Monday, March 19, 2007

Are we on the move or badly in need of a reality check?

It was a slow week during Spring Break at BigU. Mr. and Mrs. B. were in Bermuda - more about that later - but today’s Daily contains a number of interesting comments related to the Driven to Distraction campaign commented on earlier. Further howlers from OurLeader are also reported.

March 19, 2007

Image versus reality at the U

No one should be happy that the University administration is dumping more money into "Driven to Discover."

By Jason Stahl

The administration has decided to sink even more money into the [Driven to Discover] campaign. They are now asking for the Regents to allocate $4 million more for the campaign on top of the $2 million already spent.

In the report, thoroughly unbiased individuals like the University's marketing director and the College of Biological Sciences Dean were there to tell you how super fantastic the campaign is going. And if you had any qualms about spending more money on "Driven to Discover," there is no need to worry, because a marketer from the Institute of Technology is there to let you know that "it might cost a little bit of money, but what we're going to receive in return will be worth it."

Only at the very end of the article was a dissenting voice aired by a mathematics graduate student who suggested a better use of the money would be to take it to Vegas. In other words, this student was suggesting that almost any other use of the money would be better.

I agree and have a couple suggestions of my own. In particular, since the administration now says that the ad campaign will cover "education and teaching at the University," and not just research, I have some suggestions on teaching-related functions where the $4 million might be put to better use.

I could go on with more space, but the point I'm trying to make with these suggestions is that the University's administration and its marketers need to get beyond the "image" of the University as shown through its ad campaigns and instead focus on the actual reality of what goes on here. In other words, not only do I not see the need for more money to be spent on the "Driven to Discover" campaign, I also don't see why a public university needs a marketing department at all. By now, I think the public knows that teaching and research take place at universities and they don't need ad campaigns to remind them. Instead, what we need are actual policies which show that the administration values teaching as much as it does some types of research. The regents can show their recognition of these realities by rejecting the additional $4 million for "Driven to Discover" and instead putting the money toward actually improving teaching conditions at the University.

The Daily in today’s issue also had the temerity to point out that OurLeader has just purchased a residence in addition to his Eastcliff University mansion:

Bruininks purchases million-dollar condo

By Conrad Wilson

Bruininks and his wife, Susan Hagstrum, purchased a residence at The Carlyle Condos, located on Third Avenue in downtown Minneapolis. The purchase price was $1,054,716, according to documents filed in Hennepin County last Monday.

"The President and First Lady [sic] have opted to keep a home of their own as they are mindful that their time in Eastcliff will someday come to an end - and they would want a place of their own," Wolter said in an e-mail.

Meanwhile, back on Campus, the Daily reports further on how out of touch with reality OurLeader apparently is:

Board gauges plans, success

President Bruininks gave an update on strategic positioning at the meeting.

By Elena Rozwadowski

According to University President Bob Bruininks, the University is right on track to becoming a top-three international research institution.

By exactly what measures?

"This is all about thinking about the future, when the generation of ideas will be the very currency of our economy," he said.

Mr. B. believes that a paradigm shift must have occurred.

Bruininks began by restating the goal of reaching top-three status within 10 years, a goal he said is "clearly audacious and aspirational, but it's also something we can achieve."

Bruininks played down rankings in favor of achieving a "sustained commitment to cultural improvement" at the University.

Bonzo circuits blown. The above two statements simply don’t compute. Going down, down. Please push restart…

Thank you.

You simply can’t have it both ways. Now if we are going to achieve “top-three status within 10 years” then clearly that means that some sort of ranking must be done. But then rankings are downplayed. How, indeed, are we to know if we have achieved “world-class greatness” (one of OurLeader’s previous howlers)?

Bruininks also discussed research priorities like fuel energy efficiency: a regular schedule for changing light bulbs and more energy-efficient products can save the University $1.5 million each year.

"That just gives you an idea about what happens when people just show up every day and start thinking," he said. "You have to give people permission to think creatively to change the place."

Whoa! I guess we poor ignorant folk just haven’t been thinking and it has taken the vision of OurLeader to wake us up to start doing this. I am ever so grateful to him for giving us permission to think creatively.

"That's our mantra," he said. "To improve the human condition in our society through knowledge."

Lord, love a duck.

Mr. Bonzo is happy to be back at BigU (especially since creative thinking is now allowed). He looks forward to doing great research with his students, even though the above crapspeak is a little depressing.

Ciao, B.

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