Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Critique of the Cuts

University of Minnesota Makes Inside Higher Ed

I've got an earlier post up on the Star-Tribune website about this. Please see: Transformational Verbigeration at the U.

From Inside Higher Ed:

"Oh be still my beating heart... I just fell in love again. Was that a shawl Eva was wearing, or a superwoman cape?"

What prompts academics to declare a scholar a superhero? The praise above is from a comment on a blog that linked to Eva von Dassow's presentation before a recent public forum of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents.

But the video of her talk is inspiring many of her colleagues at Minnesota and elsewhere, many of them fed up with what they view as unrelenting budget cuts, particularly of humanities disciplines. The video is already being suggested for viewing before other universities consider new rounds of cuts.

Von Dassow had several themes in her brief remarks. She argued that the financial challenge, while real, is less severe than administrators suggest. Being forced to manage on a 2006 level of state appropriations "doesn't look like a severe financial crisis," she said. But while cuts are being ordered, she said that the new frugality "leaves undiminished the numbers of vice presidents, not to mention the salaries of coaches. No, these highly-paid positions are not to be reduced. Rather, the university must shed faculty," she said.

Noting that the university has a stated goal of becoming one of the top three public universities in the world, she asked if "this is how we become one of the top three universities in the universe," by cutting "our way to distinction by pruning the tree of knowledge."

Specifically, she said that "those programs engaged in the production of knowledge that is readily turned into the money are the targets of investment while the rest are to be downsized into an efficient credit and degree factory." She cited liberal arts programs losing faculty slots while there is money for new biomedical research professors (taking care to say that biomedical research is indeed valuable and that she was questioning only the idea that other programs aren't worthy based on their lack of financial payoff).

There are no signs von Dassow changed the minds of university administrators or regents. A spokesman, asked about a reaction to her critique, said via e-mail: "Professor von Dassow's perspective is one of many faculty perspectives at the University of Minnesota. We certainly appreciate her taking the time to express it. The University Senate overwhelmingly supported the president's plan for temporary pay cuts and his operating budget was unanimously supported by our Board of Regents."

More of the same from the Morrill Hall Gang? The person who wrote this certainly knows that the faculty felt they didn't have any choice in the matter of pay cuts. For a telling video about this meeting please see the response to President Bruininks' remarks (YouTube).

When is the last time you have heard of the Board of Regents going against ANYTHING that the Morrill Hall Gang requested?


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