Thursday, July 30, 2009

Delete, Delete, Delete

Over the past few years, I’ve received job announcements from headhunters on a fairly regular basis. They aren’t personalized, so I don’t take them as compliments; they’re a function of some mailing list or another. But I usually read them, even if only to get a sense of the market.

This week I’ve received a couple for admin positions at cc’s in California. Deleted, unread.

Out of the question.

It’s not about reluctance to live in California. I’ve lived there before and loved it, and still consider San Francisco one of my favorite cities. (TW is a huge fan of San Diego.) I make the occasional smartass comment about earthquakes or killer bees, but those are basically rooted in jealousy. (I’m not jealous of having earthquakes or killer bees per se, but you get the idea.) Parts of the state are truly nifty.

It’s about reluctance to work in California. I know enough not to climb on board a sinking ship. And I’d bet large sums that I’m not alone in that.

Short-term cuts carry long-term costs. I know that most states have made cuts – my own is no exception – and I have faith that the Great Recession won’t last forever. But the last few months have made it abundantly clear that the state government in California is uniquely incapable of sustaining public higher education.

California has a couple of afflictions that most states don’t. It’s referendum-happy, and it requires a 2/3 vote to pass a budget. That means that much of its budget is predetermined – even if in mutually exclusive ways – and that which isn’t can be held hostage by a rump faction. Compounding that is an indefensibly low (and state-controlled) level of tuition/fees, making it impossible for colleges to grow their way out of trouble. They're prevented from acting on their own behalf, and trapped in a state budget that's fundamentally hostile.

It's one thing to circle the drain because your leader is failing. If you can wait him out, you can get a better leader. It's another thing entirely to circle the drain because every single structural flaw errs in the same direction.

I hope California has a strong internal leadership development system for its community and public colleges. Importing talent, at this point, will be a whole lot harder. And I wouldn't be surprised at all to start seeing a flood of cv's from the left coast when we start hiring again. (That happened several years ago when Colorado passed TABOR, and we suddenly started seeing cv's from Colorado. Given California's size, the effect should be that much stronger.)

In the meantime, I'll just keep deleting what I now consider spam. If the state ever decides to get serious, I'd love to reconsider. But until there's a basic structural change out there, it's not gonna happen. There's dedication, and then there's masochism. No, thanks.