Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Post on behalf of heart aum:

"Regarding the giant Rube Goldberg machine (or is it a Two-Ring Circus?) also known as the American University of the Middle East in Eqaila, Kuwait...
The time I spent at AUM led me to collect notes, typically once or twice a week, regarding the ongoings of this operation in Kuwait. While I had originally intended on piecing together an essay, I must say that I cannot, for the life of me, spend any more time thinking about the sparkling garbage dump known as AUM. Thus, I leave you with my notes in point form. I leave them not out of spite, but in an effort to fairly warn those who have devoted their lives to higher education and are currently seeking employment. Take from them what you will.

AUM’s philosophical components: A more accurate description would be 4 pillars of fraud. To find them, one only need look to department heads and the CLO.

Delusional Megalomaniacs: a characterization covering those aforementioned pillars and extending all the way to the man in the white suit at the top.

ALL about appearances: look like you're doing something (“let’s keep those profs as busy as possible with meaningless, degrading, and (H)asinine tasks”). Don't bother teaching well, and don't bother grading properly. If you want to be a “good employee", give everyone great grades, regardless of their abilities. Praise your boss! Praise the chairman! If you can live with that... AUM is your place!

More on Appearances: from the sudden appearance of bicycles during graduation to show the parents how progressive AUM is (or perhaps to further delude those on top), … to the two-dimensional (literally) convention center… lest we not forget the white-suit-clad, ascot-sporting Chairman! What a picture!

Grading: Imagine first-year course averages in excess of 90% (indeed, I’ve even heard of 95%, AVERAGE!). How realistic is that? If you’re class averages are low, in the eyes of AUM, this means that you are a terrible teacher. So, many resort to handing out top grades for "character" only.

Are patterns of line-manager criticism of other colleagues in front of those colleagues' peersprofessional? They certainly are the norm at AUM. Better keep an eye over your shoulder, for you shalt be next.

Patterns of line managers making excuses for students: “Come on! They tried! It’s okay that they don’t use the one-click spell checker. It’s okay that they can’t subtract simple single-digit numbers!”

They will tell you everything you want to hear at the interview, except that they won’t allow you to visit current employees, diverting you with hollow excuses. I mean, if I want to secure employment, employment at a university where I can engage myself in collaborative research, should I not be able to communicate with these professors directly? What a complete sham.

Staff: With whom will you be working with? Can you find out? Why not? AUM certainly cannot publish this information online. If they did, their troubles in finding qualified employees would increase 10-fold. So, you can forget about talking to other professors during the campus visit. Perhaps you can find professors’ profiles online. Good luck with that!
If research is a pillar? What is being done? By whom? See above comment.

Professors have spent a considerable portion of their lives learning to be critical. Well, if you try that at AUM, you will be ignored for a while and likely fired once they have found another professor to dump your workload upon.
Along these lines, much of this professor reshuffling behaviour is academically reckless and irresponsible. In getting (or assigning) under-qualified teachers to teach advanced topics, AUM has clearly demonstrated just how clueless its leaders are. If not clueless, then hostile by design.

Do you love teaching? Join AUM—soon, you will hate teaching.

Too many times the CLO addresses the faculty as “dear respected experts,” but not experts to be consulted, rather experts to be dictated to. By what? That, perhaps, remains to be seen.

The CLO seems to consider himself as an Education Research subject matter expert. That’s great! This is what a CLO should be, at least in part. It would be nice to see some [of his] publications on that subject, or even ANY subject.
Be careful about pushing your students to the next level—and you WILL be asked to do so. When they underperform the following semester, YOU will be to blame! “But you passed those students last semester, didn’t you?” Unbelievable! I'll save the excessive use of ad hominems.
So, if this cycle of lunacy is continued, one might ask who will suffer? Well, it won’t be the university, not with the flow of tuition coming in from (perhaps some) unsuspecting students. One might even argue that the professors won’t suffer, at least not with a steady stream of cash deposited monthly into their bank accounts, and to be fair, many of us certainly need that. Beyond the dollar, however, there is nothing. ... Certainly, one group that will suffer is the students: What have they learned? How much have they paid? Their fake degrees will be laughed at anywhere outside of the Persian Gulf. Does the chairman tell them this? Or, does he tell them that they will be able to study at Purdue once they’ve finished paying him at AUM?

Join, if you need some quick cash. 
Join, if you're ready to play game. You can call yourself “Doctor” to the mirror all night long (that is, if you’re not completely exhausted after a day filled with frustration). While this might seem a bit unfair, it is also apparent that many of the successful professors at AUM fit right into this category. Yes-people to the end.Again, to be fair, there are some very good professors at AUM; however, they often don't stay very long.

Education at AUM is done “My Way or the Highway,” was a slogan I heard echoing from top half of the chairman, a man with little to no experience in academia. I would say, however, that he is seemingly adept at increasing his wealth through manipulation, and perhaps some other gym-associated activities, mirrors notwithstanding.
They will use "office hours" requirement to twist and turn you ways mimicking the soup-de-jour! For example: “You only have to be in your office for the duration of your office hours.” Almost immediately followed by, “You must be in your office for more than the allocated office hours.” Which is it? This is typical of AUM—Words flying from mouths seemingly not attached to any brain.
Be wary of the housing allowance they quote. It is far below what you will pay for decent housing. Also, they will try to trick you into a salary far lower than you should be getting by first setting the bar low, then proclaiming after the interview that they liked you so much, they can pay you a bit more. Nonsense, and probably NOT limited to AUM. Having said that, if you go… ask for 50% more than you think you’re worth. They are desperate.
It’s unfortunately that employment in academia is very, if not extremely, hard to find these days. Avoid the AUM trap, if you can. They are well aware of the difficulties professors face in securing good employment, and they will exploit this fact to feed their greed until you quit or are fired.

Be warned: For they will tell you research is a pillar.“Of course! We do a lot of research here, and AUM will certainly help you in that respect. I mean, 'come-on!' we are a university after all!” That is an utter lie. In this respect, your career as an academician will only surfer.

Try to not fool yourself into thinking, as I did--albeit very temporarily, that there is some value for yourself as an educator, aside from monetary gains, or for your pupils.

Random input: We were once told by one of the fourinept department heads (see above) that handing out grades less than 2% was forbidden. Why? "Oh, It’s simple! The Moodle system cannot handle numbers that small!" WTF? This is an example of how stupid and foolish the “leaders” think the professors are. Disgusting!

Fake: how about one of the deans asking for a lab to be set up with equipment that “had blinking lights on it” to make it look like something important was happening. Maybe this would be appropriate at a nursery school for lower primates.

A “Sacred Syllabus,” albeit with constant grade shifting to please the students… Ask the CLO about his syllabus if you want to be amazed at how much he can speak using sentences more void of meaning than the Al Kout mall has of class.

Command decisions coming down from the CLO with no explanation, even though we are the “dear respected experts.”

Military style: One of the deans tried to explain that experience in matters of the military leads one to understand that university departments should be run the same! How foolish!

Cowards: Deans blindly following the words of the CLO.

Double talk: If you join AUM, you will eventually get to witness some of the deans contradicting themselves IN THE SAME SENTENCE! (I think I already provided an example.) Not only are they corrupt, but one is tempted to conclude they are seriously lacking in grey matter. I guess that's for a "doctor" to decide... Perhaps one of the future AUM medical students could diagnosis such a problem. It could be part of the in-house AUM research that's talked about so often...but I digress...

Compulsive liars are not left out of AUM. You can find them everywhere.

Sexist... But not fired. Racist... But not fired: I was once in the unfortunate position of having to watch a “Dean” give a sexist and racist presentation, a presentation in which this person was trying to explain (again to the “dear respected experts”) how to teach and do research at a university. This person should have been fired on the spot, if not for the first instance of him giving that presentation, then for the second, without a doubt!

You, as a professor, will be fired for speaking up. However, if you, as HR personnel hire someone with a fake degree, you will not be fired… promoted, perhaps, but fired? No.

If you can bear temporary unemployment for a while, do yourself, your fellow academicians, and the student body a favour and stay as far away as is physically possible from the poisonous tendrils of the corporate collective known as AUM/ACM.

We are as good as our students: I realize now that the “we” refers not to the professors or to the guards (or even IT personnel), but to, perhaps, everyone else employed by AUM. That is one thing I CAN believe about AUM.
Alas, I grow tired… some final bullet points that I care not to write about:
·      Veiled Threats, bullying
·      Random decisions
·      False promises
·      20 page syllabus
·      Lies

By now, you've already a lot of warnings about AUM. I, too, read those warnings. Warning which I chose to almost completely ignore. In sharing my notes, I hope to steer those who are actually interested in education, and integrity in the same, away from the AUM circus of madness".

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Another story, this is what  Dave Lloyd with email address wanted to post but there was not enough space in the reply section, so I am more than happy to post the below comment on behalf of this person, please feel free to contact this person for any further details. So, the comment is as follows:

"In the past two months, two people have been fired, and one resigned. I worked there last year in the ESL department, and it was a complete disaster. Teachers were asked to write and prepare exams for both semesters, which they did, diligently.

It is worth noting here, that the teachers who did not work on the exams were not permitted to see them, because the managerial staff could not trust their teachers, and they believed they might give the answers away to students. This is an underlying problem in the university as a whole - mistrust between teachers and managerial staff. 

The absurdity of this is evident at the end of the semester when 99% of the E.P.P students are passed – even when some of these students fail the entire course by 15%.

Last summer’s obscenity accentuates the absurdity even more so. As part of the end of semester project, five students from each class were selected to participate in an open quiz against each other. This was a great idea until we found out that the prize for the winning group included a 5% bonus of marks for the entire class. This meant that along with the five students selected, the other 20 got a 5% free grade. Some of the students did not even show up that day to cheer their classmates on, and woke up the next morning with free marks. Despite the teachers pointing this out to the line manager, and the C.L.O nothing was done. It is a mockery of education, an insult to students who worked hard for a year to get good grades, and it demoralizes teachers, who were left wondering what was the point in teaching. 

Thus, many students are passed when they are not ready to go into undergraduate studies. Their level of English is on par with absolute beginners, and they are expected to study Business and Engineering courses in English for the next few years. I asked my line manager about this, and her response was, she knew plenty of students who managed quite well in their undergrad studies, even if their English was very poor. This is not only a blatant lie, but it undermines the purpose of the whole E.P.P program.

Back to my original point. So, the exams were written up and ready to go, the day before the exam date. That evening, the great Florentina and Rosa decided to - as acting E.P.P department chief, squash any possibility that the teachers working on the exam might have leaked answers - shuffle the exam questions. No one but her, and the C.L.O #Mohaned #Hassanin, knew of this.

The result of this  was  incredible, as she managed to botch the entire thing. The next morning there were over five mistakes on the exam papers, as the shuffle had answers on the multiple choice questions that did not make sense. It was humiliating for the teachers to announce throughout the morning of the exam these mistakes to students. Some questions had no right answer, and the student received top marks for it.

Just try to imagine being in that situation, especially if you spent weeks beating your head off a wall writing the exams out. Of course, nothing happened to Florentina Rosa. It seems complete incompetence gets you a stay of execution at #AUM. I have had friends sacked because they questioned the professionalism of the place, and here we have someone who embarrassed the school as a whole, and got away with it. This is the level of competence you are dealing with at #AUM. These are decisions made by the people in managerial positions. And this is a single example of how poorly organized the institute is. Our beloved C.L.O announced afterwards that the exams were a great success. What does this say about him?

It comes down to trust. I watched the atmosphere of the place go from active and energetic in my first few months to sullen and vacant as the months wore on. Once people realized that teachers had little or no autonomy, that students need only register to pass, that management pretended to listen, that the work load outstripped the award of being a teacher by a long stretch, then people got disheartened and it became very evident on the faces of all.

Money…that’s what is attractive, but as an ESL teacher the money is not that great. You will pay a lot, usually close or over $1000 rent for an adequate apartment.  Food is not cheap, clothes are not cheap…cigarettes are, but by the end of the second semester I smoked so much that they became a price issue.

That is a fragment of my experience there. I will write more. If you have any questions about this, please ask. I would not advise anyone to work for that company (university).  It amazes that a place with so much wealth can be so shambolic".

Monday, December 30, 2013

Hi Johnny,

Many thanks for your valuable questions. Actually, I would not have published my post if I do not have clear and detailed examples to support what I am saying. I left #AUM and I have contact with almost all the staff who left AUM voluntary over the past 2 years, actually just today one of the new recruits resigned and did not even finish a three months at AUM. It is plausible that those employees left AUM for mainly the combination of many reasons. Here some of them:

Job satisfaction: no proper utilization of employees’ expertise, abilities and knowledge. You are there to only implement the decisions and plans and ideas of your supervisors and managers, and those all come from one person who is #Mohaned #Hassanin. For example, they decide; without your opinion and feedback, what you teach, course projects, course structure, distribution of grades, number of quizzes, exam structure, course chapters and deliverables etc. In this sense, your sole task is to go to the class and deliver what they decide for you within the courses that they select for you. So your potentials and capabilities in other areas such as research and ideas and project proposals and areas of expertise will not be properly exploited. Another example, they mislead new recruits, especially from US and UK, by telling them rosy words about research, and in reality they do not have any research environment and framework. Mohaned Hassanin, the CLO, repeatedly mentioned that research is not a priority at AUM and that they do not consider research as essential part of their future plans and prospects. This is fair enough, but they need to be clear about that during the recruitment stages and communicate and do not manipulate and create lies.   

Employee assessment: no clear assessment processes and methods and devices. In this sense, over the period of 2 years, for example, they share a very brief  and short summary of students’ evaluation with staff. They do not follow up with staff and set any improvement and action plans. They do not have problem in criticizing you, yet they don’t offer constructive mentoring and help and support. Your managers and supervisors do not follow any clear formal and documented feedback mechanism whatsoever apart from very subjective and informal words that they use to scare and control more the staff.  I reckon that they will remain like that so they can decide promotions and recognitions on a very subjective basis. For example, they do not follow any formal dismissal process.

No respect for job descriptions: no assurance whatsoever that they will respect your job description and contract content about your tasks and duties and area of work. As an example, it is normal that if you were recruited as a teaching staff to be shifted into pure administration and clerical offices without even your consensus and opinion and involvement. It is also normal that if you were recruited to teach English courses for undergraduates to end up in the EPP department teaching intensive English program materials to prepare students before starting their actual curriculum courses. There was a huge scandal recently where they increased the working hours for teaching staff with clear breach to their contracts. Of course, at AUM you will be asked to leave if you are not happy with that.

Pay: for the same position and years of experience and age and background, two employees will not get the same salary. Here, I know differences up to 500 KD (around 1700 $).

Autonomy: as an instructor you lack autonomy and control over your course and you don’t receive professional mentoring and support and encouragement from supervisors and managers. As an example, they inform you what you will teach only 3-4 days before the beginning of the semester and it will be a surprise for you what you will teach because they do not even ask you what courses your prefer and like to teach as part of involvement and empowerment. No evidence for such concepts and theories at AUM.

Management: I highly emphasis this point because I believe that the way your supervisors and managers treat you shapes your future at any institution irrespective of the pay and work. The pay at AUM is among the highest in Kuwait and despite that you find many people leaving them in big numbers, some of them left after only one semester; I know at least 5-7 cases like this over the past 1 year.  Supervisor and managers at AUM only care about quantities and amounts of work done rather than the quality and therefore they don’t value and try to understand employees’ opinions. As an example, they introduced recently academic activities within all the courses in the business school, and the staff had completely different opinions about how to do these activities, however the management did not even listen or ask their feedback. No trust whatsoever in the credibility and qualifications of Mohaned Hassanin and #Sabine #Hoffmann, actually no one knows the background of Mohaned Hassanin or profile or resume’. This brings me to an interesting question: how they landed and who selected them and whether or not there is a clear process of selection.

Changing grades:  you have always to give high grades for students and Mohaned Hassanin and Sabine Hoffmann force inflated curves and increase the grades of students so the distribution follows a predetermined shape. There must be “A” grades in the class even if no one deserves an A, and on the other hand they ask you, actually it happened, to pass failed students even if they failed on 20%, also they force inflated grade curves for classes of less than 5 students, something I find unprofessional and unfair.

My post above is one of many I was planning to publish, but now that you asked I thought it is timely to go ahead with one of many episodes to come. I gave evidence and I am ready to give more. 

I repeat confidently that AUM is not a place for ambitious and professional people.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Ugly and True Face of AUM

#American_University_of_the_Middle_East  #AUM is a good project on paper, well why would not a university project aiming for learning, education, and development be a good project. However, in reality AUM in #Kuwait is a different story. It is a place where you, as an employee, will be frustrated, stressed, and not satisfied on a daily basis. You will end up, as many of the current academic staff, looking for jobs everyday elsewhere or even thinking to resign without a backup plan just to end this unpleasant experience.

The main problem is that AUM is run and managed by #Mohaned #Hassanin. Unfortunately Dr. Hassanin has all the characteristics of a bad manager: He has an extremely abrasive communication style. Employees are stressed out at some point; however he is not capable of communicating a problem or concern without berating or yelling. He has poor planning skills, firing, replacing and substituting staff at the last moment, without taking into account the needs of the students. He changes curriculum, syllabus, course offerings and class sections in the way he wants and always at the last moment.

Unfortunately, he cannot provide constructive criticism. We, as employees have a right to expect that line managers will be able to offer some mentoring and direction. However more than one member of the staff who were fired in the last couple of months have claimed he had no problem telling them that they are doing something wrong, but could not provide any insights regarding how to improve. Some other fired employees were dismissed without explanations.

Dr. Hassanin is unfortunately an arrogant character who believes to know everything and can do no wrong. It is also recently that he uses fear tactics as if he is intimidated or unsure about how to get results without relying on threats or other fear-mongering.

Another problem is that Dr. Hassanin surrounded himself and selected inexperienced and non-credible people, especially in high positions at the university, who only obey him. As we mentioned before, people who dare to express different opinions are quickly dismissed or degraded. Perhaps this behavior was acceptable a couple of decades ago in developing countries, but it cannot be tolerated in the academic world of today and when all the rest of the staff is working to take the university to the research and academic standards of developed countries. The university has talented and smart people within their students and staff in #Kuwait; however the poor management of Dr. Hassanin does not allow exploiting their potential. In short, he runs a university as if a corporation or industry business.

Now, I would like to discuss about the Dean of the College of Business. Her name is #Sabine #Hoffmann. It is worth to mention that before being appointed as the Dean, she was perceived as an administrative assistant who used to spend considerable amount of time shopping on-line. However I have to admit that I don’t have proof for this point. Nevertheless, I invite the readers to look at her profile on Linkedin and decide if she is qualified to be a Dean or not at a university affiliated with one of the best universities in the USA, I am referring to the claimed affiliation with #Purdue University. From my experience, Miss Sabine finds difficulty in answering simple academic matters and has little knowledge of curriculum, courses, and management on this senior and critical role as a Dean.

The attitude of the people mentioned above has cost so far around 10 staff members being fired or resigned only in the Fall Semester 2013. Therefore, at the moment, the school is seriously understaffed and are having very serious recruitment issues because of their bad reputation. No planning, no knowledge, no experience, no transparency – only the words of DrHassanin prevail at AUM.

In the next couple of post, I will give more specific details on how the reputation of the university and the quality of the education given to the students is being severely affected by the unprofessional and unhealthy behavior of the people mentioned before who are unlikely to keep highly qualified employees for long and to take the university to the educational standards of Europe and developed countries.

So if you are planning to apply for a vacancy at AUM - Do not come, this is an honest opinion. Save yourself from all this humiliation, stress, and miserable life.

Your comments for this post are highly appreciated.

Please let me know if you have any specific questions regarding this university. I would gladly answer them.