Thursday, October 16, 2008

Whatever We Can Do To Help Department

Yesterday all of us in the Zenith Community received a message from (Not So) New President saying that the economic situation is grave in our part of the world, and will be for a while. Personally, I like it when someone will just admit that things are bad. It also increases my capacity for trust in the Authorities to be reassured that the people in charge feel that they know what they are doing. The message states directly that any budgets cuts, difficult as they may be to swallow, will be across the board; no part of the university will be spared or favored. "All of us," (Not So) New President notes in this email, "will be asked to make sacrifices."

This, of course, strikes me as a brilliant solution, one that neither the Obama or the McCain campaign came up with in last night's debate. But we historians in the Center for the Americas, given our hemispheric perspective, are entirely prepared for this moment. I propose that we begin our sacrifices by locating a virgin on the faculty, of any gender, and sacrificing hir in front of North College, in an appeal to the Money Gods to come to our immediate aid. Difficult as it may be to find a virgin on the faculty, it will be worth the effort, since history shows that, were we to sacrifice a more senior member of the faculty, one closer to retirement age for example, that the budgetary advantages would be outweighed by the gods' displeasure that we actually thought a gnarly old member of the faculty (someone such as myself, for example) would do in such difficult times.

Postscript: my next post will come from the American Studies Association Meeting in Albuquerque. I can be found at one or more of the locations listed in the sidebar. As usual, readers are commanded to identify themselves.


davidjhemmer said...

"any budgets cuts, difficult as they may be to swallow, will be across the board; no part of the university will be spared or favored. ""

Translation: I am not willing to lead. I am not willing to prioritize. I am not willing to determine where resources are being squandered and where more resources could be productively utilized. Instead I will just tell everyone to cut 5%.

I think deans, provosts, presidents in times of crisis need to lead, need to earn their enormous salaries. Anyone can just order an across the board cut. Instead of a 5% (say) ATB cut how about a 3% ATB cut with more severe cuts at places determined by the leadership.

crankypostdoc said...

Yes, I agree with RWP. Heaven forbid we might actually decide that some things are more important than others!!

Profane said...

Tee Hee - shades of Wicker Man.

Susan said...

Ironically, RWP agrees with Sen. Obama, who said that Sen. McCain's "across the board spending freeze" was a hatchet instead of a scalpel.

I do like the notion that everyone should sacrifice something. The problem with shared sacrifice is that at the beginning (maybe not at Zenith) some people are already sacrificing -- so do they sacrifice even more?

Meanwhile, I'm sure that the Money Gods will appreciate the faculty virgin....

davidjhemmer said...

the same thought was going through my mind when I typed the comment, that maybe I was agreeing with obama. However I fear that Obama's scalpel will end up more like a razor and while he is shaving his legs the stubble on his face will be growing, to make an odd analogy.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Is that room really called the "ruidosa" room? That means "noisy" room, if my Spanish is correct. Seems like an unfortunate choice.

Anonymous said...

I've been through budget cuts myself. Here's how the internal campus politics of budget-cutting works:

Across-the-board cuts get everybody, in every department, angry at the administration.

Targeted cuts are different: If the administration picks out one department and fires everybody, the survivors on campus will breathe a sigh of relief. The victim department will be angry, but they'll also be gone.

Anonymous said...

actually, targeted cuts usually target Identity Studies Programs and it goes a little bit farther than people who are angry but gone. At least on the two campuses in which I have taught both of which experienced internal and external review as result of targeted cuts.

Tenured Radical said...

Hmmm. I have avoided weighing in,in part because I am on the road, but in part because I was interested to see how this would play out.

One of the things that I find bizarre about commenting in the blogosphere is that there are some people who respond to the post as it was written and intended, and others who seize on a theme, interpret it according to their own lights, and then critique the post as if it had actually been about that thing.

Let me just say: the phrase "across the board cuts" was mine -- it was a summary of the message sent from on high, which i used as a serious launching pad from which to say something witty. Because in these times, what do we have but wit to fight worry?

And my more serious response is that at least the first two comments were feeding off the "hatchet" scalpel bs in the debate, and were neither about hte academy in general or my little Zenith and its president (about whom y'all know nothing, so you have no right or reason to be suspicious.)

And rwp, I would say that (Not So) New president is definitely earning his salary right now. And he will.


Anonymous said...

Do born-again virgins count?

davidjhemmer said...

Not sure why you object to my first comment, it was precisely about your post, the part of your post about ATB budget cuts and my opinion of them. Unless you believe in the (ridiculously unlikely) possibility at all expenditures are equally important, that all departments are equally productive, etc.. then a good leader should be able to make priorities and decide what should and should not be cut.

davidjhemmer said...

Interesting contrast, our budget situation is dire as well, and the leaders have not really made any hard decisions yet, instead various committees were formed. Our president reports to the university today that there was "consensus" that

"We must administer strategic budget reductions, rather than assess across-the-board reductions..."

Now we all await the coming strategery.

Anonymous said...

TR -- I don't think (though I might be wrong) that you have Ph.D. students. But if you did, what would you advise those who are planning to graduate in the next year or two? I direct several students who fall into this category and feel that I need to warn them that they are likely to face a job market far more challenging than anything in the last ten years. While I don't want them to panic, I do want them to know this could be coming, and I want them to begin considering options outside the tenure track. The problem is that I don't know what really to say beyond that. I'm curious what your take might be.