Or maybe even for them to chew and digest. The following passages are from an op-ed written by Eva von Dassow, a classicist at the University of Minnesota:

Last fall, upon concluding the Community Fund Drive, the University of Minnesota administration imposed a “hiring pause” in anticipation of reduced state support. Faculty and staff positions that become vacant will not be refilled. Most searches for new faculty, including replacements, have been cancelled. Funding for teaching assistants is to be reduced.

There will thus be fewer instructors to teach courses; therefore, fewer courses will be taught. Students will not be provided the full curricula they were offered when they decided to come to the University. Many students will be unable to complete their degree programs in their intended form — at least not in a timely fashion. Programs that were already understaffed are being crippled and students are left with inadequate course offerings to meet their needs. Meanwhile, the administration proposes to raise tuition even higher.

I invite the University community to consider how the administration’s cancellation of faculty searches comports with the University’s core mission and stated goals, the larger financial picture and the annual tuition hikes. Note that we are not talking about increasing the numbers of faculty through incremental hires, but simply about preserving what we had up through last spring.

Or, in other words, the financial crisis has made all faculty de facto conservatives, at least insofar as our institutions are concerned. In my opinion, this is a good thing.

Last June, CNES received authorization from the College of Liberal Arts to search for a replacement in ancient religion. This position was meant to serve the newly-established undergraduate program in Religious Studies, which was identified as one of the University’s priorities in its latest strategic plan. We had almost carried the search to a successful conclusion; after the long process of reading applications and conducting preliminary interviews, we had identified three excellent candidates to invite to campus.

Then, on Dec. 9, the bulk of our work having been completed, CLA notified CNES that our search was cancelled. We could do nothing but inform our 50 applicants that their trouble was in vain. We shall be unable to offer the courses the successful candidate would have come to the University to teach. The time and effort put forth by faculty, students and staff to conduct the search had been wasted.

For what? To save the cost of hiring a starting assistant professor, whose salary would be in the range of $55,000 per year, plus benefits. Compare that to the salaries of top administrators and athletics coaches. It’s nice that the University’s top brass froze executive compensation upon imposing the hiring pause. But it doesn’t hurt to have your salary frozen at several hundred thousand dollars per year.

It’d be more interesting to watch Minnesota, which like all universities prides itself on being as business-like as possible, waste a boatload of money and wind up with nothing to show for it, if it wasn’t education that would suffer. (Because let’s be honest: Minnesota might freeze faculty hiring, but they’ll replace the head coach or the provost if it comes down to it. Can’t have a university without a head coach or a provost!)

The administration’s communications addressing the University’s financial problems always refer to the state, the state’s budget deficit and the state’s appropriation to the University — as if the hiring pause, with all its consequences, simply results from Minnesota’s strained economic situation. I submit that the University’s financial position would be much better now if the administration had not chosen to spend large sums on things it wanted, regardless of whether those things have anything to do with the University’s core academic mission. This past year has seen the purchase of a new financial system — essentially a software package — for the price of $50 million. The old financial system worked fine; the new one does not.

Everyone can point to favorite examples of profligate spending, and most would point first at athletics (the costly new stadium and the high salaries of coaches) or at administration (the ever-increasing number of vice presidents), with its many “initiatives” of dubious purpose and effectiveness (notably the Strategic Propaganda Initiative, as it would rightly be called). Few would point to academics and claim we have too many faculty teaching too many courses, doing too much research and working with too many students. But it is we who are the University: the faculty and students — and, yes, the coaches, too — together with the staff who facilitate our work. The administration is not the University but, properly, its servant.

I agree with von Dassow here, that the faculty and the students are the university, but I wonder how many administrators, coaches, or football fans (which includes a large part of any state school student body) would agree? There are a lot of public statements to the contrary.

(Link found with additional comments over at University Diaries.)

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