Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Fun with Predictions

Every so often, my usual discipline slips, and I actually venture a prediction in print. (If it's a blog, is it really 'in print'? I'm not sure what the cyber equivalent of that is. In pixel?) A few of them even turn out to be right.

A couple months ago, referring to the badly bungled Presidential search at Monroe Community College in Rochester, NY, I wrote:

Now that it (the Board) has named two alternates to the list of finalists, none of the possible scenarios look good. If it decides to go with one of the original finalists anyway, it will look like it caved, and will embolden antagonistic forces on campus. If it goes with one of the late additions, the newbie will have been set up to fail. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see one or both of the original finalists withdraw his candidacy at this point, based on not wanting to work with a Board as amateurish as this one.

Now comes word that one of the original finalists withdrew his candidacy after visiting the campus, and the Board split evenly between the other original finalist and the guy who owns a bunch of Burger Kings. Since it's an even split, the college will have to go with an interim in the meantime.


It's almost as if a guy with a blog could see it coming. Honestly, this ain't rocket science.

Moving a few thousand miles south, I've developed a sort of series following the insanity in Florida. In the latest installment, from July of last year, I wrote:

The point of the university is to serve the people of Florida. It is not to serve the faculty. If we grant that fundamental truth, then 'shared governance' should come with some pretty glaring restraints on it. Otherwise, people with obviously vested interests – that is, faculty with life tenure – will use their power to pervert the university to serve them instead. Astoundingly, they will have the gall to claim the moral high ground while they feather their own nests. When the irresistible force of angry tenured faculty crashes headfirst into the immovable object of Objective F-ing Reality – in this case, the governor's veto – bad things will happen. Like hiring freezes.

This month, we get word from the University of Florida that

In response to the fiscal year 2008-09 budget adopted Friday by the Florida Legislature, University of Florida President Bernie Machen today announced $47 million in cuts affecting all areas of the university.

As a result of the budget cuts, the university will reduce funding for administrative units and research, reduce or eliminate degrees and courses, and restructure several departments. Accordingly, the budget reduction eliminates approximately 430 positions, resulting in a layoff of approximately 20 faculty and 118 staff members. The remaining positions are currently vacant or will be funded by sources other than state dollars. The layoffs do not affect tenured faculty. (emphasis added)

Headfirst crash? Check. Tenured faculty feathering their own nests? Check. Bad things happening? Check.

Reality is tenacious. Bluster may hide it temporarily, but it has a way of surfacing again.

Finally, in October of 2006, in a rare political mood, I wrote:

Speaking of Dems, I foresee precisely two possibilities for 2008: Barack Obama, or crushing defeat. An Obama-Mark Warner ticket, or something close to it, would be tough to beat.

We'll see...

Clarification .. The MCC board split evenly between the two additions-- the restaurant owner and the local politican. The original finalist didn't get any votes.
Ah Rochester, where politicking still runs supreme. I feel bad for my mom's alma-mater.
You forgot to mention that a flagship AAU university is planning to eliminate the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Philosophy.

Before you hold the administration blameless, you need to explain why their five year plan required such a draconian revision in the face of predicted budget problems. Didn't the administration grant pay raises last year at a time when it was already clear there would be a further cut of 20 million dollars on top of the projected 30 million dollar deficit? The faculty had nothing to do with resource allocation and strategic planning for the university or the state.

I don't see your point about the tenured faculty "feathering their own nests". They didn't give themselves a pay raise, and they will hardly benefit from having fewer staff and losing junior faculty and getting less support for research or not being able to use a computer printer or photocopier at work.

The only way to lay off tenured faculty who have not violated their contract is to completely abolish a department or college and kick out all of the students in that major, violating the implicit contract in the college catalog. Is that what you would do if faced with a 15% funding cut at your college?

Some colleges manage to hire new t-t faculty despite cuts from the state as a result of good fiscal planning at the top. The faculty do not deserve credit for that or blame for the management at Florida.
On a completely different subject, I'd love to know what your reaction to this article is:

Rotten tomatoes here on your logic re Florida, as anonymous 6:06 noted. The part of U Florida with the layoffs is unionized, and if there weren't tenure there would still be seniority at play.

And which tenured faculty at Florida would you want to layoff? C'mon, here, you're anonymous, so I want some names instead of vapid allegations. Which tenured faculty at UF are unproductive and should go? You claim that there are "bad things happening" specifically because of tenure, but as Walter Mondale and the Wendy's commercial from 1984 asked, where's the beef?
No one said that the faculty were "unproductive" yet here's this typical, strong, and stupid, "it's us against them" standpoint.

I don't think this is a matter of layoffs so much as the reality that some of us have NO protection against the asinine fights that occur between tenured faculty and the administration. With neither sides willing to come to agreements, things like Florida happen, much to the demise of the rest of us, who end up with little say.
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