Thursday, August 11, 2011

Professor Butt and the Self-Opening Napkin

Did Rube Goldberg Design 

the University of Minnesota


My friend and fellow U of M alum, Michael McNabb writes: 


Rube Goldberg's cartoons became well known for depicting complex devices that performed simple tasks in indirect, convoluted ways. An example on the right is Goldberg's "Professor Butts and the Self-Operating Napkin", which was later reprinted in the postcard book, Rube Goldberg's Inventions!, compiled by Maynard Frank Wolfe from the Rube Goldberg Archives.
The "Self-Operating Napkin" is activated when the soup spoon (A) is raised to mouth, pulling string (B) and thereby jerking ladle (C) which throws cracker (D) past parrot (E). Parrot jumps after cracker and perch (F) tilts, upsetting seeds (G) into pail (H). Extra weight in pail pulls cord (I), which opens and lights automatic cigar lighter (J), setting off skyrocket (K) which causes sickle (L) to cut string (M) and allow pendulum with attached napkin to swing back and forth, thereby wiping chin.
In 1931, the Merriam–Webster dictionary adopted the word "Rube Goldberg" as an adjective defined as accomplishing something simple through complex means.                         Wikipedia

From the July 14, 2011 report of the Faculty Consultative Committee on the U of M administration:
It was clear that all of them [vice presidential units] are very complicated organizations.
page 1, paragraph 2 of the FCC report.
In addition, many of the vice presidential units have centers or programs or institutes that may or may not be especially closely related to the mission of the unit. . . . It appears to the SCFP that at least some of these organizational units continue without any review or any sunset provisions.
page 1, paragraph 3 of the FCC report.
There was discussion in SCFP about where administrators are, and it may be that there are more in the colleges than in central administration.  But it would be a massive job to evaluate the administrative activities in each of the colleges.
page 2, paragraph 5 of the FCC report (emphasis added).
So the administration has grown willy-nilly over the years to the point where no one now understands the organization or even knows where all the administrators are!  (Perhaps too big to understand is a corollary to too big to fail.)
Then consider the words of vice president and chief financial officer Richard Pfutzenreuter at the April 5, 2011 meeting of the Senate Committee on Finance & Planning: 
Mr. Pfutzenreuter responded that his office is working on identifying what pays for research, education, public service, financial aid, and so on, based on the attribution of both direct and indirect costs, in order to determine the "fully loaded" costs of instruction and other mission activities.
page 2, final sentence of the April 5, 2011 report of the SCFP at http://conservancy(emphasis added).
So while building an incomprehensible organizational framework, no one has been keeping track of the flow of non-restricted funds.

Michael W. McNabb
Attorney at Law

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