When the coup took place, there was at first no explanation given at all. Then there appeared a leaked email from a super-wealthy trustee of the business school—Mr. Jefferson’s university suffered from a troubling paucity of “strategic dynamism,” he moaned. Oh, but that would change now that the plutes were in charge: “There will also be a strategic planning initiative commenced by the Board of Visitors with a focus on strategic dynamism.” Billionaire alumnus Paul Tudor Jones II soon chimed in with a newspaper op-ed informing Virginians that Jefferson himself would have welcomed the coup because he was a “change agent.” Reading these preposterous declarations at the time, I was convinced there had to be some deeper motive, that no one really talked this way. Since then, however, we’ve learned that these people meant this stuff.Read the board members’ emails back and forth to one another* and you start to realize that the poor president was the casualty of a long-running argument the University brass had been having among themselves about . . . “the rate of change.”
That the people who hold the ultimate authority at our institutions of higher learning are dedicated to a notorious form of pseudo-knowledge is richly ironic, and it is also telling. The point of management theory, after all, is to establish the legitimacy of a social order and a social class who are, in fact, little more than drones. The grotesque top-heaviness of the American corporation is an old story: we have more supervisors per worker than any other industrialized nation, and quite naturally we have developed an extensive literature of bogus social theory assuring those supervisors of the rightfulness of their place in the world—a literature that also counsels everyone else to acquiesce to their subordinate station in the Great Chain of Free-Market Being.
From 1947 to 2009 the average annual price increase for services was 4.0 percent, while for goods the average annual price increase was only 2.4 percent.
The senior administration of my statewide university system earns less than 1% of the system's core budget (that is state revenues and fees combined--the money we're free to spend pretty much anyway we like). Student protests over fees are obsessively focused on this less-than-1% of the system's budget. 17% of that budget, by contrast, goes on student aid. If every single senior administrative figure in the entire university system had their salary reduced to the statewide average, it would make no appreciable difference--at all--to student fees or the quality of the student experience on campus. All the rhetoric focused on that issue is just so much wasted breath, so much wasted political energy. If a fraction of that energy was expended on writing to state legislators and insisting that the state's budget for higher education was increased it would be infinitely more likely to actually make some real difference. Barking wildly up the wrong tree actually has a real cost.
If we took...a 1950s State U...adjusted for inflation...could it provide an effective university education less expensively than a modern university?
Furthermore, universities prefer to put up a new building or invest millions in remodelling existing lab space rather than house scientists in older buildings that they already own. Why? One reason is that debt can be an accounting asset. A US government accounting rule called A21 means that the more debt universities have from construction, the more they can add to grants for overhead costs. If a university borrows $100 million to build a new facility and pays 4% interest, it can increase its indirect rate by including the $4-million interest payment in the calculation.
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