Monday, March 8, 2010

Turn Protest Into Policy

From the Daily:

Last Thursday, more than 200 University of Minnesota students, staff and faculty protested as part of the National Day of Action to Defend Education, advocating for reduced administrative salaries. However, a rally like this is only the first part of the solution to the University’s budget crisis.

Big problems require big solutions. The reduction of high University salaries by a few percentage points won’t do the job by itself. Instead, administration needs reorganization. This involves the painful process of eliminating positions and consolidating jobs. Full layoffs are the most basic way to make the University more efficient while also allowing it to retain experienced personnel. University President Bob Bruininks echoed this idea as far back as late 2008, when he told the Faculty Senate, “I think we have more administration than we need. We need to simplify processes … and ask whether we need all the administration at all the levels.”

I thought this statement was so remarkable that it has become a permanent part of my blog, the Periodic Table.

And I have a simple question: President Bruininks what significant cuts have you made in administration at the U of M since this statement was made? How many fewer vice presidents, press agents, cultural czars, or chiefs of staff do we now have? How many refugees from the Pawlenty administration? Medical school reorganization was supposed to shrink administration. It has not. The former dean is now a vice-president. See: Cost Effectiveness is a Sometime Thing.

Let it be clear: University decision-makers are not the only ones responsible for higher tuition and furloughs. The state legislature and Gov. Tim Pawlenty, have systematically defunded higher education in Minnesota. Those who seek real progress for the University would do well to bring the message to St. Paul.

I think you'd get a big argument from the legislature on this one. "Systematically"? Perhaps if the Morrill Hall Gang started to align the priorities of the university with those of the citizens of the state, we'd have more success here?

Why, exactly, is it that the Ohio State University has had no layoffs and no tuition increases in the last three years and there will be a real increase in compensation of 2.5% in the upcoming year?

Obviously the high tuition elitist model of the Morrill Hall Gang is not the only way to run a land grant university.

Those who seek real progress for the University would do well to bring the message to St. Paul.
And it is not business as usual. It is not: Trust us - give us the money so that we can become one of the top three public research universities in the world.

The right message is one that states that our first priority is to deliver a high quality affordable education to the citizens of the state.

Please join us in this effort? Contact your legislator and ask them to support the University to this end and to make certain that any compact with the legislature makes this goal the prime directive.

This will be more effective than the phony form letters ginned up by this administration in what has been cynically and falsely depicted as a grass roots effort.

Last week’s protest boasted a strong showing, but rallying is only the first step. Real change will require dialogue with administration, serious alternative policy proposals, pressure on the Capitol and action through student and faculty governments. Solidifying support among students, staff and faculty will remain essential. In a place as big as the University, 200 bodies do not yet a movement make.
Serious alternative policy proposals? Plenty have been made, even quite some time ago. For examples, please see:

Can BigU become GreatBigU?

(originally posted Jan 16, 2007)

We Have No Money, Therefore We Must Think

(originally posted Dec 5, 2008)

Dialog? This administration has proven time and time again that they are not interested.

They have had plenty of warning about the impending train wreck, but they continued merrily along, parachute in hand and ready to bail as we go over the cliff.

Ten million dollars for MoreU Park? Sure... Fourteen million dollars for a Weisman addition? Sure, we can do that. Oh, and by the way, asks the administration, could you please declare financial stringency so that we can furlough/lay off people? And of course we need a double digit tuition increase once Federal stimulus funds are gone.

People who honestly disagree with the Morrill Hall Gang and suggest that a better goal would be to be one of the top schools in the BigTen have been labeled "doubters" by this president. Anyone who doesn't go along with this top three public universities in the world nonsense is a doubter, President Bruininks?

Great chance for dialog with an attitude like that.

To give a concrete example witness the reaction to the request by the Regents Professors to halt the graduate school re-organization. Blown off. By the administration and the Board of Regents.

Leadership matters. Time for a change?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

(Almost) everything is going according to plan. Industry knows what it wants and what it wants has nothing to do with inefficient public ends. I don't know what motivates guys like Bruininks and Sullivan to participate in the process we see under way, but I think it is necessary for proponents of the U as a public resource (with appropriate public ends, such as affordable and otherwise accessible, high-quality education) to recognize the seriousness of the situation. What is happening is not an accident! Similar things are happening elsewhere, and even on different scales (bond investor-imposed "austerity" in Latvia and Greece, for example). The only aspect of the current situation I would ascribe to incompetence is the terrible job the administration has done managing the public's perception of their "work".