Friday, July 27, 2007

Nothing Like a Good Budget Crunch to Clean the Sinuses and Assess Management

Most law schools go through it from time to time – budget cuts, call backs, etc. The truly unfortunate part is that they are likely to hit untenured people hardest. Staff people can be fired unlike the privileged professors they work along side.

There is an upside. If a faculty is bloated with special interest and boutique courses, a freeze can mean trimming some of the fat and requiring the privileged ones teach what they promised to teach, indeed what the craved to teach, when they were hired. You remember those interview -- "I just love to teach," "Of course, I would teach torts."

And there are the programs. We all know law school administrator do not like to say “no” to the faculty regardless of how wacko the program. After all, faculty approval, not doing what is best for stakeholders is the principal decanal focus. So what if there is a $50K program that is largely a subsidy for summer vacations? (Put up your hand if you took at least one summer vacation trip largely on the dime of your law school. Whoa. Keep’m up -- it will take some time to count all those.) If you have the money to spend -- after all it’s always about spending someone else’s money -- terminating anything what would lead to faculty outcries is a bad idea. Funny how spending the money of others always leads to a skewed cost/benefit analysis.

Yes, a budget squeeze is just the ticket to test the pulse of an administration. Is it willing to require the hiring committees focus only on high need areas? Is it willing to cut programs based on benefit to those who pay the bills or will the old favorites favored by members of the administration or its closest friend be the ones that go?

1 comment:

Anthony Ramos said...


As a major in Higher Education Administration at UF, I've got two things for you:

Buddy over in Financial Affairs told me he inquired one time why the department seemed to get new furniture every year. The response was: b/c we're facing the end of the fiscal year, and if we don't spend all the money now, we'll face a cut next time around.

This also reminds me of the imbroglio over at CLAS that got them $10 mil into debt. Some departments were not even submitting budgets. Ironically, many of those same departments (Geriatric Studies, English, Sociology) are now facing layoffs due to the budget cuts and mismanagement, not to mention the campus-wide "hiring freeze." Poetic justice? Likely tho that it's some aspiring, passionate young Instructor who will be let go so that the seasoned septagenarian teaching one class but has a book contract can be kept on staff.

Professors are using state-of-the-art Apple widescreens and $600 ergonomic chairs, then overbooking the teaching schedules of Assistant Professors b/c they claim there is, "not enough money for personnel."

It all serves to highlight the way that tenure and patronage within higher ed has lead to a lack of accountability that would make Ed Kozlowski jealous.