Layoffs are one way to cut a position, of course, but in my experience they are, by far, the least common one. The much more common one is to leave a position unfilled when someone leaves. The position more or less collapses behind them.The remaining rail barons managed to get union support for their mergers, which were intended to achieve operating economies, by pledging to respect seniority and by relying on attrition to achieve the smaller payrolls over time. To a naïve view, that sounds humane: the fun begins when all the senior armature-winders in the Motor Shop decide to cash out and junior armature-winders in the Diesel Shop at the other end of the system have to be brought in; or if the most promising assistant trainmasters find promising offers elsewhere. The extension to "can't complete schedules" because the senior faculty have fled is straightforward. If a number of faculty who all came through tenure review at about the same time call it a career at the same time, the head of the economics department might be in the same position as the foreman of the Motor Shop.
Nonreplacements don’t trigger the same kind of scrutiny, or pushback, as layoffs. For one thing, nobody loses their job. It’s possible to argue that someone is harmed -- presumably, the person who otherwise would have been hired -- but most of the time, nobody knows who that is. No one person has the standing to sue. There’s a cumulative, generational cost, but that doesn’t trigger the same kind of conflagration as firing an incumbent.
With nonreplacements, there’s no suggestion that someone’s performance was poor. In collective bargaining environments, incumbents are represented by unions but prospective hires are not; there’s nobody to bring a grievance.
Nonreplacements -- also called cuts by attrition -- aren’t entirely friction-free, but they’re certainly less traumatic than layoffs.
You have to sacrifice some, but not all, of those positions to fill a budget gap. That entails picking winners and losers from among the departments that want to hire replacements. You look at the obvious factors -- enrollment trends at the department level, anticipated demand from employers, strategic directions for the institution, the availability of adjuncts -- and perform a kind of triage.For the moment, some classes might be covered by temporary help, something that couldn't be said of armature-winders, and yet that is not sustainable. Blue-collar aristocrats take a more realistic view of job prospects, and they won't go railroading. That a lot of young people still have the academic vocation, despite going on fifty years of that being a losing proposition, will be somebody else's research opportunity.
Nonreplacement isn’t a panacea. It usually relies, at least in part, on the availability of adjuncts who are paid much less than their full-time counterparts. That creates issues of its own, not the least of which is fairness. Over time, nonreplacement can lead to top-heavy departments. In the case of small departments or programs or work areas, the folks who remain wind up with greater workloads to compensate for the loss; that has limits. And at a really basic level, nonreplacement at scale is more of a holding action than a real solution.The real solution, however, might be to hive off some of the unproductive divisions. Where is the system trustee of great vision who will do for the excess capacity in converted normal schools what the Final System Plan did for the Erie-Lackawanna?
Probably not writing for the house organ for Woke Business As Usual.
The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education on Monday published a pair of consolidation plans for two groups of public universities.Or perhaps, they're hoping for some of Mr Biden's funny money.
The plans were published eight months after the university system announced its intention to consolidate six universities. The state higher education system has struggled with declining enrollments and anemic state funding for years, and the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the system to hasten its plan for financial sustainability.
Dozens of alumni of state public universities, as well as state residents, have expressed concern that PASSHE chancellor Daniel Greenstein is rushing into consolidation without first pushing the state Legislature to better fund the system.We could call the first grouping the Great Western and the second grouping the Great Northeastern. And yes, the corporate boilerplate sounds a lot like the spin the merger promoters of the late 1950s put out. And yes, the attrition trap is loaded.
The first plan, dubbed the west integration plan, will consolidate California University of Pennsylvania, Clarion University and Edinboro University, which are all located in the western part of the state. The second plan, called the northeast integration plan, will consolidate Bloomsburg University, Lock Haven University and Mansfield University. The second group of universities is clustered in the northeastern part of the state.
Each consolidated university will have one president, who will report to the Board of Governors through the chancellor, according to the plans. The consolidated universities would also have a shared enrollment management strategy and student support services, such as academic advising, financial aid, health and wellness counseling, library services, and career counseling.
The system will reorganize nonacademic staff members into a single structure for each consolidated university by July of next year. The number of staff members employed by each consolidated university is likely to change.At least in the beginning, though, there will be no changes? "As the system has developed the consolidation plans, system officials have emphasized that each institution will maintain its own name and branding even after the consolidation. That said, the two consolidated universities will also be given a name this summer."
“Given the efficiencies to be achieved and analysis of retirement eligibility, continued planning is occurring to achieve these results, where possible through removal of vacancies and attrition while maintaining optimal functional capacity,” the plans said. “Periodic adjustments to personnel may be required to meet institutional needs.”
Sooner or later, reality will dawn. There is excess capacity to shake out, consolidation will mean liquidation, and the terminally stupid people in charge will be brought to book for their failures.
As long as universities produced highly educated and open-minded graduates, at a reasonable cost, and kept politics out of the lecture hall, Americans did not bother much about their peculiarities—like tenure, non-transparency, legacy admissions, untaxed endowments, rebellious students, and quirky faculty.Undermine them with mockery.
But once they began to charge exorbitantly, educate poorly, politick continuously, indebt 45 million people, and act hypocritically, they turned off Americans.
Just as a sermonizing Hollywood grates when it no longer can make good movies, so does a once hallowed but now self-righteous university seem hollow when it charges so much for increasingly so little.