29.1.09

FURLOUGH. Instapundit links are often thin on content. The details of Arizona's latest retrenchment in public universities suggest acquiescence in decline.
Higher-education officials said the compromise proposal could save the universities from shuttering entire campuses, enacting more severe layoffs and losing key research faculty who attract grants and graduate students and improve the universities' reputation. Instead, the proposal would require employees, including tenured professors, to take time off as unpaid leave.
The way Arizona State proposes to implement the furloughs suggests that research-active professors will be more likely to leave.
Faculty members will take furloughs on days they don’t teach class, and supervisors of staff members will be staggering furloughs so that the university remains fully operational.
One of the dirty secrets of academic life is the excess of committees, and the surfeit of failed scholars who live for committee meetings. One of the nasty byproducts of committee meetings is reaching agreement on a date for the meeting. Professors who are active in research will sometimes protect their research time. Commuting professors are even worse, pleading a preference to not make a trip simply for a committee meeting. (As if my shorter trip is somehow not made more unpleasant when I have to put myself out for the commuter.)

Furloughed professors have no reason to attend a committee meeting on a furlough day. The Arizona State plan suggests that furloughed professors may be eligible for unemployment compensation. The unemployment office asks if the beneficiary is looking for work. Writing research papers and grant proposals and circulating updated vitae sounds like looking for work. More research, more job-hopping, fewer committees, q.e.d.

The news article explains the acquiescence in decline claim I make.

The cuts would permanently change the universities, making classes larger, reducing the number of courses and forcing students and parents to pay more for university education.

Lobbyist Jaime Molera said he is confident a compromise can be reached this year between the universities and lawmakers. He also said a federal stimulus package could help the state close a $3 billion shortfall next fiscal year.

"That's the wild card," he said.

Without help from federal money, the universities could be asked to make additional cuts of up to $383 million, he said. That would reduce the universities to state colleges, serving mostly undergraduates with a limited number of degree programs, the university presidents said during a Board of Regents meeting last week.

That's precisely the part of higher education where there's excess capacity.

No comments: