27.1.06

WE'RE WASTING MONEY, BUT GIVE US MORE OF IT. That's the kind of tone-deafness that gives the academy a bad reputation. The Newsalert Weblog recommends a Detroit Free Press story about the performance (look for "Universities and Colleges) of Michigan's public universities. Ouch. To wit:
At three other schools, administrators did not address students' repeated complaints about professors' poor language or teaching skills.
I suppose one could tell the state that it's getting what it's paying for. On the other hand, shared governance implies some responsibility for who is getting hired, whether on the tenure-track or not. (Wayne State's economics department would sometimes not rehire an adjunct.)
At Michigan Technological University, for example, some professors were granted new sabbaticals without documenting how they spent past ones, a violation of university policy.
Cranky observers view sabbaticals as paid vacations. That might not be all bad, but if the point is to have additional thinking time, that thinking ought be committed to paper.
In spot checks at six universities, auditors found more than 3,800 instances of students taking the same course three or more times. More than 1,500 Wayne State University students did so, mainly to replace poor or incomplete grades, a practice auditors suggested was an inefficient use of taxpayer money.
I don't know what the situation is today. Twenty years ago Wayne State allowed students to drop classes to nearly the end of the semester, with the professor's permission. I put in a drop deadline about midway through the semester and the whining I got from people who didn't wise up after the first exam ...

But the tone-deafness!

The biggest problem on campus is not inefficiency, said a lobbyist for Michigan's university system, but dramatic cuts in state funding.

"These are times of shrinking public responsibility to higher education," said Michael Boulus, executive director of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan. "Overall, these institutions are well-run."

There's a flaming non-sequitur. I'm generally sympathetic to the idea that the benefits of higher education are private benefits, easily appropriated by the students. But well-run?

On the other hand, the Ann Arbor campus hasn't been audited since 1984 ... because the state thinks that's too costly a project???

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