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Telling Comments on Dean Finnegan's letter

See below for the text of Dean Finnegan's recent letter to the Daily and some of my own intemperate ranting about it.

The following comments to the Finnegan letter have appeared on the Daily website
. I think they illustrate the situation we now face:

The U of M is academically and intellectually dysfunctional.

If this is what passes for thought or reasoned argument on the part of its administrators then it is gravely so.

The same cannot be said of the other universities mentioned, all of which would only dream of welcoming comparison with the U of M after severe bombardment or some other kind of disaster.

At the other universities mentioned, one does not face the same extreme level of bureaucratic oligarchy, with the result that they accomplish the be all end all of great universities: promotion of intense academic rigor and accomplishment.

The anti-intellectual and fatuous sloganeering of the U of M administration reveals what the students and faculty already know: it is a corrupt dictatorship.

And another commenter notes:

Substance AND process

There is a very good reason why very little has been discussed in public fora regarding the substance of the Graduate School restructuring -- there is nothing to discuss yet!
This is not to say that the Graduate School operates perfectly as is and should not be examined for potential restructuring and reduction of inefficiencies as, indeed, ALL aspects of the University should be examined in this tight budget climate.

But, aside from deciding -- in direct opposition to policies and established norms -- to restructure the Graduate School without prior consultation of the faculty and the students which would be directly impacted by such a change, the administration has provided the university community with very few and very vague statements about what such a restructuring will entail.
Until the Implementation Team (or whatever it has been renamed) has released its report detailing which functions they recommend remain centralized and what will be decentralized it is unclear just what this restructuring means, and how it will impact the quality of graduate education at this University. Just as keeping a centralized, autonomous Graduate School does not guarantee success, restructuring and losing the Graduate School does not guarantee success - even if some universities have done it successfully. (You should be aware, of course, that Stanford's loss of an independent Graduate School was -not- successful and they have returned to the original centralized structure). Regardless, until we as a community know what is actually being proposed, we cannot evaluate whether it will enhance graduate education, result in the loss of redundancies, or save the UofM money. It is simply too early for these discussions.

Aside from substance, the university community has a reason to address these process issues. Shared governance is very important to the successful functioning of a university, in that way the university is quite different from corporations. It is important for the administration to recognize that faculty (and staff and students) are dedicated to the successful running of the university. And they are often far more informed on what is going on, on the ground. The administration has a much better idea of the "50,000 foot view", but decisions should not be made solely at this level. Multiple views, both from the sky and the ground, must be discussed in order to get the best working structure that will lead to the greatest excellence in all aspects of university functioning. This is the crux and basis of shared governance. And when it is ignored, there is a legitimate cause for concern.

Both faculty and student organizations have refrained from an outright stance against the restructuring of graduate education. I have not heard a single person claim that the Graduate School operates perfectly as is or there are not problems that need to be addressed. I have heard concerns that the restructuring may not -necessarily- improve the situation, and certainly the outcome can go in any direction at this point. The reason the discussion has focused on process is because, at this point, there are no recommendations, no clear plan, so there is no substance to be addressed.


Here's a reason to avoid proper procedure.

These sorts of pleas for not letting action be dragged down by procedure got us stuck in Iraq.

"What's the parallel?" you ask. Well, in both cases there were facts and issues that might have contradicted the arguments made by those who most vigorously supported the idea.

For example, the dissolution of the grad school would concentrate even more authority in the hands of provost Sullivan. One fear that people who are questioning this move have expressed is how oversight will be carried out. That's a question to answer BEFORE implementing a change, not something to deal with "if it comes up."

Why not provide (as the rules stipulate) a process for timely review and comment?

What deadline are you working against so furiously?

Or is this a strategy of implying urgency in the hope of forestalling any discussion because, as we all know, it's a different question after the fact, which is to say, once an action has been taken, it is much more difficult to undo.

Reasoned debate and procedures are not the enemies of progress, they're the enemy of haste and poor judgment. If restructuring or destroying and replacing the current graduate school is such an obvious, unassailably great idea, it should stand up to scrutiny, and nobody has yet provided a good reason for the urgency of making the decision in private and contravening the rules.

This all looks awfully fishy, and it makes the provost and his supporters come across like some secretive cabal set on taking over the U.

Maybe this is a great idea, but I don't want to be ruled from on high, where the dictates come down and the U is at the whim of Sullivan's rule by fiat. This looks like a way to achieve a far more problematic goal, which is to move the U to a model that looks increasingly like that of a private, for-profit corporation, rather than a public, land-grant institution.

They want to cut programs, hire adjuncts, and they do it in the name of efficiency.

I don't think that's our goal. We should achieve our mission as efficiently as possible, sure, but our mission has nothing to do with efficiency at its core. We have no shareholders, we don't turn profits, we aren't supposed to. The U adds value to the community and the state in different ways, and to confuse it with a business and run it on that model all but assures its long-term failure and the death of humanities, social sciences, fine arts, etc.

That's too high a cost, and those who think we wouldn't miss it, just you wait. This isn't a polytechnic, it's an R1 university. If we need to cut things and contract sections, let's start with the real dead weight and fat, and cut a few of these vice-presidents. DOWN WITH ADMIN! THEY'RE THE PROBLEM!

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