Friday, February 09, 2007

Equations: Tops in Shame

Ever wonder what accounts for the inability of privileged people to see what the opportunity costs are of spending (usually someone else's) money on things they find convenient? Or is it that they feel entitled to these things? Here are some examples that make my jaw drop, and I am sure I am only scraping the surface.

1. UF's new $20 million Law building. In a perverse application of a peak load planning strategy the building is only used to capacity from about 10 AM to 2 PM, Monday through Wednesday. Nights, weekends, evenings, Thursday, Friday, summer, late afternoon? Pretty empty. So why is this? 30 or so professors like to teach not too early, not too late, and they like to get an early start on the weekend. No one has the you know whats to tell them no. By saying "no" a few times and moving around a few classes, a $10 million upgrade would have done the job for years to come.

Is there any way $10 million could have been used to increase the welfare of Floridians more than an empty building? I am tempted to say virtually any way would have been better but, in fact, in Alachua county, the home of UF, 23% of the population lives below the poverty line. Let's see . . . a $20 million Law building built to accommodate a handful with money that could have provided housing for 200 families? That can only makes sense to those with a sense of entitlement.

2. The most egregious if not for the fact that it is relatively small: $30,000 - $40,000 a year for a program that involves flying UF law professors to Poland to lecture Polish students about American law. The aspirations of those those students -- to get jobs with big law firms. Thus, in a bizarre system of redistribution, funds flow through the Law School to multinational law firms who are evidently too cheap (or too wise) to invest in Polish students themselves. I guess UF could just write a check to those law firms with the understanding that they would train Polish students. That would be great news for the 23% in Alachua county who are without adequate medical care. Not!

3. This is an estimate but, having been part of the process, I would say that the effort to recruit new faculty at UF Law this year cost in excess of $100,000. There are trips for committees, lodging, meals, candidate visits, catered meals, etc. The net result is one hire of one beginning professor who will not teach a full load and will receive summer grants for six years. And, it is not clear that the professor had offers from a single other school. He may be great and I think he will be, but did it take $100,000 plus to land him?

So what could done with $100,000 other than flying faculty to and from recruiting conferences, feeding them at the most expensive restaurants in town, and paying the highest airfares?

I have a hunch that the 23% living a few miles away could answer this. Of course, no one asks them nor do they ask themselves: Is this the best use of other people's money?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Isn't it ironic?

And the real scary part is that UF has there hands in everything from here to Kalamazoo.