Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Mere Money and Prestige Money

Based on a recent communiqué from the Midwest, I now have two friends at research universities, thirtysomething doctorates with insane talent, whose tenure bids are in trouble because the money they’ve brought in with grants isn’t prestige money.

Apparently, money comes in two flavors: mere money and prestige money.

Mere money is handy for relatively profane purposes, like paying expenses or salaries, or buying stuff. Prestige money can do that, and more.

What more is left unsaid.

Both of these are public universities, meaning taxpayer-supported (one in the Midwest, one in the Northeast). I wonder if the taxpayers would take comfort in knowing that talented young researchers are getting no credit for bringing in mere money. Surely, better to suckle at the public teat than to bring in mere money. Let’s steer faculty away from, say, finding ways to pay for themselves – that’s what the taxpayers are for! Shun the drearily ordinary concerns of lesser folk, like paying bills.

Ugh. Thought processes like these are what create room for the for-profits. They may be vulgar, but at least they can count.