The University of Montana at Missoula makes repeated appearances at University Diaries as a case study of football players behaving badly.  The good news is that several faculty members have submitted a column to the local newspaper calling out their administrators for misguided expense-preference behavior.
The problem of low enrollment and the need for budget cuts stems not from bad luck or unfortunate circumstances, but rather from mismanaged budgetary calculations. In the interest of maintaining a quality curriculum that can attract students, the UM administration must assume responsibility for its poor decisions and balance the university budget by cutting its own administrative expenditures.

This effort can begin in several ways: UM should impose an immediate freeze on all bureaucratic searches, hires and salary increases. It should also cut all expensive and frivolous travel, receptions, as well as unnecessary administrative positions.

An example of the latter is the university's recently hiring of a vice president for integrated communications at an annual salary of $147,000 to "manage" news and information. In the wake of a budget slashed by millions, is it not reasonable to expect that the UM president – who at an annual salary of $289,466 is the highest-paid public official in Montana – speak on behalf of the university he was hired to lead and not rely on another individual to speak on his behalf? And is it not sensible and ethical for the UM administration to use this $147,000 to save faculty positions and the classes that have been eliminated?

Another example is the costly "rebranding" of the university and its subsequent adoption of the motto "thrive." First, there is no objective evidence to indicate that a new brand will attract more students to UM. Second, studies have repeatedly shown that students choose a university because it provides a rich, diverse and robust curriculum, and a productive and nationally recognized faculty. Instead of wasting money on superficial concerns, such as a new brand, the university administration should focus its efforts on improving the substance of the university, maintaining a strong curriculum, and keeping talented and hardworking professors in the classroom.

The recent instructional cuts were determined and implemented during the spring break while students and faculty were away from campus. Only after numerous letters, complaints and a rally did the UM administration scramble to assure the university community that it would organize task forces to discuss the budget in a more open and transparent fashion. This apparent change of heart came during the last week of the academic calendar when faculty and students were preoccupied with their final examinations, thus making their active participation nearly impossible.
It's the usual administrative abuses and usurpations.  I'm incapable of thinking like an administrator, and thus not able to explain why spending money to redesign the trademark or come up with a new (or borrow an existing) tagline is more important than, oh, fixing the roof in a building used for classrooms, or staffing the academic departments in line with the enrollments they currently are attempting to serve.

And people keep asking me if I intend to teach any courses or share office space after I've retired. What for, it only encourages the REMFs to think they can get good help for free?  There's been enough of that under the rubric of "downsizing" or "productivity" or "service" already.

No comments: