Via Inside Higher Ed this YouTube video is pretty much a distillation of faculty reaction nationwide to higher education’s response to the world economic crisis:
The IHE link gives a little more context to the video, and some of the reaction to it. The arguments here are not all well-founded– science and engineering will necessarily receive more funding than the liberal arts because teaching and research in science and engineering are vastly more expensive than in the humanities, and many of those central administrative salaries are going to support multicultural and mental health programs that faculty would be outraged to see eliminated– but they’re presented clearly and concisely. If you want to know what many faculty are thinking, this is it in three minutes.
I make an effort to avoid discussing internal college politics here, so I won’t talk in detail about the applicability of this to Union. I will say, though, that we have thus far been shielded from the worst of the financial crisis, thanks to our moderately large endowment, the generosity of many alumni who have increased contributions in spite of the general economic crisis, and generally good management from the current administration. While we’ve seen some cuts in funding, and while I might quibble about some of the allocation of those cuts, for the most part, I’ve been satisfied that our administration is doing their best to act in the best interests of the institution and the faculty, and that’s as much as you can realistically hope for (the days when the college operations could be sustained by Frank Bailey dipping into his own pockets to make up end-of-year shortfalls are, alas, long gone).
My personal pet cranky suggestion is that institutions with substantial endowments ought to be willing to draw more from those endowments to help sustain their local communities through these bad times, even if that means dipping into the principal a little. Given that we’re in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, I’d like to see a little more helping and a little less hoarding, but higher education has come to see endowments as more of a funding source/ scorekeeping mechanism than a hedge against bad times. We’ve got hundreds of millions of dollars (over a billion, in the case of my alma mater) sitting there, a fraction of which would be enough to provide jobs for people who are otherwise unemployed, and as a bonus inject some more cash into the stalled economy to help everyone else. That seems like a good deal, even if we come out of the crisis slightly less well endowed than our comparison schools.
This is, in its own way, as unrealistic a suggestion as “Let’s get rid of all our athletic programs!” But as long as we’re throwing crazy ideas out there, that’s mine.