Morrill Hall Gang Should Pay Attention
to what is going on in Iowa City. Perhaps that would help them avoid the deer in the headlights pose?
Pressure and scrutiny on faculty increase
UI officials trying to figure out where to go from here
As belts tighten, people inside and outside the university are scrutinizing how UI faculty, who have research, teaching and service obligations and earn an average of $100,000 a year, spend their time.
In the sciences, faculty face more pressure to generate external revenue to pay their own way. In arts and humanities -- fields with fewer external grants -- faculty see decreasing internal support for their research, greater demand for teaching and threat of elimination for programs that can't be more self-reliant or have low enrollment.
For years, UI increased the number of graduate teaching assistants and "other" faculty, who help carry the teaching load, according to the 10-year employee analysis. Adjunct and visiting professors would fall into this category.
Due to budget cuts, this past year, UI cut back on "other" faculty and graduate teaching assistants. Now there is a demand for more tenure-track faculty in the classroom, UI College of Liberal and Sciences Dean Linda Maxson said at a Faculty Senate meeting last fall during a discussion about cutbacks in internal support for research sabbaticals.
As belts tighten, faculty are facing scrutiny fromvarious directions about how productive they are or should be.
Rep. Jeff Kaufmann, R-Wilton, who has criticized UI spending on several occasions, said more scrutiny is needed for sabbaticals, time in the classroom and the number of publications, among other things.
A union leader recently characterized faculty research sabbaticals as "paid time off to goof off."
In November, UI attempted to gain support to revise a Post-Tenure Effort Allocation Policy to give administrators a tool to force unproductive faculty to take on more duties, such as teaching more classes or taking on service assignments. Faculty rebuffed the attempt saying it undermined the intent of the policy, which was to protect opportunities for creativity.
James Garland, former president of Miami University (Ohio) and author of "Saving Alma Mater," said there is a schism between the university and the outside world, and internally between faculty and administration.
Faculty want to protect the university as academic quality erodes, he said. However, in many ways universities are very inefficient, and it can be seen in the faculty. For example, faculty time is consumed by countless committees, and every campus decision requires broad consensus, he said.
Gaye Tuchman, a sociology professor at the University of Connecticut, authored "Wannabe U: Inside the Corporate University." She argues that establishing productivity benchmarks for academia is equivalent to "corporatizing" the university.
Universities are starting to serve the highest bidder, rather than the broad public good, she said.
"The day is coming when the state university of Iowa is a state university in name only," Tuchman said.
One of the hardest hit parts of UI is the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which includes 65 percent general education funds in its $195 million budget.
Frank Durham, an associate professor in UI's School of Journalism and Mass Communication ... sits on five committees and has taken on administrative duties. He teaches two courses, including a large introductory course, in addition to research duties. This is typical for faculty, he said.
The risk, from Durham's perspective, is that students will start losing out in their education.
"Doing more with less sounds hopeful, but it seems unlikely. "
With fewer resources, UI has announced plans not to cut across the board, and instead strategically take from weaker programs and give more resources to stronger programs.
"If we believe in democracy of pain, then we are on the road to mediocrity," Loh told faculty at a recent Faculty Council meeting.
When Jeff Cox, a long-time UI history professor, looks at the shift to a more revenue-driven model, he sees long-term damage to UI's core mission. For example, the Department of History in the liberal arts college will never be perceived as an area of strength because it doesn't get external funding, he said.
Determining areas of strength through ability to generate money is the wrong approach, he said. The damage is already visible, and it is being passed on to students in their degrees, Cox said.
Cox points to cuts in sabbaticals -- 100 two years ago to 52 next year. These are crucial for faculty in the humanities, he said. UI also has slipped in U.S. News and World Report annual rankings -- 21 among public universities in 2000 to 29 in 2009.
"Iowa's international reputation, unlike that of Iowa State, is based on its reputation in the arts and humanities, as well as medicine. The cuts in sabbaticals are a body blow to the quality of the UI and the value of a UI degree," Cox said. "I think the connection between the prestige of research and the value of a degree is not very well understood, but very important to this debate, since it affects undergraduates and their prospects."
Written from West Roxbury, Massachusettts, where I am on sabbatical in the lab of Dagmar Ringe and Greg Petsko at Brandeis University. This is a world class laboratory of the type that the Morrill Hall Gang salivates after.
We - and Our Gang - need to pay attention to what is going on at other BigTen schools because, contrary to the Strategic Propaganda Initiative - this is where our true competition lies. The smokescreen of becoming one of the top three public research universities in the world is becoming thinner and thinner. What goes on at tOSU, Iowa, Wisconsin, Purdue and Indiana is especially relevant.
The next big thing at the U of M should be a massive fundraising effort. This should be dedicated to keeping the cost of education at MInnesota reasonable. The new compact with the state of which the gang likes to speak, should have this goal as its centerpiece.
Let's return to our roots. Why does the gang always start whining about investments when the topic of reasonable cost comes up? Is not an investment in our students worth making? And who is more likely to stay in Minnesota to make a life? A state resident or someone from Florida?
It is time to seriously address our problems if the tilt to MNSCU is not to continue.
And to make things crystal clear, I don't begrudge MNSCU a penny. They are doing a great job.