (i.e. British America) adapted the Gregorian calendar in 1752 when 11 days were added to the date. This change was established by the Calendar Act of 1751. This was accomplished on Wednesday 2 September 1752; the next day was Thursday 14 September 1752. This did not change Shabbat for that week.  For dating of books and documents one must use a dual dating or conversion factor.  This act also established January 1 as the date to change the year.  Previously it was March 25.  The text of the act may be found at: