Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Called It!

A few months ago, the Chronicle reported on a controversy at the U of Florida. The administration had announced plans to cut budgets for certain programs and increase them for others. I wrote at the time:

A fearless prediction (and all predictions guaranteed or your money back!): the faculty will claim to have been shut out of the decision-making process, the usual accusations about autocratic administrators will fly, compromises will be made, a few deans will be replaced, and the university won't look in 2010 the way this plan says it will.

A story in IHE yesterday shows that I was right on every count (and it only took three months!). There's a new interim dean (check), who is signaling intent to cave (check), and citing insufficient process (check). Affected departments are still claiming a lack of shared governance (check), and the university is proposing to mollify all and sundry by...wait for it...a tuition increase by another name! Make the strategic failure go away by throwing money at it.

From looking at my prediction, you'd almost think I knew what I was doing.


It's almost as if a single community college dean, blogging pseudonymously from his outpost in another region of the country, could see the train coming down the tracks before the leadership of a major research university could.

Makes ya wonder.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled blogging.

Perhaps your blog should be renamed:

Confessions of Cassandra, a Community College Dean.
"Make the strategic failure go away by throwing money at it."

Just like -- take your pick -- "stay-the-course" advocates of (a) liberating Iraq (b) the Great Society (c) Amtrak (d) choice of senior thesis topic left as exercise.

Next, watch for sunk cost fallacies to be aired.
You didn't call the English department chair being removed from his position without explanation and the department being put into receivership. That part, at least, is novel. :)

(Oh, and putting too much stock in the new dean might be misleading. By all appearances the old dean was forced into the 5YP by the Provost, who also handpicked the new dean.)
Reading those UF documents was great fun. The internal contradictions are amazing.

They are going to improve their student/faculty ratio by reducing the number of faculty. They need to double their faculty to match their putative "peers" (Wisconsin, Michigan) because their student body is growing, but they will cut 50 positions?

They are going to increase the number of t-t math faculty teaching undergrads (which will also increase because of the areas of emphasis) by reducing the number of math positions. They need to build more large lecture halls so they can have smaller classes. [There is some logic to that combo, but the documents use lots of "spin" to hide the plan to decrease some class sizes by increasing many others. Will the "contact" with a t-t math professor might be from the back of a 600 seat calculus lecture hall? Is this what engineering and the sciences want?]

They also talk about "investing" in certain areas without stating that they know any "investment" is a negative cash flow -- the very thing they claim to be worried about.

Sounds to me like a pitch to the legislature for a lot more money, using their 'responsible' budget approach (and screams of gored faculty) as part of the PR push. Legislators love screaming faculty.
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